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The great betrayal is a lavishly mounted affair
Panipat - Three years after the disaster called Mohenjo Daro, Ashutosh Gowariker returns with the period battle drama, Panipat. Based on the 3rd battle of Panipat fought in January 1761, the film has a running length of 180 minutes, a tad too long to endure, but perhaps important to underscore the bravery, intelligence and valour of the Marathas. I am unable to validate the historical accuracy of the story, but the director seems to have researched the subject well enough.
The constant rant about the unification and solidarity of Hindustan and how foreign invaders must be throttled is finally met with a great betrayal, which also is thematically associated with the title. The film is technically superlative with admirable action, excellent costume design and a great background score. However, Ajay Atul's melodies for the songs aren't as impressive as their previous offerings, and more importantly, there isn't enough space for songs in the film which makes their presence quite irritating. The production values and the movie's mounting are larger than life and therefore the battle drama is pulsating with excitement. On the acting front, there's nothing to boast about - Arjun Kapoor is his usual self appearing uninterested or melancholy at times, Kriti Sanon delivers her role with trademark energy, but it's Sanjay Dutt who adds some gravitas in the character of Ahmad Shah Abdali, in a relatively smaller role. Coincidentally, he features in the film with Padmini Kolhapure and Mohnish Bahl for the first time since they starred together in Bekaraar (1983), albeit he has no interaction with the latter two in Panipat. 6 STARS for this extended documentary drama!
Pati Patni Aur Woh (2019)
The fatal attraction exists forever
Pati, Patni Aur Woh - Abhinav Tyagi aka Chintu (Kartik Aryan) marries Vedika Tripathi (Bhumi Pednekar) and settles down into an exciting married life and soon both get busy with their respective professional lives in Kanpur. However, the spark slowly diminishes and three years hence, Chintu falls for a temptation that dazzles and disarms him, Tapasya Singh (Ananya Pandey), who becomes a project for him. Remade from the original film by the same name (directed by the legendary B R Chopra) that released over 41 years ago, the new avatar is undoubtedly more contemporary and glamorous. With the central theme remaining rooted to an extramarital affair, director Mudassar Aziz flirts with the characters significantly by introducing several new ones with or without any objective other than prolonging the proceedings.
Comparisons with the original reveal that the characters in the new one are somewhat shallow and caricatured. Chintu is usually a bundle of nerves, mostly bumbling, unlike Sanjeev Kumar's middle aged Ranjeet Chaddha in the original who called the shots. The women in the film are more liberated and confident, in line with the times. It does manage to raise a few laughs through the length of 135 minutes, considered far too long for the story that drags after midway. Aparshakti Khurrana must be given credit for his comic timing, and for being the perfect foil to Kartik Aryan. Ananya Pandey infuses a certain freshness with her somewhat vulnerable character. I thought Bhumi Pednekar overacted in several shots or tried too hard to demonstrate superior emotive skills. Consequently, Kartik Aryan and she appear mismatched and lack the romantic chemistry that is meant to bring them back to bonding. K K Raina, Navni Parihar and Rajesh Sharma have minute roles and are largely wasted. The film could easily have been shorter by 20 minutes, making it more compelling.
Knives Out (2019)
Everyone has a motive
Knives Out - When you've been yearning for a murder mystery of substance for years, comes Knives Out to satiate all your hunger. It's intriguing, thick with a plot, has star appeal, is mounted on a lavish scale and is taut. It may not exactly be an edge of the seat thriller, but it has all the commercial aspects that keep the viewers glued on, pretty much like the yesteryear Hitchcock or Agatha Christie novels.
When Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in the morning following a family party, everyone is a suspect because each family member allegedly has a motive. The police however want to believe that it's a case of suicide and move on. Enter detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who has been hired by an anonymous client interested to solve the case, the investigation starts taking sinister turns and no one is spared. The private nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) remains a central character as in her lies the answer to a number of questions and she can help take Blanc to solve the mystery.
Director Rian Johnson spins an interesting web of lies, smokescreen and deception. There are ample avenues and attempts to steer the viewers away from making intelligent guesses about the real motive and the potential murderer and he is quite successful in achieving the objective. The conclusion and climax are quite unorthodox and uncomfortable. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Don Johnson and Toni Collette in very important roles, Knives Out makes for a compelling watch. It will fill you with an appreciation for the runaway story, depth of characters, detailed scripting and screenplay and the rich backdrop. Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas walk away with the honours in the histrionics department and Nathan Johnson must be applauded for the original music. Must watch film for everyone.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
Bala - Kudos to Ayushman Khurana for doing it again. He seems to slide into roles that other mainstream actors would cringe at, with such fluency that mirrors reality, and Bala is yet another proof of his diverse talent. Bala (Ayushman), the young stud boy in school whose mane was his pride suffers from premature baldness, and this becomes the central issue of his life. He has to address the problem at any cost, but his inability to control the gradual decay throws his life into a disarray first, and then he descends into embarrassment. Unable to come to terms with the situation, he tries scores of remedies until he finds a solution that will give him enough solace to find the love of his life.
Without further going into the story it's pertinent to mention that Bala is a fantastic narrative of self pity and the process of coming to terms with the reality. The social stigmas associated with premature balding and being dark toned are still a matter of reality and the embarrassment or self pity is a result of shying away from accepting oneself for what he or she is. Director Amar Kaushik allows the problem and the eventual catharsis to slowly but steadily unfold, mostly using humour as a medium that keeps the proceedings light hearted. The purge is a poignant essay by Ayushman and Bhoomi Pednekar, both of whom give firecracker performances, whilst being ably supported by the extraordinary talent pool of Abhishek Banerjee, Javed Jaffrey, Saurabh Shukla and Seema Pahwa. Bala fills you with warmth and wisdom, and may at times seem to drag a little, but you won't mind it as it's not a caricatured treatment of premature balding or a comic take on it, but an in-depth psychoanalysis of a sufferer.
Saand Ki Aankh (2019)
Saand Ki Aankh - amid all the Diwali festivities, make some time to watch this wonderful biopic that's not just about achievements but also about shattering stereotypes and social shackles.
The film is inspired by the lives of Chandro & Prakashi, two sexagenarian women married to two brothers from the Tomar family at the helm of which is Ratan Tomar, the sarpanch of the village. Played by Prakash Jha, the character of Ratan Tomar is a male chauvinist, regressive personality who believes that the women of the family strictly belong to the kitchen and for rearing of children. Such stifling is the environment in the household that the freedom of opinions itself is a far cry, leave aside women's empowerment and liberation. It feels like another place and another time centuries back and urban viewers may not even be able to associate with it. Saand Ki Aankh is the battle cry of Chandro and Prakashi against the regressive male supremacist attitude and their determination to beat the odds to prove that nothing is impossible to achieve.
Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu play the characters perhaps more than twice their age with aplomb. It's a testament to the fact that talent transcends the barrier of age, and the new generation of actors can compete shoulder to shoulder with their more experienced peers. Prakash Jha instills fear and hatred. Although a biopic, the film has an interesting pace that doesn't let the momentum flag. Debutante director Tushar Hiranandani infuses the narrative with enough poignancy and the right dose of emotions to ensure that the viewer sympathy continues to remain with the protagonists. The makeup of the two women could have been better perhaps, for at times they appear a little too sprightly and bright for their age.
Watch Saand Ki Aankh to be reminded that life's still quite tough for a lot of people, but then there are a few among them who are ready to catch the bull by the horn and hit the bullseye.
Crimson Peak (2015)
A chill a minute
Crimson Peak - When Edith Cushing's (Mia Wasikowska) father dies under mysterious circumstances, the aspiring author of ghost stories doesn't have much to hold her back from surrendering to her love for the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Now married to Thomas, Edith must leave behind her family estate in Buffalo and head to the Allerdale Hall in England, an age old and secluded mansion standing tall amid red soil. Much as Thomas and his sister Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastaine) have fancy titles, Edith soon discovers that the family is actually broke and is looking for money to fund a mining project in the estate. She will also discover that the three of them are not the only inhabitants of the mansion, but there are ghosts creeping out of hone woodwork, trying to tell her about a sinister and morbid past and a terrifying plot hatching. The movie is downright eerie and sends shivers down the spine in the beginning, but the horror doesn't hold for long as it transforms into a suspenseful narrative in due course. No love lost - the tale is gripping enough for the viewers to remain at the edge of the seat until the very end when the mystery falls in place. The frigid mansion, the snowstorm outside, the mysterious characters and a-chill-a-minute storytelling are worth every pence. Director Guillermo del Torro spins a masterful horror tale that is disturbing till the very end.
Not for the weak-hearted.
Joker and Joaquin Phoenix justify the need of The Dark Knight
Joker is the character sketch of Arthur Fleck, a young man aspiring to be a stand up comedian but suffering from multiple psychological and physical disorders. One of his serious shortcomings is that when he is nervous, he laughs uncontrollably, thus giving those around him the impression of ridicule and impunity. His strange mannerisms add to the complexity leading to Arthur becoming the cynosure of social ostracism and wholesome rejection, including physical excesses. He lives with his mother Penny, a debilitated woman also with mental issues. Arthur's life is one of an almost invisible and reclusive existence, something that's not acceptable to him. The social repulsion takes its final toll when the psychologist treats him with utter contempt and cuts off his medication. The situation sends him spiralling down into a psychological spin resulting in a social revolt and unbridled violent crimes that he has no remorse for.
That's the birth of Joker for you which will connect with The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne. Joker is an extremely volatile and complex character for whom your heart may cry out for sympathy in a moment and almost simultaneously look for a social rationale for his return to socially acceptable behaviour. Joaquin Phoenix has gotten under the skin of the character, yearning for sympathy, yet loathsome and abhorrent. Such maniacal is his demonstration of the nadir of his existence that the glorification of which has perhaps no comparison in modern times. Joker justifies the need of a vigilante for the return of control over Gotham, reeling from riotous behaviour of the less fortunate. The intensity of the character, physical nuances, volatility and subterfuge related histrionics of Joaquin Phoenix are in a class seldom witnessed in cinema - he pretty much is the prelude to Heath Ledger's Joker, almost seamlessly justifying the character. This rendition does deserve the standing ovation it got and is worth its weight in gold. Take a bow director Todd Phillips!
Tremendous form over substance
WAR - When the best intelligence service agent Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) goes rogue, his most able protege Khalid (Tiger Shroff) must step in to nab him. War is about why Kabir has gone rogue and what point Khalid has to prove, that will dovetail into a mouth watering duel between the industry's two best action heroes, unfolding on screen.
Director Siddharth Anand repeats the feat from Bang Bang, taking us on a globe trotting tour from Delhi to Malta, Morocco, Iraq, Portugal, Italy and finally the Arctic Circle (keeping Australia as the final cherry topping). War showcases some mind numbing, yet prolonged action and chase sequences that often start with us gawking, and then turn into "oh, come on now!" exclamations, testing our patience often. Both male leads put up their smug best faces, and while Hrithik gets a few opportunities to emote, Tiger manages to retain a deadpan expression barring the introduction sequence. But there's nothing to mind as War promised to be a lavishly mounted, high octane, glossy and technically superlative thriller, which it pretty much fulfills, leaving little or no opportunity for emotive skills. The action is exaggerated, but then with Hrithik and Tiger, you obviously didn't expect a love story to take home fond memories either. There's a particular fight sequence that is remarkable, where you can almost draw a comparison with a musical symphony, both the stars complementing each other as if a melifluous duet were being rendered. In contrast, the climax action sequence is gigantic, crude, bloody and violent. Watching them both execute "Jai Jai Shiv Shankar" in a song and dance is like human body in visual poetry, malleable and fluid - it's all paisa vasool stuff.
So coming back to the verdict, War is a superlative action thriller that reinforces Hrithik Roshan's capabilities as the best action hero India has, as well as catapults Tiger Shroff into the big league. It's a treat for fans. On the story front, there's enough spice and suspense as pieces slowly fall into place and characters reveal their true identities. But it isn't impactful enough as neither the characters have any depth nor does the screenplay leave any impression. It's all glitz, action and glamour without substance.
Ties of blood run deeper than sense of loyalty
Prassthanam - set in Maleehabad, Prassthanam is a political thriller with some impressive performances. Baldev Pratap Singh (Sanjay Dutt) inherits a political empire more by default as the scion of the family is felled and in the process, has to marry the latter's widow. As the stepfather, he adores his stepson and grooms him to be eligible for being his worthy heir, much to the disappointment of his own son from the marriage who decides to unleash mayhem. Baldev will have to wither the storm of many twists and turns that will test his love, loyalty, leadership and resilience. The lessons we learnt from our holy scriptures are mere ideals, one's actions in reality are guided more by his needs and desires, and the ties of blood are stronger than these ideals.
Remade from a Telugu film of 2010 by the same name, Prassthanam has a sombre and mature performance from Sanjay Dutt, who returns to a role that he has so often done in the past, that of a leader facing the test of time. Ali Fazal is superlative and Jackie Shroff is silent yet strong. The film isn't your average pot boiler although it has some predictable twists in the tale. The product is slick and shiny with an element of suspense kept alive until the very end. It could have been 20 minutes shorter probably that could have rendered Prassthanam to be faster paced and punchy. But director Deva Katta takes the film the whole nine yards, sucking some effectiveness out of it.
Dream Girl (2019)
A laugh riot diluted by the length of narrative
Dream Girl - there are lonely souls galore in a small town seeking solace from the soothing voices of call centre agents. When one of these agents Pooja goes missing in action, she is replaced by Ayushman Khurana, who is blessed with an inborn talent of speaking in a female voice. He assumes the name Pooja and is the soothing balm to the lovelorn individuals, several of whom happen to first fall the charm and then eventually fall in love with him. Problems start emerging when some of them want to meet Pooja personally and propose marriage.
The first half is absolutely hilarious with a series of peculiar characters being introduced and strange situations arising. In the interim, Ayushman Khurana goes on a flourish, keeping his histrionics effervescent and expressive. He is supported by Vijay Raaz whose comic timing and volatility are exceptional. Then there are Annu Kapoor, Abhishek Banerjee, Rajesh Sharma and Manjot Singh, who add to the melee. The second half turns into a drag, often coming across as repetitive, protracted and moving away from realism, somewhat diluting the easy charm of this laugh riot. Nushrat Bharucha appears comfortable in a different role compared to what she has been entrusted with until now, but her chemistry with Ayushman Khurana is weak, and no effort has been made to fix the problem too. Do watch Dream Girl for some comic relief from the regular tensions of life, you will not exactly remember the works of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee but won't find the presentation as inane as a Rohit Shetty flick too.
Section 375 (2019)
Stunning drama between law and justice
Section 375 - A rape is registered, a woman is violated and trampled by a person in superior position, and for the ease of understanding, it's the film industry that's in focus. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others are people against whom the #MeToo movement began in Hollywood that later spread like a wildfire in India too. The film director in Section 375 played by Rahul Bhat strongly denies the allegations of the junior costume designer but there is almost infallible evidence against him, good enough for his conviction.
With a running time of 125 minutes, the narrative keeps you on the edge of your seat as the courtroom drama swings from one end of the spectrum to the other. Truth is often stranger than fiction and lawyers are in the business of law, not justice. Akshay Khanna delivers yet another superlative performance in the role of the suave, smooth talking and convincing defense lawyer, fighting a case that's all but lost, battling public and media fury on the one hand and opposition at home too. Richa Chadha is not exactly spectacular as the public prosecutor, somewhat undermined by her flawed dialogue delivery that sounds monotonous, but quite formidable in her upright mannerisms and conviction of the rape. The director manages to unfold the suspense slowly and logically, keeping the consequence and judgement open to debate, interpretation and it's for you to take sides.
Section 375 is deeply disturbing with graphic violence, uncomfortable interrogation of the victim in the courtroom, a botched police investigation and a judiciary under social turbulence. The subject is contemporary and of significant relevance in workplace, any for that matter. It has a message that needs to be absorbed amid all the throbbing drama where sympathy may change sides. If you don't enjoy depth and detail or are looking for entertainment, give Section 375 a miss. But if you like serious narrative, in-depth analysis, crevices of law and human psychology, please watch the film for a very rewarding mental stimulus.
It's time to shrug off the underdog tag!
Chhichhore - Indian films have now come of age, they can give a message subtly without being preachy. Chhichhore begins with young Raghav suffering from a massive anxiety about whether he will crack the all India engineering entrance exam as he has invested 18 hours a day for the past many months preparing for it and wants to match the caliber of his parents.
A failure to launch throws him into despair and the occasion brings together six middle aged people into a reunion with the objective of alleviating Raghav from his pain and encouraging him to bring hope back into his fragile life. LOSERS, as these six were known as in their student life, recount their carefree journey initially and the final effort to shrug off the underdog tag, drawing a significant parallel to Raghav's situation.
Director Nitesh Tiwari handles the subject with sensitivity and balances the Losers journey through the undergraduate years well. There was ample temptation available to propel this segment of the film into being an over the top and loud essay, but Tiwari never gives in, thus rising above the ordinary. Sushant Singh Rajput delivers an underrated performance and Tahir Raj Bhasin adds gravitas. Naveen Polishetty, Tushar Pandey and Saharsh Kumar Shukla add to the little masala with their individual contribution, but the star of the Losers union must be Varun Sharma. He is absolutely a laugh riot with his expressions, one liners and an incredible energy, cracking up the theatre on numerous occasions. The weakest link is yet again Shraddha Kapoor, who needs to experiment with diversity of histrionic capabilities and expressions.
Don't miss Chhichhore, it's a fantastic mood lifter and easy on the mind, often drawing you into the proceedings.
It Chapter Two (2019)
Pennywise's terror overshadowed by blood and gore
IT Chapter 2 - The seven survivors from Pennywise's 1989 mayhem have partly forgotten their ordeal and lead their own lives. Only Mike continues to live in Derry and remembers everything. 27 years thence, Mike calls up the other six to return to Derry as they promised in their childhood, as Pennywise has now made his appearance again and struck devastation.
He is terrifying to start with and every encounter of his appearance is startling. Bill Skarsgard continues his impressive and flawless delivery of the role of the tormentor posing greater danger and infusing uninhibited fear among his challengers this time. It's a fight to the finish as the protagonists deal with their individual fears, recounting the childhood events and promise to stick together to banish Pennywise for good.
This is the final installment of Stephen King's novel, thus holding out an unprecedented frenzy and expectation. Chapter 2 unfortunately turns into a repetitive storytelling by replaying scenes from the first part and showcasing Pennywise's encounters with each of his challengers in a quirky way. Its elicits some shrieks and squeals for sure, but enhances its dalliance with an unnecessary overdose of blood and gore. The climax is too long to endure actually, undermining the thrill and fear elements. With a running time of 170 minutes, IT Chapter 2 does get a bit monotonous, stretching our patience. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are impressive, but no match to play foil to Skarsgard's Pennywise menace. Watch it you must if you are a fan of the horror genre, or Stephen King or if you've experienced the first part.
Mind numbing and a senseless celebration of action
Saaho - It took me the first 65 minutes to understand what's going on for which an enormous number of characters are all running helter skelter. By the time it's interval, people have changed sides, double crossed one another, assumed different identities and left us thoroughly confused. Abbas Mastan have been made to look like a couple of toddlers in this strange saga of twists and turns, and yet I was wondering what the whole point of the film is. The second half heralded in more mayhem, violence and multitude of characters, and by then I was gawking at this fictional city called Waaji, a snuffed out village called Karana, the mind numbing action that emulates any top of the line Hollywood A-list movie and hoping that the end is near.
Alas that Saaho is actually an assault on the senses for 180 minutes, with rip roaring, high octane action and a plot that's at best reminiscent of a 1970's potboiler which takes a toll on your patience and grit. It's Prabhas all the way with a cool swagger, mysterious personality, top notch action and an awfully poor Hindi dialect. He walks, runs, chases, is chased, fights, shoots, flies, romances, dances, ....... Shraddha Kapoor has the poorest of the roles, and it often appeared that the director Sujeeth was in two minds throughout the film if she should be kept alive for a few more minutes or be bumped off. Chunky Pandey and Mahesh Manjrekar make for villains without a gameplan, they have a two-minute scheme which falls flat soon after in the most elaborate manner. The music of the film is pathetic. The locales are pretty and impressive, but the constant change of geographic locations adds to the confusion. The action is heady and why not? The department boasts of a 40+ strong crew, most of them from Hollywood, making action and stunts the only assets of Saaho, more often than not, mindless though.
If you are a die hard fan of Prabhas, Saaho is for you. The rest can have mercy for the mind and senses, and stick to either watching something on Netflix or catch up on reading a novel.
Mission Mangal (2019)
A spiced up documentary
Mission Mangal - On ISRO's 50th anniversary this year, Mission Mangal, India's foray into sending a satellite into the orbit of Mars is indeed a befitting tribute to the space research agency that has been making the nation proud. The launch of Mangalyaan in 2014 was a landmark event - India became the first country to launch a satellite to Mars on its first attempt. Mission Mangal does evoke national pride, a sense of achievement and belonging, enthusiasm, warmth and appreciation for the scientists all at once, but towards the last half hour or so only.
There's nothing wrong with that, because Mangalyaan is reality and chronicling its development and launch are stuff meant for a documentary, not a drama. Hence the film's makers have thrown in some spice with the intent of creating drama by giving us sneak peeks into each scientist's personal life. These created subplots, each with an independent message that came across as preachy at times. An aged scientist's son doesn't care about the parents, another's husband cheated on her, a third is accused of inability to bear a child, etc. But without these, the film would barely cross 90 minutes and would actually turn into a documentary. These subplots are what you would call necessary commercial evils, but turn Mission Mangal into a typical Bollywood drama. The climax is of course predictable as Mangalyaan is etched in the modern history.
Akshay Kumar as Rakesh Dhawan is his usual self, but for a change allows Vidya Balan to take centre stage and she delivers a brilliant role as Tara. Nithya Menen and Kirti Kulhari are pretty good too. Sharman Joshi and H. G. Dattatrey are impressive. Sonakshi Sinha and Taapsee Pannu are passable. Sanjay Kapoor, Purab Kohli and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub lend great support. Mission Mangal has a huge technical flourish and the Sound & Special Effects departments must be lauded for the same.
Batla House (2019)
Because truth must prevail
Batla House - inspired by true incidents, Batla House narrates the aftermath of a gun battle between the Delhi Police and alleged members of the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen. This event that was slammed as an encounter operation by political parties and a large part of the society, many media houses and social activists brought the Delhi Police under intense scrutiny for allegedly killing innocent students in the name of terrorists.
Nikkhil Advani starts Batla House on a war footing and the shootout is over in the first 20 minutes. Unlike other encounter films like Shootout at Lokhandwala / Wadala, the focus of the film isn't about the graphic reconstruction of the encounter, but the psychological, social and legal effects of the same and therefore, refreshingly different. Two of the terrorists were killed, one arrested and the key operative escaped. But possibly the only alibi to prove that it was Delhi Police's investigative act and not a planned or planted encounter on innocent students was the fact that it lost a highly decorated inspector in the event who was shot dead too.
Batla House walks a tightrope. So intense is the storytelling, that it generates the same excitement whether there's an internal inquiry or a press coverage or the policemen chasing the dreaded Mujahid who escaped. It's a nail biting, intelligent and heavily charged thriller that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what's next! John Abraham (also a producer) turns in a superb performance, at par with Madras Cafe in a role that's tailor made for him. Mrunal Thakur as his wife has an interesting role with a major conflict of interest that I thought could be a little more developed. Manish Chaudhary, Rajesh Sharma, Nora Fatehi, Sahidur Rahaman and Ravi Kishan play other important roles well. Soumik Mukherjee's cinematography deserves a special mention, especially for creating almost a live environment during the encounter and the chases. Don't miss Batla House!
The Threshold (2015)
When you can no longer tolerate a relationship
The Threshold - a sixty something couple Rinku (Neena Gupta) and Raj (Rajit Kapoor) has just seen off guests after their son's wedding reception at their mountain retreat, a beautiful bungalow by the stream. This is when Rinku tells Raj about her decision to leave him and go away.
The Threshold is about the penultimate day for the married couple living together and an introspection about the many years together, but not the positives. It is Rinku's reproach to Raj about all that she has had to bear because of misogyny, the patriarchal nature, the lack of empathy and how she is no longer able to compromise with the attitude. Raj doesn't quietly surrender either - at first he offers explanations and soon, it turns into an affair of trading charges containing barbs. It's a long day and night with tumultuous emotions, but always remaining grounded to their immense probability of becoming the story of every couple that lives in a long matrimony. It's so often that we take the spouse for granted.
Director Pushan Kripalani directs the two veterans with a natural flair. Neena Gupta has the upper hand, but Rajit Kapoor gives a great underdog performance, mostly being at the receiving end of the barbs. The Threshold is a tad slow and lacks additional characters, but then I gauge that on the penultimate day of the dreaded separation, there's no space for a third person in the relationship.
Hotel Mumbai (2018)
Commitment to service meets terrorism
Hotel Mumbai - The dastardly terror attack on the heritage property of Taj Hotel finds a sombre, balanced yet gripping narrative through Anthony Maras' direction of Hotel Mumbai. The film steers clear of any overt demonstration of heroism and patriotism, but does justice to the employees' integrity and dedication to their customers' service, keeping their safety, security and well being before everything else. With a running time of 118 minutes, Hotel Mumbai sets of its business straight from the word go and never returns a dull moment. It wastes no time to dive deep into anyone's life, but does create an ensemble of core characters that represents the indomitable spirit of the metropolis and the unflinching commitment of Taj to secure the release of the hapless hostages.
Hotel Mumbai is a hybrid of a drama and a documentary without allowing the tension drop for once. The perpetrators are evidently a bunch of ultraviolent, brainwashed youngsters working on the principles of religious faith, the local police are under prepared and the guests are at the mercy of the killers who neither show any compassion nor remorse. The situation is grave and the director keeps it edge of the seat. You will be filled with disgust and wonder why Hafiz Saeed who claimed himself as the mastermind of the genocide took so long to be declared a terrorist a d has not yet been tried by the ICJ. The visual effects and music are fascinating.
what an amazing philosophy!
Chopsticks (Netflix) - an introverted and somewhat submissive Nirma (Mithila Palkar) gets the shock of her life when she is conned and her brand new car stolen. She is directed to Mr. Artist (Abhay Deol), a magician with locks who she must team up with to recover the vehicle, not before a few transformational experiences that will make her emerge stronger and more confident.
Mithila Palkar is very impressive as Nirma - her demure demeanor and dialogue delivery are quite an antidote to the avatar she essayed in Karwaan. Abhay Deol is superlative, naturally easygoing, confident and suave. Vijay Raaz is volatile but almost typecast now. The ending is rather simplistic and underwhelming, contrary to the expectations of a witty or physical showdown, but I guess there lies the novelty of Chopsticks. The film steers clear of dramatic situations and keeps the humour intact. Some one liners are quite startling but their timing is fantastic - you'll instantly connect with them everytime they are spoken.
Super 30 (2019)
An underdog story that misses the mark
Super 30 - is inspired by the real life character of Anand Kumar, a mathematician who runs an institute for the underprivileged by the same name in Bihar. In real life, Anand Kumar runs a coaching centre to prepare candidates for the IIT JEE, but inducts 30 economically backward students from among them into Super 30, a school that has won many accolades for the humanitarian approach and its academic excellence.
In the movie though, Anand (Hrithik Roshan) faces the impossible task of chasing his dream to attend classes in the Cambridge University due to his family's poor background. When his father dies, Anand has to forego his ambition and resorts to selling papad to make their ends meet. He enjoys a brief flirtation with money and fame when an education tycoon picks him up from his personal nadir to run his coaching centre, but soon gives it all up due to an inner calling to alleviate poor but ambitious students to achieve their IIT dreams. Super 30 is Anand Kumar's trials and tribulations in this journey.
Hrithik Roshan is powerful in his discharge of the responsibility and puts in his heart and soul into the role. But playing this character was never going to be easy, especially with the small town attributes. This is where Roshan falters - his gait is the usual trademarked one, and the accent is gravely inconsistent. Beleaguered director Vikas Bahl makes Super 30 a commercial hash with some gimmicks including a prolonged and ridiculous take on a Sholay song and a contrived hospital rescue of the hero. I wish he had spent more time to help us connect with the 30 underprivileged students or developed the underdog theme to a more powerful essay. Pankaj Tripathi as the education minister and Aditya Shrivastav as Lallan Singh are wasted. Mrunal Thakur has precious little to do. Nandeesh Singh, Virendra Saxena, Amit Sadh and Surinder Kaur are impressive though. Music by Ajay Atul is ordinary.
Article 15 (2019)
My nation can do better than this!!
Article 15 - the nation is split through the centre. What we know is our urban, sophisticated and privileged life, and what we don't want to know about is the discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, profession in the rural and semi rural India, because we aren't involved and thus don't care. We close our eyes to the stark reality not too far away from us.- honour killing, child molestation, murders, poverty, atrocities, exploitation, etc., because we aren't partaking in these social evils, but do absolutely nothing about voicing concerns at the very least.
Based on a series of shocking but true incidents, Article 15 is about 2 teenage girls being killed and hanged from a tree simply to showcase the strength of the powerful and politically well connected, to put them in their right place and to send out a strong message to the rest. Sadly, the police is complicit. Ayan Ranjan (Ayushman Khurana) is the new age additional commissioner who vows to bring the criminals to justice and doesn't fear trampling on the feet of the powerful politicians and other office bearers. Director Anubhav Sinha keeps the narrative taut and grim, stays focused and doesn't allow the treatment of discrimination to become preachy. Article 15 is a watershed film that shakes you up from your stupor and comfort zone - it questions why we must worship only those who lose their lives defending the borders, but don't bat an eyelid at the deaths of the sewage workers who choke on poisonous gases while cleaning our faeces. It is hard hitting, but doesn't go over the top. Ayushman Khurana is impressive as the upright officer, having underplayed the role to the point of reality. He isn't Bajirao Singham or Sooryavanshi, or for that matter even a hero, he is what you expect a police officer to be. Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub are rock solid and real too. The background score by Mangesh Dhakde and cinematography by Ewan Mulligan underscore the excellence of the film. Article 15 is a thought provoking, introspective and immersive Eye opener that a Indians must watch.
Kabir Singh (2019)
Violent, all consuming love
Kabir Singh - So strong is Kabir's (Shahid Kapoor) control over his junior in college Preeti (Kiara Advani), that her consent to the relationship he desires is inconsequential. He has serious anger management issues but virtually rules the medical college due to his immense intelligence and top performance. As time passes by, Preeti gets so smitten by Kabir that she is almost consumed and possessed by him, to the point of an intense submissive pleasure. Preeti is therefore deemed as the mad man's muse. The problem is that her parents don't approve of the relationship and marry her off elsewhere, whilst Kabir Singh embarks on a mission of self destruction and vandalism, seeking solace in alcohol and drugs.
Director Sandeep Vanga Reddy's remake of the original Telugu hit Arjun Reddy brings out Shahid Kapoor in a passionate and controlling character like never before. His romance is toxic and requires physical demonstrations. He is volatile, virile, explosive and self destructive with graphic violence and alcoholism. It's a role played to perfection. In contrast, Kiara Advani's role is poorly sketched as we fail to gather why she gives in to Kabir easily and then allows him to completely possess her, to the extent of objectification. Music by Harshvardhan Rameshwar and cinematography by S K Ravichandran are fantastic. Suresh Oberoi, Kamini Kaushal, Arjan Bajwa, Nikita Dutt and Soham Majumdar (in the role of Shiva, Kabir's best friend who stands by him in thick and thin) are absolutely first class. But the film is all about Shahid Kapoor who delivers one of his finest performances ever - especially those parts where he is a slowly decaying lover whose life has gone devoid of beauty.
Child's Play (2019)
Artificial intelligence gone wrong
Child's Play - if you are a fan of the original one released in 1988 and enjoy the horror genre, then you undoubtedly will watch Child's Play and comparisons are inevitable. Well for starters, this one is not based on a serial killer's ghost having possessed a toy, but artificial intelligence having gone wrong. When Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) gifts her young son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) the toy robot Buddi, little does she know that a disturbed employee at the manufacturing unit in Vietnam messed up all its control filters in the chip. Consequently, Buddi starts developing violent streaks as it has a penchant for the sharp objects and sympathises with his newfound best friend Andy, who doesn't like her mother's boyfriend one bit. Here's where things start going out of control and corpses start appearing regularly.
For the positives, there's no ghost or exorcism, and the film remains focused on horror, not deviating from the storytelling with unnecessary subplots. But Child's Play doesn't really rise to being laudable in generating chills as it becomes quite predictable and only manages periodic shocks and an occasional squeal. There's also excessive blood and gore. Director Lars Klevberg, being an experienced director of photography actually, focuses more on VFX and a sharp cinematic effect, and the resulting gloss is undisputed. I must admit that science going wrong isn't as exciting as the depths of the unknown spirits.
The journey of a nation through the protagonist's eye
Bharat - so what's this hullabaloo about critically panning Bharat and how exhausting Salman Khan's act is? What did you expect from the film, a competition to an old arthouse production? Come on guys, it's Eid, the time to celebrate and feel good with a customary Bhai production. Drop the rest, sit back and enjoy a commercial blockbuster of epic proportions.
Bharat is the journey of India from the time of her independence to the modern day, chronicling a number of historical milestones and events through the life of Bharat (Salman Khan) and how he is impacted by them. It is the official remake of a 2014 Korean film, "Ode to My Father". Bharat's young and impressionable mind is so deeply bruised by the accidental separation from his father and younger sister during the partition, that he lives out a promise he made to his father on that fateful day for the rest of his life. Bharat will sacrifice his personal happiness in utter silence to ensure that his siblings and mother live in comfort. So much so, that in his wait to be reunited with his father and sister in Delhi, he will discount the unconditional love of his dearest friend and the woman of his dreams.
Salman Khan's role is indeed larger than life, but then, it always has been - it's what his fans wait for at this time of the year, every year. He and director Ali Abbas Zafar are feeding the expectations of the nation, without any adulteration. The viewers will not feel cheated, as Bharat envelopes every possible human emotion and value, and swings from a tragedy to a comedy to again being tragi-comic in a swift changeover of sequences. Salman Khan is his usual self, self obsessed and in every frame, but the best part is reserved for Sunil Grover who belts out a heartwarming role. Katrina Kaif ....... oh well, let's leave it at she looked fabulous, and nothing beyond. Sonali Kulkarni, Kumud Mishra and Tabu are very good, making the reunion sequence absolutely stunning and poignant. And finally there's Jackie Shroff in a stellar role that made a huge difference to Bharat, adding gravitas and a certain balance to the proceedings. The stunts by a largely foreign crew, cinematography by Marcin Laskawiec, music by Vishal-Shekhar & Julius Packiam are superb complements to the film. I don't care what critics have to say, I loved the film.
Game Over (2019)
We all have two lives, the second one starts when we realize that we have only one! Delicious!!
Game Over - There's a series of gruesome murders by the countryside. Sapna (Taapsee Pannu), a video game addict who is battling a past and personal demons is in the line of sight, and a soft target.
Game Over is a dark, intelligent and cleverly made thriller with inspirations from Premonition and Happy Death Day. It has an understated suspense building around Sapna's psychological state in the first half that's very slow, torturous and you wonder when the killer will strike, without any sign. The second half splits things wide open and shoots like a rocket - deliciously thrilling and nail biting. Actually director Ashwin Saravanan through the first half is busy depicting Sapna as an emotional wreck and almost a weakling, so that he is able to accentuate her fierce capabilities to fight back and think more intelligently than her assailant. We all have two lives, the second one starts when we realize that we have only one! Read this carefully - PAC MAN is here to play!