Friday, 5 October 2018

ANDHADHUN MOVIE REVIEW

Welcome to the world of Sriram Raghavan. It's a dark, cynical world where everything appears normal on the surface, but when the layers begin to unravel you realise this is a place where none of the characters can be taken for granted or you can be rest assured each of them is holding ulterior motives. One minute you are fed with a certain kind of information only to receive a shocker the next minute. This, my friend, is all you need to know before you walk in to watch this delicious crime drama which reinforces the fact that there's nothing more enjoyable in the world than watching an intelligent, well executed thriller.

The exceptional quality of Sriram Raghavan's films are that in order to build the suspense they do not rely as much on the whodunit aspect of the murder as they do on the whydunit or howdunit aspects and all the mayhem that ensues. Johnny Gaddar or Ek Hasina Thi may
help prove my point. But Andhadhun takes this to the next level altogether, literally playing with the minds of the audience with its twisted screenplay.

It's really hard to get into the details of the plot without revealing too much. So let's just say the makers set up a fantastic premise which takes a while to reach there, but once the main plot kicks in Raghavan, the flamboyant deceiver, milks enough thrill, shock value and wry humor out of it to keep you on the edge of your seat almost throughout the film. If I had to draw an analogy, the film is like a ticking time bomb or a race where Raghavan, aided by Amit Trivedi's original score that intensifies the sense of urgency, is always one step ahead of the audience.

It also helps that each of the actors are in terrific form. Stepping out of his comfort zone, Ayushmaan delivers a mature performance that's both vulnerable and suspenseful at the same time. Continuing the trend of outperforming herself, Tabu is pitch perfect as the sly and manipulative woman, a character I would never want to meet in person.

I'm going with 4/5 for Andhadhun, another gem added to Raghavan's handsome repertoire of films. Watch it because rarely do you come across a Bollywood film that doesn't insult your intelligence. The sound of a piano playing in the background has never been more intriguing!

Sunday, 16 September 2018

MANMARZIYAN MOVIE REVIEW

Love stories are not completely alien to Anurag Kashyap. Whether it was the period romance of Ranbir and Anushka in Bombay Velvet (regardless of the debacle it turned out to be) or the small town but big heart romance between a boxer and a mute lady at the center of his boxing drama Mukkabaaz, Kashyap has betrayed a smattering of penchant for conventional love told in an unconventional style. It is then unfair that Manmarziyan, his latest affair with unorthodox filmmaking, is being projected as a first of its kind for Kashyap. The truth is, Manmarziyan is like any other Anurag Kashyap film minus the violence and beheading; it is a series of misadventures just without any bloodshed.

The first half of the film is zany. Enormously benefiting from writer Kanika Dhillon's razor sharp dialogue & quirky characters, Amit Trivedi's music (more on this in the next paragraph) and consistently terrific performances, the film races across till intermission only to culminate in a rather underwhelming second half. Kashyap lends his trademark directorial touches that separate the film from your average romance flick. For instance, take the two sisters who show up in the background in every song sequence symbolic of the dichotomy the characters face in the film. The characters in the film are impulsive, irresponsible and messy and Kashyap treats it with the right amount of wackiness that keeps the film itself from turning messy. In the second half, however, there is a sudden dip in pace and energy. The makers, from here on, don't quite seem to know how to take the story forward, so they end it in the most unconvincing way possible.

But the real hero of the film, you guessed it right, is music magician Amit Trivedi. His intoxicating soundtrack is the driving force of the film, enlivening even the most dull portions. The album is a winning combination of brazenly original sound arrangements and simple but unforgettable tunes that may be venerated for years to come.

I'm going with 3/5 for Manmarziyan. It's a pity that the film is come undone by its daunting length and a disappointing end, but I still recommend a watch because it seamlessly blends the different departments of cinema to good effect. 

Friday, 29 June 2018

SANJU MOVIE REVIEW

Sanjay Dutt's life has been a string of inspiring but mostly traumatic events that influenced not just him but almost everyone associated with him. Right from the phase of drug addiction to the charges of terrorism and his eventual imprisonment, it is conspicuous why Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi found his story worthy of a cinematic translation, notwithstanding the fact that Dutt was, hitherto, a part of every film of Hirani (except 3 idiots). It surely isn't an easy story to tell and the makers do a fine job of not ultimately portraying the character as a victim of circumstances, but instead very categorically delving into the controversial aspects of his life like his drug addiction and the possession of arms just to name a few.

But make no mistake, the film has the Hirani stamp all over it. Opting for a more light hearted tone, the focus is on reinforcing the importance of human relationships and values over anything else. Starting on a rather uneven note, the film finds its ground at around half an hour into it and it is these portions where Hirani reveals his magical skills in getting the audience deeply involved in his screenplay as we see Sanju's life fall apart like a pack of cards. In fact, I was so emotionally charged at this point that I wished the film didn't have an intermission break.

Alas, like most of his previous films, the break doesn't bode well for the second half. From here on, despite interesting ideas about superficial journalism and revealing insights into his life post charges of terrorism, I was never fully invested in the screenplay and its formulaic approach. The characterization becomes sketchy, conflicts are too conveniently resolved and the climax is a bit of let down.

Despite the shortcomings, the film is balanced by a career-best performance by Ranbir Kapoor, who not merely imitates but lives the life of Sanjay Dutt through his empathetic portrayal. Never appearing caricaturish or seeming to go off track, his catches the pulse of the character with perfection. Also, Vicky Kaushal deserves special mention for making his presence felt throughout the film with a pretty solid performance.

Much like Dutt's life, the film has many highs and lows, but it deserves a watch for the terrific first half and the gifted Ranbir Kapoor.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

OCTOBER MOVIE REVIEW

Adding yet another feather to their extraordinary cap of films, Shoojit Sircar and Juhi Chaturvedhi deliver yet another winner in October, a slow burning and piercing drama (slow being the operative word) that will leave you questioning your understanding of love, faith and suffering.

October is unlike any film Bollywood has churned out in recent times. It doesn't rely on loud histrionics and background music to drive home it's point, but instead weaves together the complexities associated with human relationships when put through testing situations with the simplicity of the everydayness in a common man's life. Despite its leisurely pace and melancholic tone, the film never feels like a slog thanks to the intuitive and keenly observed writing and sharp, focused direction. Never spoon feeding the audience with easy answers, Juhi and Shoojit develop characters with ambiguous qualities, reminiscent of the Asghar Farhadi school of films. They also extract terrific performances from each of the actors, especially Varun Dhawan, Banita Sandhu and Gitanjali Rao.

I'm going with 4/5 for October. Some may complain about the slow pacing, abrupt ending and the lack of plot. But they all are a part of the calculated move by the writer-director duo to create a rich cinematic experience. Drop everything else you're doing this weekend and go in with dollops of patience to watch October. This is minimalistic filmmaking at its best.

Friday, 6 April 2018

BLACKMAIL MOVIE REVIEW

Blackmail is exactly the kind of fun film you'd like to watch on a lazy weekend with nothing much else to do. It has all the elements of the quirky oddball comedy; idiosyncratic characters put through outrageous situations, large helpings of laugh out loud humor and solid performances; but despite an original screenplay and a distinctively unconventional treatment, the film suffers from serious pacing issues. And that's never a good thing for films of this genre!

I won't get into the details of the cobweb of the script smartly written by Parvez Sheikh and Pradhyuman Singh Mall (a lot of which, sadly, is given away by the trailer), but the first half of the film has moments that are a serious test of patience. It takes a while before the actual plot kicks in and even once the unending series of blackmail calls begins, it's not always consistent until intermission. Post-intermission however, the chaos is intensified which results in humor that could leave you in splits, the major chunk of which is delivered by Arunodhay Singh, Divya Dutta and the witty dialogue.

Talking about performances, Irrfan Khan is in good form, though here he appears a little uninspired and holds himself back from giving us another winning performance and rising above the films shortcomings. The other supporting cast comprising Kirti Kulhari, Pradhyuman Singh, newcomer Anuja Sathe get some moments to shine and showcase their active participation in this land of absurdity. The real star of Blackmail, hands down, is Arunodhay Singh. Skillfully combining physical humor with a colorful palette of expressions, Singh makes the most of the meaty part that never lets predictability completely take over the film.

I'm going with 3/5 for Blackmail. Director Abhinay Deo falls short of delivering another Delhi Belly. The film has many strengths, but consistency is definitely not one of them. Still worth a watch!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

PADMAAVAT MOVIE REVIEW

While the rave reviews extolling Ranveer Singh's extraordinary performance are categorically justified, the other less-talked about but significant aspect of Padmaavat is that director Sanjay Leela Bhansali is in solid form. And by solid I mean this is possibly his least indulgent and most accessible film in a decade.

Pick up any of his recent films, say Ram Leela, Guzaarish, Saawariya, and you'll notice that all of them suffered from a misplaced sense of self-adulation and vanity that took away much of the sheen from all the grandeur at display. Even his penultimate film Bajirao Mastani, which I agree was marginally better than the ones I mentioned so far, could not completely absolve him of succumbing to "style over substance", a crime plenty of Indian filmmakers are frequent accused of committing.

This does not go to say that Padmaavat possesses a flavor or aura anything markedly different from his previous films, but amidst all the lavish set pieces and ostentatious costumes, the story-telling remains sure-footed. He stages impressive war sequences, the dialogues pack a punch and the script throws in enough twists to keep you engaged for most part of the film. It is only the last 30 minutes or so where things take a predictable turn and the already thin plot is stretched to the point of turning the film into a slog.

Shahid Kapoor and Deepika Padukone's sincere and commendable renditions are likely to go largely unnoticed with Ranveer Singh practically stealing every scene he is in. In his third successive film with Ranveer, Bhansali skillfully directs all of Ranveer's innate eccentricity to create a character that is deliciously menacing & repugnant and the actor sinks his teeth completely into the role to deliver a performance that is riveting, to say the least.

I'm going with 3.5/5 for Padmaavat. It's hard to comprehend the drama surrounding the release of the film, which incidentally seems more than the drama in the entire film itself, but be prepared to get Ranveer's Khilji ingrained in your memory.

Friday, 20 October 2017

SECRET SUPERSTAR MOVIE REVIEW

In the latest product of Aamir Khan, there are two scenes which stand out for touching the pinnacle of storytelling and cinematic viewing. One is a moment in the first half where a despotic husband/father becomes aware of a secret he shouldn't have known and slowly asks his children to go inside the room as he prepares to unleash his wrath on the helpless woman of the house. It's a scene so chilling that it makes you budge uncomfortably in your seat, as if transported right into the middle of the action. In the other best-directed scene when the protagonist, played by the gifted Zaira Wasim, visits a music studio and performs a song that takes everybody by surprise as they witness her abundant singing prowess, the feeling is euphoric. (A special word for Amit Trivedi's winning score).

A handful of moments like these is what makes Secret Superstar rise way above the ordinary despite a half-convincing story and overt theatrics in the climax, which wouldn't have been quite a quibble in a Rajkumar Hirani (a master of shamelessly yet successfully manipulating emotions) film. At the same time, what cannot be faulted is the strong case the film makes for the familiar but instantly relatable sentiments like steadfast pursuit of passion, breaking away from the shackles of an orthodox Muslim family, teenage love and many others which debutant director Advait Chandan captures quite impressively for most part.

If there's one reason why you're willing to guiltily submit yourself to the simplistic and frankly 'too good to be true' plot is the pitch perfect ensemble. Aamir Khan shines in a small but laugh-out-loud funny role of a failed, obnoxious music composer named Shakti Kumaar. Never shying away from taking the backseat and letting the women drive the film, he's an actor/producer who can be counted on anytime. Raj Arjun is aptly cast as the tyrannical father while Meher Vij plays her part with remarkable restraint and in the process becomes the second best thing about the film, after Zaira Wasim. Displaying capabilities way beyond her years, Zaira with her terrific screen presence delivers a mature and deeply affecting performance that is bound to stay with you long after you've left the cinemas.

I'm going with 3.5/5 for Secret Superstar. It's not a perfect film but it has all the ingredients for an ideal Diwali outing with family. Watch it for Zaira Wasim, the teen with umpteen talent.