Saturday, 29 June 2019

ARTICLE 15 MOVIE REVIEW

The events that take place in Article 15 are shocking and unsettling. Equally astonishing is the metamorphosis of director Anubhav Sinha from the maker of mindless action films like Cash, Ra One and soulless love stories of the Tum Bin series (Yes, apparently there are two of them) to a bold storyteller unafraid of exposing the flaws of our legal system (as he did quite commendably in Mulk) and now taking a jab at the regressive caste system in the superbly made Article 15.

Article 15 is essentially a police procedural to track down the murderer of 2 girls and find the other missing one. Taking up his first posting in the hinterland of Laalgaon, IPS officer Ayan Ranjan, played by Ayushman Khurana, has his task cut out. On the face of it, he is made to believe it is a case of honor killing. However, stung by the bee of conscience, he digs deeper into the case only to discover the dirty political nexus involving disturbing casteism at play which is so rampant in northern India. Sinha and co-writer Gaurav Solanki create characters that feel one hundred percent authentic and they all seamlessly fit in this dark world colluding to maintain the balance of the system.

Barring a few inconsistencies involving Ayushman's constant texting with his girlfriend or the involvement of CBI towards the latter half of the film, the filmmaking on display is pretty solid. The background score underscores an atmosphere of impending doom which ensures film even works as a tense thriller and not merely a preachy commentary on the social fabric of the country.

Expectedly, Sinha has the backing of a terrific cast. Ayushman Khurana is at the top of his game. Even with a limited stock of expressions, he manages to essay every role very convincingly. Given the film choices he makes, there's no taking away from the fact that Ayushman is a remarkably instinctive actor. The rest of the cast as well, including the gifted Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Zeeshan Ayub (who deserves a spin off film of own) and others, put their best foot forward and deliver memorable performances.

I'm going with 4/5 for Article 15. In the end, the film doesn't offer easy answers except for the fact that after 17 years of churning crappy films, Anubhav Sinha has finally recognized his true filmmaking prowess. Better late than never!

Saturday, 2 March 2019

SONCHIRIYA MOVIE REVIEW

Sonchiriya opens with the buzzing sounds of flies hovering around a dead snake. Having encountered a dead snake in their path, a bunch of dacoits suggest taking another path since it is considered a bad omen. But their leader urges them to continue walking claiming that changing their direction will not help wash away their sins of the past.

Director Abhishek Chaubey wastes no time in setting up his riveting premise and makes it conspicuous from this very first frame that we are in for an unsettling ride. He, along with co-writer Sudip Sharma (writer of NH-10 and Udta Punjab), whip up a tense thriller of dacoits in Chambal who seek to escape not only the system but also their inner conscience and guilt.

Fashioned as a minefield of emotional outbursts, traumatic visuals of the ghosts of the past, gang rivalry, internal feuds, dark humor and much more, the script offers a fresh spin on the regular dacoit-drama by throwing in twist after twist to sustain an atmosphere of impending doom throughout its running time.

Amidst all the gory and brilliantly staged shootout sequences, at the core of Sonchiriya is the tender bond that develops between a young girl and the dacoits, who consider her as their last chance to seek redemption. This track is what sets apart Sonchiriya from other films of the same genre.

Be warned though, the film isn't an easy watch. There are portions in the second half where your patience may begin to wear thin most likely because many scenes are shot with minimal lighting and the language spoken is bundelkhandi (constantly having to look at the subtitles might distract you a little). This is a minor price the makers were willing to pay to retain the authenticity of the film.

The film, ultimately, is brought alive by its assorted bunch of talented actors, whose conviction to get under the skin of each character is thoroughly satisfying and praiseworthy.

So that's 4/5 for Sonchiriya. Abhishek Chaubey yet again cements his position as one of India's most interesting filmmakers. Watch it because it has the pluck to be uncompromising and yet remain well within the boundaries of mainstream cinema.


Saturday, 26 January 2019

SONI MOVIE REVIEW


This is my first review of a Netflix original film. I watched Soni 2 days ago and still can’t seem to get it out of my head for many reasons. The fact that it stayed with me for so long after watching merits a detailed review.

Putting aside the superior craft of storytelling, Soni is an important and personal film. It holds a mirror to the society we live in, its patriarchal and orthodox beliefs, the biases enjoyed by the more privileged, the helpless police department which we generally take so much pride in and unmistakable misogyny that runs deep in the veins of our system. Sure, all of the above have been discussed at length innumerable times in Bollywood but we are always given a more dramatized version of the incidents. In Soni, however, debutante director Ivan Ayr very well understands that the inherent nature of the system is so exaggerated that all he needs to do is present Delhi in its raw, vulnerable form. The film has a beautiful understated tone that doesn’t require any showy dialogues or reactions to underline the gravity of the moment in a scene. It has no plot to speak of as such, but is more of a stripped down character study that was reminiscent of Asghar Farhadi’s (who I think is one of the best filmmakers in the world) films except that the characters here aren’t as grey as the ones in his films.

Ivan skillfully taps into the energy of silence and the pauses in a scene to transport the viewer right in the middle of the action. Rarely does a film invite its audience to enter the head space of its characters and witness who they actually are and what their thought process is. Also, technically speaking, every scene is shot in a single take which enhances the viewing experience manifold. Since I’m a sucker for long, single takes, I just admired the efforts gone into conceiving each scene so seamlessly, even if there is pretty much nothing significant happening in it. The film remains grounded for most part thanks to the actors who inhabit this space. Here, you’ll find  acting of the highest order even by characters who literally appear in just one scene.

In the end, Soni is an unflinching and an ultimately disturbing film which doesn’t offer any easy answers but sure makes an effort to change the way we perceive the rampant corruption and chauvinism around us. Don’t miss it!

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.