Friday, 23 December 2016

DANGAL MOVIE REVIEW

Bottomline : Just before you sign off on your list of favorite films this year (which, understandably, is a short one), Aamir Khan comes up with such an immensely likeable film that you're gleefully willing to overlook the occasional setbacks the film suffers on account of predictability and embrace it with all heart and full praise.

I can't recollect the last time I had this much fun at the cinema ever since Tanu Weds Manu Returns of early 2015. This inherently sincere and inspirational story employs the usual tropes of an Indian sports film, but it is filmed with such genuine affection for its characters and bolstered by such heartfelt performances (even the tiniest of characters have a moment to shine) that you can't help literally swell with pride as the lights come on which is when you realize that you've witnessed an important and a deeply satisfying film that will most likely endure the test of time.

The first fifteen minutes or so of the film feel like the extended trailer playing itself out and it takes some time to find its feet. But, from here on, when the haanikarak bapu decides to integrate training cum torture into his girls' lives, the film soars. The first half moves at a frenetic pace infused with a kind of dizzying fervor while the narrative itself is powered by an outstanding, earthy soundtrack by Pritam (who is having the time of his life after  Ae Dil Hain Mushkil and Dishoom this year) interspersed with imaginatively engaging lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya, arguably the finest lyricists of our times.

Director Nitesh Tiwari sinks his teeth into the film delivering a compelling drama that inspires and entertains in equal parts. He deserves praise for keeping Aamir's character on the backburner while silently fueling the film's vehicle even as the girls and wrestling at large, take centrestage.

Now, comparisons with Salman Khan's Sultan are inevitable. To be honest, Sultan was a silly film made only to cater to that section of the audience who wished to see Bhai shirtless for almost three-fourths of the film. But Dangal is much more than that. It addresses important issues like the imbalance in sex ratio of the hinterland where girls are brought up with the sole purpose of marrying them away. It is against this backdrop that the story of Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters plays a crucial role in shaping the thought process of that marginalized section of the society.

I'm going with 4/5 for Dangal. Few can challenge Aamir in the Dangal of Bollywood. The game, the film and 2016 have all finished in style. Take a bow, Mr. Aamir Khan!!

Friday, 2 December 2016

KAHANI 2 MOVIE REVIEW

Bottom line : Sujoy Ghosh and Vidya balan team up yet again for Kahani 2, a moody thriller that relies heavily on atmospherics and a fabulous background score to deliver thrills but, enter the second half, and the script inconsistencies accentuate itself to the point of partially derailing what was hitherto an enthralling film.

The one thing I admired most about Kahani 2 was that writer-director Sujoy Ghosh not once tries to recreate or tinker around with plot points or characters from his previous film Kahani, instead urging the audience to judge his new film for its own merits. And that is only fair because the milieu, story, actors are all entirely different and there is literally no common thread running between the two films (Except Kolkata, of course, which is more or less treated like a character in both films).

Having said that, Ghosh wastes no time in introducing his characters or spoon-feeding us with their backstories and instead delves straight into the plot, giving us a taut first-half replete with edge-of-the-seat moments thanks to the non-linear screenplay. It is a pity, then, that his story runs out of steam too soon and the film begins to fall apart like a house of cards. The story starts to feel familiar and twists can be spotted from a mile away. Also, unlike Kahani, which had a solid gut-punching revelation in the climax, Kahani 2 feels unsatisfying and underwhelming. The only positive takeaway from here on is that the makers keep the proceedings moving at a breakneck pace, which leaves you with precious little time to carp at the film's faults.

Of the performances, Jugal Hansraj is surprisingly effective and menacing while Arjun Rampal, although saddled with a weakly written role, does a good job as the officer who makes it his business to unravel the truth. The film, in the end, belongs to Vidya Balan. Completely submitting herself to the role of Durga Rani Singh, Vidya Balan shines in every frame and it's hard to find fault with her unwavering and committed performance.

I'm going with 3/5 for Kahani 2. It doesn't quite live up to the standards set by Kahani, but definitely deserves a watch for the gifted Vidya Balan, who gives us yet another reason to believe she's possibly the finest actress in the industry.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

AE DIL HAIN MUSHKIL REVIEW

Bottomline : An intense love saga that boasts of heartfelt performances, a superlative soundtrack and the deft hand of Karan Johar, but the weak storyline and sluggish pace hold the film back from catapulting to the high-octane, emotionally engaging drama which the filmmaker is so darn good at delivering.

Ae Dil Hain Mushkil, KJo’s sixth full-length feature film as a director in 18 years, plays around with recurring themes of his previous films like unrequited love, blurring of the line between love and friendship and the capricious and volatile reactions which ensue only to complicate matters further. It is no-brainer that Karan revels in the fact that he likes to operate well within his comfort zone, and while that may not particularly be an issue, ADHM still lacks a solid story at its core which makes it all the more troublesome to relate to its characters. His attempt to capture the vibe, or vaatavaran as Lisa Haydon may refer to, of our generation’s relationships and the complexities that follow is noble, but the conflicts are more surface-level than deeply affecting. Frankly, Johar caressed and handled these emotions to a much greater effect in the grossly underrated Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, which by far remains his most mature film. Still, it is to the credit of his adept direction that he manages to give us moments of genuine passion despite circling around and clinging on to the same point throughout the film. He also, as always, draws first-rate performances from each of the three leads, particularly Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.

It would be wrong to cite ADHM as Ranbir’s comeback film, because even when movies like Bombay Velvet and Tamasha bombed, it was for no fault of his. Always the kind of actor who liked to experiment, Ranbir had come into his own so early in his career with films like Rocket Singh (which, despite being one of my favourite films, performed poorly), Barfi and Wake Up Sid. In ADHM, too, he uses his expressive eyes to convey volumes , and despite playing a morally questionable character, he comes off as wholly convincing. Anushka Sharma gets a major chunk of the reel-time and she effortlessly does the heavy-lifting as Karan puts her character through the emotional wringer. As for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, it is baffling that she has the least screen time given that she was used to promote the film and draw more audience to watch it. Still, she makes it a point to juice up the proceedings merely by her dashing screen presence.

So that’s 2.5/5 for Ae Dil Hain Mushkil. It sure has got the stamp of Karan Johar all over it, but the stamp pad needs to be re-inked.

Friday, 16 September 2016

PINK MOVIE REVIEW

When you have the brand name of Shoojit Sircar attached to your film, it brings in an additional responsibility of living up to the sky high standards set by Shoojit and writer Juhi Chaturvedi. So, does this Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury directed film deliver on its promises? Let’s find out!

The first hour of the film is absolutely terrific. Without delving much into the details of the storyline, let’s just say the makers do an excellent job of sustaining a palpable sense of danger looming large and it’s all so neatly captured in the characters’ quotidian activities with a rock-solid screenplay, hard-hitting dialogues and a haunting background score (along the lines of last year’s marginally superior NH10!!). Much of this credit goes to the spot-on casting and gritty writing which creates real flesh and blood characters with relatively lesser known faces whom each of us can instantly relate to. My favourite scene is the one where Tapsee Pannu goes along with her friend to register a complaint of molestation and the officer on duty cheekily advises her against doing so. It’s a simple but effective scene and packs a punch with all the dark humor and harsh truth wrapped inside it. Also, a loud shout-out to Vijay Verma and Kirti Kulhari for their frighteningly fine performances!!

Alas, like so many other films, Pink, too, can’t seem to escape "The Curse of the Second Half". The film, from here on, nosedives into a humdrum courtroom drama where everyone from the hammy Piyush Mishra to the ostensibly disinterested Amitabh Bachchan rely on theatrics to drive home the film’s message. Perhaps, the makers were busy patting their own backs for not taking the tried and tested sermonizing route of singling out women as the sole victim in such cases and also be unapologetic and less moralistic about their mannerisms such as dressing style, drinking habits, etc. Agreed, it’s a noble thought, but it all comes off as so contrived, labored and bereft of the grit and razor sharp dialogue witnessed in the first half, that you wonder if it was the same person directing the second half.

Amitabh Bachchan’s character is probably the weakest link in the film and it’s not surprising that the maverick septuagenarian can’t seem to get under the skin of advocate Deepak Sehgal, because of his inherently vague nature. This is particularly unfortunate because Amitabh was so good as the eternally constipated Bhashkor Banerjee in last year’s Piku, the brainchild of the same production house as Pink. Still, we get a glimpse of the actor’s unmissable charisma in the final act of the film where the perpetrators are finally brought to book.

I’m going with 3/5 for Pink. In color psychology, pink refers to a sign of hope. Given the ordeals we have been put through over the past few months, the film does, indeed, emerge as a ray of hope. It may not be a fully satisfying film, but the merits definitely outweigh the flaws. Recommended!

Friday, 9 September 2016

BAAR BAAR DEKHO MOVIE REVIEW

Bottomline : Even while most of the Hindi films, this year, have fallen well below expectations, Baar Baar Dekho heralds the fact that the worst is yet to come. Touted as a “high on concept” love story, the film also serves as a reminder that Bollywood still isn’t ready to carve out even a merely engaging time travel story, forget creating a satisfying one.

Review: Is it wrong to expect a mature, poignant film from someone who has remained the assistant director of Farhan Akhtar, the genius who gave us the evergreen Dil Chahta Hain? Or am I being too na├»ve going in the cinema hall hoping to witness a genuine, heartfelt love story involving two good-looking leads and some pretty hummable songs? Debutante director Nitya Mehra answers these questions with a big YES. It is all the more frustrating because Baar Baar Dekho does come in with a promising premise which could have easily translated into an enjoyable film, but not only does it lack the confident and deft hand to tackle such a concept, it also suffers from a predictable and painfully linear screenplay. It also doesn’t help that the dialogues are laughably stupid and performances nothing worth mentioning, because the dull and hollow script hardly leaves them any elbow room to showcase their talent. In fact, with all the hooting and scornful remarks passed in the theater, few portions of Baar Baar Dekho reminded me of another evergreen film, Roy (evergreen for different reasons, of course). The truth is that, however noble the intentions of the film are, it is executed in such an unimaginative manner that it negates all its merits. 

In closing (Yes, I’ve wrapped up my review pretty soon this time!), I’m going with 1.5/5 for Baar Baar Dekho. I read in an interview recently that Katrina Kaif broke down during the narration of the script. As the end credits rolled, I broke down too, only because I knew I wasn’t getting my time and money back. How I wish I had the power to travel back in time like Siddharth Malhotra and undo these 2 hours of my life.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

MOHENJO DARO MOVIE REVIEW

Bottomline : In my review of Bajirao Mastani last year, I extolled the virtues of Jodha Akbar by citing how it served as a template for an ideal period film in terms of the sheer craft and exemplary directing skills brought alive on the large screen. Perhaps, the first person who needs a review of that gem is director Ashutosh Gowariker himself. Even when judged as a standalone film, Mohenjo Daro is a bloated mess of a film which is tried so hard to be kept afloat by its leading man that you can't
help pity the snoozefest he's trapped in.

Review : Bollywood of 2016, so far, has been a mixed bag of hits and misses, with colossal disappointments dominating low-budget pleasant surprises. Coming on the heels of two duds ,i.e., What's Your Rashee and Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, Gowariker looked all set to make a strong comeback and silence his critics who may have already written him off the list of visionary filmmakers. As it turns out to be, though, Mohenjo Daro does nothing but further warrant the accusation that, possibly, he's lost the knack of telling layered, engaging stories with remarkable panache. It is hard to believe that a director who extracted such terrific performances from the entire cast of Lagaan, Swades and Jodha Akbar may have overlooked the hammy and contrived acting in Mohenjo Daro. Still, nothing is more inexcusable than the antiquated script that appears to have been recycled from so many films of the past, ultimately rendering the film soulless and spiritless.

Now, the duration (or running time, if you make like to call it) has always been a bone of contention with Gowariker's films. To be frank, even the daunting length of 3.5 hours of Jodha Akbar or Lagaan was never a big issue because of the captivating storytelling and mind blowing songs that kept you hooked to film till the end credits rolled. But, in Mohenjo Daro, even a shorter duration of 2.5 hours itself appears to be a lifetime. It is generally said that the quality of a soundtrack is directly proportional to the composer's perception of the potential of the script to turn into something special, which probably explains why A.R. Rahman's soundtrack of Mohenjo Daro, too, ends up being rather mediocre and uninspiring.

Surely, this is the story of one of the largest urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization, and while it is amply evident that Gowariker and team have put in enormous efforts to recreate 2016 BC, there is nothing which the film educates us on which we haven't studied in our history textbooks. Instead, the film is centered on an insipid love story between its leads and a banal revenge saga involving Kabir Bedi and Arunoday Singh as the typical stock villains who fail to create any impression whatsoever. In pursuit of a fresh face for the leading lady, the makers have miscast Pooja Hegde, who looks pretty but emotes only as much as a log of wood.

It is, then, up to Hrithik Roshan to lend even the slightest of credibility to a film laden with cliches and caricatures. He rises up to the situation and delivers an earnest, sincere performance which, despite being circumscribed by a shallow screenplay, is the only reason why you should even consider watching this film.

I'm going with 2/5 for Mohenjo Daro. An excerpt from Wikipedia page on Mohenjo Daro goes like this: "The site is currently threatened by erosion and improper restoration". I guess another imminent threat is from improper depiction of the site through disinterested film-making. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR MOVIE REVIEW

Bottom line: Possibly one of the best Marvel films to have come out recently, Captain America:Civil War rides on the back of script that entertains through and through. It is smart, coherent, funny and more importantly a genuine game changer for the movies to follow.

Review: I must admit I'm not a big Marvel fan. Not to say I don't enjoy their films but I'm not as crazy a fan who gathers any small piece of news related to a film in the run-up to its release. But sitting in those reclining seats, watching Civil War was that rare and satisfying experience that's so hard to find in cinemas nowadays. Having earned their spurs with an equally terrific The Winter Soldier, director-duo Anthony and Joe Russo deliver yet another solid film which is special in many ways. With superhero films releasing every month, filmmakers face the twin challenge of raising the bar each time in terms of scale and offering to the audience something different from what they've seen before. In Civil War, the makers drift away from the established norm by creating a less menacing and formidable villain whose primary intention is not just mass destruction and genocide, but to sow the seeds of an ideological divide that would rip the Avengers apart and give each one of them a cause to fight the other. It is no surprise, then, that the confrontation scene where the divided Avengers take on each other at a deserted airport is exhilarating, laugh-out-loud hilarious and a complete treat for the senses. Each character gets at least a moment to shine, particularly Spider-Man (or Spider-boy, rather) and Ant-Man, whose extended cameos provide for many laughs. Convincingly pulling-off a scene swamped with so many superheroes was always going to be an uphill task, but the makers never make the mistake of taking themselves too seriously and stick to the basic principle of giving us a good time.

Fighting internal compunction for having killed innocent people and torn between the need for government intervention and loyalty towards best buddies, Robert Downey Jr. aka Iron Man is in very good form and though he doesn't have his share of cheeky one-liners this time around, I was pleasantly surprised to see his darker side as he takes umbrage to Captain America's actions. The film, then, belongs to Chris Evans who seems to have internalised the role of Captain America. Never letting his good ol' fashioned nature slip into a caricature, he delivers an honest performance that makes his character immensely likeable.

I'm going with 4/5 for Civil War. Gear up for two and a half hours of extravaganza that delivers enough bang for your buck. This is the stuff blockbusters are made of.

Friday, 15 April 2016

FAN MOVIE REVIEW

Bottom line: One of the most awaited movies of 2016 has finally arrived, and sadly it is a bit of a let down. Touted as a fan vs star thriller, it is the half-baked, far-from-cogent, and frankly puerile script which plays the real spoilsport here, as a result of which the film packs in more frills than thrills.

Review: Watching Fan felt like the flight ride, where the flight just speeds along the runway but never really takes off. Director Maneesh Sharma and writer Habib Faisal, the same two minds behind the extremely likeable Band Baaja Baaraat and Do Dooni Chaar, are known to lend refreshing authenticity to their films with a well-built storyline, amusing characters and smart dialogues. In Fan, however, all the above traits are tossed aside and they plunge headlong with a wafer-thin story that would have probably looked interesting on paper but never really translates into an equally engaging film. It is a byword for a wasted opportunity. In fact, the lapses of logic are so many that you spin your head around in utter disbelief when not one person bats an eyelid on seeing fan Gaurav Chandna in the first half, but in the second half people's common sense is thrown out of the window and Gaurav is conveniently mistaken for superstar Aryan Khanna. The dim-witted police too slap all charges against Aryan Khanna. Don't get me wrong, Fan is not as bad as Dilwale, it is much better actually, but just not satisfying enough to patch up the festering wounds left by Dilwale.

To give credit where it's due, the chase sequences are beautifully shot, especially the one between the cops and Gaurav, giving us those rare moments where we are actually engrossed in the film. Needless to say then, it is Shahrukh Khan, as the fan, who is the glue which binds us to this ambitious but flawed film. Buried under those heavy prosthetics, he plays it to the gallery and manages to convey creepiness, indignation and the sheer craze of a fan quite convincingly.

I'm going with 2.5/5 for Fan. It is a film of a fan, by a fan and strictly for the fans. A catchphrase in the film goes like this : "Gaurav hain toh Aryan hain, Gaurav nahi toh Aryan kuch nahi". On similar lines, in my address to the writers - " story hain toh film hain, story nahi toh film kuch bhi nahi ". 

Friday, 12 February 2016

FITOOR MOVIE REVIEW

Bottomline : How ironic is it that a film whose title means intense passion, has that one thing lacking in it the most. Despite good music, stunning visuals and a marginally better second half, this adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is a damp squib.

Review: When one wishes to adapt a novel into a full-length feature film, he has his task cut out. Reading a novel with a mediocre story is always more fascinating than watching it on the big screen for the reason that it allows you to unleash your imagination and interpret the characters and situations in a way you would like to. On the other hand, in a film there is policing of thoughts as you see only what the director shows you and the rest depends on how effectively he translates the story into a larger picture. It is here, exactly, where Abhishek Kapoor's Fitoor comes as a disappointment, not only because of the shopworn premise and lackadaisical screenplay which leave no room to emotionally invest in any of the characters, but also because clearly this isn't his cup of tea. No doubt, he offers an authentic portrayal of Kashmir and the mood of the film is set throughout thanks to the lucid photography and Kapoor's eye for detail, but it plods along tediously without finding its feet and it's never a good sign when you keep looking at the time waiting for the film to just finish.

The problem with period films nowadays is that in the process of beautifying the film, the makers tend to obviate the need for a good story. Frankly speaking, few have been able to establish a period drama as convincingly as Vikramaditya Motwane's Lootera, a masterpiece which skilfully and seamlessly combined art and writing. After his debut film Aryan, director Abhishek Kapoor grew with every film of his, ultimately touching the peak with the terrific Kai Po Che (which was also an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's Three Mistakes of My Life). With Fitoor, things have pretty much taken a downturn for him. If you still manage to survive the excruciatingly slow first half, it is only because of Amit Trivedi's excellent soundtrack which captures the essence of the film so perfectly that you wish his evocative tunes played on and on without having to go through (or rather sleep through) the soulless, over-cooked dialogues between its characters.

It doesn't help either that none of the performances are truly affecting. Aditya Roy Kapoor brings a distinct charm to his character and Katrina Kaif dazzles in every outfit of hers, but sadly none of that makes us even remotely root for them. And when the usually dependable Tabu, too, has a tough time presenting herself on screen, you know there's something definitely wrong with the film.

I'm going with 2/5 for Fitoor. The fact that 55 lakh rupees were spent on Katrina Kaif's red hair goes to show how much Fitoor went into stylising the film than actually making it a better one. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

AIRLIFT MOVIE REVIEW

Bottomine: Like last year's Baby, Akshay Kumar yet again kicks off the year ringing the patriotic bells to tell us a story every Indian can be proud of. The occasional indulgences and slow pacing aside, Airlift is a well-intentioned and well-acted film that rides on the shoulders of its leading man who has possible delivered his most restrained performance in recent years.

Review: August 2nd, 1990 was a rather disastrous day in contemporary history when Iraq sent a battalion of forces to invade the Emirate of Kuwait to put an end to years-long conflict between the two countries over oil production. However, the biggest collateral damage was done to 1,70,000 Indians who were left penniless and homeless in the war-torn zone as the Army wreaked havoc all across the streets. Now, to just come up with the idea of bringing to screen this tragic and eventually inspiring event is itself a credible achievement and director Raja Krishna Menon has done a commendable job in telling this story with minimal gratuitous cinematic interventions that could have turned it into more of a slog. The wrath and destruction inflicted on the streets is beautifully shot and transports you directly to the scene. Take that scene where Iraqi soldiers barge into the Indian refugee camp carrying out a witch-hunt to find any Kuwaiti citizen who remains to be finished. Or my favourite scene in which Purab Kohli reveals, without much ado, that his wife has been missing since the attack took place which serves as a grim reminder of the gravity of the situation and how enormous the problems faced by every estranged individual were. It punches you straight in the gut and it's moments like these which make Airlift rise above the ordinary.

The script, however, isn't as water-tight as Akshay's evacuation plan. Raja uses broad strokes to paint the characters of Indian officials and their nonchalant behaviour to deal with the mammoth crisis. Also, two characters, Nimrat Kaur (who was so good in The Lunchbox) as the nagging wife and Prakash Belawada as George who's annoyingly cynical, seem out of place in a film that's gritty for most part. Equally unconvincing is the ease with which the refugees enter Jordan and how Air India's pilots are pacified to fly commercial planes in a war-riven area.

It's the performances, though, that hold the film together even as it seems to fall apart. Akshay Kumar marches along with a terrific, restrained performance to single-handedly execute the mass evacuation, and it's hard to think of anyone else in his shoes. Purab Kohli underplays his part and conveys brooding silence quite effectively. Even lesser known faces like the brilliant Kumud Mishra ( the sole silver lining in the Ministry of External Affairs who offers succour in times of distress) and the Kuwaiti woman are refreshingly natural.

I'm still going with 3.5/5 for Airlift. Despite its shortcomings, it is consistently watchable because it has its heart in the right place and deserves a watch for its inherent courage and sincerity.