Friday, 20 October 2017


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.

Friday, 1 September 2017


Much like Aamir Khan, Shoojit Sircar and Phantom Productions, just to name a few, producer Anand L Rai has, over the years, earned the healthy reputation of backing crowd pleasing yet content-driven films whose intentions go beyond raking in the box office moolah. And even while his latest outing Shubh Mangal Saavdhan doesn't beg to be taken seriously, it's by far the most enjoyable film of 2017.

If you've seen the trailers, you'll know what the film is about and though the topic might be a tricky and sensitive one, never once do the makers resort to vulgarity to deliver cheap laughs, relying instead on mining laughs from the most unexpected of situations. Sure there are double meaning jokes alluding to the 'gents' problem but it's wrapped in such side-splitting dialogue and executed in such good humor, you can't help giggling away to glory.

Ayushmaan and Bhumi share an unmistakable chemistry and they're sincere enough to create relatable characters. A major chunk of the comic heft is carried by the rest of the cast. It's a madcap family without even the slightest hint or semblance of levelheadedness and the actors practically inhabit these roles with their sharp comic timing. It is this eccentricity which debutant director R.S. Prasanna (who's remade his own debut Tamil film by the name Kalyana Samayal Saadham) taps into so effortlessly, nicely fending off mawkishness by keeping it crisp and lighthearted, leaving you with precious little time to harp on about the absurdity of the whole premise.

The star of the movie, hands down, is writer Hitesh Kewalya. His quick-witted dialogue left me rolling in the aisles almost throughout the film. The biggest achievement is that he's created so much out of so less.

If I had to nitpick, there is a gratuitous cameo for the very talented Jimmy Shergill, the climax is a bit of a let down and the story itself doesn't have much steam to survive even the merciful duration of less than two hours.

I'm still going with 4/5 for Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. It's insane, zany and charming, but most importantly has its heart (if not anything else :p) in the right place. It's as if the phrase 'laugh riot' was invented to describe this film.

Friday, 18 August 2017


I must admit I'm a sucker for films set in the heart of small towns in North India portraying the day to day lifestyle of the orthodox middle class. They carry a distinct flavor with them and when peppered with witty dialogue it makes for a cracking combination. Tanu weds Manu returns (which I feel is the best rom-com made of late), Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Aankhon Dekhi are a few examples that might prove my point. The fact is that such films aren't as much driven by plot as they are fuelled by character dynamics and quirky humor.

Okay, so now let's talk about Bareilly Ki Barfi. Given my penchant for such films and a promising trailer I was quite eager to indulge my sweet tooth. For most part it does tick all the right boxes. The Tiwari's (director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and writer husband Nitesh Tiwari who helmed last year's Dangal) succeed in creating real flesh and blood characters whose playful banter evoke plenty of laugh out loud moments. The first half coasts along smoothly brimming with originality and smart one liners which keep you invested in the film, not bothering about where the story is leading to. For example, how can you not be amused by the way Seema Pahwa's character welcomes every male guest in the house with two essential questions of life ; Beta saadi (read shaadi) ho gayi tumhari? and Beta sarbath (read sharbath) peeyoge?. It's also equally hard not to be delighted by Rajkumar's prep for the role of a rough and tough bully with a swag and his comical exchanges with Ayushman.

Post intermission, however, things take a turn and the story loses much of its quirkiness when cornball moments take over from sharp humor, effectively stripping the film of its charming appeal.

The biggest strength of the film, though, lies in its casting. Kriti Sanon, who frankly talks and looks more urbane than small town, still manages to win hearts on account of her honest performance. Ayushman is expectedly in good form while Rajkumar, who clearly seems to be having a ball with his film choices, gets another opportunity to showcase his versatility. The actors who stand out among others are Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi, whose abundance of talent make you wonder why we don't get to see more of them in films.

I'm going with 3/5 for Bareilly Ki Barfi. Tiwari nicely ties up the loose ends in the climax, but blame it on the rocky screenplay or what the film falls short of the comic genius it so had the potential to be. Definitely worth a bite!!

Friday, 28 July 2017


Having watched Dunkirk, it's hard to describe the feat Nolan has achieved with this film. All I can say is that it is a riveting piece of cinema that is best enjoyed on an Imax screen.

Dunkirk can safely be termed as Nolan's most accessible film in recent times. Frankly, this is no path-breaking war film that pushes boundaries or envelopes of any sorts. But there are two master strokes which he employs that elevate Dunkirk to a higher pedestal. One, Hans Zimmer's captivating background score is not just considered a separate entity but is intrinsically woven into the screenplay to the extent that it becomes the driving force of the film. Two, Nolan very well understands that opting for a linear screenplay in such a scenario could have potentially turned the film into a slog, which is why he adopts a narrative where all three scenes of action (land, air and water) are intercut with each other to build a sense of urgency the film relies on.

Constantly and consciously avoiding cinematic trappings like backstories for the soldiers or gory images of bloodshed and violence, Nolan makes his intentions crystal clear from the very first frame; to create an atmosphere of impending fear and danger of uncertainty looming large that hooks you to the edge of your seats almost throughout the film. I was lucky enough to watch the film in a 4D cinema hall which multiplied the already heightened sense of tension.

However, the film doesn't come without its share of flaws. For me, particularly, decoding the British accent without subtitles was one hell of a task, as a result of which half the dialogues went over my head and I couldn't grasp those aspects of the story.

Nevertheless, I'm going with 4/5 for Dunkirk. At a crisp running time of 2 hours, this is an overwhelming film you can't afford to miss. 

Friday, 14 July 2017


Bottom line : In their second collaboration after the highly successful Barfi, Anurag Basu and Ranbir Kapoor conduct yet another experiment with quirky characters and situations, much like a Utopian musical. The end result is that Jagga Jasoos is possibly the most polarizing film in recent times which may work for some but not for many. For most part, though, it worked for me.

Review : Before I start reviewing the film, here's a sneak-peek into the world Basu has so affectionately created : Firstly, the characters mostly converse in songs (Because guess what, the lovable eponymous hero stammers while talking and hence prefers singing out loud). Secondly, logic seems to be the last thing on Basu and his writers' minds (which is accentuated in scenes like when the two leads effortlessly pilot a plane just by reading the operating manual, or where Katrina falls off great heights only to suffer minor injuries). Lastly, the story line is frankly farcical. It is important you re-align your expectations with the above facts before venturing in to this madcap journey. I had a friend sitting next to me who was constantly cringing at the buffoonery on display. That's precisely why I used the word "polarizing" to describe the film.

Having said that, I was thoroughly amused by this relatively unprecedented style of film-making, especially for Bollywood. Basu, clearly is in strong control of his craft, and he does an endearing job of giving us plenty of joyous and teary-eyed moments that's better experienced than described. There's a lot of guilty pleasure to be had in the series of misadventures the story and its characters take us through. All this quirkiness (a big shout out to Pritam for rendering some of his best tunes) works like magic in the first half but the makers can't seem to sustain this effervescent energy in the last half an hour or so of the film. It is at this juncture that randomness and repetition seep in and the muddled up screenplay populated with too many subplots further causes partial derailment of the euphoric bandwagon the film hitherto was. It doesn't pause as much as even to try making sense of all the proceedings unfolding on screen.

But the real binding force in the film is, undoubtedly, Ranbir Kapoor. I haven't come across another actor who whips up such an infectious energy each time he takes command. Here's an actor who, despite having a checkered career, doesn't shy away from confronting challenging roles and always puts his best foot forward.

I'm going with 3/5 for Jagga Jasoos. Despite its hiccups, it's an honest film that stays faithful to what it set out to achieve. More than anything else, watch it for Ranbir who's mere presence on screen makes up for many of the film's inconsistencies. 

Friday, 17 March 2017


Trapped, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane (his third film after Udaan and Lootera) is a 102-minute long survival drama about a man trapped in his own apartment without the basic essentials for a living like food, electricity or water. It is then, unsurprising that the role could be pulled off so effectively only by an actor of Rajkumar Rao's caliber, who plays the part with such conviction that he never appears to act; he literally disappears into the character.

It is really hard to review the film without getting into the minutiae of the story, which I do not want to ruin for you. Let's just say Trapped is definitely not an easy film to sit through given the confined spaces, minimal dialogue, relaxed pacing and the distinctive non-filmy feel lingering throughout, but it still remains a bold and important film that challenges the conventional methodology of film-making. The prime reason for the film not turning into a slog is the sharp and focused direction by Motwane. Brick by brick, he builds such an authentic and palpable atmosphere that you feel you're breathing with the character. Also, in the process he draws out a winning performance from Rajkumar, whose unwavering commitment to approach even the most uncomfortable of scenes deserves a huge round of applause.

I'm going with 3.5/5. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but go in with dollops of patience and you won't regret it. In the end, much unlike its name, Trapped is a liberating experience. 

Friday, 24 February 2017


Rangoon, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, is such an unendurable and unapologetically tedious film to sit through that it urges you to question your faith in Hindi cinema itself. Still, there is nothing more disappointing than watching a filmmaker of his caliber blatantly abandon his masterful vision and impassioned storytelling for the sake of elaborate set-pieces and the desperate but misplaced desire to deliver nothing short of an epic.

The film starts off with an impressive war set-up of the British forces invading the Japanese battalion in Rangoon. We are then informed about the Indian National Army devising a strategy to overthrow the British forces under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. So far so good. The film, from here on, revolves around a love triangle between its leads with a loose, snail-paced narrative constantly punctured by mediocre songs, hammy acting and hopelessly misguided attempts at evoking sentiments of nationalism, especially in the final act, which by the way, turns out to be quite unintentionally hilarious.

And all of this, believe it or not, is the brain-child of one of the most influential filmmakers of our times. Barring Saat Khoon Maaf, Vishal Bharadwaj has delivered something special in every film of his. Be it the ingenious adaptations of Shakespeare (Maqbool, Omkara and Haider) or the remarkable noir-film Kaminey, VB never failed to surprise us with his unconventional take on dark, cynical themes laced with the right dosage of rationality. Also, blame it on the indifferent storytelling or not, for a director who entrusted Irrfan Khan and Tabu with roles of a lifetime, Rangoon doesn’t boast of any affecting performances either. Nor do you often associate the words predictable or dull with his films, but Rangoon is a serious test of patience. There are flashes of conviction on part of VB in the second half, but unfortunately by then, the ship has sunk deep.

I’m going with a generous 1.5/5 for Rangoon. I sincerely hope his next venture destroys all traces of this film from our memory. As it stands now, Rangoon is best described as Bharadwaj’s biggest and most arrogant piece of work.