Review: INDU SARKAR

An Emergency Of Exhausting Proportions


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


Set during the emergency, a dark period in recent Indian politics, this is the story of an orphan who has a speech impediment. She discovers her voice when she gets married to a low ranking government officer who suddenly rises in power because his boss is a politician in cahoots with the ruling party. She joins the ragtag band of rebels, and fights the good fight. The film wanders directionless, starting out as a propaganda film showing the Congress as evil, then not knowing where to take the rebellion. Pointless exercise.


Main Review:


The film created a lot of controversy when it was submitted for certification. With a name like Indu Sarkar, a play on the name of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her government or ‘Sarkar’, you’d expect a sharp political comment on the evil that was the ‘emergency’. There were hundreds of stories about the loss of freedom of the press, forced sterilizations in the name of population control and so much more because the Prime Minister’s younger son had assumed power (without being elected) and was rampaging through our democracy.


But Madhur Bhandarkar chooses to tell the story of the emergency through a random orphan with a stammer who gets married to a random government officer who rises to power because he is connected to a crony.


Indu’s speech problem is magical. It keeps disappearing and appearing whenever the director remembers. The narrative has nothing to do with her impediment, and only serves to irritate the audience and make a simple scene drag on. Why she happens to be in the center of a poor neighborhood being destroyed illegally by the police no one knows. Kirti Kulhari as Indu tries really hard to maintain the stammer but fails. How a mousy orphan turns into a rebel is not ever explained. The films does not have a single memorable dialog that shows us how she found her wings. She suddenly volunteers to go in the middle of a political gathering and throw pamphlets. There is a person who prints the pamphlets but we don’t know if they reach the common man and prove to be effective.


Neil Nitin Mukesh plays the role of Sanjay Gandhi, the brash young son of the Prime Minister who is enforcing sterilizations and razing of tenements, but we are never told why population control had become so important at that time. Neil’s Sanjay Gandhi is more of the caricature of the man who suddenly rose to power. For someone who was famed for driving fast cars all over the capital, this Sanjay Gandhi is shown tamely getting into waiting cars, and even listening to Qawali.


The Intelligence Bureau monitoring rebels, the police atrocities on citizens is done so badly, you wonder if the director is a newbie. It is very obvious that the research was superfluous and the the film was made in order to earn brownie points with the current government. Just creating a documentary of the evil that was emergency would have been a thousand times more powerful than this disappointing drama.


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: MUBARAKAN

Super Duper Anil Kapoor!


3 stars


Mini Review:


Twin brothers, their uncles and aunt in a comedic, romantic almost disaster film makes you laugh at situations going wrong and mix-ups. The film is so loud, you need ear muffs. But quite funny because there is a natural chemistry between the actors Anil Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah and Pavan Malhotra. The heroines serve to add lots of color and mix ups. It’s Punjabis running amok in India and London. Fun watch.


Main Review:


Twin brothers Karan and Charan orphaned as kids grow up with their uncle and aunt. One in Punjab (Ludhiana? Amritsar? It is never clear!), and the other in London. The unmarried Uncle Kartar Singh is played by Anil Kapoor in his high energy, infectious way. The twins are now of marriageable age, and the Sandhus offer their daughter Binkle to Karan (Arjun Kapoor as the London lad who has been brought up by his aunt played by Ratna Pathak Shah). Karan is in India, chasing after a girl called Sweetie (Ileana D’Cruz). Kartar Singh suggests Charan (also Arjun Kapoor) who has grown up with his uncle (Pavan Malhotra) go meet the girl Binkle in London instead. After all, they are twins…


Charan arrives in London as substitute foe Karan and tells Kartar he cannot really marry Binkle because he’s in love with Nafisa. But when he sees Binkle (Athiya Shetty) he promptly falls in love with her. But Kartar Singh has already planted seeds of doubt about Charan’s ‘Udta Punjab’ drug habit.


Confused yet? The mix-ups and confusion are plenty, and the fun that ensues because Anil Kapoor’s ideas of rescuing his two nephews from marriages being arranged end up making the situation worse and worse. It doesn’t stop being funny though.


The great Indian family values, the tradition of engagements and weddings are played to the gilt. Which means you will wince more than a couple of times at the sheer volume of background music and yelling of the dialog. But the director uses everyday things – like Pavan Malhotra gargling loudly in disapproval in a scene – rather well.


It annoys me to see that the director has not given up on his penchant for showing ‘white’ people as domestic help in Indian households, and making white actors speak Punjabi for cheap laughs.


Anil Kapoor is simply fabulous, and you cannot miss the mad, high energy performance of the man. Watch!


(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: RAAG DESH

A Wonderful Lesson In Indian History

3 stars


Mini Review:


Taken from the annals of the Indian history, this film shows us a facet of the freedom struggle not well known. It talks about the INA (Indian National Army) led by Subhash Chandra Bose, and its three captured officers who are tried in Delhi and accused of being traitors. The case is fought by a famous lawyer Bhulabhai Desai and the film is about this case. Sponsored by the upper house of the Parliament, this film is great attempt at bringing history alive.


Main Review:


Not too many people know the story of the soldiers who fought alongside Subhash Chandra Bose who we know as Netaji, and have seen pictures of in our History textbooks. So this historical film works in bringing back something vague you have learnt in the textbooks and gives it form.


Indian schoolkids have marched to the song, ‘Kadam kadam badhaye ja’ but we know nothing more. It was the anthem of the Indian National Army or the Azaad Hind Fauj created by Netaji. They fought against the British, with heavy losses in the Eastern part of India. Three officers: Colonel Prem Sehgal, Colonel Gurbax Singh Dhillon, and Major Shahnawaz Khan were tried in a military court and accused of betraying the King (they were after all Indian officers of the British army) and aiding and abetting the murder of Indian soldiers.


The story is set during the second World War where the British army sent its Indian soldiers to defend its eastern borders from an ever encroaching Japan. The British lost to Japan and surrendered the Indian soldiers to the Japanese. The clever Japanese accepted the surrender and then asked the Indian soldiers to go back and free India from the clutches of the British. The soldiers know that fighting the British would mean fighting their own… But the dream of free India pushes them on.


The actors, Kunal Kapoor, Amit Sadh and Mohit Marwah as the three officers on trial do a great job, and Mrudula Murali as Captain Laxmi of the INA has a small role but deserves a film of her own.  


The war scenes are very poorly shot, especially with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk still playing in the theatres, but they serve to show in what difficult situations the INA fought. It is the trial that is close to brilliant, because the casting of the lawyer is. Actor Kenny Desai makes for an uncanny Bhulabhai Desai who fought the case as a defence counsel. The writing is brilliant and even though the scenes between families and the three officers is too much like a TV soap, one supposes that these are stories that need to be told. It is a no frills courtroom drama that keeps your attention. If only Indian films could do away with patriotic songs…

(The review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: BARAAT COMPANY

Not Good Company At All


1 star


Mini Review:


Planned Indian weddings involve giving the contract out for everything from catering to decoration to the wedding band. But with young people falling in love, parents give a contract out to secure the bride and get rid of any existing boyfriends. Business is good until the ‘contractor’ falls in love… This movie could have been darkly comedic. Alas, it drowns in its supposed ‘sense of humor’.


Main Review:


So in old town Lucknow, there is an old man who extols the virtues of a planned Indian wedding to a camera crew. He says business has been slow or he would supplies everything for a wedding, from food for 4000 guests to decoration and even the horse the groom rides. He also reviles the concept of ‘love marriage’ where, he says, ‘Kharcha sirf mala khareedne ka hota hai’ (expenses are only on flower garlands the newlyweds exchange).


He sits at home now drinking whiskey and counting the money his grandson Imaan Singh aka Immu makes. But his grandson now has extended the business by taking money for protecting the wedding. He kidnaps lovers and ensures bride gets married to selected groom…


His ragtag team consists of a chap called Jackson who sings in the wedding band, a chap who owns a hair salon (where the kidnapped boys are kept), and a crossdressing lad who intimidates. Immu is the muscle as well as the brains of this protecting racket.


There are a couple of episodes where Immu’s group separates lovers who are planning to run away from the railway station, and one where the groom is so reluctant to marry a girl who supposedly has a boyfriend (he says he’s checked on her Facebook page) that he smokes himself silly on wedding night and bawls like a baby through the ceremonies after he is caught.


The first couple planning an escape have the funniest dialog in the film. The girl shows a couple of packets of an anti-roach chalk called Laxman Rekha (you are supposed to draw a line around the drain, the pesticide in the chalk does not allow the roaches to ‘cross the line’) and says, ‘If you don’t come to the station in the morning, I swear I will cross the Laxman Rekha’. This is an elaborate pun on Laxman Rekha drawn for Sita in the mythological story of Ramayana. It’s funny but not too many people get the reference.


Nothing else is funny. The lead actor needs to attend drama school or at least move facial muscles to speak and emote. The heroine Sandeepa Dhar, her friend Anurita Jha and others try hard, but the story has derailed from a dark comedy to just another love story. Even the added Qawali seems forced and added because they could. The Hindu-Muslim tension seems so fake where people with guns gets pushed back by people with sticks…   


The young director has made two very interesting films before this. Youngistan was a rather radical idea, where a young lad becomes the Prime Minister and fights to change the system. The other film Laal Rang was a brilliant take on blood smuggling that is supposed to be rampant in the hinterlands. So this attempt at a dark comedy is a big disappointment.



(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

In Space No One Can See You Puke

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

The aliens are awesome. The gadgets could be awesome. The story is valid. But the ‘marry me’ refrain from a hero to the heroine is so badly done, it overshadows everything. It takes a small character called ‘Bubble’ played by Rihanna to save the film. A disappointing offering from the great Luc Besson.


Main Review:

AWESOME ALIENS

Love the idea that aliens who could be intimidating in appearance – like the radioactive Marmakas, or the Taglians – are brilliant psychologists and theologists respectively. There are shapeshifter too, and I will elaborate on them in a separate para. Love the introduction to the aliens in the film: the human handshake to aliens who stare at the offered hand then adapt quickly. It’s meant to make you smile, but the graphic novels tell more than the film does. The humans are presiding over the council this time around, and the humans want to slap their own ideas of duty and order and chaos… 

The aliens on planet Mül are beautiful, empathic, and live on the beach, giving back to nature what she gives to people with the help of a magical creature called ‘Converter’.

One day on their planet, the peace is disturbed by two alien forces who are battling in Mül airspace and their planet is destroyed because one of the aliens uses a weapon that not only destroys the other aliens, but also the planet over which the battle is taking place. Of course the aliens who bomb the planet are humans, who know the planet is inhabited, and still… Of course a bunch of aliens escape and land up on this floating city.  

THE GADGETS ARE AWESOME, THE HERO IS AN ASSHOLE

You will love the goop aliens shoot at humans to immobilise them. You wonder about the pearl that is pure energy. 

You become a tourist of an invisible city, visible only under the special VR headsets. And you can buy real things! Who wouldn’t love this technology! Of course the Jabba the Hutt type alien is selling contraband which the hero Valerian needs to confiscate for the government. The guns are attached to the arm (they look like you put your arm into a trap and couldn’t get it out. so unwieldy!) and work on genetic footprint. There is paint like substance that makes you invisible when brushed on. You wish the director had brushed the invisibility paint on the hero all through the film. 

Valerian is a cocky young man with a ‘playlist’ of girlfriends. He is now flirting with his partner (on a mission in a space-ship) who is way better at work than he is. This is officer Lauraline played by Cara Delevigne’s eyebrows (could not get over her hairy caterpillar dark eyebrows under a blonde head). Why should she even like a bumbling hero who does not follow a single instruction, endangering his mission? Why should girls be shown that they must fall in love with someone who has no sense, no? Every time Valerian opens his mouth he sounds like a petulant ten year old who wants a toy and is denied it.

Is this really Luc Besson who gave us The Fifth Element? Thankfully there is a freakishly amazing shape shifter called Bubble. The character is played beautifully by Rihanna (and her endless costume changes), who does a marvelous cabaret number. 

PLEASE HOLLYWOOD, NO MORE ‘POWER OF LOVE’

Harry Potter dropped the mic on the ‘love can save Harry from evil like Voldemort’. And when you see ‘love can heal planets’ and ‘love can make interplanetary peace possible’ and ‘dying for love’ in this movie just feels smarmy and as sticky as alien goo…  

Valerian comic books may be very popular with the kids. But the movie…




Review: LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA


Is This The Beginning Of A Revolution?

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

The lives of four women who live in a dilapidated old Haveli in a small town are brilliantly portrayed in this film which breaks many taboos. These women struggle to get out of the designated roles assigned them by society and we see delightful hidden personalities. In a patriarchal society these secretly rebellious women find slices of happiness even though their rights are trampled casually. The film serves reality with humor and brilliantly.

Main Review:

Small towns are congested, their airless houses filled with thoughtless people and crammed with things. In one such dilapidated haveli of a small town four women dare to dream. And director Alankrita Shrivastava shows us how their dreams can be trampled by casual patriarchy.

Rehana is allowed to go to college because her father is generous. When she comes back she stitches burkhas at her dad’s tailoring shop late into the night.

Leela’s mother has made so many sacrifices, she has to prove she is a good daughter by getting hitched to a rich guy who belongs to a large joint family and wants to wait for ‘suhaag raat’…

Shireen is a brilliant saleswoman, but has to endure a Saudi returned husband who merely uses her as a sex object

Buaji is to be just that. A matriarch to the whole haveli. But this fifty-something spinster is fed up of Satsangs. She’d rather read Bills & Moon romances that can steam up her evenings and days and afternoons and nights…

Only the audience knows their secret. And even though you know at the back of your head, their realities are going to bring their dreams crashing on the haveli floor, you hope against hope that they manage to begin a revolution. The film was stopped at every step by the Indian Censors, attempting to ban the film. How can you allow women to dream? To be sexual creatures? To be more successful than their husbands? Should they even breathe?

Indian patriarchy has long blamed western attire, make-up, and education of girls. This movie cocks a snook at traditions and expectations, showing us what women want, what women really hanker for, how empathy can bring them together, how they understand each other’s needs by just a look, a gesture.

You’ll love Ratna Pathak Shah as Buaji and Konkona Sen Sharma as Shireen. But it’s the two younger girls Plabita Borthakur as Rehana and Aahana Kumra as Leela who hold their own. Watch it and renew your lipstick if you are a girl, and buy your girl one, if you are a lad. But don’t miss this film. It’s reality served with dollops of humor.


P.S. Some might say that the male characters are uni dimensional. But then this film makes up for all the damsel in distress and arm candy roles women are subjected to endure in most Bollywood films



(this review minus the post script appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: MUNNA MICHAEL


Nawazuddin Siddqui The Redeemer
Tiger Shroff The Young Jackie Shroff
The Film Is Blah


2 stars


Mini Review:


A lad called Munna dances like Michael Jackson, conning inexperienced club show offs into parting with money at dance offs. One day he cons a gangster’s brother and is caught by cops on the take. The gangster promises to let him go only if Munna teaches him to dance so he can woo a gal. All’s fun and dance in gangsta world until Munna falls for the same girl.


Main Review:


Nawazuddin Siddiqui should now officially be nicknamed The Redeemer. It’s great fun to watch him be the gangster Mahinder, the 42 year old hankering to have a college type Valentine day romance with the girl he is smitten with…


Now his brother Balli, is played by another actor who is perfect for any role he is given, Pankaj Tripathi. Balli gets into trouble when he is beaten up by a nightclub showoff dancer Munna who has landed in Delhi from Mumbai.


Munna is played by Tiger Shroff who has started looking better and better as his beard has grown, because he has flashes of young Jackie Shroff. Munna was found as a baby by an over the hill Bollywood extra Michael (hammed wonderfully by Ronit Roy), and has grown up imitating Michael Jackson. Munna goes to nightclubs with his crew, and makes snide remarks at club showoffs. When the showoffs challenge him to dance, he wins lots and lots of money. His reputation gets him banned from entering posh clubs and he leaves town by telling his dad, he is finally going to get a ‘corporate job’


Balli’s dude gets conned by Munna and Munna ends up facing Mahinder. Mahinder likes Munna’s attitude, and says he’ll forgive Munna only if he teaches mahinder to dance. Mahinder takes Munna to meet his love interest.


The girl looks like Mamta Kulkarni but behaves like she’s channeling her inner Deepika Padukone. Meet Dolly the Dancer. She dances at some sleazy club. Of course she’s feisty and fearless and has a heart of gold.


Predictably Mahinder now begins to woo Dolly with the help of Munna. Sending her gifts, inviting her to dinner, giving her a job… But Dolly falls for Munna. Before you give Nawazuddin a chance to sing, ‘Dost dost na raha’, Dolly disappears.


The film too falls off a cliff now because there is the horrendous dance competition for the audience. This dance competition thing has never really worked for anyone, has it? The worst part is, this tribute to Michael Jackson has such poor music, and such ordinary choreography, you are glad the legend is not alive to see such trash in his name.


Tiger Shroff wears so many transparent shirts, you want to put a blanket on him and say, ‘Lad, everyone who watches Bollywood movies knows you have a six pack, you do not have to wear shirts made of lace tablecloths or sheer curtains to prove anything to anyone.’

Tiger Shroff is getting better with every film, but he does not need a dramatic pause in that one signature dialog he gets to say in every movie. Thankfully there is no ‘Hero’ flute music playing as he makes an entry into every scene. Small mercies. Nawazuddin Siddiqui does an awesome imitation of Christopher Walken doing the dance to Fatboy Slim when he finally tries to persuade the girl to become his. That, and the rest of his role earn this film the stars.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

   

Review: JAGGA JASOOS

Mad Fun! It’s Different, Watch It!3 Happy Singing Stars!Mini Review:A Hindi Musical film is not always Mughal-E-Azam or Hum Aapke Hain Koun… This adventure caper is like a Disney Musical, the chorus bursting into spontaneous song and rhyme and brilli…

Review: MOM

Sridevi Shines In The 3rd Revenge For Rape Movie This Year.


2.5 stars


Mini Review:


Sridevi is a high school biology teacher and has a perfect life with a loving husband and two girls. Her illusion is shattered when her older daughter goes to a party and is raped. With the law unable to find the perpetrators guilty, Sridevi takes on the role of an avenging angel, and teaches each of the four rapists a lesson they will never forget. It’s a terribly long-drawn out film and even though horrendously cliched and predictable, Sridevi shines.


Main Review:


A strict biology teacher, Devaki (played beautifully by Sridevi) confiscates a cell phone from a male student. He has just sent a sex video to a female student in the same class. She throws the boy’s phone out of the window (what?! No teacher will ever do that!) and keeps the girl student’s phone.


We see her at home serving dinner. Oho! The girl student from class is her older daughter. There’s some strange thing going on because she does not call Sridevi, ‘Mom’ but ‘Ma’am’. Aah, the stepmom angle. Sridevi’s husband (Adnan Siddiqui, very competent) assures Sridevi that he will fix everything between the mother and daughter when he comes back from his New York trip and they take their annual holiday.


The older daughter Arya (Sajal Ali, shows flashes of brilliance) is to go to a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse with her friends. Sridevi asks her to come back in good time. The kids go to the party where the same boy who sent Arya the sex clip on the phone tries to dance with her. Arya rebuffs him and his older cousin and decides to get home in a cab because her friend who has the car cannot be found anywhere and the girlfriend is very drunk. She gets kidnapped by the boys she has rebuffed and is raped and thrown into a ditch and left to die.


Sridevi is frantic when Arya does not come back home and the police assure her that they will try and find the missing daughter. A creepy man at the police station says he can help. But Sridevi says no. He gives his card to the mom. When Arya is found by a morning walker Sridevi goes to the hospital…


Arya is alive, but barely. A case is registered on her complaint but as you saw in Kaabil and Maatr (both released earlier this year) the law is unable to bring the perpetrators to justice and they go scott free. And as it happens in the two earlier movies, the onus falls upon the protagonist (Sridevi in this film) to extract revenge. In Kaabil, Hrithik Roshan (he’s blind, hence his revenge is empowering too) knows the rapists and plots each death one after another. In Maatr, Raveena Tandon is also raped by the bunch along with her daughter and against all odds, she plots and carries out the death of all the rapists. In this movie, revenge is given divine blessing by dialog like ‘God made mothers because he could be everywhere at the same time’. But Sridevi is helped on her revenge journey by the creepy detective and the police officer assigned to Arya’s case. The creepy detective is played by none other than the ‘lemme-ham-it because balding head with long hair isn’t ‘cool’ enough’ Nawazuddin Siddiqui.


The baddies are tackled one by one, and the ever-suspicious cop played by Akshaye Khanna seems to arrives too late to every crime scene. It takes the awful hamming of ‘I’m a villain, watch me be villainous’ Abhimanyu Singh and his very cliched anger against Sridevi for Arya to realise that Sridevi is really the mother of all mothers.


The director probably does not need to tell Sridevi how to be in the scene. She is simply stupendous. Her backing off from a screaming Arya and going to the balcony to prevent herself from breaking down is a scene that is masterclass in acting. Sridevi’s helplessness at discovering that her relationship with her daughter is now irretrievable is goosebump inducing. But everything else in the film seems to be so long drawn and tiresome, that you wish she could kill them a la Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.


A R Rahman’s music is not phenomenal and you begin to question why in songs does the word ‘doooor’ (far, in English) is always sung out long drawn… The cinematography is good (especially in Kufri, shown in the last segment of the film). It seems tedious simply because Bollywood seems to think women (and blind man) wake up to revenge only of their wives or daughters (or themselves) are raped. That’s a sad way to make woman-centric films.


P.S. Is Nawazuddin Siddiqui overdoing the humor? Is his ‘wanting to get laughs’ overshadowing the role he’s playing? The legendary Pran apparently wanted song sequences after Zanjeer… Is Nawazuddin going the same route? I wonder…



(This review sans the postscript appears on nowrunning dot com)



Review: GUEST IN LONDON


Trash Smells Better Than This Farty Production


Zero stars


Mini Review:


Kartik Aryan works for a software firm in London and is attempting to get married for citizenship when his uncle and aunt show up to stay. Looks like they’re never leaving. Oddly, he doesn’t remember having met them, ever. But culture demands, he be respectful. It’s supposed to be comedy, but with his uncle farting all the time, you don’t really care for anything that happens to any character. It’s plain awful.


Main Review:


So when people from India show up at your office, claiming to be an aunt and an uncle, what does a Punjabi lad do? Takes them home, of course. Doesn’t realise that he is living with a girl who is to marry him so he can get British citizenship. The uncle and aunt are played by Paresh Rawal and Tanvi Azmi and they call the Kartik Aryan (Pyar ka Punchnama fame) ‘kakka’ (‘son’ in Punjabi) with every sentence that you don’t really know (or care) what his screen name is. And Paresh Rawal farts. Every two minutes in the film.


And the ‘overstaying guests’ thing is so badly done, and the jokes about Pakistan and Kashmir and African American babies are so offensive you wonder who thought they were funny. And between that are the farts. There is a funeral song which is a sung to the tune of ‘Baby Doll Main Sone Di’, and a ghazal about farts.


And we don’t talk about how tacky the backdrops created by a special effects team are. Such a shame that Paresh Rawal hams it to the gills. And the connect to the events on 9/11 is in really poor taste. The supposed ‘emotional connect’ fails because the explanation given is: (we tried to get rid of you – the uninvited guests – because ‘We are like fake dog lovers. We say Tommy come, when we want and Tommy go when we don’t want the dog. We didn’t know how to treat you.’


Yes, that’s an actual dialog from the film. If you threw stones at this rabid dog of a film, no one would arrest you.


P.S. The director has made Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge. Plan was to watch the film after watching Guest In London. But the films turned out to be so bad, I am skipping the Atithi film. The only time I laughed was when Paresh Rawal says Kartik Aaryan looks exactly like Ajay Devgn.



(this review sans the postscript appears on nowrunning dot com)

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