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Sulu, Sulu Ka Husband, Sulu Ki Boss, Sulu Ke Co-workers
Sulu Ki Ideas, Sab Acche Hain!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Sulochana likes to compete, and she wins at most things. Whether it is a Pressure Cooker for a Radio Call In show or a spoon and lemon race at her son’s school. She takes a chance and becomes an RJ too. Her sexy late night call-in job alarms her rather middle class family and you’ll love her dexterity in handling them all. Delightful watch.

Main Review:

Vidya Balan is Sulochana. She’s a wonderful everywoman. Cooks for her husband and child while listening to the radio, singing along, does the groceries, and has a happy home until her family shows up. They’re not overachievers, but everyone is ‘settled’ at better jobs (in banks), better located homes, and everyone reminds Sulochana how she failed high school not once, not twice but three times.

While Vidya lashes out at her family ineffectively, practically everyone in the audience has instantly empathy with her. After who doesn’t have a family that won’t let you forget your flaws? Thankfully her husband Ashok, played wonderfully by Manav Kaul, is a great foil to her bubbly energy. They share such a wonderful relationship, you will want to call your spouse and confess your love to them. It’s very rare to see so much comfort between the two protagonists, and kudos to the writer/director: Suresh Triveni.

As Sulochana picks up her radio call-in prize, she notices this ‘You Can Be An RJ too!’ Her competitive instinct rises up and she asks, no demands, that she be given a chance. She wears a saree, she looks so unlike what you’d think a ‘cool’ radio jockey might look like, that you understand RJ Malishka (a real life radio jockey, who plays Albeli Anjali in the film), Neha Dhupia (who marvelously plays the head of the radio station) and Vijay Maurya is brilliant as the Radio Producer/Writer who at first hates, then tolerates and then falls in love with Sulu.

The best part of the film is now how Sulu finds her inner Helen to seduce the late night callers. It is not even Vidya Balan’s fight to doing what she thinks is right for her. It is not how her face is so expressive and her joys and sorrows and regrets are written in her eyes. The best part of the film could be her polite (but nasty) family, the lovely lady cabbie, the receptionist who juggles an angry argument with the canteen chap and politely answers the phone in the middle of that argument. The best part of the film is not how film references are made to Sridevi and Hema Malini. It is when Manav Kaul strips to seduce his wife. The whole sequence is so unique and so brilliantly done, that the song doesn’t intrude on our senses, it feels like a natural extension.

Then comes the part where there’s guilt, jealousy and you see the fun household falling apart. This is where the second half of the film gets really predictable. And you wish they had done things differently. But then, which housewife gets a job as an RJ? You are swept along with the tide, laughing and crying and laughing again with the ebullient Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul.

Yes, Sulu laughs a little too much and for too long, overdoes the ‘happy happy joy joy’ bit. But Vidya Balan’s talent shines through and you are happy to let the warmth of the film envelop you like your favorite quilt.  

(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)

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Fake Village. Fake Villagers. Death Of The Small Film.

1 star

Mini Review:

Based on a short story by Phanishwarnath Renu, this film attempts to bring the simple village life from 1954 to life and ends up looking fake, worse than a high-school amateur hour. Unfortunately, the ensemble cast are stellar actors. To see them over-do the we-are-simpleton-villagers act is jarring.

Main Review:

Brijendra Kala, Rajesh Sharma, Yashpal Sharma, Ravi Jhankal, Malini Sengupta are all familiar faces. Character actors who have proven their mettle in many Bollywood films. They have the ability to meld into the character they play. Alas, the ensemble cast here just fails on every level.

The setting is like an antiseptic village. The village mud houses are too clean, not a single brick out of place. The ‘Mahto’ caste were at that time declared as a scheduled tribe and were not meant to be rich. Yet Yashpal Sharma’s house looks rather fancy, and wife wears colored lenses. Really? He has a straggly cow kept in the inner courtyard of the house. It looks like a village house, but it’s like a film set.

Why is Rajesh Sharma dressed up like a village version of the writer Phanishwarnath Renu (in an awful wig), no one knows. As a village bard, he gets to ham it up.

The less said about Brijendra Kala’s overacting the better.

The love story between the hero Godhan (played by Amitosh Nagpal who is so awful he plays the role as if he were inadvertently giving anti-acting lessons) and heroine Mundari (played by Anuradha Mukherjee who is through the film made to look like she were a pea plant – so many tendrils in her hair!) is so boring, you wish for the Spanish Inquisition to show up from a Monty Python show and arrest them for boring the audience to death.

That brings us to the story. The story is simple. Set in 1954, The village wants a Hurricane Lantern also called Gas Light or Panch Light (pronounced ‘lait’). The elders of the villagers buy one but no one knows how to light the lamp. They have outcast the one and only lad who could  because he’s an the outsider and because he’s a flirt and won’t comply with rules…

The film drags on and on, and you notice how when the hero and heroine are romancing their footwear appears and disappears at will, how everyone in the village is wearing brand new clothes carefully selected to look like what someone urban thinks villagers might wear. If the film annoyed you, it would be a good thing. This film is just so flat, so dull, you watch everyone as if they were a sleepy cow, who you’re hoping will regurgitate something and begin to chew again.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

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Review: AKSAR 2

Na Sar Hai Na Pair!

1 star

Mini Review:

The film is a ‘sequel’ to the 2006 film of the same name. Sheena and Ricky are in this film too, and so are the same convoluted plot about money, seduction and murder. While that film had memorable music, this one has nothing. It has pointless twists and in the end, you don’t care, but laugh at the terrible fare on the screen.

Main Review:

If you enter the theatre hoping to watch a possessive wife, a husband who wants out of the marriage, a lover for hire, betrayal and especially music that makes the nonsensical plot worthwhile, then you will be sadly mistaken. There is no Himesh singing, ‘Jhalak Dikhlaa Ja!’ or KK belting out ‘Soniye’. There is no Udita Goswami in her super svelte avatar emerging from the sea a la Bo Derek. No dialog like, ‘Aise kya dekh rahe ho? Aaj toh sirf barah din huye hain, kal tumhare pyaar ki teravi hai.’

You’ll discover instead the sleaziest kissing between Ricky (an expressionless Abhinav Shukla) and Sheena (Zarine Khan who distracts the audience from her dubious acting skills by wearing clothes and underthings at least three sizes too small). You’ll discover disgraced cricketer Sreesanth in a role of a lawyer as if he were a robot. He had more expressions when arguing on the cricket field. Gautam Rode who plays the Investment Banker, Patrick Sharma whose first audible dialog is, ‘Call me Pat.’ He tries so hard to be cool, you end up laughing. And you wonder why he has tears-filled eyes every time his lies are caught. In the lies is one more person, Bacchan Singh, who wanders about the house doing nothing but is dressed in a waistcoat. The weirdest part is that Bachchan Singh doesn’t blink.

They’re all planning to kill Dolly Khambatta for her riches. But if you saw the film you’d know that they want to kill her for her ghastly wig. It’s Lillette Dubey hamming it to the hilt in a grey wig leftover from some Gothic horror drama.

So chunky peanut butter keg, Sheena Roy and Ricky are lovers, plotting to get a foot in Dolly Khambatta’s door. Pat the banker wants Sheena because he gets her the job as the old lady’s governess. Sreesanth the lawyer is often found visiting the old lady. The old lady plays the piano and signs papers without looking. The creepy Bachchan Singh (Mohit Madaan) is in the kill the old lady and earn money plot. One by one characters die because everyone is trying to double cross each other. Of course Arijit Singh sings desultory generic songs that don’t leave an impression at all. By the time you realise how chunky chick’s bank balance got chunkier, the credits roll and we see chunky writhing in tropical sands somewhere. You leave because you could do with a proper meal.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)
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This House Of Horrors Was A Fun Watch!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Far away in the foothills of the Himalayas, there are three angry spirits inhabiting a house. Oblivious to the spirits, a doc and his wife live next door. Trouble brews when a Christian family moves into the haunted house. This trouble is nothing new if you have watched horror, but it is a great fun watch. The horrific moments are really horrific.

Main Review:

Campy Horror Special!

Crucifixes that turn upside down, lights that crackle and fuse, and furniture is not just rearranged, but it floats too. You want to ask Is this evil spirit some sort of Interior Decorator?

Thankfully there are none of the silly sounds of creaking doors, creaking windows, lightning, sudden storms, suicidal crows, black Labradors, mirrors that crack, mirrors that are placed strategically so we don’t see the bhoot ka reflection…

But there are televisions that suddenly come on, tantriks and voodoo dolls, fireplaces where the ghost sits and combs hair (cool scary moment that is!), body that levitates when occupied by evil spirit, bodies that twist to abnormal angles when occupied by evil spirit, scars and wounds appear on body occupied by evil spirit, priest who tries exorcism gets slammed on the floor after being lifted by the spirit…

Dar Toh Laga Tha, Boss!

Oh yes! The evil spirits suddenly show up at the window and you discover how your breath leaves your tum in a whoosh once and the next time you feel suckerpunched. You are totally not prepared for the sudden appearance, and that’s a good thing. Also when the wife opens the lid of the water tank, you are like,’Yaar she’s going to get pushed into the water tank!’ But no! That’s not what happens. And neither are you expecting the spirit in the operation theatre…

Great Cast! Holy Bible Ki Kasam!

The priest, the tantrik, the servant, the piano playing dad, the annoying little kid are perfectly cast. Siddarth, Andrea Jeremiah and Atul Kulkarni are superb in their roles too, but the young Jenny is just perfect. Anisha Victor plays the precocious teen who is at once vulnerable as she is annoying. If I were evil spirit, I would choose to occupy her body too.

The cliches are put together very nicely and even though you’ve seen two pupils in the eyes of the human inhabited by an evil spirit you don’t mind it at all. The fact that the film makes even the most jaded horror film fan jump out of their socks for a few moments is good enough to earn its stars. This evil film has been shot with lots of love. But someone tell me why evil spirits only haunt Christian folk… Need to see a chudail haunting sometimes…    

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Review: Shaadi Par Zaroor Aana

Is Shaadi Se Door Bhaagna

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Small town wedding where the boy and the girl love one another is interrupted when the girl realises that her in-laws won’t let her work, and she has just aced the prestigious government civil services exams. The groom suffers a loss of face, and he gets to avenge the insult when he shows up as the District Magistrate and presides over an investigation where she’s accused of corruption. Does love win? Or does revenge turns out to be sweeter?

Main Review:

Picturesque small town, mothers cutting vegetables at dining tables, parathas for breakfast, bride who wants to work but stern dad wants to get her married off, small town lad who speaks a English awkwardly but dreams of a bride who wears lingerie with mangal sutra, a bride who makes puris for groom in that same fantasy, uncles that bring shaadi ka rishta (wedding proposals) and are the ones who talk about dowry, fathers who get breathless clutching at their hearts when bad things happen, and runaway brides are cliches that even bad movies don’t want to touch…

Take a recently bankable star and a pretty girl in these cliches and throw in some ghastly romance: may i drink coffee from your cup? And drink noisily from exactly where your lipstick has left a mark on the cup… While the audience barfs into their popcorn the two lovebirds embark on what turns into a terrible, terrible film.

Mishras and Shuklas find themselves in the shaadi cliche and their houses get decorated in marigold chains and are lit up. The bride Aarti Shukla (Kriti Kharbanda) discovers that she’s cracked the state civil services exam when her sister discovers that her in-laws will never allow their ‘bahu’ who is ‘ghar ki izzat’ to work. of course the bride runs!

Heartbroken and annoyed at all the ‘be-izzati’ (insult to the family honor) the lad Satyendra Mishra aka Sattu (Rajkummar Rao in a role perhaps written for Ayushman Khurrana who does manage to play the small town heartbroken lad well) decides he’s going to be one-up on her and turns up as a District Magistrate (a senior Administrative Post) investigating a bribery case against her. Come on! Television soaps have more believable plot twists.

The film seems to drag on and on from this point where he seems to be happy to insult her in many different ways (totally unconstitutional behavior). The dead plot is then dragged through until it is reincarnated and dies again when the lawyer wearing a spy camera shows up helping him in the investigation. It is bad enough watching Rajkummar Rao behaving badly, but it is torture to see the runaway bride now wooing the lad who is pissed off and more determined than ever to never marry. You begin to empathise with the lad when she falls into his arms drunk, and you wish the security guard present with him goes postal and kills her.

How long is this film? The audience by now has sent for knives and amazon has delivered them at their seats… It’s like that Game Of Thrones wedding in the theatre…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)
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3 stars

Mini Review:

Dating online makes the single gal Jaya TK (Parvathy) braver than she has ever been. She is at first alarmed and then amused and irritated enough by the ever happy, perpetually gabby Viyogi played effortlessly by Irrfan Khan who talks her into a cross country journey to meet his (and hers) exes. She discovers herself on the trip and we fall in love with Irrfan Khan. Delightfully written road trip film.

Main Review:

The pace of the film is simply marvelous. There is no time to blink or you’ll miss either on the great writing or the story moving forward. This film is as they say, Qarib Qarib Perfect (almost perfect). There are a whole lot of shots where the camera is unable to decide whether it needs to zoom into the face for a close up or step back and be happy with the mid shot. That slight jerky movement is distracting but the writing is fluid and you drown in its competence.

That brings us to Irrfan Khan. He’s shows up on a date after a jog, insults sandwiches, casually asks the girl out for a date, and cleverly gets her number, and confuses her by charming her socks off: So when are we going to give some business to the coffee shops next…

Parvathy is such a foil to the chatty Irrfan, rolling her eyes and challenging him at every turn you are happy to watch them spar with words. ‘Who are you going to say I am when you meet your ex?’ she asks Irrfan. And when he smiles at her and asks a question for a question, ‘What would you like to come as?’

Now we know everything about Parvathy from the first ten minutes of the movie. We like her and sort of feel sad for her when she is treated as ‘stepney aunty’ (someone who literally a ‘spare’). But when her friends push her, she signs up on a dating app and discovers Irrfan. You will love the travel tale that the writer/director Tanuja Chandra.

They travel from Rishikesh to Jaipur to Gangtok. Yogi has his exes there and Parvathy wants to see if they are still in love with Yogi as he claims. In Rishikesh, they meet the effervescent Pushti who calls him ‘mamaji’ (uncle) but insists Parvathy and Irrfan join them on an adventure ride on the white waters. They then take a Palace on Wheels style train (here’s where you’ll begin to wish the multiplex serves you pakodas (fritters) with chai). When they reach Jaipur, they meet the gorgeous siren of a woman who obviously has not forgotten Irrfan. This Neha Dhupia and you wish she gets better roles than she does…

This is where Parvathy starts to get a tad out of character. The drugged act is charming but just not convincing enough. The Gangtok trip just loses steam and you begin to notice that her blouse doesn’t really fit her right and she’s sort of lost the charm. But Irrfan watching his third ex (Isha Sharvani) dance in her studio with her students is a study in love. Parvathy in the meanwhile has gone to meet her ex, played by Luke Kenny (we are totally disconnected to these two, because there seems to be nothing there really). Parvathy’s strident yelling seems a tad illogical, because she hasn’t really contributed much to the connect Irrfan seems to have with her. But as I said, this film is Qarib Qarib Perfect. The resolve of the tensions between Irrfan and Parvathy is sweet, and you are convinced love is in the air even as you emerge from the theatre. The questions: Do we have to forget all our loves because you’ve found a soulmate? Have you learnt to make space for a new person in your life? Stay with you long after the movie is over.

P.S. Hoo Boy! Can Irrfan sing!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)
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2 stars

Mini Review:

A remake of the 1969 film of the same name which was a remake of the 1965 Joanne Woodward film Signpost to Murder. Akshaye Khanna is a policeman who has to solve two murders over the long weekend. The case is that of a high profile writer who has killed his wife and then he kills a stranger after he escapes police custody. If the lead actors: Sidharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha weren’t so passionless in trying hard to be mysterious, this film could have been less painful to watch.

Main Review:

Suspense Has Deadline! And They’re Trying To Be Stylish!

There’s a gigantic flaw in the film which no one saw when trying to make a suspenseful film: No cop will ever leave an interrogation halfway and go home. Especially when the boss has asked you to solve the case of a double murder over the weekend. Cops can be relentless. They ask you questions and ask you questions until you break down.

The interrogation technique here looks like they’re trying too hard with the style quotient when they try telling the tale in the ‘his version vs. her version’… Rashomon was made in 1950… Ab bas karo!

Akshaye Khanna Steals The Film!

In this film, Akshaye Khanna (Plays Dev) talks to the murder suspect in a rather civil fashion (no Indian cop ever loses a chance to hit the suspects, if cinema tradition is to be believed). Yes, there is sarcasm, and Akshaye Khanna manages to convince us that is right for the role. In fact, that he is the best part of the film. He is stern with the subordinates and the fun he has with the constable Shinde and other cops makes the movie worthwhile.

‘Just because the crime scene is a home you thought it was okay to make tea?’ He asks Shinde, a cop who is carrying a tray. Petrified of the boss, he begins to step backwards. Akshaye Khanna steps forward and after a dramatic pause asks, ‘Is there adrak (ginger) in the tea?’ and proceeds to take a cup of tea for himself.

Many such moments give relief from the rest of the story. But then, the cool cop and his ridiculous subordinates act works only that far.

Kahan Hai Rajesh Khanna Aur Uska Hamming? Kahan Hai?

You wish they had polished the stories that the two suspects put forward. Maybe Sidharth Malhotra needs a couple of semesters in acting school because he just isn’t convincing enough. At least Rajesh Khanna hammed himself into being the ‘menacing madman’ role that he essayed in the 1969 version of the film. Yes, Rajesh Khanna hammed and how! But the sad sack writer that Sidharth Malhotra plays here (and he holds that expression through the film, alas!) makes you yearn for the hamming and the madman role Rajesh Khanna played…

Never thought one would have to ever say that hamming is better than playing needlessly morose. At least the ‘madness’ made allowances to the unpredictable behavior that would alarm Nanda in the original film. John Abraham’s critics should now shut up. His ‘one expression’ title should be awarded to this lad. At least John Abraham had his biceps and six-pack abs to distract you…

Kaun Se Angle Se Damsel In Distress?!

Sonakshi Sinha plays the role of Maya, in whose home Sidharth takes shelter after escaping from the cops. There he kills her husband is is finally arrested. Now they want us to feel Maya is not as nice as she is supposed to be. Nanda does the damsel in distress act rather well. Here, Sonakshi Sinha looks like she could kick butt and how! So the shrinking violet role seems to be rather wrong. And why does she behave like a predator? She keeps touching Sidharth so much, you wonder if he’s going to do the ‘bhagwan ke liye mujhe chhod do’ act any moment. Of course this is a suspenseful film, and every character has to act suspicious. So Sonakshi Sinha is shown locking her bedroom door and sneak out a torch from the bar…

That brings us to Chirag. We’ve seen Sonakshi Sinha romantically linked with Salman Khan and Ranveer Singh in the movies. Who would believe she likes Chirag? Chiraag?!
Thank God They Didn’t Call Him Amitav Ghosh!

Sidharth Malhotra is nice looking, but I doubt he could have pulled a Bengali New York accent. So you roll your eyes and think of this lad’s song: Faiz wala love and forgive the writers the name they pile on Sidharth Malhotra! They call him Vikram Sethi.

Many Sighs Later…

So back to the original flaw: Despite the urgency, Akshaye Khanna lets the suspect tell his story in bits and then her story in parts… And you actually want to enter the dull grey walled artistically lit police station and tell Dev, please don’t go without asking Vikram Sethi why he was so disorientated when they showed up in Maya’s house. You also want to ask the cops to pick up the littered papers… They could be clues…

And yes, this could have been a good film. They add a needless twist in the film where an airport scene is added. And they give a lengthy explanation as to why who did what… By this time, you are so bored of the whole thing, you don’t want Akshaye Khanna to say, ‘There’s a bomb on the flight!’ (easiest way to stop a flight these days!) or the movie would have gone on and on and on.   

(a politer version of the review appears on nowrunning dot com)