Monthly Archives: January 2019

Review: THACKERAY


Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a rockstar as Hindu Hriday Samrat!


2.5 stars


Mini Review:


The story of one of the most beloved and yet the most divisive political figures in Indian politics is surprisingly well made. Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes for a great Thackeray, but the script sticks to the major events of his political life, leaving you wishing the film had shown him more human than hero of the masses.


Main Review:


He started out as a political cartoonist, a satirist who wanted the world to change. Then he ended up doing something about it. Governments did not know how to deal with the power he wielded over ‘his people’, but the common man he helped swore by him, and called him ‘God’. How can you separate the man from the politics is a reviewer’s problem. A film like this to be watched when his ‘sena’ occupies the theater, wearing his colours is not easy. But I can say happily that the film is well made, and instead of being the mouthpiece of his political party, it does serve to help understand how and why Bal Thackeray became ‘Tiger’.


Nawazuddin Siddiqui does a bang up job of being the political leader whose philosophy is summed by the character himself when he says, ‘We will join our hands in a welcome to one and all, but if you trample our rights, these hands will break your legs.’


Bal Keshav Thackeray noticed everything. The people of Bombay ate Idli and sambar for breakfast, the Gujarati businessmen ruled the markets, the city ate the mutton the Muslims made, the bankers were outsiders too. The only thing the locals did was be loyal servants to all these people. He wanted the Marathi people (the original residents of Bombay) to have a say in things, own their businesses, live with pride. He started a weekly magazine expressing his radical views and his sarcastic cartoons. He raised a simple question: should the Marathi man be satisfied with less?


This is shown as a backstory of Thackeray standing and delivering his blistering defence in Lucknow High Court as to why he incited his men to demolish the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The black and white treatment is wonderfully done. Establishes Thackeray as a thinking man, supported by his father and his wife. It also points out to the differences in the working conditions of the local people then. A very beautiful cinematic moment is captured when a worker writes a notice on a blackboard asking people to show up at a speech where Thackeray was going to ask the Marathi people to wake up. The worker props the blackboard against a pillar. The blackboard when horizontal has been sheltering a man sleeping behind. He wakes up because the sun now shines directly into his eyes. How Thackeray fought against the quintessential Marathi man and his ‘let it be’ philosophy is shown quite well.


It is but natural that if you follow your philosophy single-minded, then people will get hurt. Thackeray is shown to be just that. The film shows him say that he cares for nothing else but his people, and how his Shiv Sena (Army of Shivaji) could do or die for him. But it doesn’t show why and how he suddenly became the hero. I found myself agreeing with his logic on many things, but then should employers give jobs to local Marathi people because they are qualified or simply because Thackeray would burn the place down otherwise?


This is where you discover that you are drawn into his politics, and the film becomes personal. It’s a very clever trick and this is where the film works. You like the way they show events that include violence to make the perpetrator into a heroic figure. How his politics expanded from local to national is shown so easily that you sit back and are amazed. In one scene he threatens his political opponent with death, faces the same opponent (Barrister Rajni Patel) and even extends his hand to shake it. But when Rajni Patel refuses the courtesy and says that the Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi will meet Thackeray only for five minutes, Thackeray does not say anything but goes in to talk to the PM and manages to keep her involved in a conversation about his politics for over an hour. Rajni Patel’s machinations don’t work, and he is made to realise that he can never become Chief Minister of Maharashtra because he does not speak the local language, Marathi. This scene is perhaps the most manipulative scene but so well done, you actually nod your head in agreement. The actor who plays Mrs. Gandhi is uncannily like the former Prime Minister. Brava!


Amrita Rao and all the other characters who play the politicians do a good job in support of Nawazuddin Siddiqui who is rather amazing as Bal Thackeray. You want to know more about his brother who supported him, and other people who were close to him, but have to happy with just glimpses. The film is shot beautifully and yes, some bits of the rioting and killing are very Bollywoodish, but on the whole well done!


The riots between Hindus and Muslims and how Thackeray’s popularity with the police and the masses kept him strong is depicted in the film rather well. I had wished the film had been a little more personal. I wanted to know how he started sporting the Rudraksh (the Hindu rosary) , and what how his philosophy changed over the years. But the film sticks to his speeches and political events which can be accessed through the net today. Is it only a propaganda film for his political party? Perhaps. But it has cinematic sensibilities too.


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)         


     

Review: MANIKARNIKA


Swordfight ke liye nahi Jewelry ke liye jaani jaayegi
Manikarnika ko bore kaha toh main anti national maani jaayegi!

2 stars

Mini Review:

Subhadra Kumari Chauhan's poem about the fearless warrior queen Laxmibai of Jhansi is one my favorites, tells the story of a woman who chose to fight the outsiders than be subservient like most principalities. This legend has been so awfully Bollywoodised, that the chest thumping patriotism which most people will mistakenly call 'pride in all things Indian' needs one tight slap rather than kudos which the heroine of the film deperately seeks.

Main Review:

Manikarnika ne har situation mein gorgeous dikhne ki thaani thee,
Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali rani thee!

First things first. The jewelry that Manikearnika wears earns a star on its own. Supported by the brooches and necklaces that the other royal men wear. The jewelery is so good you will want to trawl the net to buy copies.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about Manikarnika's hair. 

Kangana Ranaut plays the title role, and it is said that she directed too. Sigh. Wrong move. Because the audience wants to tear their own hair out when they see blatant mistakes. Her hair goes from curled elegance to French braids to a bun within a single scene. Perhaps her salon service was riding with her in war. I must admit that I stopped counting these errors and allowed my inner Lata Mangeshkar to sing:

Kabhi Curly Kabhie Bun!

Kangana wears sarees irl rather well, and so it wasn't difficult to see her look beautiful in her outfits. But people need to realise that the camera is mean when it takes close ups. Stray threads show us how tacky the finishing of the outfits sarees were. But we are blinded by her mile long eyelashes and eye make up that gets accentuated when she glares. Chest thumping patriots will call that glaring 'acting', but what to do. She yells, 'Azaaaaadeeeee!' so well it could become someone's caller tune!

Her histrionics when her baby dies are controlled, an we thank our stars for that, but ye-gads! An item song with peasants? 

Lawaris ka waris ban kar British jajya Jhansi aaya,
Angrezi bhoolkar unhone Bollywood Hindi ko apnaya!

The British soldiers are by default shown to commit lots of atrocities.in Hindi films. They are a trope: Ill fitting uniforms and blonde wigs and they speak an accented Hindi which is hilarious. 

But in this film they speak English like the writers were at some Biblical convention: Let us eat the tender flesh of the calf we took today. 

I choked on my coffee chum! Because Manikarnika shows up on a rescue mission and declares all sheep and goats and livestock as the king's property and that the farmers are just caretakers. The three cowering British soldiers then hand over the calf to 'Her Majesty' (seriously? Who wrote that?) and the queen then jumps into a happy dance with the peasants.

Of course when she sort of faints, a peasant pronounces her pregnant. Dammit! I was hoping for a jhingalala hurrr from a witch doctor and all...

But I digress. The Brits are fed up of this proud Rani 'jo sar nahi jhukati!' (so are we because the narrative has not moved forward at all!) and decide to bring in Voldemort. But they can afford only gareebon ka Ralph Fiennes, and so we have bring in cannons that fire at the fort of Jhansi from behind the temple. When he rides out with her cannonsthe bad Angrez says, 'What is this woman doing?!' and what follows is incredulously bad special effects battle.

You even forget the special effects guy made her jump on to an elephant's back who does not move an inch. Don't worry, I flinched, and then laughed to see her float over the elephant...

Behen Chhabili ne kar diya Ran Chandi ka prakat avhaan
In the movie it gets translated to a nightmare mahaan!

Of course the writer read the poem too, and he decided that the first line of this subhead would be perfect in cinema... The big bad Hugh Rose is so scared of this unpredictable queen that he sees (and alas we see) Kangana with body paint and a dressed up as the avenging goddess Kali. I laughed so much I almost missed the tropes of good peasants dying for motherland and greedy prince wanting to be king at any cost.   

The poem gives us a history lesson in 126 lines, but the movie takes 148 minutes... and still leaves us confused about what the film was trying to say. To add to the confusion, they take really awesome actors like Danny Denzongpa and put him in a weird leather costume which looks like a leftover from Pirates Of The Caribbean. Atul Kulkarni who plays Tantya Tope is reduced to mouthing, 'Aazaadi!' too. The poor Pathan chief and his bunch (Muslim) end up saying, 'Har Har Mahadev!' 

But who cares, right? They made a patriotic film and we need to clap because we are Incredibly Indian. 

Tera Smarak tu hee hogi, tu khud amit nishani thee
(says the poem, immortalising her)
Lekin Manikarnika apne dimaag se mit jaaye yahi prayer hamari thee!

Wait for the film to show up on your TV screen. Or if you like period films, watch Bajirao Mastani or something or another re-run of Lagaan.




Review: WHY CHEAT INDIA


Why Make A Film That Fails To Keep Your Interest?

2 stars

Mini Revew:

There are parents who want their kids to have an engineering degree come what may. There are agents who help ‘crack’ the exams for a fee. The film tackles the problem of rampant cheating in these exams but it gets so preachy about a failing system and talks so much, you cannot help but yawn…

Main Review:

‘I don’t want to be a hero, and I don’t have the time to play the villain,’ Emraan Hashmi says, as he pulls off the role of a heartless agent who uses bright young chaps to take the exams for stupid, rich kids for money. The bright chaps (usually from poor backgrounds) earn money, and rich dads get the satisfaction of being the parents of ‘an engineer’.

The scams attached to ‘coaching’ classes that prepare young men and women for professional courses have led to police action, but with politicians deeply involved with these agents, the scams just don’t stop. Plus the ambitious hoards of parents, willing to put up their life savings and then paying cash to scamsters when they realise that their kids cannot clear those tough exams, make it impossible for the vicious cycle to end.

That is the reality today. And yes, it is a disease in India’s education system. But does that mean we the audience have to suffer a film that drags on and on with Emraan Hashmi preaching to us how good he is when he takes money from the rich and gives some of it to the poor deserving students?

Emraan Hashmi plays Rakesh Bhaiya, who is the best of the best agents. He is earnest when he plays the cool, collected bad guy, and looks rather fit. The audience is not supposed to hate him because he has a pathetic life (a really awful and brainless wife, a father who does not think much of the son but uses his money), because he is really helping poor students make money, and also because it’s the fault of the parents who are ambitious. Have I said this before? Yes. That’s what happens in the movie, over and over again, and his brazen tactics just become boring. Then the last twenty minutes of the movie get interesting because the girl he’s romancing (Shreya Dhanwanthary) turns the tables on him and he loses his magic touch. But he’s unrepentant, and the film ends with ghastly slides that give us numbers of fake universities and colleges, data on student suicides, and numbers of people who perhaps cheated to join professional colleges…The film should have been called Why Bore India instead.


(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: BOMBAIRIYA


It's Fun, It's Chaotic, But It's Not Convincing

2 stars

Mini Review:

A PR gal has a nudie video on her phone which gets whacked by some chap on a stolen scooter. She wants her phone back, but he is running away from a bad cop but maybe because he is carrying a bomb in the scooter. It’s chaotic, funny but has too many threads which make this non-linear film a tiring watch after a while.

Main Review:

How do we confuse thee, let me count the ways...

One bad cop, two funny cops, one thief on a pink scooter, the police commissioner, a priest, two witnesses, a movie star with a crush on his PR girl, movie star’s politician wife, a bad politician in jail, his mostly terrified manservant, movie star’s driver, two Sardars who win a radio contest to meet the movie star, the radio jockey who is supposed to help the two sardars meet the movie star, a shopkeeper lad, an assassin, a chap who tries to save the heroine, his parents, parents and a girl in an arranged marriage scenario with the chap, the heroine’s dad, and the heroine: The PR girl of the movie star. Oh yes, there’s the heroine’s granny too (whom we hear on the phone). That makes 27 actors in a chaotic setting in Mumbai (and I’m not counting the news anchor reporting crime and asking the commissioner questions).

It’s a great attempt to tell a story that connects all these characters to a plot that is slowly revealed. The digressions themselves are really funny, and sketch comedy like, but does this make a good film?

The jokes are clever. Very few people understand clever...

Let me confess to you that I laughed at the funny one liners and ridiculous situations the characters find themselves in. Like when the chap who tries save the heroine is in his car with his mom and dad and the heroine, and the parents think there’s something going in between the two young people. They are getting away from an arranged marriage situation where the girl turns out to be a lesbian person. When the mother asks what the word ‘lesbian’ means, the heroine explains how in a mythological story a baby was brought up by two women. That relationship is ‘lesbian’. The mother decides then that they should sing a bhajan thanking their stars that the son was saved from marrying someone who did not want a man. The heroine knows the bhajan too. Now the director could have just shown the discomfort by having only the mother sing, but no! The heroine is persuaded to sing it too, and the chap enjoys the heroine’s discomfort and grins as he drives the car.

Weird to read this, right? But all the characters in the car are so good - the mother oblivious to the whole thing, sings; the dad has seen the ‘lesbian’ girl kiss the heroine to thank her from saving her from a marriage and is suspicious of the heroine who is supposedly his son’s girlfriend; the chap has had his life turned upside down in trying to help the heroine, and the heroine is stuck with the lad because the thief has her phone and she has called the thief with the lad’s phone…

Yes, the chaos is confusing. But it was funny to hear the ‘lesbian girl’ say that she will have to do another Masters program in the US because that is easier than explaining to the parents why she does not want to marry a man.

The movie star is in love with the PR girl, our heroine, and wants to sort out why he made that video of her showering. But he cowers in front of his politician wife who orders him to take a selfie to prove that he is alone. The phone conversation between them is really funny. Ravi Kishen and Shilpa Shukla say the silliest lines with lots of seriousness.

Akshay Oberoi plays the lad who interferes in the argument between the heroine (Radhika Apte), and the thief (Siddhant Kapoor). The three are so good, they make you believe that this implausible series of events is part of their day. The film sort of crashes in the end because the assumption and proof that all these characters who get embroiled in a terror plot are really nice people and that the bad guy was being manipulated by someone even worse. The caper goes on for too long and the funny bits sort of trail away… The biggest problem with the film is that it is too clever. The baddie talks on the phone about finding the heroine and the car with all of them singing that bhajan goes right under the bridge where he’s standing...

This ensemble cast and their stories could have been tighter, but no. So even if you have guffawed, you end up feeling as harried as Radhika Apte does when she realises that she’s having a really, really bad day.

(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: FRAUD SAIYYAN


This Is An Awful Awful Film


0 stars


Mini Review:


Women across the heartland of the country are so sexually starved the want to keep Arshad Warsi the conman and give him all the money they have as long as he is their ‘saiyyan’. Sexist and shitty, such movies should not be made at all.


Main Review:

Shame on the censor board that lets such drivel through! It’s 2019, and where are the self-appointed moral police when you really need them? Why are women so objectified? Who writes such cringe-worthy lines as, ‘Tonight I’m dinner’?

Unfortunately, the people who made the film should have known better. (Insert fart sound here). Mama Deepti Naval gave us unforgettable films and Papa Prakash Jha’s films have their own fan following. But expectations from offspring who produced the film end with this film. (Insert fart sound here).

Arshad Warsi and Saurabh Shukla, the joke is not in the movie, you two are it. (Insert fart sound here). What a horror this film turned out to be. Thirteen women (Elli Avram included) are married to Arshad ‘Bhola’ Warsi because they need sex and sindoor. (Insert fart sound here). And yes, fart uncle Saurabh Shukla thinks he can stop this marry and run man once and for all at gunpoint. You’d think a woman would just kill the man who has cheated on her so many times. But no, she just wants him. And Arshad Warsi continues wiggling his eyebrows (Insert fart sound here).  

Don’t even think about watching this film. Such a shame that filmmakers actually think rural India will enjoy such trash.  

(I watched the film at G7 multiplex and the few people who showed up, including college kids did not laugh at all.)

(The review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER


Mimicry Or Acting? Is This A Propaganda Film Or Just An Adaptation Of The Book?

2 stars

Mini Review:

Titled after a book of the same name, this film looks at Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh from the point of view of his media advisor Sanjaya Baru. The film is shabbily made even though they get lots of cast to look like people in real life, and skims the events in Dr, Singh’s work life. Is this a propaganda film?

Main Review:

The timing of the film about a Congress party Prime Minister which shows the machinations of its party president and her then callow son seems like a propaganda film by BJP, the current party in power.

Dr. Manmohan Singh called himself the ‘Accidental Prime Minister’ (and hence the name of the book and the film) because he was appointed (not elected) to lead the coalition government by the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. She could not become Prime Minister because she’s Italian and there was some rule about citizenship then… Dr. Singh was chosen because of his impeccable credentials as well as his ability of being unassuming and perceived as amenable and hence acceptable to all the various parties in the coalition .

The film uses the House of Cards technique where the characters break the fifth wall and talk to the audience. Very, very nice, you think and try not to be distracted by the gleam in Akshaye Khanna’s eyes and his knowing smirk and his natty clothes. He changes his suits so many times, you begin to wonder if any work got done in the Prime Minister’s Office. The only awful thing about clothes was to see Suzanne Bernert who looks and acts quite like Sonia Gandhi wear inexpensive sarees. In reality, she wears really beautiful expensive sarees.

If you have not read the book, you will watch events unfold on the screen (that include really poor quality real life news footage from the past) and see how Dr. Singh learn to speak with the right pauses and emphasis and so on. The credit is taken by Sanjaya Baru of course. We see political machinations not reach the poor, unsuspecting, trusting Prime Minister, thanks to who? Sanjaya Baru of course! We see the Prime Minister rely on the advice of his Sanjaya as if he arrived in the Prime Minister’s office without any credentials.

The film talks of a nuclear deal with the United States, it shows the tape scam, it shows how Dr. Manmohan Singh’s wife made tea, how all the secretaries and bureaucrats made deals within deals and dealt with journalists and those who haven’t read the book will exclaim how much the film covers. But it’s just froth. Even if you have not read the book (and that should not be a criteria to appreciate the film) you, the audience will know that deals between countries are made after much planning and negotiations. Here the film makes the whole thing look like fluff despite the opposition creating trouble for the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister’s office looks like a throwback of some old palace of the Maharajas rather than the highest office of power. The giant artificial flowers don’t help in adding credibility to the setting at all.

What is the worst part of the whole thing? It is election year now in India, and the film shows the then callow leader of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi (under whose leadership the Congress has won three states from the ruling BJP) in very poor light. Arjun Mathur plays Rahul as if he were completely inarticulate and is shown to be ridiculous. That smacks of propaganda, if nothing else.

Anupam Kher is a good actor, but is this mimicry as I suspect, or good acting? The film will perhaps bring about a political dialog in the country or maybe it will be relegated to the files of ‘What was that?!’  


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)    

Review: 706


Khoon! Badla Lene Aaya Pishaach! Bhai Wah!

2 stars

Mini Review:

A doctor is missing, his psychiatrist wife is worried or is she? Does it matter that a cop with a secret is investigating the doctor’s disappearance? Why and how is the creepy kid making accurate predictions? The film is a great idea and executed decently, but it just takes too long to come to the point…

Main Review:

That Divya Dutta is a good actor is a given, but here she manages to carry the film along with another wonderful actor Atul Kulkarni. Bollywood does not make good horror films. And this film comes out of nowhere and surprises you.

So a doctor who owns a fancy hospital is missing and his young wife, Dr Suman, is shown to be worried for his well being. The cops as always have not found anything at all. Divya Dutta plays the wife and Atul Kulkarni plays the cop investigating this case. The police have found nothing and the cops make appropriate noises in the media about how they’re doing their best. They’re both good actors, so I am intrigued.

It’s more than eleven days since her husband is missing so Dr Suman decides to go back to work. At work, a colleague informs her that a patient is refusing to leave the hospital unless checked by her personally. The patient turns out to be the creepy kid who looks alright, is physically fit but… Oops! Spoke too soon. The child suffers from bizarre convulsions, and then begins staring at the doctor and saying things like he knows where her husband is…

The cops search the area the kid has pointed to and discover that the information the child has given is indeed true. Secrets both the cop and the lady doctor have been hiding come out. We learn that a lad has jumped off the terrace from the hotel, and he stayed in room number 706 (hence the strange title of the film) The film uses very Indian themes of ghosts entering the body, spirits kept at bay with a taveez (blessed amulet) and a spiritual guru in Benaras foretelling the future…

The story slowly takes shape, even though the reasoning is staring at us, and in this day and age when things unravel so slowly, you wish you could fast-forward the film. The end reveal is rather satisfying. Perhaps it would be best watched on video or online…

(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: URI: The Surgical Strikes


Loud Country Cousin Of Zero Dark Thirty

2 stars

Mini Review:

Four Pakistani terrorists infiltrated an Indian Army base and killed sleeping soldier in their barracks in Uri. India replied with Zero Dark Thirty style over the border attack called ‘Surgical Strikes’. It’s shot well, and despite being a patriotic revenge drama it remains soulless.

Main Review:

The first half of the film establishes the hard working commandos beautifully. They work on the North-East Manipur-Myanmar border, they defend our borders in North-West in Kashmir. They are daring and yet family men. The bosses both of the armed forces and the politicians in the capital are very supportive and make sure brave officers don’t retire, but set to a desk job so that saves him (and the country) from a resignation.

Who Gives A Flying Feck About Army Rules, Vicky Kaushal Is Our Hero And He Will Haz Macho Beard!

Vicky Kaushal is Major Vihaan Shergill a fearless commando, unafraid to go mano-a-mano with terrorists is the hero of the film. He wants to take voluntary retirement after a successful ambush of terrorists and insurgents in the North East because his mother (Swaroop Sampat) is suffering from Alzheimer's. His brother in law is Mohit Raina (of the TV show about Shiva fame) who is also a fearless Army commando captain who is now posted in Uri, an army camp base in Kashmir.

Mohit Raina has a hair style that can only be explained as put finger in electrical socket and switch it on, and Vicky Kaushal has been given a beard. Both a no-no in the Army, but who cares about rules. They have to look good! Hoo haah!

Pakistani Baad India Good! Let's Shake Fists In Air! Taaliyaan! Seetiyaan!

Terrorists have been known to enter India from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and make small inroads and they have killed many civilians. On the government level, Pakistan has always denied being directly involved, and India has furnished proof each time in International courts. But justice delayed is justice denied, but this narrative has been fed to the people of India. Paresh Rawal plays Govind (in reality Ajit Doval) the National Security Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister, who says that this time the troops are not going to be happy with diplomacy and would like to respond to Pakistan with force, in the form of Surgical Strikes - operations where a team infiltrates the enemy country and blows up the terrorist camps. This puts Pakistan in a position where they cannot complain about camps they have denied the existence of, Internationally. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (played by Rajat Kapoor) gives orders to carry out surgical strikes in complete secrecy.

Also, Jai Gorment!

You groan at the obvious pandering to the government by this film. First when the Prime Minister congratulates the team on the Manipur strike, and then when he gives the go ahead for the surgical strikes and needlessly says that it needs to be conducted in secrecy and that there should be no logs of the meeting. With moles being shown on both sides of the fence, and meeting with a roomful of ministers unrecorded seems like a red flag, no? But the ministers all look cast terrifically, especially Manohar Parrikar, the Defence Minister at that time. It bothered me to see Pakistani people being portrayed as noxious. Raazi did a terrific job, and showed no disrespect for Pakistanis. It was awful and caricaturish to show an enemy mole (played by Rakesh Bedi) who burps through hisi dialog as he shares coordinates of terrorist camps with Indian Intelligence.

They even check the needless politically correct boxes by having Yami Gautam (looks lovely) play the Intelligence officer, and have a female helicopter pilot (Kirti Kulhari).

All is not lost. There are moments where you genuinely get caught in the moment. An episode with a spy bird equipped with a camera getting almost caught by a young terrorist in training gets an A+ grade. Also the very first incursion scene in Manipur-Myanmar give you hope that the film could have great action scenes. Wrong.

Sab Original Hai. Serbia Looks Like Pakistan!

The film is shot in Serbia, and you really have to be blindly patriotic to forget that the Line Of Control at the India Pakistan border has the Himalayas. But who cares, Vicky Kaushal who has sat at the desk for at least six months is leading a team of crack commandos on a super secret mission. Only that the sardar sent on the mission tells him, 'I'm being sent off on a super secret mission to avenge our fallen comrades at Uri, I've come to say bye!'

You are horrified, but dudes, what patriotism!

A Super Secret, Super Loud Stealth Mission

We have a Zero Dark Thirtyish scenario. Where the terrorists are holding out in a two storied building, and the crack commando team has to enter the home and kill them all. Alpha, Bravo and Charlie teams have gone elsewhere to kill other camps. But the Delta team has to kill two chaps who planned the Uri massacre. The proceedings naturally conducted in English, and seem to step over the Hindi patriotic fervour the film tries to evoke when they show the funeral of the Uri soldiers. The Delta team has to go through caves instead of dropping down near the Abbottabad… Oops… The house where the terrorists live. But the sound effects guy just goes crazy here. Vicky Kaushal splashes through the water, followed by at least ten other guys. Each splash louder than the first. They stomp, yes, stomp through the streets, someone switching off street lights. The army boots are not on stealth mode, and you wonder how the terrorists could be sleeping through this very loud group heard on surround sound. The booby trapped gate is a very nice touch and you wish everything else were handled with that same tense silence. But we hear army lads climb up stairs like loudly and fearlessly and we add facepalming sounds to that already noisy scene.

Bhai Ka Badlaaaaa! Chilla Chilla Ke Lo!

All kinds of killing happens and you just shake your head then. It had to be violent. And then when our hero catches the baddest of the bad guys, he has lots of time for speechifying, ‘Go to hell and meet all your friends!’ They grapple again, hero now pokes the baddie’s eyes. There’s more grunts and angry speech,’You came and killed my brothers, now we come to your house and kill you, all of you!’ Of course the hero has to let out a primal scream, that am sure can be heard all the way to Pakistan’s capital. Some people will clap, because hero has avenged his brother in law’s death with the ear splitting war cry, ‘Indian Aaaaaaarmy!’ Who cares if their job was do this quietly and return to India stealthily? Of course, everyone back in the Indian Situation Rooms is clapping too. Credibility at the cost of applause from the cheap seats. In the election year, I suppose all is fair...                    


(a politicallycorrect version of this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: EVENING SHADOWS


All 'Coming Out' Cliches In One Film


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


A young photographer Kartik comes home to a small town for a family puja and comes out to his mother. You want to say nice things because the issue of gay rights is important, but this film is riddled with cliches about a patriarchal family where the gay son has not come out. It’s a tedious watch.

Trouble with such films is, that you want to support the cause, but a bad film is a bad film.


Main Review:


Anant Mahadevan plays the annoying patriarch who is consistently rude and obnoxious to his wife, his sister and insists that his son Kartik get married in an arranged marriage. Kartik is a gentle soul, coming home after 4 years. He has a secret which has to spilled because the family wants him to get married to a girl.


The concerns are glaringly obvious. He’s living happily with a lad in the big city, and he is unable to come out because he is afraid of how it will affect his mother and because he know that his dad will explode.


And the story proceeds exactly as you would think. The dad is rough with the mom, insulting her, asking her to do this or that, and the mother, (Mona Ambegaonkar is rather good as mom) silently suffers everything. We get the equation, but the filmmaker hammers it in again and again and again until we want to say, ‘We get that, now get on with the story!’ So dad wants Kartik to get married to a girl of his choice and gives Kartik grief about how lives need to be lived by a system and do things - like get married, have children - at the right time.


Kartik is played by Devansh Doshi, and he has a great screen presence. You actually like his connect with his mother and wish so much time wasn’t wasted on establishing that the dad is an awful person.


Before you can roll your eyes at dad, Kartik has taken his mom out on a day trip and has confessed that his reluctance to get married stems from his connection, his affair with a lad. Of course the mother reacts like everything Sparknotes might say about how mothers react when sons come out. She is shocked, she cries, she imagines him cross-dressed, she hopes he will come around, she prays to the Gods so he can be ‘normal’, she even calls his sexual relationship ‘dirty’ and ‘abnormal’...


Kartik is dismayed. His partner Aman, tells him over the phone to take heart and give his mother time to get used to this ‘new reality’. Then comes the best line of dialog of the film. This line should have been explored more than just  being a throwaway line. That would have been a meatier film than this bunch of cliches. Paraphrasing the dialog: ‘When a son comes out of the closet, he pushes his mother into the closet.’


That is an idea worth exploring. The idea that a gay son ‘shuts up’ his conservative mother who belongs to a traditional family is better than just showing a father rough with his son after finding out he is gay. Kartik leaves his computer open to a folder where he has happy, intimate pictures with his partner, dad sees them and blows his top, beating him black and blue. The father remembers the ‘signs’ that his son is gay: the film flashbacks into showing Kartik in the kitchen as very young boy, cutting vegetables and being interested in cooking… Such cliches are just too terrible to be appreciated.


India is still coming to terms with laws that make sexual activity between people of same sex non-criminal, and not too many films deal with a ‘gay’ theme. So you want to make allowances and call the film ‘brave’. But as country that produces so many movies a year, this film is just awful, full of stereotypes; and the treatment of important dialog like the one where the mother finally musters courage to yell at the father saying, ‘He is my son and he can be whoever he wants to be’ is said in such a horrible over-the-top 70s Hindi film stereotype, it leaves you cringing. She screams, ‘He is my flesh and blood. I fed him my blood for nine months in my womb…’


Shubha Mudgal’s song is just too predictable a wail and slows the film down. Evening Shadows is a painful watch and even though the lead duo of mother and son are very good, the shabby screenplay does not help.

(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: BUMBLEBEE


So Charming, The Connection Between Charlie And Her Car

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

As far as Superhero Origin Stories go, this one ranks out there with the best. Transformer is 'found' by a young girl and their friendship blossoms because both of them are alienated from their family. The story is charming and not as predictable as metal clashing with metal tales that you have seen in other Transformer tales. It's like watching ET, but knowing Optimus Prime will show up later...

Main Review:

Charlie has lost her father and she's working on the Corvette just like she used to, so that his memory would be alive. Mom seems to have moved on and Charlie lives like a stranger with Mom, Ron, her brother Otis and the dog. 

You smile at the awful, thoughtless birthday presents she receives. You are horrified to see the chasm between her and everyone else at home. You realise that you have started rooting for her when she accidentally bumps into the six-pack ab chap at the fun fair where she serves hot dog on a stick...

And you love it when she connects to Bee and Bee closes his eyes when she hugs him. You like him better than a VW Beetle that has #53 painted on its side called Herbie. You like him better than the flying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You automatically call Bee a 'Him' even though the cruel Army officer rightly calls him an 'It'.

We are a empathetic bunch, this audience, because we begin to root for a young rebellious girl and her alien companion, just as we did years ago when ET was left behind...

The Decepticons are mean and vicious. Angela Basset's voices the usually awesome muscle car the cherry red Plymouth Satellite and her sidekick is a blue AMC Javelin. On any other day I would have loved the two muscle cars because they have so much power under the hood, but here comes a Hasbro film (toy company) made by Tencent (the Chinese video game and phone app giant) which makes me think a VW Beetle is cooler than these two cars that can literally eat up the road...

All these years of watching Transformers movies you are there because your husband, boyfriend or your children wanted to watch metal clash with metal and to ogle at the beautiful women in the film who fall for geeky lads. So much fantasy, and these Transformers films never touched you at all. The only time I was awed was when Megan Fox sat astride a motorbike with swag... I mean legs... that made watching the rest of the movie eminently memorable.

But this film makes you root for the young girl and her friend Bumblebee. And that's saying a lot. Take the kids along too, because they'll love one scene with Bee inside the house when you go get a refill on your coffee and caramel popcorn...