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Everything About Small Towns You Did Not Wish To See

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

A young couple decide to try and ‘live in’ and get caught. The family believes the fake evidence of marriage they have planted for neighbours and bring the two back home. Their unconditional acceptance makes the two feel guilty, and they make several attempts to get married for real. The set up is totally unfunny, but the attempts to get married does bring laughter, if only you can stay awake.

Main Review:

Chote Sheher = Quirky People
(The most asinine assumption ever!)

When you try and tell a ‘small town’ tale, you must understand that your assumptions can backfire if the audience does find it funny. And this film fails in the first half completely. The young man and woman, Kartik Aryan (fresh off the success of Sonu Ke Teetu Ki Sweety) and Kriti Sanon (pretty as always) have no more chemistry than a wooden bench in the park has with the trees. And the first ‘daring’ assumption made by the young woman: ‘I want to try a ‘live in’ relationship because it sounds so cool and better than getting my heart broken like I did with a previous boyfriend’ is just plain stupid because she does not realise that a ‘live-in’ relationship breaking up could be just as painful. And the second assumption that young men and women can get physical only if they are in a live in relationship or on their honeymoon is so ridiculous, you are stumped.

But in order to make it ‘funny’, the writers add a political gimmick. The young woman’s dad runs a political party whose sole aim is to separate young couples in parks and other public spaces because ‘it is against our culture’. So Kartik, he’s called ‘Guddu’ and Kriti’s ‘Rashmi’ escape to Gwalior to try out a ‘Live-in’. While the two are happy in their love nest, we see more weird characters show up. Oh yes, the two lovebirds and their friend Abbas (Aparshakti Khurana) are perhaps the only normal people you have seen so far. Guddu’s family consists of totally oddball parents, brothers (one married, the other desperate), two hanger ons (both brothers of the sister in law). Kriti’s family has a mean politician dad (Vinay Pathak) and a loud goon like brother, and a mum whose face we do not see...Of course they get the super talented Pankaj Tripathi to play one of the hanger ons, wear really ghastly clothing, and make him spy on Guddu, and run after every woman… If this has not made you cringe, then Guddu and Rashmi’s neighbours will make you puke in your popcorn. And please small towns are not populated with oddballs.

Assumption: Women make ridiculous demands.
Men will get beaten up for trying to meet the demands.

The funny part is the last half hour of the film. The two are accepted and brought back home. They feel guilty, and now Rashmi insists that she wants to be married properly, so she feels like a ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law) of the family. Before you facepalm, the two have tried and get Guddu gets beaten up for this. Each time Rashmi escapes because her face is covered (as is the tradition). But for such laughs, are you going to give up reasoning?

Guddu staring into nothing (but looks like he's ogling at the derriere of the maid sweeping) and his dad and brother assuming he is sex starved (now he's married so he must be hankering after variety) is the worst kind of joke to make in 2019. It's plain embarrasing to hear a bidaai song when Guddu is about to step out of the home to go live-in with Rashmi in another town. Who thought it was funny? And the set up to parents discovering their lie is the song, 'Pyar kiya toh darna kya'? I mean, seriously? The film is so bad, you notice Kartik Aryan carefully throws the water (in the bath scene) over his shoulder as as to not mess with his carefully made up hair... And just so stupid peple in the audience understand that Pankaj Tripathi is in a comic role, he is given wildly colorful clothes to wear and he pulls so many faces, it's a shame to see his talent used that way. I hope he got to keep those shiny shoes.

You do chuckle because each attempt to get married is stupider than the first. But you come away having lost two hours of your life…

(this review appears on


Senior Citizen Edition

2 stars

Mini Review:

A dying man gives a clue to this money mad bunch of people, mostly senior citizens. That begins the mindless comic race to Janakpur zoo where the stolen money has been kept. Each duo is worse than the other and even though the slapstick comedy does make you laugh in bits, but mostly you can see the joke coming at your from a mile away. Because the cast are stars from yesteryears, it just takes them so long to understand the joke. Kids might find the scenes with CGI zoo animals good fun, I just wanted to kill myself.

Main Review:

I'm Not An Ageist, But...

If you’d rather stay at home and binge watch National Geographic specials where animal win and foolish men die, that would be eminently more satisfying than watching this film. All the stars are just of the wrong age to play the fool. If the cast was seven, maybe even stupid and seventeen years old, the capers would be fun to watch. But when you see fifty five year olds in dungarees licking lollipops, you don’t know whether to look away or to throw up in your popcorn. Javed Jaffrey plays the simple Manav well, but it’s awful to see him do stupid things as though he were in a kiddie cartoon. But if you expect a kiddie cartoon instead of a film, then you might find a way to smile when Aadi tells his brother Manav (together they are Aadi Manav or Primitive Man, groan!) to not save him, and then gets into quicksand, and Manav of course finds a snake to throw at Aadi when there’s a clothesline (in the middle of nowhere) he could have used.

‘But there are clothes hanging on it!’ is simple logic, and you do laugh, but you have to put up with Arshad Warsi who plays Aadi, and you do kick yourself several times.

You can insert ads for joint aches and pains and stomach troubles because the oldies try really hard to be fun. Hollywood tried old men in hot tubs and the result was ghastly to watch...

God Help Us! Johnny Lever Cannot

Ritesh Deshmukh is paired with Pitobash and the only funny thing happens is when God intervenes and saves them. Don’t ask. Even Johnny Lever cannot save the film with a sketch with the helicopter made from an auto-rickshaw.

Boman Irani is the cop chasing these low lifes with a partner Vijay Patkar who has just that one physical comedy thing called the funny eye. The sequence with the train coming at them all in the tunnel could have been funnier had it been not so stretched. Now that’s an idea! They should have edited out each sketch a little more to make the physical comedy bearable.

This film is nothing but a bunch of really poor comedy skits kids do in school. But people were laughing in the theater, imagining their uncles and aunties slipping on banana peals...

Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit save the silly film with their husband and wife getting divorced act but even their struggle to reach the highway with the help of the stereotype ‘Madrasi’ (played by Ali) is annoying. Some husband vs wife dialog is funny, but so politically incorrect you cringe.

And you cringe when Sanjay Mishra who is paired with Ajay Devgn behave like teens. Neither of the two can do physical comedy well and you want to tell Ajay Devgn that he needs to go back doing the angry policeman roles again. Even the freshness of Jackie Shroff being the voice of GPS loses its shine because it goes on and on and on.

Since the action takes place in a zoo, there are scenes with animals who are so badly created you wish you didn’t have to watch. Crystal the monkey gets credit. But I guess, everyone else is so bad, why not, eh?

Mahesh Manjrekar shows up too, sometimes sounding like a South Indian baddie, and other times like how the British extras in Bollywood movies speak Hindi. Was happy to see the fake gorilla beat the man with the fake accent up.

Sonakshi Sinha's Item Number Earns A Star For the Film!

The movie ends with everyone getting a bit of the money. And advice to zookeeper Esha Gupta from Sanjay Mishra with all the puns earns a star on its own: Itne saare jaanvaro ki dekhbhaal kartee ho, is jaanvar ko bhi apna lo. Yeh jaanvar hai, tumhari jaan ban-na chaahta hai, tum ise apna var maan lo!

And yes, I actually loved watching Sonakshi Sinha showing up only to dance (what a svelte figure she cuts now!) to a song that has been remixed like a thousand times...   

(A non-ageist version of the review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: Gully Boy

Faadu Saala

3.5 stars

Murad ki muraadein hai hadd se bhi zyaade, 
Akkha akaash chhoone ke hain uske iraade,
Baap uska sakht hai, girl uski mast hai,
Circumstances fucked uske
Story zabardast hai.

Galli se nikalneka hai, kuch toh bhi banne ka hai
Eight Mile se compare nakko,
Story toh akkha mumbai ka hai!

Ranveer Singh ki energy role ko poora fit hoti,
Tareef karoon toh kitnee, har picture uski hit hoti,
Aalia ki soorat angel ki, zubaan devil ke khala ki
Vijay Raaz gar baap ho tera, suicide note likh le pakki
Sher jaisa bhai mile toh sapne poore honge nakki
Sky frame mein aati jab toh film mein tadka lagta hai,
Surmein wali aankhon ka sapna, sach jo hota dikhta hai

Underdog toh phir bhi gully ka saala kutta hai
Jab thoda story sag hoti, chai peene ko dil karta hai

Luck By Chance film toh dhaansu thi,
Dil Dhadakne Do (rich logon ki) baasi biryani thee,
Lekin abki baar, zoya akhtaar dilayegi bukhaar
Saala rap wali story ka.

Gully ki life ko camera capture karta hai,
Attitude alag hai baap poverty porn nahi lagta hai,
Ek inch bhi breathing room film deti nahi hai,
Quiet moments ki cheekh dil ko cheer deti hai,

Murad ki wounded aankhein were sex on toast,
Toast par lyrics ka makkhan, famous from coast to coast,
Safeena ke reactions were bhai, a slap on me face,
Her love for Murad, bole toh vicious grace,
Kalki as Sky madam banati alag sa mood kya,
Vijay Verma bana Moin uska acting very good kya,

Maaf karna baap huye hum film se inspire,
Likh dee humne bhi aake Review Rap on fire!
Bakwas si, simple si, bole toh tukbandi hai,
Tukbandi kya hai excuse hai, pageviews badhane ki,
Book karo tickets, ab kis baat ki deri hai?

(a saner version of the review in prose in on nowrunning dot com) 

Review: AMAVAS

So Bad, It's Fun

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Rich man Karan takes his girl Ahana to a castle he calls summer home so he can propose to her. But the castle is haunted by the ghost of his girlfriend past. Ahana realises that he could have killed his girlfriend and that she too could be in danger. Many horror tropes later, you realise that it’s the slow pace of the film that’s the real killer.

Main Review:

You have to admire Sachiin Joshi. He has enough self esteem to romance not one but two women taller than him. He plays Karan the rich lad who takes Ahana to a castle that is their family summer home to propose to her. Ahana is played by Nargis Fakhri who has for some reason, decided to play the role as if she’s asthmatic and breathless all the time.

Of course the castle is haunted by a ghost! The caretaker cum manservant called Gotti (Ali Asghar with fake protruding teeth that have nothing to contribute to the horrors of the movie) makes sure the saheb and memsaheb are fed. He is supposed to be comic because of the lame jokes he makes, but like Sachiin Joshi, the audience also groans every time he mouths his stupid dialog. When he says that the house is haunted by a ‘lady bhoot, who sings’ you too react just like Nargis Fakhri who says, ‘I don’t believe in God, so I don’t believe in ghosts.’

And when Karan falls down the stairs (the ghost pushed him down) Ahana screams, ‘Oh god! Are you all right?’

You do want to say, ‘He just fell down the stairs, and is lying there practically inert. You ask him if he’s all right?’

The ‘lady bhoot’ haunts both Karan and Ahana alternatively when they are asleep. By the way, it seems to be always night at the castle. And as it is in horror movies, not one person actually switches on the lights to see who is there in the corridor.

You know nothing is going to happen until they have bored you to death with sudden loud noises and doors opening with creaks and groans, and transparent curtains blowing in the wind… You are about to give up when the movie wakes up and there is possession of body by dead rejected lover who has been making out with Ahana, has killed Karan’s first love (played rather sweetly by Navneet Kaur Dhillon). The dead rejected lover is Samir (Vivan Bathena who seems to like playing these pointless friend turned rapist roles) has been buried in the grounds of the castle…

The last twenty minutes of the film make you whoop with delight because it’s like a mish mash of all things horror. There’s Wolverine/Hulk style clothes tearing off, eyes turn white and evil and blood vessels explode on his face when Karan shows his possessed self, possessed Karan walks on walls and hangs like a bat, he even levitates, the possessed Karan is blinded by an ‘Om’ (Hindu religious symbol) tattoo, then possessed Karan bites the tattoo off the arm of a living girl who then gets killed, possessed Karan decapitates the servant, is terrified of a sheet printed with holy symbols, and is finally defeated when temple bells ring on their own (God intervenes, don’t ask!)... But is the evil spirit of the rapist friend really gone when Karan jumps into the fire and we see him burn up like the Terminator? The camera pans to a sobbing and shivering Ahana being saved by the cops. On her arm is the threat of a sequel! The evil spirit claw marks…

I came away smiling at all the terrible tropes I had witnessed, only to realise that two hours and fourteen minutes of my life were never coming back...  

(this review appears on


Great On Paper, Fuckall As Film

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Adi Contractor, a man who can procure anything is given a task to find a fakir who can bury himself in the sand head first and bring him to Venice, Italy as art installation. He persuades Sattar to play the part. What could have been a fabulous satire on the world of art ends up being tedious because it is directed badly, except for a masterclass in acting by Annu Kapoor.

Main Review:

Annu Kapoor is an effortless actor. He simply chews up the scenery - be it Venice or Bombay, and he decimates his co star Farhan Akhtar without even trying. That said, he plays the title role of the fakir (holy man) in the film. And he’s brilliant. The one star that the film earns goes to his talent.

Farhan Akhtar plays Adi Contractor (not at all as Parsi in his mannerisms as his name indicates except for one word ‘Gadheda’ meaning donkey) the procurer of all things for production houses, who is given the task to find a fakir who can do a headstand with his head buried in the sand. He is given money to travel to Benaras to find one such holy man.

You know they mean his search in Benaras is meant to be funny, but the way it it shown, it just isn’t. Perhaps it is funny on the page. Perhaps a better director could have visualised the search for the fakir differently (the naked fakir who can lift weights with his genitalia could have been funny had the tout not mentioned it before).

So Adi finds Sattar through a tout, and watches Hameeda (Sattar’s sister) bury him in the sand except for hands joined in a namaste. Adi takes pictures and sweet talks the artist in Italy into accepting Sattar as a holy man who buries himself. Sattar explains that his sister and he have been earning money in that manner ever since they were kids, and that breathing through wet sand on the beach is not difficult. Sattar is poor and twenty five thousand rupees seems like a great idea, and Adi does offer him alcohol as well, which he seems to love.

It was a bit weird to see a Muslim man shown to be so used to drinking, because Islam does not allow the consumption of alcohol. However. Sattar is simply amazing as he subjects himself to the makeover into a holy man with a beard with stoic resignation. You wonder why he agrees to this bizarre demand that he spend seven days buried in the sand as art installation.

What ruins the film is the assumption that poor people don’t understand what it means to travel abroad and when Sattar says, ‘There are too many foreigners in foreign country’, you are meant to laugh. There are so many domestic workers traveling abroad these days, that it rather insulting rather than an innocent observation. This movie feels so dated on so many levels, you wish they had directly released it on a streaming service. (The film is rumoured to have been made in 2006/9, and is finally getting a release now)

But you suffer through the goings on in Italy, which are as ridiculous and as predictable as they can get. You see ‘Yoga’ hippies, foreigners incredulous to this holy man act, cheesy drag queens, reporters who think Sattar is being exploited, a sleazy TV producer, a party and a foreigner falling in love with a poor Indian man… It just gets tedious to see Adi being rough on the poor man, and Sattar being stubborn and drunk and not letting on. The digression into death (and the meaning of) could have been stronger. The sudden change of Adi’s rough character into someone making up for his bad behavior, is questionable. And with every scene you want to say, ‘How stupid is that?’ Prime example: Sattar is bleeding all over his white tee shirt from a cut, is drunk like a skunk, and coughing blood, and the super concerned Italian reporter asks him, ‘How are you feeling?’ and offers him more wine after dressing his wound. What?

The film makes you want to run out of the theater like Sattar, screaming, ‘I want alcohol! I want alcohol!’   

(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)



Could Have Been Mind Shattering, 
But Happy To Watch Mind Questioning...

2.5 Stars

Mini Review:

A pretty girl is in trouble when she bumps into a young man who rescues her. Or does he? As in all love stories, he chases her down to a small town in Punjab. Will her secret destroy her family, or will she be accepted for who she is? Charming but superficial film about gender identity.

Main Review:

Oh No! Another Bollywood Wedding Film!

The movie starts with a wedding and you hope and pray that the whole movie is not going to be just another wedding themed story from Bollywood. There is a song and dance and haldi and mehendi and reception, and you see shiny happy people. But when you see Balbir Chowdhary
(a magnificent Anil Kapoor) going about the wedding interested in the food, and you see him dance, your eyes glaze over and you remember everything from Ram Lakhan to 1942 - A Love Story…

One Of The Best Meet Cutes In Bollywood

We then get to know Rajkummar Rao who plays Sahil Mirza, a playwright who wants to make a mark on his own instead of depending on his rich parents, rehearsing in the theatre and the effervescent Juhi Chawla who plays Chhatro who is their ‘caterer’ but who aspires to be an actor.

Yes, we have noticed the beautiful Sonam Kapoor at the wedding who reluctantly participates in the wedding events, and now she makes her way to the empty theater, obviously running away from something or someone. The meet cute between Sahil and Sweetie (she’s Punjabi, and they have names like that!) is so well written, it deserves a star on it own. You will find yourself getting engaged in their instant chemistry and both Rajkummar Rao and Sonam Kapoor deserve kudos here. We panic with her and him as they both make a run for the train with an angry young lad chasing her.

But at home she looks like a completely different person, defeated and quiet. And this is where you begin to wonder what happened to the girl who spoke with a stranger and dragged him to the metro… She’s hiding a secret which her brother has guessed and he is terrorising her to mend her ways because he won’t have it. Also because society won’t have it.

Sahil, on the other hand, is stuck on the girl he tried to rescue from her brother. Her brother? Sweetie’s angry brother Babloo is played by this wonderful actor Abhishek Duhan (you saw him last in Pataakha and Sultan). He alarms you when he’s chasing his sister in Delhi, and he is the voice of unreason. The voice of ‘society’, the antagonist in the story.

Sahil lands in the small town of Moga in Punjab, in search of the girl he tried to rescue. Of course the misunderstanding becomes deeper when Sweetie’s family think she is in love with a Muslim lad. Predictably, her phone is destroyed by her brother, and she is imprisoned at home. Thanks to the happy ensemble cast of Brijendra Kala (man servant) and Seema Pahwa (kitchen help) and Sweetie’s granny called Giftie (played by Madhumati Kapoor), Sahil meets Sweetie and yes! There is a fabulous romance between Sweetie’s father and Chhatro (Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla). That deserves a star on its own.

A very drunk Sahil confesses his love to Sweetie and a very exasperated Sweetie confesses that she is in love with another, who happens to be a girl.

Why Does A Damsel In Distress Need A Man To Rescue Her?

It is here that you decide it’s okay for a man to rescue a girl or not. The story alas is predictable and Rajkummar Rao takes it upon himself to rescue her and out her gracefully not only to the family but the whole town. Now it’s a tough world out there as India has just begun to accept Homosexuality legally. There are still many in the LGBTQ+ communities who don’t come out to their families let alone to the whole village, so the plan in the film seems to be horrific.

And it irked me that grandma keeps telling Anil Kapoor that his interest in cooking was 'jananiyonwala kaam'. It's Punjab! The men have been cooking kukkads for generations there. We have seen men as well as women cook and serve food in the Gurudwaras. And this belief that men who have the propensity to cook aren't manly is Bollywood, not Punjab.

But this is Bollywood, and nothing will go wrong as long as we deal with the subject with loads of sweet smiles and hugs from beautiful, rich people. Trouble with the story is that this ‘outing’ should have been private and personal, and they choose to make it a spectacle. Anil Kapoor confronts this outing in a great cinematic ‘acceptance’ montage. And young actors could learn from him. He’s brilliant. And you have tears in the eyes as he realises how unfair and blindsided he has been to his daughter’s anguish and loneliness. I wish there had been a mother who could have added another layer and a side to her childhood. Would a mother have guessed her daughter’s sexuality, and would her reaction been different?

The visual of Sonam Kapoor in a glass box, asking to be let out is a very strong image to take home. The half star is earned for this visual. The film is by no means a great friend to the LGBTQ community. But it is a step in understanding the lifestyle differences we are just beginning to acknowledge in the society in India. As they say, ‘Baby Steps.’

This film, could have been, as Juhi Chawla deliciously says,'Mind shattering!' but we should be happy the subject is now mainstream and is at least being discussed. We will get it right soon!

(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)


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         



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 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.


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)


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)