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...  





    

Review: SIMMBA


SIMMBALY IRRESISTIBLE!

3 stars


Mini Review:


A street smart orphan realises that the corrupt cops have money and power, so he grows up to become one. Ranveer Singh crackles in the title role of Simmba and wins us over in this simple tale of bad cop turning into gold. Eminently watchable!


Main Review:

Welcome To The Rohit Shetty Khaki Avengers Cinematic Universe...


You enter the theatre with trepidation. Rohit Shetty brand of films can be deafening and blinding. Each time Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgn) punches or slaps the bad guys there is a distinct possibility that the sound guy will crank up the volume of the slap beyond tolerable. And the acid colors of vehicles colliding or exploding mid air or both will surely make you run for cover. Simmba did not need any colliding vehicles. Ranveer Singh was enough.


Ranveer Singh has perhaps the best comic timing of them all today. He delivers all his corny punchlines really well. Stars with a, ‘Pamper me or you will hamper me…’ And before you look at your neighbor and say, ‘Whaaa?’ he’s on to, ‘Dard hai ghutne mein, takleef hai uthne mein.’


His Marathi sounds more authentic than Bajirao Singham’s delivery. But Singham had nicer songs. Simmba wins simply because Ranveer Singh has so much energy, but then we all know that. As Simmba would say, ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’


So Simmba as a little lad watches power at play when he sees a corrupt cop counting cash after beating up the leader of pickpockets, and decides he will study hard and become a policeman. I gagged at the ‘Police’ tattoo on Simmba’s arm. But it got a whole lot of whistles, that’s for sure. Grown up Simmba is very clear. He wants to make lots of money, and allows baddies like Durva Ranade (played wonderfully by Sonu Sood) to call him a dog who instead of Pedigree, gets fed with cash. Simmba has been posted to the Miramar Police Station in Goa and as long as he keeps his mouth shut and helps the baddie Durva Ranade to continue doing his thing all is okay.

This gives Simmba time to romance the local pretty lass (Sara Ali Khan, whose role does not require her to do much) who runs a catering business across from the police station. If the movie starts out with five stars as a rating, then the pointlessness of the romantic thread (especially the teenagerish jealous streak Simmba shows when her best friend shows up) will lose the film one star. It’s funny only because Ranveer Singh makes the funny bits really funny. Anyone else would have been slapped several times. And yes, the ‘feeling shy’ bit was unexpected and adorable.


The Writing Is Great Until The Second Half...

The turning point comes too late in the life of corrupt and cocky Simmba. By now you want to slap that girl who bravely ventures into the drug den armed only with a phone. The inevitable happens to Akruti and you actually feel like jumping into the screen and waking up the drunken sleeping gorgeousness that is Simmba so he can save the girl. The drunken scene with Ashutosh Rana - who plays the upright cop Mohile - is fabulous. This brings us to the prolonged hospital scene that makes you want to weep with frustration and cut off another half star. So now this three and a half star film begins to limp to the conclusion. Thank goodness Ranveer Singh can play angry cop really well. I love the breaking furniture scene with bodies of baddies and put my fingers into me mouth to whistle at the uniform hanging in Ranveer’s office. Yay! The avenging hero emerges!


Gone are the silly (but funny) dialog, and now it is turn for the throw cash at the screen dialog. But not before you have torn your hair out at the very long pity party scene where everyone wants to kill the rapists but profess their helplessness. You understand why it is long, but you wish everyone would just nod to ‘kill the rapists’ together instead of saying it individually. It’s painful to chop another half star but the superb dialog Simmba throws at the snarling Sonu Sood restrained by a swarm of cops earns it back. Ranveer’s revenge story is complete, but not over for Sonu Sood.


In a horrible Korean TV show style torture scene, we now wait for the predictable but oh-so-enjoyable ‘boss fight’. Ajay Devgn’s Singham shows up to rescue Simmba, and the two beat up all the baddies. The Rohit Shetty Khaki Avengers Universe gets another character and the theatre erupts in whoops and whistles.


So what happens to the last half star? It gets knocked off because the inane songs are used as transition from one situation to another. It gets knocked off because bribing the little mute lad’s dad is a cheap plot trick to get rid of a witness. It also gets knocked off because they had to show Akruti’s ghost smiling at the camera once the revenge is done.


But the film truly belongs to Ranveer Singh and Ranveer Singh only. He’s brilliant and funny, and super buff. Plus he has great legs. Book your tickets now, and don’t forget to take your sunglasses!


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)        


Review: ZERO


Shah Rukh Is Shah Rukh, Baaki Sab Zero


2 stars


Mini Review:


It’s a Shah Rukh Khan film. He plays Bauwa Singh, a vertically challenged person who has immense swag. He thinks he was born to love ‘em and leave ‘em, but until he understands the meaning of love, he’s a zero…


Main Review:

Rab Ne Bana Di Ajeeb Jodi


Shah Rukh fans will ‘Ooh!’ and ‘aah!’ because Shah Rukh has this certain something that goes beyond his dimples. He has that swag. And in this movie, though he’s shown to be vertically challenged, literally named Bauwa Singh, it is bravado, his immense self-confidence that makes the first half likeable even though it is pretty weird to see him in this avatar. He’s sassy, self-deprecating and rude and fun.


Beyond Badshah’s badassery, everything else is just gawdawful. There. I’ve said it. For a Shah Rukh film. How can that even be possible? Let us count the ways.


Bauwa lives in Meerut, but everything - from the streets to the house to the market - is so fake, you know it’s a film set. Bauwa’s dad (Tigmanshu Dhulia) is ready to beat up his son, insulting him, and everyone has to pull him back. His mom (Sheeba Chaddha) protects her son from the dad. There are other family members around to take sides, but are never identified. They misuse Brijendra Kala who just appears on screen to offer Shah Rukh mithai and then eat it and exit right. Why?


But the most annoying person of the film is Bauwa’s friend Guddu played by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub who is usually so good as a ‘friend’ in all his movies, the director allowed him to do whatever he wanted. And of course the lad proved that everyone, but everyone studies in the Noida School of Overacting. Guddu sports the most ridiculous colored hair (nobody checked or cared that it changed in one scene), has a ‘made in China’ eye, walks around with a torch, says, ‘Blind person coming through’ (which is not funny and doesn’t fit for a bumpkin from the country). After a while, you just want to swat him off the screen.

Originality Zero

Shah Rukh manipulates Anushka Sharma into falling in love with him. It's like watching a weird new age Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi with disabled people. And you cannot put a finger on it, but the Bollywoodisation of differently abled people sets my teeth on edge. I don't know if they are trying to get a laugh out of vertically challenged people and people suffering from life threatening diseases by putting them in a Bollywood romantic situation or there is a genuine empathy at work here. The Theory Of Everything made Hawking human, but in this movie, Anushka Sharma's speech about how Bauwa saw her as a girl rather than a disabled person on a wheelchair is the closest you get for empathy. There are awful references about dwarf people in circuses, and Bauwa's dad even suggests that Anushka Sharma's father make money off Bauwa by getting to perform in the circus which make you cringe in your seat. And I'm not even getting into comapring earlier films like Appu Raja where Kamala Hasan plays a dwarf. There is a certain level of empathy in that film. Here, there is not a single line about Bauwa's feelings of isolation because he's 'different', just bravado. It takes a Shah Rukh Khan to pull this off. But you know it's just a shallow thing. Perhaps even to get kudos for 'special effects'.

Anushka Sharma plays Stephen Hawking type scientist, but that would mean someone would need to work hard on the script instead of just some cheap laughs about Shah Rukh’s dimples. So they make her into a space scientist, someone who found water on Mars. She’s even going to send a chimp to Mars but the chimp behaves badly so he doesn’t have to go to Mars (leaving chimp family behind) because they sense things...Don’t ask. Just pray no one gets the references about math being right from Hidden Figures. But we’re seeing Mohan Bhargav from Swades turn into a pale imitation of Ryan Gosling from First Man and there are umpteen references of ‘Toot-ta tara’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to keep you counting scenes inspired from movies.


Before you upchuck popcorn all over the people sitting in front, I had better tell you about Katrina Kaif who plays a movie star called Babita Kumari. Who thought up these names? It’s not clever, but idiotic. Especially because they even call Anushka Sharma Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder. So Bauwa Singh is infatuated by the movie star, and leaves his physicist girlfriend to pursue her. She is fascinated by his swag and sass and sort of keeps him for a pet, ‘Kal se shoot par aa jao!’ (Come for the shoot from tomorrow). For once you don’t hate Katrina for speaking in that anglicised Hindi. In fact, in a couple of scenes, she is a saving grace. Her assistant asks her to fix her bra strap and Katrina says, ‘Let them see! They’re dying to write about a boozed out star who had a wardrobe malfunction!’


You go, ‘Wow!’ Where did such home-truths about fans and the paparazzi come from? Surely not the same person who then in a Bruce Wayne inspired moment, has Katrina Kaif shoo away all the guests at the party.


There’s not a single original thing in the film, you sigh as you watch the Shah Rukh ogle fest (even though he’s shown to be only 4 foot 6 inches tall) when he trains to be an astronaut who is going away in a Passengers inspired sleeping pod to Mars on a space flight. Oh yes, there’s a shot of Shah Rukh on Mars just like how Matt Damon in The Martian, is shown tapping on the camera. The trouble is, when you are lifting off so many scenes from Hollywood, you forget that Shah Rukh is the only man going to Mars, then who is the guy with him a la First Man on the flight? How many times do they want you to facepalm?


Did I say, how sigh inducing Shah Rukh is, despite the weird size? And it was love from fans when he made the stars fall from the skies… Until Kajol showed up in the movie (so did all the Lux soap ladies) and said, ‘Show us the falling stars’ like she did in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and killed the romance in this movie.


Oh yes, they even copy… Erm… Pay tribute to The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs at the start of the film. That was actually nice. That and Shah Rukh’s swag. Everything else is like the title of the film.


(this review, sans my personal view about differently abled people appears on www.nowrunning.com)       

Review: KEDARNATH


Disaster Romance

2 stars

Mini Review:

A Hindu-Muslim romance set in the temple town of Kedarnath, at the time of the deadly cloudburst that wiped out thousands of people. The film launches Sara Ali Khan and she has infinite possibilities although the film doesn’t.

Main Review:

Sara Ali Khan Is A Discovery, Despite The Disaster Romance

The premise of setting a romance right before disaster strikes is rather exploitative and dreadful. But the young Sara Ali Khan is luminous and can deliver wicked dialogue with seasoned ease. She makes the practically cliched love story between a poor Muslim worker in love with a Hindu girl, a daughter of a priest, rather refreshing. Kanika Dhillon (she wrote Manmarziyan too) writes her as a rather rebellious daughter of a priest. Credit goes to the young girl who shows flashes of her beautiful mum’s talent (Amrita Singh) and brings a little something of her own on screen. There’s talent here, and it is enough to take your mind away from the horrendous cliches that make the movie.

More Than The Cloudburst, It's The Cliches That Make The Movie Disastrous

Besides the glaring glitch: Kedarnath is a very small town, if both live there, shouldn't the heroine have noticed the hero earlier? Especially when her dad knows him well? But there are more cliches to worry about...

The hero is a poor Muslim lad who ekes a living by ferrying people up to Kedarnath on his horse or carrying them on his back. He’s so good, his mother (the ever so good Alka Amin) has to scold him about saving money rather than spending it all on the pilgrims.

The villain is a Hindu guy who is planning to build a hotel and resorts etc., engaged to be married to the heroine who doesn’t want to be engaged to him…

The father of the heroine (Nitish Bharadwaj) is a priest and hotel owner, has dreams of being head priest at Kedarnath temple. He is stern and a patriarch, likes the Muslim hero as long as his daughter doesn’t fall for the poor boy. He gets to mouth really pathetic Bollywood cliches like, ‘Tumhari himmat kaise huyi mere ghar ki taraf aankh uthane ki!’ (How dare you even look at my home, aka, fall for my daughter!)

There is a mother and a sister too, and the mother is shown to be pious and quiet. But the sibling rivalry is great. Alas, the audience has seen the film Patakha and when the sisters slap each other, that’s what some wise guys yelled, taking away from the cliche any gravitas.

The cinematography is rather wonderful, but then the setting in the Himalayas cannot but be spectacular. In fact, it will make you want to visit the temple town. And as temple towns need, there is a very catchy quasi religious song that makes your heart well up. The camera catches the temple town in all its glorious colors.

There is a Hindu Muslim tension that could have made the film awful, but the director manages to keep it in control. When Mansoor Khan, the hero, stands up in the community gathering and makes the point with the dialogue, ‘We belong here,’ I found myself grateful that cinema is speaking on behalf of the Muslims and all liberal folk.

The disaster strikes and there is a cloudburst, but we don’t do special effects too well. At first you think you are going to see something terrible, but it isn’t too bad. But you know it’s fake, so you know everyone is acting. In fact, if the curtains in your kitchen catch fire, you will scream, but here the mom and sister don’t even know it’s happening… Obviously post production addition, or they would have screamed even more. The final disaster scene goes on and on and you wish someone - the hero or the heroine - would drown and end it all for us…

The romance is fun, and Sara Ali Khan actually carries the film. Sushant Singh Rajput acts embarrassed quite well. But watch it for her.  


(the review sans sub heads appears on www.nowrunning.com)

Review: Girl In The Spider’s Web


The Ducati Is Good, The Rest Is Predictable Hollywood


1.5 stars


Mini Review: 

Lisbeth Salander is now a known hacker, and saves women from abusive husbands and boyfriends and brothers and fathers. She chooses an assignment to delete a defence program and gets into all kinds of trouble. The programmer is dead and his child knows the password, so the child needs to be protected. But Lisbeth is in mortal danger too. Can she save herself? 

Main Review:

Lisbeth Salander, international hacker and Michael Blomkvist the journalist you met when you watched Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. You loved how she was a misfit. You wanted to be as single minded as him. The book taught you how to read the many Swedish train station and introduced you to names with the letter  'e' written funny and 'o' with a slash through it, and the ever present umlaut... I even searched for 'Swedish language classes in Mumbai' after having read everything written by Larrson. I promised to not laugh at the names spelt funny which in India sounded like they were 'fixed' by a numerologist... The book Girl In The Spider's Web is different from the film. But we're talking movies, so here goes...

I have loved Rooney Mara so much as Lisbeth Salander that I expected Ryan Gosling to show up and get Claire Foy (his wife in First Man) back home. 

In the film this Lisbeth Salander is shown to be someone who simply goes into situations like a bull in a china shop. Not right at all. She's supposed to be sharp and intellectual and someone who has all her moves planned. If you know there are bad guys who are going into the safehouse where your programmer and his son are holed up, and they're killing everyone without remorse, you don't just barge in and be taken in by the bad guys from behind. You want to say, 'Look behind you!' more than once! She's meant to be smarted than Sunny Deol! And Sunny Deol can bludgeon anyone who thinks they can attack him from behind. Sigh. This happens too many times in the film...

The only time she is the Lisbeth Salander we loved in the books and the first film, is at the airport, where she hacks into the control systems and corners the American NSA agent into doing her bidding. You want to hi-five an imaginary friend at that time.

And you've seen the bike action in the trailer. It will make you want to move to colder climes just because you like Ducatis. Yes, yes, it reminded me that I'm too short to ride this one, but oh what joy to hear it in the film!

This is a good action film, but has such crigemworthy obvious mistakes by characters that it does not become great, even though Lisbeth's companions kill the bad guys with the help of the heat signatures from the outside. The brilliant kid (supposed to be autistic in the book, is normal but introverted/quiet in the film) knows that his father is dead, but answers the phone... Yaar! Even annoying kids in Hindi movies don't do that!

So the story takes Lisbeth to her past and Ms.Foy does a good job showing Lisbeth's vulnerability. But is it enough? You want more of her connect to Michael Blomkvist, but here he's no more than a bystander and collateral damage, really. You wish the story had him do more than discover who Spiders really are. And the daddy issues seem to be just too easy a way out. 

Those who are telling you that the film is 'edgy', have never seen a girl on a bike. Or a seen a girl as 'hero'.

It's an okay watch because action set pieces are well done, but you have so many amazing Finnish, Swedish and German shows on Netflix, that you miss the meat on the story.