If there was to be an awards ceremony for all Bollywood films released in the first six months of the year, ARTICLE 15 would merit walking away with awards for the best movie, best direction by Anubhav Sinha, best actor for Ayushmann Khurrana, best supporting actor for Manoj Pahwa and best background music for Mangesh Dhakde. And if there were to be an award for the boldest movie, it would win this award as well, in view of its naming (through the election symbols) of all the leading political parties in Uttar Pradesh as helpless bystanders and in some cases as blatant violators of Article 15 of the Indian constitution. I was fortunate to have seen a version in New York today which perhaps include a few such politically sensitive scenes that could be clipped for viewers in India.
ARTICLE 15 is cast in the mould of some of the earlier Prakash Jha movies about atrocities in Bihar. There is one important difference, however. Unlike the venom spouting hero who takes law into his own hands in those movies, Anubhav Sinha conveys a story of how one can initiate changes and deal with atrocities while staying within the confines of the law and without the need for fist fights and display of muscular strength. Instead, the protagonist literally wades through swamps and dirties his hands while remaining steadfastly committed to his mission of bringing the culprits to justice.
ARTICLE 15 is raw and shocking; particularly for those unfamiliar with the caste segregation as is still practiced in some parts of our country in open violation of that article in our constitution which makes it illegal for using caste distinctions to discriminate between people. Anubhav Sinha in 2018 had given us the powerful MULK and ARTICLE 15 is a worthy successor. Who could have guessed that the director of an eminently forgettable Shah Rukh Khan movie RA ONE could give us masterpieces like these?
Another trivia about ARTICLE 15: shooting commenced in March 2019 without any fanfare announcements, and in less than 90 days we get to see this on the screen.
Just watch it!
RATING : 4.5 out of 5
June 29, 2019

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In the last week, I saw two Hollywood productions: GET OUT and US. GET OUT was made in 2017 and US was released in March this year. GET OUT was director Jordan Peele’s debut film; US is his second film. Before that, he was associated with a TV comedy series; but let me get this straight: GET OUT and US have no element of comedy whatsoever!
But according to me, these shouldn’t be categorised as movies in the horror genre either, as has been done by many reviewers in the US. I would rather categorise them as edge-of-the-seat thrillers, which thrill viewers not by shock-and-awe scenes of gore and horrifying faces and creatures, but merely by the idea that forms the basis of the storyline.
The last time, I was impressed by a movie of that genre was last year’s Emily Blunt starrer A QUIET PLACE.
GET OUT and US have been in the news for other reasons as well. They have been resounding box office hits in terms of return on investment ( movies scoring more than $200 million world wide); GET OUT made on a budget of $ 5 million reaped $255 million and US with a budget of about $20 million has already crossed $250 million worldwide. Just goes to prove the point that well made original idea thrillers without celebrated box-office stars can still click and click very well.
In terms of critical reception, GET OUT was nominated for the Oscars for best movie, best director, best actor and best original screenplay, and won the award in the last category. I felt that this was rather unfair, considering that THE SHAPE OF WATER got the awards in the first two categories. And after seeing US, I will be surprised if this doesn’t get featured in the nominations for best movie, best director, best actress and best original screenplay.
Jordan Peele is an African American and both his movies feature African Americans as important members of the star cast. Since I don’t reveal the plots or spoilers in any of my reviews, I won’t go beyond saying that GET OUT takes a peek at the ugly face of racism in the US and US takes a deep probe on what it means to be amongst the less fortunate.
I am not sure as to how folks with fear dominated fertile imagination capabilities will react to these movies, but for the rest, these are not worth a miss!

GET OUT: 4 out of 5
US: 4 out of 5

July 8, 2019

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The verdict is out on which is Bollywood’s biggest box-office hit in 2019 till date. And despite all the “toxic masculinity” associated with the film (I must confess that I had not heard this phrase before), KABIR SINGH has raced to the ₹ 250 crores club. One can say that this was to be expected considering that this is a remake of the enormously successful 2017 Telugu hit ARJUN REDDY and that its director, Sandeep Reddy Vanga has wielded the megaphone for KABIR SINGH as well. But KABIR SINGH received such harsh criticism, that I had decided not to see this movie. And the criticism focussed on the theme of the “misogynistic” nature of the lead character. But when I heard opinions on the contrary from a few of my lady friends, I decided to check it for myself.
KABIR SINGH is indeed worthy of criticism, but rather for the slipshod, superficial and unrefined manner in which the short-on-fuse character, who falls in love in a madly obsessive manner with a college mate, is presented. One can argue as to how does one present such a character in a “polished” manner. Simply speaking, state everything in a subtle manner and add a semblance of a real atmosphere for the story. I am surprised that the medical fraternity hasn’t commented about the scenes in the medical college or in the operating theatre! I must add that the character of the target of the obsession has been drawn well.
Given these constraints, the lead female character played by Kiara Advani does well despite having very little to speak. Shahid Kapoor, who plays the character with aberrations, unfortunately is over the top in many scenes, but perhaps has been told to do this by the director. Whenever he is not forced to display the excesses, his expressions convey well the angst.
KABIR SINGH is also inordinately long and the first half could well have been trimmed by half. On the positive side, unlike movies which begin well but get lost in the second half, Sandeep ensures that the story doesn’t flounder in the second half.
The music and a few of the songs (composed by a couple of music makers)are worthy of being heard repeatedly, and the BEKHAYALI song is truly the best song of 2019 till date. It is sung by Arijit Sigh and Sachet Tandon and both the versions are very haunting. Sachet along with his teammate Parampara has also created the tune for this song and it will require you to hear just twice for you to long to play this in a loop.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5
July 17th, 2019
#KabirSinghReview #Bekhayali

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This Shobha Kapoor and Shailesh Singh production (another co-producer, curiously is Mental Production Ltd) was earlier titled as MENTAL HAI KYA, but the title was dogged by controversies. The producers were quick enough to register a new title by adding the word JUDGE before MENTAL, and JUDGEMENTAL HAI KYA as a title also made a lot of sense, considering the plot of the movie. And if one sees the posters which show JUDGE written in Hindi, one could read the title as JUDGE, MENTAL HAI KYA indicating to another pointer in the plot as to whether people, who pass judgements (like audiences and critics), are MENTAL CASES?
Any which way you see the title, the fact remains that this is a truly off-beat film.
The theme is novel and all the actors perform brilliantly. Kangana Ranaut does superbly in a role in which lesser caliber actors would have hammed and over acted. Rajkummar Rao is equally commendable in his role, but Kangana has a slight edge because she has a much longer footage. Her character sketching and the build up is sharp; unfortunately, Rajkummar Rao’s character has been drawn out very sketchily in contrast. That is what causes the story to appear a little far-fetched and takes away lot of credit. The metaphorical reference implied in a new avatar of Sita also somehow refuses to connect.
To its other positives, one can add that there are not many distractions and the running time is just under two hours.
JUDGEMENTAL HAI KYA is directed by Prakash Kovelamudi ( His father was the noted South Indian film maker and director K Raghavendra Rao, who in turn was the son of the film maker K S Prakash Rao …Prem Nagar was his venture), and shows that creativity runs in the genes of film makers as well! And Kanika Dhillon, who has written the story, screenplay and dialogues happens to be Prakash Kovelamudi’s wife! So it is all in the family!!
I wonder why there was much of an animosity between Hritik Roshan ( whose SUPER 30 release was re scheduled because of Kangana’s outburst) and Kangana, because both of these would not have clashed at the box office, even if they were released the same day. JUDGEMENTAL HAI KYA will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is quirky and is reasonably bathed in dark humour, but ANDHADHUN, beats it by a mile. SUPER 30 appeals to a wider cross section and belongs to a different genre.
Lastly, the quirkiness in this movie, begins right in the beginning when the disclaimers come on the screen: it says that the cockroach which features in the movie has been computer generated and thus no real cockroach has been hurt in the making!!!
RATING : 3.5 out of 5
July 26, 2019

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“A dream is not something that we see in our sleep. It is something that does not let us sleep.” So says Akshay Kumar, playing the role of Rakesh Dhawan, head of India’s first Mars Mission in 2013, in the movie MISSION MANGAL. And that energy, enthusiasm and nationalistic fervour which fills every frame of this movie, will surely help in breaking the box- office collection record for 2019, currently held by Shahid Kapoor’s KABIR SINGH. How successfully, this will weather the advent of SAAHO, to be released in about ten days, remains to be seen, but I am confident, that MISSION MANGAL will continue to rule the roost. For those of you, who do not know about SAAHO, it is India’s most expensive movie till date, costing nearly ₹ 400 crores.
But now, back to the topic of MISSION MANGAL. Any story featuring the underdogs meeting the mission goals, in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges is bound to strike a chord in most of us. Add to that, a strong nationalistic fervour. Spice it up with moments of elation and disappointment like in any real life story. Stir it well with emotions to such an extent that you are glued to the screen. And let the background music blend seamlessly in the flow. And get a set of characters, to whom the common man can readily relate to, do the talking and taking you through from start to finish. You most certainly have a winning recipe at the end of it all. That’s exactly what MISSION MANGAL achieves!
Deftly scripted and directed by Jagan Shakti in his first film as an independent director (he has worked earlier as Assistant in ENGLISH VINGLISH and PADMAN), the biggest success of MISSION MANGAL is its sincerity to instill in its viewers a resounding backing for success of the mission on the screen. The last time such emotions were created was when audiences were watching DANGAL. Fortunately, DANGAL was about wrestling and Aamir Khan’s home grown techniques went well with the critics. In this case, the mission is about putting a satellite in orbit around Mars and therefore, notwithstanding that our brilliant scientists at ISRO made it happen, our critics and cynics are scoffing at the triviality with which serious science related matters are dealt with. I am not saying that MISSION MANGAL has the technical slickness and credentials of say APOLLO 13 or a fictitious STAR WARS, but the point it is trying to make is that Indian Jugaad works! Would the audience have lapped it up if differential equations and complex computer simulations were presented instead of the humble Puri frying experience?
The cast does an outstanding job: Akshay Kumar and Vidya बालन are very capably supported by the supporting team.
Amit Trivedi’s background music raises the adrenaline at the right times and the creative touches by R Balki (PAA) are well felt, despite his name featuring in a small corner in the credits.
But the clip featuring the Prime minister could have been avoided; was it done to get a Government recognition. Those and other glitches shouldn’t take away the credit from MISSION MANGAL for what it provides. Wholesome entertainment!
REVIEW: 4 out of 5
20th August 2019

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In the last two days, I came across a number of negative reports about THE TASHKENT FILES and despite that, I went and watched this movie. Despite the amateurishness with which the whole script has been written, I did find that a lot of research had gone into the production. Now, one can question the sources on which the research has been based, but one can’t take away the fact that this movie does pose interesting questions surrounding the passing away of India’s second Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, in Tashkent in 1966.
A fair review of the movie must look at the cinematic aspects. And not look at what could be the motives of making this movie and releasing it just before our National Elections. Unfortunately, the anger being vented out in the reviews that I have read, seem to be centering on the fact that in the movie, the needle of suspicion points directly towards a political party contesting the elections. Is it ethical? I will not answer that, because this is expected to be a cinematic review!
Vivek Agnihotri does better when donning the directorial mantle than the script writing one, and his characters (each one of whom, according to a dialogue represents different versions of a terrorist) deliver well within the limitations of the script. The cast consists of stellar performers like Mithun Chakraborty, who delivers very well, and other good actors like Pallavi Joshi, Pankaj Tripathi, Prakash Belwade are made to ham and ham loudly. Naseeruddin Shah seems hardly convincing and looks as though he is sleep walking when playing his character.I can’t but help comparing this with the 1986 release EK RUKA HUA FAISLA ( directed by Basu Chatterji) which in a similar committee type setting delivered outstanding value.
The movie, despite this, doesn’t drag and could have been far more gritty and taut, if only Vivek Agnihotri had introduced a semblance of subtlety to the proceedings. In its absence, THE TASHKENT FILES seems more like a rabble rouser than an interesting mystery plot.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5
April 14, 2019

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It’s been more than a hundred days in 2019 and the KALANK of not having seen a single movie on a first day, first show basis was beginning to get darker. I decided that today was going to be the day for me to erase that KALANK, and I did that by watching the first show of Karan Johar’s KALANK (co-produced by FoxStar Studios and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment).
In less than an hour of my beginning to watch KALANK, my mind began to wander and speculate on a hypothesis as to why this movie was called KALANK. In 1993, Subhash Ghai delivered a super hit called KHALNAYAK, starring Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit. The same team comes together after more than 25 years. A Khalnayak is not expected to be greeted with a friendly “HAY”, and so hoping for the same box-office result like KHALNAYAK, the makers wanted to retain the same letters of KHALNAYAK, but dropping “HAY”…KALANK is an anagram of what remains! There was another interpretation which crossed my mind. One of Karan Johar’s successful and well made movies was KABHI ALVIDA NA KEHNA (KANK). Karan wanted to replicate that hit and since KANK as a title made no sense, he played around by introducing LA (a musical note) in KANK and got KALANK. Do you find these explanations far fetched? The story of the 168 minutes long KALANK is something like that!
And since my mind wandered so early on, you would have probably guessed by now, that a certain amount of boredom had set in. The only time KALAK springs to life is when the screen becomes alive with the songs. Clearly, KALANK has the best songs we have heard in 2019; the music director Pritam, the lyric writer Amitabh Bhattacharyya and the singers Arijit Singh and Shreya Ghoshal deserve kudos for their efforts. The title song sung by Arijit is very haunting and will remain as a chart topper for quite some time. Some of the sets depicting Madhuri’s abode remind one of the grandeur which we have come to associate with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s productions. In a weak script, Alia does emote well and so does Varun Dhawan. The rest of the cast (Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Choudhry, Sonakshi Sinha including Madhuri Dixit) sport dead pan expressions for most of the time. Director Abhishek Varman, who had so neatly crafted 2 STATES has actually created an uninteresting and a very, very long presentation.
RATING: 2 out of 5
April 17th, 2019
#KalankBoring #KalankArijitShreya

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