REVIEW: THE TASHKENT FILES


REVIEW: THE TASHKENT FILES
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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REVIEW: KALANK


REVIEW: KALANK
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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REVIEWS: GULLY BOY, LUKKA CHHUPI and SONCHIRIYA


REVIEWS: GULLY BOY, LUKKA CHUPPI and SONCHIRIYA

Three very interesting movies in three weeks. Because all these movies have been running for a few days, let me begin by providing my ratings in the beginning itself. SONCHIRIYA is 4 out of 5; LUKKA CHUPPI gets 3 out of 5 and GULLY BOY gets 3.5 out of 5. All the three movies are worth seeing and amongst several reasons detailed subsequently, GULLY BOY because it is the first rap based Bollywood production, LUKKA CHUPPI because it is an enjoyable light hearted take on live-in relationships and SONCHIRIYA because it is raw and powerful. The only reason why both GULLY BOY and LUKKA CHUPPI get ratings less than SONCHIRIYA is that both GULLY BOY and LUKKA CHHUPPI tend to be a bit “filmy”; SONCHIRIYA is stark and real.

GULLY BOY: Directed by Zoya Akthar, this is a familiar story about the ultimate success of the underdog. But what makes it stand out are the characters and the way these are enacted by the actors. The slums of Dharavi are portrayed realistically and so are the intense dramatic moments in the chawl settings. Ranveer Singh easily graduates to being the best actor that Bollywood has today because of his prowess in the different roles he has essayed with a confidence as though he was born to play each of the roles. Although he looks a tad old to play the role of Murad, he doesn’t allow that to come in the way of his living that role. And the rest of the cast Alia Bhatt, Vijay Raaz, Kalki Koechlin and debutant Siddhant Chaturvedi amongst others deliver fabulously well. As I mentioned earlier on, GULLY BOY after beginning really well seems to hurtle towards the end and the speed with which the underdog gets his due sounds and feels filmy.

LUKKA CHUPPI: If you are from Kerala, you would be justified in asking me as to whether I am reviewing the Hindi movie or the Malayalam movie because there was a Malayalam movie with the same title released a few years back! But both these movies are as different from each other as chalk from cheese. LUKKA CHUPPI belongs to the refreshing genre of light-hearted comedies based in small towns, the origins of which can be traced back to the delightful TANU WEDS MANU. And we have had gems like VICKY DONOR, SHUBH MANGAL SAVDHAN and BADHAAI HO which dealt with issues which are outside the ambit of comfort conversations. It didn’t matter if they were filmy in their treatment of the topics, but they dealt with them with no crudity and in fact with a lot of sensitivity and laced the messages with humour, so that the feel-good factor permeated the whole movie. Directed by the well-known Marathi film director, Laxman Utekar, LUKKA CHUPPI tries to fit into this genre, but its “filmy” treatment puts it in the bottom half of these genre of well made movies. While all the actors perform well (Vinay Pathak, Pankaj Tripathi, Kriti Sanon), the one to walk away with all aces is the lead actor Kartik Aryan. With a more believable script, this drama about live-in relationships would have sounded less like a college skit and would have got a four star rating.

SONCHIRIYA: This is the least publicised of the three movies being reviewed and perhaps is the one which will fare the poorest in the box-office parameters. If I hadn’t known who the director is, I would have guessed that Vishal Bharadwaj might have been the person wielding the megaphone. Well, he has composed the music, but credit must go to Abhishek Chaubey, for having created this masterpiece dacoit drama. Abhishek Chaubey, who gave us UDTA PUNJAB last year, strikes again with a hard-hitting dacoit story pictured in the ravines of Chambal. It is grim, dry and rough and makes no pretences about it being so close to reality. It is also violent (you shouldn’t expect mushy scenes and nicely manicured settings) and the cast consisting of Manoj Bajpayee, Asutosh Rana, Sushant Singh Rajput, Ranvir Sheorey, Bhumi Pednekar performs superbly. It is perhaps India’s best Western till date!!

RATINGS:

SONCHIRIYA: 4 out of 5

LUKKA CHUPPI: 3 out of 5

GULLY BOY: 3.5 out of 5

March 6th, 2019

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REVIEW: THACKERAY AND MANIKARNIKA


REVIEW: THACKERAY and MANIKARNIKA

The first four major releases from Bollywood in 2019 have two features in common. The first one is all of them are somewhat based on real life incidents and personalities; the second feature is that all of them are directed by new directors in Bollywood. Another important feature in three of these is the not so subtle wake-up call for different kinds of nationalism. It is also in many ways, a statement that we have had enough of taking passive bystander stands and the time is ripe to take an aggressive approach even if it means taking up surgical strikes, raising the sceptre of parochialism or glorifying women warriors. Therefore, these movies need to be reviewed not on whether they constitute well made cinema without flaws, but on whether they have succeeded in evoking “patriotic” or “nationalistic” feelings in the minds of viewers. URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE came out both as a well-made cinema as well as the feelings it evoked.

THACKERAY is bold and unpretentious, just like its protagonist. It is a biopic, in the true sense of the word and the part is brilliantly essayed by Nawazuddin Siddiqui. There is no tinge of apology anywhere in the movie, for its painting its character in favourable hues, although the choice of using black and white by the director (Abhijit Panse) for nearly half the movie seems to indicate that there is an attempt to present an unbiased view of incidents and personalities. And like in URI and THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER, we are introduced to look-alikes of political personalities of those times without making them appear like caricatures. The feelings that get evoked when one watches THACKERAY are more parochial than nationalistic and that to some extent dilutes the overall impact of the movie.

MANIKARNIKA, on the other hand, while having objectives of glorifying the valour and sacrifice of the Indian womenfolk against the enemy, looks and feels like an Amar Chitra Katha presented on the screen. The responsibility for this squarely rests on Vijayendra Prasad, the person who brilliantly scripted the BAAHUBALI series. Even the dialogues by Prasoon Joshi sound rather bookish. Kangna Ranaut, delivers very ably as Laxmi Bai, but I would rate Nawazuddin’s performance as better. Kangna wields the megaphone as well, along with the well-known Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, an award-winning director of Telugu films. The best part of MANIKARNIKA is the outstanding background and music score (Sanchit and Ankit Balhara) and the songs by Shankar Ehsan Loy.

RATINGS:

THACKERAY: 3.5 out of 5

MANIKARNIKA: 3 out of 5

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REVIEW: THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER


REVIEW: THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER

It’s been more than a week since THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER was released, and owing to my other engagements involving refurbishment, I had time just to see one movie last week and chose to see URI: THE SURGICAL STRIKE. I hadn’t heard very many positives about THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER and therefore had no regrets. Yesterday evening, I was keen to celebrate the nearing of completion of the refurbishment work and headed out to the nearby mall to have a meal. And when I was walking out of the Food Court, the poster in the multiplex (located on the same floor) of THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER seemed to beckon me, and not having anything worthwhile after a heavy meal saw this movie. So, it was partly by accident and partly by intention that I got to watch this.

I haven’t read the book on which this movie is based, and therefore my take is on how I felt after seeing the movie. True, an actor like Anupam Kher has done well to get under the skin of Dr Manmohan Singh, in terms of his gait, manner of speaking and other physical features, but the scripting and story telling also seems to follow Dr Singh’s gait! And my letting out a yawn now and then had little to do with my meal which I had earlier on!

THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER looks like a string of loosely strung incidents and to my mind, certainly didn’t come across as a propaganda material. I wish there was a little more probing in depth into the decision making process of a Prime Minister who has come into this role by an accident. What we are exposed to instead, is bits and pieces of factual happenings and a lot more of Sanjaya Baru, the writer of the book. That is not to take away any credit from Akshaye Khanna, who portrays the role of Sanjay Baru. The German actress Suzanne Bernertwho dons the part of Sonia Gandhi helps somewhat in getting the insight of the Congress Party Leader, but I wish her hair make-up was better! Talking about make-up, the movie deserves credit for quite accurately creating lookalikes of several leaders, but Anupam Kher’s make up is easily the most well done.

At the end of it all, THE ACCIDENTAL PRIME MINISTER felt to me like a series of short skits with all the players dressed up for a fancy dress competition. Whether  and how much of a blame the debutant director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte or the writer Sanjaya Baru should take remains a moot point; the audience can’t be blamed for the movie not coming in hordes to see this much awaited movie.

REVIEW: 2.5 out of 5

January 19, 2019

 

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REVIEW: URI THE SURGICAL STRIKE


REVIEW: URI THE SURGICAL STRIKE

 

The loud cheering of an audience is not a new thing for Indian Cinema. Whenever the audience is introduced to the super stars of the silver screen, the auditorium breaks out in thunderous ovation. I have seen this happening particularly in Tamil films, where larger than life super heroes like Rajnikant, Vijay, Surya or Ajithkumar deliver forceful dialogues or punches! The last time I saw this a few days back when I was watching Rajnikant’s PETTA. In terms of the intensity of ovation, Bollywood superstars rank far behind their colleagues from Kollywood. The thunderous ovation that I was witness to when I watched URI : THE SURGICAL STRIKE was therefore unusual, because there isn’t any superstar in this Aditya Dhar’s creation. It made me feel proud that this was one movie, which had successfully invoked the nationalistic fervour without any jingoistic clamour; and it was this nationalistic pitch which caused the applause. So what if the Modi Government gets brownie points for a “new India”?

URI easily has the best war action sequences seen in Bollywood. Credit must go to the German action director, Stefan Richter, the director of photography, Mitesh Mirchandani and the writer director Aditya Dhar. Together they have created a movie, which impresses not merely because it is slickly made, but because it is the first Bollywood production which has the theme of a short, tactical strike against the enemy. It is not the story of a full blown war; it is more like what we saw in the strike against Bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY way back in 2012. Uri shares the same grittiness in its second half.

URI is not flawless, if one were to review it on a pure cinematic basis. URI is long; it tries to blend family emotions; it seeks to justify the anger of the chief protagonist because of a family tragedy. According to me, the review has to have a perspective which should relate to the desired impact on the targeted audience. And therefore, thankfully, Aditya Dhar has created this not to get star ratings from those reviewers who are closeted with “anti Government” buddies or operate from artistic cocoons..

The impact which URI makes has a lot to do with the excellent performance by Vicky Kaushal. The role he plays here is in sharp contrast to the one he played in RAAZI and he is outstanding. Without having to mouth too many dialogues, his expressions convey a lot more. The rest of the cast also does an able job including Paresh Rawal, playing the role of the National Security Advisor. Mention must also be made of the actor who exactly looks like Manohar Parrikar!!

Just watch it!

RATING: 4 out of 5

January 13, 2019

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REVIEW: SIMMBA


REVIEW: SIMMBA

This is the first movie that I am reviewing after returning to India for good.
This is the first movie featuring Ranveer Singh released after his marriage.
This is the second movie for Ranveer Singh this year; the first one was PADMAAVAT.
This is the second movie for Sara Ali Khâń in this month, the earlier one being KEDARNATH.
This is the tenth movie by director Rohit Shetty in ten years, directing a movie every year from 2009.
This is the last movie that I will be reviewing in this year.
You might be wondering as to when is it that I will begin commenting about SIMMBA!
Quite honestly, if I were to tell you that this movie could be titled as SINGHAM RETURNS AGAIN, you might have wanted to give the movie a skip, because you might have felt that there is nothing new that Rohit Shetty could have offered.
But Rohit Shetty knows his box office calculations very well, and has created an amalgam of the stern SINGHAM and the comedy oriented GOLMAAL in his new presentation.
And therefore notwithstanding the hackneyed tale, SIMMBA delivers wholesome masaala fare.
And Rohit Shetty restrains his impulses to break tables and show flying cars and slow motion punches and gives ample room to Ranveer Singh to deliver a comical performance, that is just as good as his serious performance in PADMAAVAT. The dialogues and the one liners are absolutely spot on; the performance of other artistes like Sara Ali Khâń, Asutosh Rana and Sonu Sood effectively complements Ranveer’s stellar performance. These positives are able to mitigate the effects of numerous cliches and the stale storyline and the huge dollops of incredulities to a decent extent. Thus despite its length, SIMMBA is far from boring. And in the end, Rohit brings his lucky mascot Ajay Devgn to step in for a cameo role and tells us that the next venture SOORYAVANSHI in the SINGHAM genre features Akshay Kumar.
SIMMBA is by no means an unmissable movie, but neither is it a dud presentation. And just because of Ranveer Singh and the entertainment that he provides, I feel that this will perhaps be the biggest commercial hit of 2018.

RATING: 3 out of 5
December 28th, 2018

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