REVIEW: SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN 


REVIEW : SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN
Actor Ayushmann Khurana is perhaps the only actor in the world today who has played the roles of a sperm donor at one end of the spectrum and at the other end the role of a person who can’t make it “hard enough” (erectile dysfunction, if you would like to call it in the medical parlance). He did the first role in the comedy VICKY DONOR  and now in producer Aanand Rai’s latest SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN, he plays the latter role. And in both these roles, he excels in emoting the feelings of someone who has experienced the power of “hardness” and is weighed down  by “softness”. But that’s not the only reason why SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN works!

Aanand Rai, who is well known for producing romcoms like TANU WEDS MANU and it’s enormously successful sequel, settles for a remake of a 2013 Tamil Film KALYAAN SAMEL SAADAM (Rice of the wedding feast) and utilizes the same director R S Prasanna who had penned the story as well. For a first time Bollywood presentation, Prasanna has captured the typical middle-class Delhite ambience superbly. He is aided by very witty writing by Hitesh Kewalya and down to earth performances by the rest of the cast. Bhumi Pednekar gets under the skin of the person who is initially baffled by the situation, but seeks to address it for the future; her mom played by Seema Pahwa (who had played brilliantly in BAREILLY KI BARFI) delivers another outstanding performance.  And so do the other members of the family. Mind you, this is not a theme to be laughed at and at the same time the director has to keep the humour continuously flowing. That according to me is the movie’s biggest asset.

True, the end is not as taut as it could have been, it becomes rather limp much like the hero’s problem. But surely, this was not supposed to be a commercial for Viagra, so why complain?
RATING: 4 out of 5

September 1, 2017

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REVIEW: VIVEGAM


VEERAM in 2013, VEDALAM in 2015 and VIVEGAM in 2017 have all got a number of things in common. All these three Tamil productions have showcased actor Ajith Kumar as a one man demolition squad, have been directed by Siva and have loud deafening music to appropriately match the high octane content. The heroines have fairly trivialized roles and for some reason which I am not aware of, Siva likes to use Bollywood actors to play the role of the villain. In VEERAM, it was Atul Kulkarni, in VEDALAM it was Rahul Dev and now in VIVEGAM, we have considerable footage devoted to Vivek Oberoi. And of course, both VEERAM and VEDALAM were commercial hits.With all this and the hype surrounding the release of VIVEGAM, does it deliver? 
For all hard core Ajith fans, who have come to expect such over the top hyperbole and revel at his efficiently executing his role as a one man Demolition squad, VIVEGAM certainly doesn’t disappoint. Lavishly mounted and filmed in Serbia, Slovenia and Bulgaria, and laced with power packed dialogues for Ajith, there is no understatement of any kind in VIVEGAM. There is hi-tech written all over the film and the wizardry and the gadgets would   certainly inspire Tom Cruise for his next episode of Mission Impossible. The stunts and the chase sequences are excellently executed and with his greying locks, Ajith fits the role like a glove.

The theme of betrayal is an interesting one, but the storyline in VIVEGAM is so weak and mediocre, that it ends up just as a collage of well shot scenes. There is also no effort at developing the characters with the result that except for Ajith, everyone else is utterly bland. This includes the female artistes Kajal Agarwal and Akshara Hassan and the Bollywood star Vivek Oberoi. 

VIVEGAM (meaning Discernment) could well become another hit, but if you are endowed with VIVEGAM, even to a small extent, you will do well to stay away. But if you are a true Ajith fan, you will relish his persona on the screen!

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

August 25, 2017

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REVIEW: ONDU MOTTEYA KATHE


ONDU MOTTEYA KATHE

Slice of Life comedies are a rarity these days. In Bollywood, comedies authored by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee regaled us in the seventies and eighties. These had characters, who could be easily identified as the “Aam Janta” and who got in and out of situations which created the comical element. The characters didn’t have to make faces to make us laugh and as a whole, eschewed “adult” topics and stayed away from all things lewd. And while there are some exceptionally good films in Indian Regional cinema, the really good ones have always based on a serious theme. Last year, there was a low budget movie, an Indo-American production in Kannada called THITHI. Winner of numerous international awards, including the National Award for the best feature film, THITHI was not a laugh raiser. It was a satire and just looked at simple and funny events like a bystander would look, but was thoroughly entertaining.

ONDU MOTTEYA KATHE, a Kannada movie (The title translates as “A Bald Person’s Tale”) which released last month in India and yesterday in Muscat is not just a classy comedy, but a hilarious presentation with a message. Everything in this movie is near perfect: the storyline, the theme, the screenplay, the acting and the direction. The plight of the bald and the anxieties of the near and dear are so beautifully brought to the fore that one gets totally involved in the environs as portrayed in the movie. The characters are very real and life-like and charming too; the references to the Kannada movie thespian Dr Rajkumar are superbly placed. Debutant director and the lead actor Raj Shetty deserves full kudos for this effort; I will be most surprised if this movie doesn’t walk away with numerous Indian and International Awards. Thankfully, this movie is sub-titled in English, but as in any translation, it is impossible for a non-Kannada knowing person to enjoy this as much as a person who knows Kannada. In fact, in a few places, I saw this movie title being translated as “Egghead”; nothing could be farther than this from what the movie is all about.

I hope this movie gets all the publicity it deserves; movies about The BALD can be BEAUTIFUL!!

Don’t miss it!

RATING: 4 out of 5

August 18, 2017

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REVIEW: BAREILLY KI BARFI


BAREILLY KI BARFI

It is refreshing to see a new breed of creative personalities who have migrated from the Indian ad world and are making their mark in Bollywood. Their work is a clever blend of the arty and the filmy considerations dictated by commercial cinema and delivered without any compromises on the creative front. And the delight gets doubled when we have a husband-wife team with similar backgrounds and foraying into the world of commercial cinema. First we had the TamBrahm R Balki (CHEENI KUM, PAA) and his wife Gauri Shinde (ENGLISH VINGLISH, DEAR ZINDAGI) and then we had Nitesh Tiwari (DANGAL) and his TamBrahm wife Ashwini Iyer (NIL BATTEY SANNATA, now renamed as THE NEW CLASSMATE). Both Gauri Shinde and Ashwini Iyer had won the Best Debut Director FilmFare awards and the latter had won it for her 2016 effort NIL BATTEY SANNATA which was critically very well acclaimed.

BAREILLY KI BARFI is directed by Ashwini Iyer and written by her husband Nitesh Tiwari. Based loosely on the 2015 novel THE INGREDIENTS OF LOVE written by Nicolas Barreau, this Barfi remains fresh from the beginning till the end. And unlike the recent crop of Bollywood comedies, which begin well in the first half, but become trite in the second half, the husband-wife efforts in BAREILLY KI BARFI keep the proceedings sweet till the end. The small town cameos and culture are captured well, and the performances come across as very life-like.

While one has come to expect superlative performance from Rajkummar Rao (TRAPPED, QUEEN, ALIGARH, KAI PO CHE to name a few), Ayushmann Khurana (after sterling performances in VICKY DONOR and DUM LAGAKE HAISA amongst a string of also-rans) comes back to deliver excellently. But the surprise in BKB is Kriti Sanon, who fits her role so very well that I could think of only another actress who could have done the role just as well, Kangna Ranaut. And the supporting cast of Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa collude comically to create the small town atmosphere.

The end product that the audience is served is not the cloying Gulab Jamun or the dripping Jalebi, but the relatively bland Barfi. Unlike the Gulab Jamun, which comes in various shapes and sizes, and quite unlike the Jalebi, whose contours are irregular and perhaps intricate, the Barfi is a fairly standardized offering. BAREILLY KI BARFI has no surprises, no unpredictable twists and turns and no over-the-hill melodramatics. It should be taken just as a simple feel good dessert. But because, I felt it was refreshingly different from the current crop of offerings, I am giving it a very favourable rating!

RATING: 4 out of 5

August 18, 2017

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REVIEW: TOILET: EK PREM KATHA


TOILET: EK PREM KATHA

The entire human race can be categorized in two ways: those who have the luxury of defecating in the “privacy” of their homes and those who have no alternative but to defecate in the open. And in India, the second category accounts for more than 60 percent of our population! Driven mostly by poverty and partially by anachronistic beliefs and fueled by the lack of education on sanitation, this topic reeks of stink all over. And for those in the privileged first category, the logical thing is to close their eyes and shut their nostrils at the very mention of this rather serious issue. I am not surprised at all that this elite group hasn’t taken kindly to TOILET: EK PREM KATHA, which should be lauded at least for its theme.

Editor Shree Narayan Singh and Actor Akshay Kumar seem to share a good bond, having worked together in BABY and RUSTOM and now in TOILET: EK PREM KATHA, he wields the megaphone as well. And given the constraints of the script, he manages to drive home the problem of defecation in the open in the first half in a satirical and yet entertaining manner. Both Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar (who played a stellar role in DUM LAGAKE HAISHA) are spontaneous and impactful in their performances. And the “Lota Party” satire is indeed insightful, about how those who are in the second category, try to make light of their grave problem.

Where TOILET: EK PREM KATHA flounders and strips itself of all the kudos for the first half is the solution and the execution. And knowing this well, the writers desperately seek to find support in the present government’s laudable schemes to improve sanitation and turn it into a half-baked propaganda vehicle. Even if I were to see this movie through the eyes of a person in the second category, I would whole heartedly appreciate the first half and get rather dismayed at the dishonest portrayals in the second half. I see a beautiful opportunity having been missed out to bring home the ugly realities of open defecation and working towards a solution.

There are more songs than what can be fitted in the story telling, and even the seasoned Sudhir Pande seems to exercise his vocal chords more than is necessary. If I belong to the second category, I can understand why Anupam Kher and his ‘Sunny” referenced dialogues have been included. And if the title had been SHAUCHALAY: A LOVE STORY, would it have made a difference? I don’t know.

RATING: 3 out of 5

August 12th, 2017

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REVIEW: JAB HARRY MET SEJAL


JAB HARRY MET SEJAL

Writer Director Imtiaz Ali’s first and only true commercial success was the delightful romcom JAB WE MET. And in the last ten years, he has unsuccessfully tried to recreate the magic of JAB WE MET in all his creations. JAB WE MET had a credible story, superb dialogues (for which he won the FilmFare award), fantastic acting, a break neck speed of storytelling and some very hummable foot stomping songs. All his creations have also centered on the lead characters stumbling onto each other accidentally and without themselves realizing that they are actually on a journey of trying to discover who they are or what they really want in life. This is a very fertile theme for weaving a beautiful love story and mounting it on celluloid. Imtiaz Ali managed to achieve his JAB WE MET magic to a very large extent in LOVE AAJ KAL in 2009 (which was also a good commercial hit) and in HIGHWAY in 2011 (whose theme didn’t go down very well with the masses).

Working with SRK for the first time, Imtiaz Ali tries hard to get his act straight in JAB HARRY MET SEJAL. And succeeds remarkably well in the first half despite the weak story and not much of a support from the usually dependable Pritam on the music front. The dialogues are chirpy and SRK and Anushka Sharma emote very well. But post interval, everything about the movie goes wayward and the writer’s bid to drive the film towards a logical conclusion begins to look extremely contrived. And just as Sejal (played by Anushka Sharma) tries to desperately look around to get to her ring, I kept looking forward to a quick end to my suffe(ring)! How I wished that Imtiaz Ali had packed in some credible twists and turns in the road rather than just hurtling us down the road of self-destruction!

In movie making, the cardinal rule is that how the movie is in the second half is what dictates audience perception. My summary, therefore is watch the first part of JAB HARRY MET SEJAL, and walk out to do some self-exploration: Who is your real Harry or real Sejal? That may be a more rewarding experience!

RATING: 3 out of 5

August 4th, 2017

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REVIEW: MOM


REVIEW: MOM

Actress Sridevi is 54 years old; she started acting as a child artiste when she was four years old. That means that 2017 marks fifty golden years of her association with filmdom. And in this special year, we get to see her 300th film, MOM! And that she has chosen to play a role which shows her on screen in her most non-glamorous till date speaks volumes about her confidence in her acting abilities. Few heroines of yester years and fewer of today’s generation would have dared to do this.

Debutant director, Ravi Udhawar’s effort (produced by Sridevi’s husband, Boney Kapoor), MOM is shot in a very taut manner. In fact, the first half, without any songs to interrupt the proceedings, grips you in a manner which is expected out of true thrillers. The movie has a weak cliché ridden few opening sequences, but the director gets through them very quickly and plunges straight into the story telling. And giving him the support to enable the thrilling ride behind the scenes in A R Rahman, whose background music succeeds in creating that grim atmosphere called for in the movie. And on the screen, his cast delivers outstanding performances. Be it the suave Pakistani actor, Adnan Siddiqui, playing Sridevi’s husband, or the young Pakistani actress Sajal Ali, who plays Sridevi’s traumatized step daughter or our Akshaye Khanna, playing the role of a cop, the role play efforts are commendable. The best performances come from Nawazuddin Siddiqui (I wondered why they called his appearance as a special role, when in fact, he has a footage in the film exceeding that of Adnan) and of course Sridevi. In a role, which calls for her to perform in varying situations from handling her non-acceptance by her step-daughter to her baring her fangs in her efforts to protect the same child, she is excellent.

Were it not for these stellar efforts, MOM would have become a fairly mediocre movie. MOM’s biggest let-down is not because of the theme, but because of the numerous pot-holes in its storyline. And these become bigger and bigger as the story telling progresses to the second-half and as a result, what could have been a very well-crafted thriller, heads rather hopelessly to a foregone conclusion. Thrillers need solid story lines which are not riddled with improbabilities. Whether this has happened on account of Boney Kapoor’s intervention or not, I would not know, but the end result is this takes away the focus from Sridevi instead of accentuating it!

RATING: 3 out of 5

July 8, 2017

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