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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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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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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When Chetan Bhagat (an alumnus of my Alma Mater, IIM Ahmedabad) crafted his first novel FIVE POINT SOMEONE, he (by design or default, and I would like to believe it was by design) made an immediate impact because every English speaking reader (and particularly IITians) could relate to the characters in the script and there was nothing “filmy” about it. It required a genius like Raju Hirani to weave a suitable filmy tale based on that plot to create 3 IDIOTS. But that happened in 2009, a full five years after the book was published. His second novel, ONE NIGHT AT A CALL CENTRE was quite readable, but was hurriedly made into a poor movie in 2008. His third effort, THE THREE MISTAKES OF MY LIFE was also well received, and there was once again nothing filmy about it. By the time he was writing his next book TWO STATES (published in 2009), he must have got a whiff of how Raju Hirani was in the process of creating that fab movie loosely based on his first book, and introduced a filmy slant to that book. After the success of 3 IDIOTS, Chetan Bhagat, has no doubt been writing about characters who are very easily relatable, but he has fallen into the trap of trying to make the books read more like film scripts. HALF GIRLFRIEND, which he wrote in 2014 falls into that category. But if you see what he was actually wanting to convey, you will see that this is something which a non-English speaking person from our hinterland in an alien environment goes through. I reproduce what Chetan has had to say about this: Half-Girlfriend, to me, is a unique Indian phenomenon, where boys and girls are not clear about their relationship status with each other. A boy may think he is more than friends with the girl, but the girl is still not his girlfriend. Hence, I thought we needed a term like ‘Half girlfriend’. Because, in India, that is what most men get.

Unfortunately, the movie is not just based on the book; it follows it closely enough to become a pathetic experience for the viewers. Even the actors look half involved: Arjun Kapoor looks half urban and half rural, Shraddha Kapoor looks half confused! Mohit Suri made moderate successes of trivial stories like in Aashiqui 2 and the Raaz series, but there were no great expectations and there were wonderful songs. The music in HALF GIRLFRIEND is not bad, but it is just half as good as that in Aashiqui 2. There’s a me too song like the famous TUM HI HO number sung by the same Arijit and composed by Mithoon. But for that, you can listen to the audio. 

We were taught at an early stage in school, that any  positive number multiplied by another positive number produces a result which is at least as big as one of those numbers as long as the number is not a fraction. If it is a fraction, a fraction mulplied by another fraction will give a result lesser than either fraction. So in HALF GIRLFRIEND, you have everything which is half or less…so you know the result!

And if I were to make a jibe at one of the leading dialogues in the movie, I would rate this movieas : Ek se Zyaada, par do se kam!

RATING: 1.5 out of 5

May 18, 2017

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The one thing that put me off most in Ram Gopal Varma’s SARKAR 3 was how the storyline sounded so very anachronistic. Rehashed and retold a number of times, there is not an iota of novelty or freshness in its narration as well. And the deafening background music to the accompaniment of the Govinda chants is actually jarring; ironically, it dampens the flow. 

After making movies like Satya, Company and the earlier avatars of Sarkar, Ram Gopal Varma seemed to slide downhill. His effort on the re creation of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai (The attacks of 26/11) did seem to show that his spark had revived, but SARKAR 3 again confirms  that the downhill path continues. 

What redeems the movie to some extent is the excellent portrayal by Amitabh Bachchan, who seems to never tire out even when performing in average productions. I wish Ram Gopal Varma had learnt from him that silence and terseness can speak louder than anything else. And Ronit Roy is just as effective. And so is his “dumb” aide! In a  special appearance role, which is not a cameo appearance by any standard, Manoj Bajpayee reveals the acting class that he is from. But the rest of the cast is just terrible and that includes Jackie Shroff! Amit Sadhe, playing the grandson, has a tough role, but falls short of what good actors could have done. 

And lastly, It won’t be fair on my part if I don’t mention that Abhishek Bachchan looks good in the “framed” part !!

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

May 15th 2017

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Amongst the various figures quoted in connection with BAAHUBALI 2: THE CONCLUSION, the one I found most impressive was the number of screens in US which screened this from yesterday. At a staggering 1400, this is a record. Of course, the fact that this movie is being released in 6500 screens throughout is another record and so is the fact that at a hundred million views, its trailer is the most watched in Indian film history. Just to put things in perspective, the trailer of DANGAL had a little over 50 million views!

Releasing nearly two years after the first part, the excitement surrounding this Hyderabad production in every part of the country has seen no parallel. As a rule, South Indian movies dubbed in Hindi have never triggered wide interest: the dubbed first part of BAAHUBALI was the first 100 crore success. And I will be most surprised if this sequel (or perhaps prequel) doesn’t turn out to be the biggest grossing film across in 2017.

The strongest feature about BAAHUBALI 2 is the story and screenplay and its being brought alive in a visually grand manner. True, this appears to be tackier than the first part and the special effects are over the top, but the sterling performance of Prabhas, the excellent background score and songs composed by Keeravani (M M Kreem) make this  movie worth watching. The story is nothing short of an epic story, and while finally, good wins over the bad, the twists and turns make this even more exciting.

Yes, there are times when one does feel that there is a lot of stretching and slicker editing could have had a more powerful impact, but Rajamouli has invested so much in this that he gets carried away by the excesses. Baahubali 2 scores also because there hasn’t been a presentation of an epic story on such an epic scale in Indian film history. And that by itself is a good enough reason to feel proud about the technical capabilities of Indian Film makers.

And if you expected me to give a remote clue on why Kattappa killed Baahubali (Senior), you will be disappointed! Instead of guessing, just watch the movie. And watch it not by putting on judgmental glasses, but just by getting soaked in the grandeur. You will like it!

RATING: 4 out of 5

April 28, 2017


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Twenty five years back, the management graduate from Mumbai turned film maker Mani Ratnam, introduced himself to the Bollywood world through ROJA. That also marked the debut of A R Rahman, and what Rahman has created after that is something for which all music buffs would eternally be grateful for. And as if to convey his gratitude to Mani Ratnam, Rahman’s compositions for Mani’s movies have that special touch and a number of these numbers have been chart busters. KAATRU VELIYIDAI is the thirteenth effort of this team and the tag of thirteen doesn’t seem to have affected either the background music or the songs.

Mani Ratnam has always delivered his best when he has worked on a presentation of true lyrical romance set against a canvas of dramatic conflicts. Mouna Raagam, Roja, Bombay, Alai Payuthe (remade as Saathiya), O Kadhal Kanmani (remade as OK Jaanu) are examples of this genre. KAATRU VELIYIDAI belongs to this genre, but unfortunately the dramatic elements come to the surface only occasionally. The romance between Beauty and the Beast couldn’t have been captured better by anyone. Aditi Rao Hydari as Beauty is just outstanding in every manner, and the Beast played by an assistant director to Mani (Karthi) is just as good. Karthi is awkward at times, and some may call that poor emoting, but my view is that he emotes exactly as his director wanted him to, which is what defines his character. Each of the emotions ranging from excitement, display of arrogance, childlike wonderment, resignation without losing out on self-respect, and this list can go on and on, has been captured beautifully against the lovely backdrop of the snows and the mountains. The credit for this must go to Ravi Varman, whose camera work is just stunning.

The dramatic part which Mani tries to introduce to muscle his story (the Kargil conflict) is the movie’s weakest part; in fact some of the scenes featuring the escape border on being frivolous. Whether it is because of this or the weak scripting in these areas, the end result is that the audience remains on the outside and is never seriously drawn into the folds of the cinema as it progresses from scene to scene. Could we assign the blame for the lack of audience involvement on the “irrationality” of the love between the lead stars? But then, most hard core romantics will agree with me that true love is perhaps irrational; if it was love based on desired outcomes, then wouldn’t it be called “calculative” or “matlabi”?

I saw this movie, subtitled in English and therefore was able to appreciate the poetry penned by Vairamuthu: if the translation was so lyrical, how much more beautiful the original would be? On the lighter side, let me conclude by saying that this movie does show that all is not lost if you have a Beast lurking in you: there could still be a Beauty to fall in love with you!!!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

April 8, 2017

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