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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As soon as I saw the first few scenes of Vishal Bharadwaj’s RANGOON featuring Russi Bilimoria, played brilliantly by Saif Ali Khan, a question struck me suddenly. Why does Vishal get the best out of Saif only when he is playing the role of a physically impaired person? Is it that that his character’s grey hues become greyer with that little impairment added? Those of you who have seen Vishal’s OMKARA will perhaps understand my question. But Saif is not the only one to essay perfectly the characters of RANGOON, based on a story by Matthew Robbins. Shahid Kapoor, who is a favourite of Vishal Bharadwaj (KAMINEY, HAIDER), Kangna Ranaut (from whom we have begun to expect nothing less than a stellar act) and Richard McCabe (a British Theatre actor) who play the other important characters of the period story excel in their performances. Just when I was beginning to think as to how come Vishal has freed himself of his deep desire to have something connected to Shakespeare in all his ventures, it struck me that even RANGOON had a little to do with Shakespeare: Richard McCabe is an Associate Artist of The Royal Shakespeare Company!!!

Music is another important component of Vishal Bharadwaj’s movies and although none of the songs in his movies are real hits on the hit parade, they sound extremely apt on the screen. The same is true of the music of RANGOON; as an additional bonus, we get to hear different versions of our National Anthem. The photography is also excellent and so are the dialogues by Vishal himself (sample this: Apni Jaan se bhi keemti kuch aur hai kya? Hai, wo jiske liye mar sake!)

Despite all this, taken as a whole, RANGOON doesn’t quite take off. And the problem is the story itself. The so called love story against a war background isn’t a passionate love story. The relationships are more based on conveniences rather than what a love story should be based on. Having perhaps realized this, Vishal tries to weave in the patriotic aspect and is perhaps trying to tell us that this love story is not between individuals as much as it is love for the nation. He succeeds, but only partially. In fact the first half becomes onerous at times and the second half hurtles towards a foregone conclusion, leaving the viewer in a “lost” situation: what is the movie all about? Thankfully, unlike Vishal’s earlier movies, which warranted two viewings to understand the real tale, here one viewing is sufficient to see that there isn’t much to see even the first time!

February 25th, 2017

RATING: 3 out of 5

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The inevitable has happened: the clash between Hrithik Roshan’s KAABIL and Shah Rukh Khan’s RAEES is beginning to take its toll and in a few days and weeks, we will know who is the winner at the box-office. But, purely from the cinematic angle, KAABIL scores better than RAEES on all counts. I know comparisons can be odious and each movie must be evaluated on its own. But when two mega stars decide to release their movies on the same day (which according to me was totally avoidable: RAEES was slated to be released last year and had an option not to time it with KAABIL’s release), and you get to watch both movies within twenty four hours, comparisons are inevitable.

In a way, the themes of both RAEES and KAABIL sound more appropriate to the eighties. KAABIL’s rape and revenge melodrama and RAEES’s glorification of a Robin Hood character have seen many avatars in the past. KAABIL brings in a certain freshness in dealing with the theme and the lead actors Hrithik and Yami Gautam do full justice to their respective roles. It is not the first time that Hrithik has acted in a revenge drama: his AGNEEPATH was quite powerfully enacted. And, here in KAABIL, he puts up his best ever performance till date. His face is his biggest asset; the ease with which his light eyes exude child-like innocence, romance, angst and anger is remarkable. Because of this, we have several situations where Hrithik’s face covers a large part of the screen and the audience gets to see all the fine nuances.

The first half of KAABIL is refreshingly breezy (the song Mon Amor and the dance accompanying it is representative of the child-like excitement in the love story between challenged individuals) and the director Sanjay Gupta reveals his penchant for doing non-action oriented scenes just as well. The positioning of the lead characters is also different: challenged, they may be, but they are not yearning for sympathy. Contrast this with the script of RAEES, where there is a deliberate attempt to invoke sympathy for the wrong doer. The second half is full of gory action and possibilities which strain and stretch one’s imagination. That perhaps is the only weak spot in this otherwise gripping presentation. The Roy brothers (Rohit and Ronit) look decently menacing and are KAABIL of being hated!! And Urvashi Rautela’s item number in the rehashed version of YAARANA’s famous song SAARA ZAMANA (composed by KAABIL’s music director Rajesh Roshan) is a tad better than Sunny Leone’s antics in the rehashed number LAILA O LAILA in RAEES.

So for more reasons than one, KAABIL is certainly a KAABIL movie to watch!

RATING: 4 out of 5

January 27, 2017

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The extent to which THE STATE vs JOLLY LLB 2 is fast becoming a much talked about movie can be gauged not merely by how it has come close to becoming a member of the 100 crore club, but also by how it’s extremely witty dialogues are being quoted in numerous places. In fact, no other movie in the recent past has such an abundance of one-liners. And if one of the popular dialogues in the movie mouthed by the defense lawyer (played quite adeptly by Annu Kapoor), finds a mention in a defamatory suit filed recently by the shoe maker, Bata India Limited, you can be sure that not only are the dialogues laden with dark humour, but are also being taken rather seriously in some quarters!! Subhash Kapoor, who has written and directed this sequel hasn’t perhaps quite forgotten the controversy of an actress slapping him (exactly three years back in February 2014) after alleging that he had molested her and therefore has a slapping sequence soon after the famous Bata dialogue in THE STATE vs JOLLY LLB 2!

I have already mentioned about the dialogues of the movie, but there are also several other plusses. The acting (particularly of Akshay Kumar and Saurabh Shukla) is excellent and so are their characterizations. With this combination, it would be but natural to expect that the movie as a whole to have been an excellent satire. Unfortunately, Subhash Kapoor gets a bit carried away and the story as it develops in the second half is riddled with too much of unrealistic happenings and coincidences. This is a sore distraction and weighs rather heavily as the movie unfolds. That the movie is still watchable is indeed a tribute to the noteworthiness of the theme and the superb casting. If only the movie had continued in the same strain as it had started off in the first half, this sequel would have been an unmissable movie. Subhash Kapoor does deserve kudos for all the positives: the idiosyncrasies are portrayed in a manner that is not offensive; even the shoe throwing incident (I don’t know as to whether Bata will take umbrage against this) and its consequences is a telling commentary on the sad state of affairs in our courts! And Subhash Kapoor drills this fact strongly without losing out on the humorous narration! It is a jolly good first half!!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

February 16, 2017


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