Review: KESARI

Written by  on March 21, 2019
They Took A Historic Battle,
Turned It Into An Election Time Propaganda Film.


2 stars


Mini Review:


The final battle to the death is worth the watch, but when you see religion, patriotism, propaganda and soldiering mix in a movie timed for release during elections in India, you want to cringe but that would be politically incorrect. But honestly, the first hour and a half they need to set up the film is as dull and dry as the setting of the film.


Main Review:


The film is set in forts in the dry and dusty land on the border of Afghanistan. The film is almost 156 minutes long and only the last 20 minutes of the battle make you feel anything if at all.

But when I got back home after the screening, I checked the net, and guess what, this simple history lesson made tears flow. The film loses out so much!

Barring the last battle where you have only one hero, the rest of the film is a painful setting up of main character. We get to know of sardar Ishar Singh who is hotheaded and his first skirmish with Pathans when he saves an Afghan woman from her nasty husband and hoards of men ready to kill her, his argument with his superior officer (the trope of the rebel hero is so badly done, you see everything before it strikes the characters in the movie), his becoming a leader to the 21 lackadaisical Sikh lads inspiring them to become soldiers…


If you haven’t groaned enough, there is a horrible Muslim cleric who wants to behead the Afghan woman and bring the Sikh soldiers, especially Ishar Singh to his knees, remove the turban (which the Sikhs consider as holy and as a sign of pride) and hence insult them. There is a British officer who expects Ishar Singh to salute him, humiliates him by calling him ‘fucker’ and also insults his pride by saying that India’s soil only produces cowards in halting Hindi (delivered with deliberation, to show that he’s making an effort to be slow, because Hindi is ‘foreign language’). And yes, the Sikh soldiers are also super tropes: a soldier who misses his child and keeps reading a letter with the child’s palm print, a soldier who is a teenager, a soldier who does not smile and is stern, a soldier who polishes shoes and puts them away because those shoes are for his dad, a soldier who was called away at his wedding and is teased because he’s a virgin. The Afghan Pathans are tropes too: they are cruel and savage hoards, they yell when they attack, and yes, among them is an obviously gay character (who just seems to have been added because…) who wears henna has painted fingernails, makes these weird ‘come hither’ eye movements and carries a blunderbuss, killing from a hiding place…


If that isn’t ridiculous, it is the moments during a raging battle that leave you saying, ‘Why are you wasting time?’


The final battle is brave, very brave. And it’s a true story of a battle at Saragarhi where 21 soldiers fought over 10,000 marauding Pashtun hoards. But in the film they bring the battle to a halt showing how the soldiers cared for each other: says one dying soldier, ‘My mother will be alone, now!’ another tries to make the stern soldier who’s dying, laugh for one last time. There are no more bullets left so the soldiers use the gun as a stick…


The emotional scenes are so stretched, you want to intervene and say, ‘Hey! Don’t forget the enemies are baying for your blood! Get on with the dying!’

And you don’t want to ask how the heck did Ishar Singh get time to change his khaki uniformed turban wear the saffron pagdi right before battle… You have stopped caring.


Akshay Kumar plays the hero Ishar Singh, and credit must be given to him for carrying the film single handed. He spouts all the patriotic lines rather convincingly and fights rather well. But it moves only the easily persuaded people who attach national pride to everything these days. One has seen many war films that move one to tears. This film is too agenda-driven, too jingoistic to touch any real chord.


(as one twitter person was quick to point out, that blogger color is saffron too, and i should change it because of the review. remember, they made people wear the star of david on their arm once… so am not about to prove my love for my country by doing anything for anyone…)

(sans the you tube link, the review appears on nowrunning dot com)      

Review: PHOTOGRAPH

Written by  on March 16, 2019
Softee Softee Catchee Arty Audience
(But it just doesn’t work)


2.5 stars


Mini Review:


A street photographer takes a picture of a quiet girl from a well-to-do family. On a whim he sends the photograph to his grandmother who shows up to meet the love of her grandson’s life. In spite of the huge gap in their economic status, she agrees to meet the grandma… You see every set up, for every emotional moment from a mile away. The film fails at many levels…


Main Review:

Fairy Tales Are Made Here…

The premise of a poor man meets princess is an ancient fairy tale. And we’ve already seen Highway where a poor little rich girl runs away from home and meets a poor man with a heart of gold…It’s just that both these films are so implausible you begin to realise fairy tales in real life have gory endings.


A street photographer Rafi (played brilliantly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) takes pictures of tourists at the Gateway of India. He takes a picture of a young girl Meloni (played by Sanya Malhotra, who was probably told to play the role without any expression), who walks off with the photograph, and forgets to pay him. Meloni belongs to a well-to-do Gujarati family and is studying to become a Chartered Accountant. In fact, she is a topper in the first year exams. She is quiet and participates in conversations at home only with a yes or no. Rafi spots a billboard with Meloni’s photograph among the exam toppers and tracks her down to the coaching institute. Explains that he sent his old granny Meloni’s photo on a whim (his granny has been pestering him to get married by telling all and sundry to find Rafi a bride), and that granny has decided to show up in Bombay wanting to meet the girl.


Poor People Are Interesting…

No one understands why Meloni agrees. And you watch as she suddenly begins to be fascinated by this strange new world. In other words, this is poverty porn. She is no different from the tourists who visit slums (now a featured attraction). There seems to be no motive for her to want to live in poverty, no matter how good a guy Rafi is. She has tea with him, eats a granita from a street vendor (and promptly falls sick), goes on taxi rides with Rafi, even goes to the cinema with him. And the arty crowd will gush because he wants to hold her hand but doesn’t, because boundaries…

It’s when she goes to his home when granny is not there, I wondered about her intelligence. Bombay is a safe enough place, but what if the stalker photographer (that’s how he finds her!) turns out to be a rapist? And it’s not about his looks, you just cannot compute her behaviour. Women learn self preservation from early on. This seems to be rather irresponsible…


The film gets really tedious because there’s nothing more to this fascination with poverty. Nawazuddin begins to preen and it’s cute up to a point because the class divide between them doesn’t really go away.

But it looks like there was no script to the film and everyone was just winging it. The dialogues get more and more stilted. Farrukh Jaffar as granny is delightful with her quick change of temper and stories she has, but when you hear her go on and on about ‘maa ka dil’ (a mother’s heart) you just want to say, ‘Shut up granny!’. The lack of a scriptwriter is acutely felt. Some scenes look like they needed to come with Spark Notes. For example: Meloni’s feet are shown in a close up at least five times. It reminds you of the embarrassed heroines of yesteryear, who would scratch the ground with their toes. But why are we seeing her feet so many times?

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vijay Raaz are kulfi, every body else is softee…


Jim Sarbh playing a pervert again is groan worthy. Sachin Khedekar and Geetanjali Kulkarni are not best utilised. But Vijay Raaz shows up as a ghost who walks the creaking floorboards in one scene and steals the show. Rafi’s poor friends all have hearts of gold, and the poverty becomes tedious to watch after a while, even though the biryani is lazeez! The movie pretends to be arty (has a whole lot of scenes that say ‘mera nuance dekho’ in neon) but the patchy story that goes round and round will not work with the multiplex audience. This film should have gone into a streaming service rather than into the theaters.       



(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)       

Review: BADLA

Written by  on March 8, 2019

To Reinvent The Wheel
Add Mahabharat, Turn Spanish To Indian.


2. 5 stars


Mini Review:

Naina Sethi is ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ but she’s implicated in a murder. Her lawyer has sent Badal Gupta who has never lost a case and he’s helping Naina prove her innocence. An official remake of the Spanish film ‘The Invisible Guest’ on Netflix, this film keeps you involved…

Main Review:

Why Reinvent The Wheel?

The Spanish original ‘The Invisible Guest’ is quite dark and threatening and quite a decent watch, but has a huge problem. It doesn’t explain why the suspect is out free and is able to consult lawyers. Let’s say he’s rich, so the cops have let him go. But after having arrested someone from the hotel room where there’s no one but a dead body, there seems to be no plausible explanation why the police let him go. Badla is an official remake, and does try to make up for this huge plot hole by having Tapsee Pannu who plays Naina Sethi wear an ankle bracelet. But then you begin wondering: why reinvent the wheel?

Lawyers Manipulate The Truth

Amitabh Bachchan plays Badal Gupta, a hotshot lawyer who is there to prepare Naina for her day in court. He asks her to tell all, creating and recreating scenarios that happened when the police found Naina over the dead body of Arjun inside a hotel room that was locked from the inside. Naina maintains her innocence, saying that Arjun, her lover, and she were being blackmailed by some unknown person and that’s why they were at the hotel. The person was hiding inside the closet and knocked her down and killed Arjun.

But the lawyer tells her that her story needs to convince the judge and this tale of an invisible killer just doesn’t compute. Over the next two hours, we go over different scenarios with events from Mahabharat used to keep it ‘Indian’. Before I mutter aloud on how we Indians will never really get away from the epic, I smile, because Tapsee Pannu says, ‘I haven’t read it, but I know the outline’…

As the story moves ahead, we are introduced to Rani Kaur who is searching for her missing son. Amrita Singh as Rani Kaur is simply brilliant.

If only they had stuck to the original, we would have heard Amrita Singh play the role of the lawyer questioning Naina about what really happened. Alas, it is Amitabh Bachchan who is a name the audience wants to see on the marquee…

All in all, the film is well adapted, but does feel like the plot is too convoluted, and it goes on and on, even though it lasts only for two hours.


(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: LUKA CHUPPI

Written by  on March 1, 2019
Everything About Small Towns You Did Not Wish To See


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


A young couple decide to try and ‘live in’ and get caught. The family believes the fake evidence of marriage they have planted for neighbours and bring the two back home. Their unconditional acceptance makes the two feel guilty, and they make several attempts to get married for real. The set up is totally unfunny, but the attempts to get married does bring laughter, if only you can stay awake.


Main Review:


Chote Sheher = Quirky People
(The most asinine assumption ever!)

When you try and tell a ‘small town’ tale, you must understand that your assumptions can backfire if the audience does find it funny. And this film fails in the first half completely. The young man and woman, Kartik Aryan (fresh off the success of Sonu Ke Teetu Ki Sweety) and Kriti Sanon (pretty as always) have no more chemistry than a wooden bench in the park has with the trees. And the first ‘daring’ assumption made by the young woman: ‘I want to try a ‘live in’ relationship because it sounds so cool and better than getting my heart broken like I did with a previous boyfriend’ is just plain stupid because she does not realise that a ‘live-in’ relationship breaking up could be just as painful. And the second assumption that young men and women can get physical only if they are in a live in relationship or on their honeymoon is so ridiculous, you are stumped.


But in order to make it ‘funny’, the writers add a political gimmick. The young woman’s dad runs a political party whose sole aim is to separate young couples in parks and other public spaces because ‘it is against our culture’. So Kartik, he’s called ‘Guddu’ and Kriti’s ‘Rashmi’ escape to Gwalior to try out a ‘Live-in’. While the two are happy in their love nest, we see more weird characters show up. Oh yes, the two lovebirds and their friend Abbas (Aparshakti Khurana) are perhaps the only normal people you have seen so far. Guddu’s family consists of totally oddball parents, brothers (one married, the other desperate), two hanger ons (both brothers of the sister in law). Kriti’s family has a mean politician dad (Vinay Pathak) and a loud goon like brother, and a mum whose face we do not see…Of course they get the super talented Pankaj Tripathi to play one of the hanger ons, wear really ghastly clothing, and make him spy on Guddu, and run after every woman… If this has not made you cringe, then Guddu and Rashmi’s neighbours will make you puke in your popcorn. And please small towns are not populated with oddballs.

Assumption: Women make ridiculous demands.
Men will get beaten up for trying to meet the demands.


The funny part is the last half hour of the film. The two are accepted and brought back home. They feel guilty, and now Rashmi insists that she wants to be married properly, so she feels like a ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law) of the family. Before you facepalm, the two have tried and get Guddu gets beaten up for this. Each time Rashmi escapes because her face is covered (as is the tradition). But for such laughs, are you going to give up reasoning?

Guddu staring into nothing (but looks like he’s ogling at the derriere of the maid sweeping) and his dad and brother assuming he is sex starved (now he’s married so he must be hankering after variety) is the worst kind of joke to make in 2019. It’s plain embarrasing to hear a bidaai song when Guddu is about to step out of the home to go live-in with Rashmi in another town. Who thought it was funny? And the set up to parents discovering their lie is the song, ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya’? I mean, seriously? The film is so bad, you notice Kartik Aryan carefully throws the water (in the bath scene) over his shoulder as as to not mess with his carefully made up hair… And just so stupid peple in the audience understand that Pankaj Tripathi is in a comic role, he is given wildly colorful clothes to wear and he pulls so many faces, it’s a shame to see his talent used that way. I hope he got to keep those shiny shoes.

You do chuckle because each attempt to get married is stupider than the first. But you come away having lost two hours of your life…


(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: LUKA CHUPPI

Written by  on March 1, 2019
Everything About Small Towns You Did Not Wish To See


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


A young couple decide to try and ‘live in’ and get caught. The family believes the fake evidence of marriage they have planted for neighbours and bring the two back home. Their unconditional acceptance makes the two feel guilty, and they make several attempts to get married for real. The set up is totally unfunny, but the attempts to get married does bring laughter, if only you can stay awake.


Main Review:


Chote Sheher = Quirky People
(The most asinine assumption ever!)

When you try and tell a ‘small town’ tale, you must understand that your assumptions can backfire if the audience does find it funny. And this film fails in the first half completely. The young man and woman, Kartik Aryan (fresh off the success of Sonu Ke Teetu Ki Sweety) and Kriti Sanon (pretty as always) have no more chemistry than a wooden bench in the park has with the trees. And the first ‘daring’ assumption made by the young woman: ‘I want to try a ‘live in’ relationship because it sounds so cool and better than getting my heart broken like I did with a previous boyfriend’ is just plain stupid because she does not realise that a ‘live-in’ relationship breaking up could be just as painful. And the second assumption that young men and women can get physical only if they are in a live in relationship or on their honeymoon is so ridiculous, you are stumped.


But in order to make it ‘funny’, the writers add a political gimmick. The young woman’s dad runs a political party whose sole aim is to separate young couples in parks and other public spaces because ‘it is against our culture’. So Kartik, he’s called ‘Guddu’ and Kriti’s ‘Rashmi’ escape to Gwalior to try out a ‘Live-in’. While the two are happy in their love nest, we see more weird characters show up. Oh yes, the two lovebirds and their friend Abbas (Aparshakti Khurana) are perhaps the only normal people you have seen so far. Guddu’s family consists of totally oddball parents, brothers (one married, the other desperate), two hanger ons (both brothers of the sister in law). Kriti’s family has a mean politician dad (Vinay Pathak) and a loud goon like brother, and a mum whose face we do not see…Of course they get the super talented Pankaj Tripathi to play one of the hanger ons, wear really ghastly clothing, and make him spy on Guddu, and run after every woman… If this has not made you cringe, then Guddu and Rashmi’s neighbours will make you puke in your popcorn. And please small towns are not populated with oddballs.

Assumption: Women make ridiculous demands.
Men will get beaten up for trying to meet the demands.


The funny part is the last half hour of the film. The two are accepted and brought back home. They feel guilty, and now Rashmi insists that she wants to be married properly, so she feels like a ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law) of the family. Before you facepalm, the two have tried and get Guddu gets beaten up for this. Each time Rashmi escapes because her face is covered (as is the tradition). But for such laughs, are you going to give up reasoning?

Guddu staring into nothing (but looks like he’s ogling at the derriere of the maid sweeping) and his dad and brother assuming he is sex starved (now he’s married so he must be hankering after variety) is the worst kind of joke to make in 2019. It’s plain embarrasing to hear a bidaai song when Guddu is about to step out of the home to go live-in with Rashmi in another town. Who thought it was funny? And the set up to parents discovering their lie is the song, ‘Pyar kiya toh darna kya’? I mean, seriously? The film is so bad, you notice Kartik Aryan carefully throws the water (in the bath scene) over his shoulder as as to not mess with his carefully made up hair… And just so stupid peple in the audience understand that Pankaj Tripathi is in a comic role, he is given wildly colorful clothes to wear and he pulls so many faces, it’s a shame to see his talent used that way. I hope he got to keep those shiny shoes.

You do chuckle because each attempt to get married is stupider than the first. But you come away having lost two hours of your life…


(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: TOTAL DHAMAAL

Written by  on February 22, 2019

Senior Citizen Edition


2 stars


Mini Review:


A dying man gives a clue to this money mad bunch of people, mostly senior citizens. That begins the mindless comic race to Janakpur zoo where the stolen money has been kept. Each duo is worse than the other and even though the slapstick comedy does make you laugh in bits, but mostly you can see the joke coming at your from a mile away. Because the cast are stars from yesteryears, it just takes them so long to understand the joke. Kids might find the scenes with CGI zoo animals good fun, I just wanted to kill myself.


Main Review:

I’m Not An Ageist, But…


If you’d rather stay at home and binge watch National Geographic specials where animal win and foolish men die, that would be eminently more satisfying than watching this film. All the stars are just of the wrong age to play the fool. If the cast was seven, maybe even stupid and seventeen years old, the capers would be fun to watch. But when you see fifty five year olds in dungarees licking lollipops, you don’t know whether to look away or to throw up in your popcorn. Javed Jaffrey plays the simple Manav well, but it’s awful to see him do stupid things as though he were in a kiddie cartoon. But if you expect a kiddie cartoon instead of a film, then you might find a way to smile when Aadi tells his brother Manav (together they are Aadi Manav or Primitive Man, groan!) to not save him, and then gets into quicksand, and Manav of course finds a snake to throw at Aadi when there’s a clothesline (in the middle of nowhere) he could have used.


‘But there are clothes hanging on it!’ is simple logic, and you do laugh, but you have to put up with Arshad Warsi who plays Aadi, and you do kick yourself several times.

You can insert ads for joint aches and pains and stomach troubles because the oldies try really hard to be fun. Hollywood tried old men in hot tubs and the result was ghastly to watch…


God Help Us! Johnny Lever Cannot

Ritesh Deshmukh is paired with Pitobash and the only funny thing happens is when God intervenes and saves them. Don’t ask. Even Johnny Lever cannot save the film with a sketch with the helicopter made from an auto-rickshaw.


Boman Irani is the cop chasing these low lifes with a partner Vijay Patkar who has just that one physical comedy thing called the funny eye. The sequence with the train coming at them all in the tunnel could have been funnier had it been not so stretched. Now that’s an idea! They should have edited out each sketch a little more to make the physical comedy bearable.

This film is nothing but a bunch of really poor comedy skits kids do in school. But people were laughing in the theater, imagining their uncles and aunties slipping on banana peals…


Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit save the silly film with their husband and wife getting divorced act but even their struggle to reach the highway with the help of the stereotype ‘Madrasi’ (played by Ali) is annoying. Some husband vs wife dialog is funny, but so politically incorrect you cringe.


And you cringe when Sanjay Mishra who is paired with Ajay Devgn behave like teens. Neither of the two can do physical comedy well and you want to tell Ajay Devgn that he needs to go back doing the angry policeman roles again. Even the freshness of Jackie Shroff being the voice of GPS loses its shine because it goes on and on and on.


Since the action takes place in a zoo, there are scenes with animals who are so badly created you wish you didn’t have to watch. Crystal the monkey gets credit. But I guess, everyone else is so bad, why not, eh?


Mahesh Manjrekar shows up too, sometimes sounding like a South Indian baddie, and other times like how the British extras in Bollywood movies speak Hindi. Was happy to see the fake gorilla beat the man with the fake accent up.

Sonakshi Sinha’s Item Number Earns A Star For the Film!

The movie ends with everyone getting a bit of the money. And advice to zookeeper Esha Gupta from Sanjay Mishra with all the puns earns a star on its own: Itne saare jaanvaro ki dekhbhaal kartee ho, is jaanvar ko bhi apna lo. Yeh jaanvar hai, tumhari jaan ban-na chaahta hai, tum ise apna var maan lo!

And yes, I actually loved watching Sonakshi Sinha showing up only to dance (what a svelte figure she cuts now!) to a song that has been remixed like a thousand times…   



(A non-ageist version of the review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: Gully Boy

Written by  on February 14, 2019

Faadu Saala

3.5 stars


Murad ki muraadein hai hadd se bhi zyaade, 
Akkha akaash chhoone ke hain uske iraade,
Baap uska sakht hai, girl uski mast hai,
Circumstances fucked uske
Story zabardast hai.

Galli se nikalneka hai, kuch toh bhi banne ka hai
Eight Mile se compare nakko,
Story toh akkha mumbai ka hai!

Ranveer Singh ki energy role ko poora fit hoti,
Tareef karoon toh kitnee, har picture uski hit hoti,
Aalia ki soorat angel ki, zubaan devil ke khala ki
Vijay Raaz gar baap ho tera, suicide note likh le pakki
Sher jaisa bhai mile toh sapne poore honge nakki
Sky frame mein aati jab toh film mein tadka lagta hai,
Surmein wali aankhon ka sapna, sach jo hota dikhta hai

Underdog toh phir bhi gully ka saala kutta hai
Jab thoda story sag hoti, chai peene ko dil karta hai

Luck By Chance film toh dhaansu thi,
Dil Dhadakne Do (rich logon ki) baasi biryani thee,
Lekin abki baar, zoya akhtaar dilayegi bukhaar
Saala rap wali story ka.

Gully ki life ko camera capture karta hai,
Attitude alag hai baap poverty porn nahi lagta hai,
Ek inch bhi breathing room film deti nahi hai,
Quiet moments ki cheekh dil ko cheer deti hai,

Murad ki wounded aankhein were sex on toast,
Toast par lyrics ka makkhan, famous from coast to coast,
Safeena ke reactions were bhai, a slap on me face,
Her love for Murad, bole toh vicious grace,
Kalki as Sky madam banati alag sa mood kya,
Vijay Verma bana Moin uska acting very good kya,

Maaf karna baap huye hum film se inspire,
Likh dee humne bhi aake Review Rap on fire!
Bakwas si, simple si, bole toh tukbandi hai,
Tukbandi kya hai excuse hai, pageviews badhane ki,
Book karo tickets, ab kis baat ki deri hai?


(a saner version of the review in prose in on nowrunning dot com) 

Review: AMAVAS

Written by  on February 9, 2019

So Bad, It’s Fun


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


Rich man Karan takes his girl Ahana to a castle he calls summer home so he can propose to her. But the castle is haunted by the ghost of his girlfriend past. Ahana realises that he could have killed his girlfriend and that she too could be in danger. Many horror tropes later, you realise that it’s the slow pace of the film that’s the real killer.


Main Review:


You have to admire Sachiin Joshi. He has enough self esteem to romance not one but two women taller than him. He plays Karan the rich lad who takes Ahana to a castle that is their family summer home to propose to her. Ahana is played by Nargis Fakhri who has for some reason, decided to play the role as if she’s asthmatic and breathless all the time.


Of course the castle is haunted by a ghost! The caretaker cum manservant called Gotti (Ali Asghar with fake protruding teeth that have nothing to contribute to the horrors of the movie) makes sure the saheb and memsaheb are fed. He is supposed to be comic because of the lame jokes he makes, but like Sachiin Joshi, the audience also groans every time he mouths his stupid dialog. When he says that the house is haunted by a ‘lady bhoot, who sings’ you too react just like Nargis Fakhri who says, ‘I don’t believe in God, so I don’t believe in ghosts.’


And when Karan falls down the stairs (the ghost pushed him down) Ahana screams, ‘Oh god! Are you all right?’


You do want to say, ‘He just fell down the stairs, and is lying there practically inert. You ask him if he’s all right?’


The ‘lady bhoot’ haunts both Karan and Ahana alternatively when they are asleep. By the way, it seems to be always night at the castle. And as it is in horror movies, not one person actually switches on the lights to see who is there in the corridor.


You know nothing is going to happen until they have bored you to death with sudden loud noises and doors opening with creaks and groans, and transparent curtains blowing in the wind… You are about to give up when the movie wakes up and there is possession of body by dead rejected lover who has been making out with Ahana, has killed Karan’s first love (played rather sweetly by Navneet Kaur Dhillon). The dead rejected lover is Samir (Vivan Bathena who seems to like playing these pointless friend turned rapist roles) has been buried in the grounds of the castle…


The last twenty minutes of the film make you whoop with delight because it’s like a mish mash of all things horror. There’s Wolverine/Hulk style clothes tearing off, eyes turn white and evil and blood vessels explode on his face when Karan shows his possessed self, possessed Karan walks on walls and hangs like a bat, he even levitates, the possessed Karan is blinded by an ‘Om’ (Hindu religious symbol) tattoo, then possessed Karan bites the tattoo off the arm of a living girl who then gets killed, possessed Karan decapitates the servant, is terrified of a sheet printed with holy symbols, and is finally defeated when temple bells ring on their own (God intervenes, don’t ask!)… But is the evil spirit of the rapist friend really gone when Karan jumps into the fire and we see him burn up like the Terminator? The camera pans to a sobbing and shivering Ahana being saved by the cops. On her arm is the threat of a sequel! The evil spirit claw marks…


I came away smiling at all the terrible tropes I had witnessed, only to realise that two hours and fourteen minutes of my life were never coming back…  

(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: FAKIR OF VENICE

Written by  on February 9, 2019

Great On Paper, Fuckall As Film


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


Adi Contractor, a man who can procure anything is given a task to find a fakir who can bury himself in the sand head first and bring him to Venice, Italy as art installation. He persuades Sattar to play the part. What could have been a fabulous satire on the world of art ends up being tedious because it is directed badly, except for a masterclass in acting by Annu Kapoor.


Main Review:


Annu Kapoor is an effortless actor. He simply chews up the scenery – be it Venice or Bombay, and he decimates his co star Farhan Akhtar without even trying. That said, he plays the title role of the fakir (holy man) in the film. And he’s brilliant. The one star that the film earns goes to his talent.


Farhan Akhtar plays Adi Contractor (not at all as Parsi in his mannerisms as his name indicates except for one word ‘Gadheda’ meaning donkey) the procurer of all things for production houses, who is given the task to find a fakir who can do a headstand with his head buried in the sand. He is given money to travel to Benaras to find one such holy man.


You know they mean his search in Benaras is meant to be funny, but the way it it shown, it just isn’t. Perhaps it is funny on the page. Perhaps a better director could have visualised the search for the fakir differently (the naked fakir who can lift weights with his genitalia could have been funny had the tout not mentioned it before).


So Adi finds Sattar through a tout, and watches Hameeda (Sattar’s sister) bury him in the sand except for hands joined in a namaste. Adi takes pictures and sweet talks the artist in Italy into accepting Sattar as a holy man who buries himself. Sattar explains that his sister and he have been earning money in that manner ever since they were kids, and that breathing through wet sand on the beach is not difficult. Sattar is poor and twenty five thousand rupees seems like a great idea, and Adi does offer him alcohol as well, which he seems to love.


It was a bit weird to see a Muslim man shown to be so used to drinking, because Islam does not allow the consumption of alcohol. However. Sattar is simply amazing as he subjects himself to the makeover into a holy man with a beard with stoic resignation. You wonder why he agrees to this bizarre demand that he spend seven days buried in the sand as art installation.


What ruins the film is the assumption that poor people don’t understand what it means to travel abroad and when Sattar says, ‘There are too many foreigners in foreign country’, you are meant to laugh. There are so many domestic workers traveling abroad these days, that it rather insulting rather than an innocent observation. This movie feels so dated on so many levels, you wish they had directly released it on a streaming service. (The film is rumoured to have been made in 2006/9, and is finally getting a release now)


But you suffer through the goings on in Italy, which are as ridiculous and as predictable as they can get. You see ‘Yoga’ hippies, foreigners incredulous to this holy man act, cheesy drag queens, reporters who think Sattar is being exploited, a sleazy TV producer, a party and a foreigner falling in love with a poor Indian man… It just gets tedious to see Adi being rough on the poor man, and Sattar being stubborn and drunk and not letting on. The digression into death (and the meaning of) could have been stronger. The sudden change of Adi’s rough character into someone making up for his bad behavior, is questionable. And with every scene you want to say, ‘How stupid is that?’ Prime example: Sattar is bleeding all over his white tee shirt from a cut, is drunk like a skunk, and coughing blood, and the super concerned Italian reporter asks him, ‘How are you feeling?’ and offers him more wine after dressing his wound. What?


The film makes you want to run out of the theater like Sattar, screaming, ‘I want alcohol! I want alcohol!’   



(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)


 

Review: EK LADKI KO DEKHA TOH AISA LAGA

Written by  on February 1, 2019

Could Have Been Mind Shattering, 

But Happy To Watch Mind Questioning…


2.5 Stars


Mini Review:


A pretty girl is in trouble when she bumps into a young man who rescues her. Or does he? As in all love stories, he chases her down to a small town in Punjab. Will her secret destroy her family, or will she be accepted for who she is? Charming but superficial film about gender identity.


Main Review:


Oh No! Another Bollywood Wedding Film!

The movie starts with a wedding and you hope and pray that the whole movie is not going to be just another wedding themed story from Bollywood. There is a song and dance and haldi and mehendi and reception, and you see shiny happy people. But when you see Balbir Chowdhary
(a magnificent Anil Kapoor) going about the wedding interested in the food, and you see him dance, your eyes glaze over and you remember everything from Ram Lakhan to 1942 – A Love Story…


One Of The Best Meet Cutes In Bollywood

We then get to know Rajkummar Rao who plays Sahil Mirza, a playwright who wants to make a mark on his own instead of depending on his rich parents, rehearsing in the theatre and the effervescent Juhi Chawla who plays Chhatro who is their ‘caterer’ but who aspires to be an actor.


Yes, we have noticed the beautiful Sonam Kapoor at the wedding who reluctantly participates in the wedding events, and now she makes her way to the empty theater, obviously running away from something or someone. The meet cute between Sahil and Sweetie (she’s Punjabi, and they have names like that!) is so well written, it deserves a star on it own. You will find yourself getting engaged in their instant chemistry and both Rajkummar Rao and Sonam Kapoor deserve kudos here. We panic with her and him as they both make a run for the train with an angry young lad chasing her.


But at home she looks like a completely different person, defeated and quiet. And this is where you begin to wonder what happened to the girl who spoke with a stranger and dragged him to the metro… She’s hiding a secret which her brother has guessed and he is terrorising her to mend her ways because he won’t have it. Also because society won’t have it.


Sahil, on the other hand, is stuck on the girl he tried to rescue from her brother. Her brother? Sweetie’s angry brother Babloo is played by this wonderful actor Abhishek Duhan (you saw him last in Pataakha and Sultan). He alarms you when he’s chasing his sister in Delhi, and he is the voice of unreason. The voice of ‘society’, the antagonist in the story.


Sahil lands in the small town of Moga in Punjab, in search of the girl he tried to rescue. Of course the misunderstanding becomes deeper when Sweetie’s family think she is in love with a Muslim lad. Predictably, her phone is destroyed by her brother, and she is imprisoned at home. Thanks to the happy ensemble cast of Brijendra Kala (man servant) and Seema Pahwa (kitchen help) and Sweetie’s granny called Giftie (played by Madhumati Kapoor), Sahil meets Sweetie and yes! There is a fabulous romance between Sweetie’s father and Chhatro (Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla). That deserves a star on its own.


A very drunk Sahil confesses his love to Sweetie and a very exasperated Sweetie confesses that she is in love with another, who happens to be a girl.

Why Does A Damsel In Distress Need A Man To Rescue Her?

It is here that you decide it’s okay for a man to rescue a girl or not. The story alas is predictable and Rajkummar Rao takes it upon himself to rescue her and out her gracefully not only to the family but the whole town. Now it’s a tough world out there as India has just begun to accept Homosexuality legally. There are still many in the LGBTQ+ communities who don’t come out to their families let alone to the whole village, so the plan in the film seems to be horrific.

And it irked me that grandma keeps telling Anil Kapoor that his interest in cooking was ‘jananiyonwala kaam’. It’s Punjab! The men have been cooking kukkads for generations there. We have seen men as well as women cook and serve food in the Gurudwaras. And this belief that men who have the propensity to cook aren’t manly is Bollywood, not Punjab.


But this is Bollywood, and nothing will go wrong as long as we deal with the subject with loads of sweet smiles and hugs from beautiful, rich people. Trouble with the story is that this ‘outing’ should have been private and personal, and they choose to make it a spectacle. Anil Kapoor confronts this outing in a great cinematic ‘acceptance’ montage. And young actors could learn from him. He’s brilliant. And you have tears in the eyes as he realises how unfair and blindsided he has been to his daughter’s anguish and loneliness. I wish there had been a mother who could have added another layer and a side to her childhood. Would a mother have guessed her daughter’s sexuality, and would her reaction been different?

The visual of Sonam Kapoor in a glass box, asking to be let out is a very strong image to take home. The half star is earned for this visual. The film is by no means a great friend to the LGBTQ community. But it is a step in understanding the lifestyle differences we are just beginning to acknowledge in the society in India. As they say, ‘Baby Steps.’

This film, could have been, as Juhi Chawla deliciously says,’Mind shattering!’ but we should be happy the subject is now mainstream and is at least being discussed. We will get it right soon!


(the review appears on nowrunning dot com)