Review: GAME OVER

Written by  on June 14, 2019
This Game Is Very Lame


1 star


Mini Review:


Taapsee Pannu likes video games so much she has a tattoo of the console. She is supposed to be a video game designer or a player, afraid of the dark, plus has suicidal tendencies. Her home is invaded by a serial killer. With both her legs fractured, can she face him or is it ‘game over’? Yay! Title justified. Unfortunately, the premise is so lame you know Home Alone was more interesting, the asthmatic killer is not scary at all and the film falls flat on its face.


Main Review:

Yeh Karti Kya Hai? The Flawed Character Set Up…

The opening credits are really cool. But that does not a film make. You begin to giggle when they try to set up Taapsee Pannu as a designer of game characters, or is she a game developer? Or just a video game nut? But with such cool video games available on Xbox today, it does not explain why she’s playing Pac Man that is dated! (The Pac Man championship game on the Xbox is rather awesome with choices in setting – like Manhattan, Spiral, Train station and so on – and the ghosts are cool too!)

If she’s a designer, for games, why is she drawing Super Mario type characters on a sketchbook? Game designers use graphic tablets… and don’t bother to look at her computer screen at all…

Of course I’d choose games like Recon, Doom Eternal or even Rage, which have really cool graphics and could work as inspiration for dealing with a home invader. But no! She plays Pac Man. Okay, why not use that fact and dress the home invader as Ghost or mention the word ‘ghost’ on TV where the news is announced. But that would require too much thought. This movie has that one line pitch feel…

Okay so she like Pac Man, and plays it all night because she cannot sleep. She says it too. But she does wake up on the sofa every single time from her nightmares. She has a maid looking after her.


Melodrama Central. The Killer Should Kill The Maid!

Kalamma the maid is played by Vinodhini. It looks like concern, but she’s rather intrusive (‘Your parents called, you should call them!) and even shows up sitting with her at the shrink’s. Before you ask why is the maid sitting at the session, you sigh because they show why she’s terrified of the darkness. Again. Looks like the director likes this women tied up trope. Because in the beginning of the film, a young woman was tied up (with plastic ties and plastic bag over her face) killed horribly. We were also told of several young women being beheaded and burnt etc. That part of the film looks inspired from a bad Korean serial killer film. We only have Netflix to blame for such a scene. It’s too lame to be scary.


But Kalamma offers unintended hilarity when the serial killer shows up at the heroine’s home. Oh yes, by this time Taapsee is on a wheelchair, her legs are broken. Kalamma gets a chance to be all melodramatic and googly eyed with horror and fear.

Zabardasti Ka Bhoot Trope

Remember, Taapsee got herself a tattoo? They have a creepy explanation about ashes of a cancer victim’s ashes that is meant to add a bhoot element. But the mom of the victim is creepier and it would have been more fun if she stalks Taapsee… But this ashes of cancer victim in tattoo ink only ends up logical questions: how is the tattoo studio still working if they mixed up ink meant for someone else on her? How come the tattoo person realises the mistake and does not follow up apart from, ‘I tried to call you…’


Is the ghost of the cancer woman haunting Taapsee? Apart from giving Taapsee a rash the ghost does little. The poster ‘I did not die alone’ suggests that the serial killer should be an angry cancer sufferer or a cancer wala zombie… But no. They’re disconnected. You swallow these silly things and then after intermission (completely unnecessary, since the film loses steam) the story picks up when an intruder shows up at her home. The ghost is gone now, but a greeting card (seriously? A greeting card for a cancer patient?!) serves as inspiration for Taapsee.

The Film Is Like Browsing Netflix Serial Killer Films And Picking Plot Points In A Hurry

No one knows why the door kept slamming with no visible aandhi toofaan elsewhere…No one knows why or how the killer chooses his victims, or where on the Net does he post the kill videos. Is the killer her rapist? He liked videotaping too… Here you realise you don’t care. Home Alone was more fun and this is not the scary version of that film. It’s not even interesting enough to be Groundhog Day. It just takes one decent metaphor about lives from video games and uses it. But Detective Pikachu was more fun and so was Pixels which showed us an evil Pac Man.


The dubbing in Hindi is plain awful. Taapsee’s smile after she gets the tattoo is beautiful, but she’s mostly meant to be incoherent in the film. Why should we care if she dies? The girl dying of plastic bag asphyxiation is shot really well, but it goes nowhere, so you just know they’re trying too hard. And the serial killer tries to breathe like Darth Vader – to scare us – but ends up sounding asthmatic. The film is 142 minutes long. Just feels longer.  

(A politically correct version of this review appears on nowrunning dot com)    

Review: BHARAT

Written by  on June 5, 2019
Too Swacch This Bharat Is.
Bring Back Dabanng.


2 stars


Mini Review:


Bharat is a good guy, and though he promises that his life has been more colorful than the salt in his beard, the film does not live up to that promise. In fact it is so boring, you wonder if ‘bhai’ has forgotten his fans come to watch ‘action’ not wimpy comedy. We live through his many jobs and his devotion to dad. It’s two and a half hours of being average. Fans want more.


Main Review:


It’s Eid, and therefore Salman Khan fans are out in full force to watch Bharat. There are hoots and whistles when that familiar walk on the silhouette shows up on screen, but there’s no thunder and lightning, there are no villains flying in the air, there is no ripping off shirts. It’s Salman Khan as Bharat, celebrating his 70th birthday.


He begins to tell his story to grandkids about how during partition, his mother, brother and sister and him climbed up on the train and the gorgeous father climbs down because little ‘Gudiya’ slipped back on to the platform. The father is Jackie Shroff, the Station Master who manages to give little Bharat his watch and extracts a promise, you will keep the family together and wait for dad to get to the Ration store in Delhi…


Sonali Kulkarni plays the mom who cuts a tragic figure that stitches something on the sewing machine to help make ends meet. Kabir Sajid is the little boy who plays Bharat, and alas, makes sure he’s ‘acting’ (wide-eyes, fear, happiness… His emotions are studied, but who cares, it’s Bhai’s movie!). In the aftermath of the Partition, Bharat meets Vilayati (a Muslim lad who gives us a lesson in National Integration the moment we meet him: We haven’t gone to Pakistan because this is our country and will always be so on…). Bharat and Vilayati become friends for life. Vilayati grows up to be Sunil Grover. He’s the one decent role in the entire film. He’s Bharat’s one man support system and a partner in everything good.


Yes, everything Salman does is good. After all, he’s Bharat. He even sings the National Anthem in the film (makes his fans wake up and stand in a flurry of popcorn!). This kind of forced patriotism in the film makes you want to weep.


Bharat grows up to be Evel Knievel in the Great Russian Circus. But he’s so good, he gives that awesome job because ‘many kids will want to emulate this dangerous stunt’ and chooses to wait to be employed. He’s so good, he dances with pirates on a merchant ship (no leaf chewing wicked Somali pirates here a la Captain Phillips, but pirates who dance to Bachchan songs!). He’s so good, he saves all the miners trapped in the mines a la The 33. He’s so good, he won’t marry Katrina Kaif because he cannot divide his love for the family with her… Whilst you gag at this ‘good’ guy thing, you’re hoping for some ear-splitting action a la Dabanng.


The audience sighs through tamer and tamer songs, and you see people checking their messages on the phone until the fifteen minutes to the end, when four motorbike riding goons attack Bharat with tube-lights. A roar goes up in the audience but the four go down easily. And so does the excitement.


The film has a couple of funny moments, but the ordinariness of his life needed more than Sunil Grover dressed up as Bharat Maa or his sister fall for Jawaharlal Nehru…


Katrina Kaif too has many jobs – from employment officer to supervisor in an oil field to news reader (a la Salma Sultan) and Creative Director of a TV channel to hausfrau who is really in a ‘live in’ relationship with Bharat –  and you are happy she is made to dance to some strange not so hummable Hand-pump song. Her dialog delivery remains as strange as ever. Why make her say words like, ‘namankan patra’ (candidate registration papers for election)?
  
Bharat grows older visibly, but his screen mom and other characters don’t. They just wear glasses. We follow Bharat’s life through India’s partition up until 2010. And you as audience watch every year go by excruciatingly slowly.


(this review appears on nowrunning.com )

Review: STUDENT OF THE YEAR 2

Written by  on May 11, 2019
Template Of The Year


1 star


Mini Review:


A wafer thin, predictable champions versus the underdogs plot, with actors that look like they’re posing for 146 minutes except for five awesome minutes. How and why the filmmakers imagine that Tiger Shroff’s almost 30 year old abs can pass off as 18 is a mystery. And Kabaddi is just weird to watch for that long…


Main Review:


How on earth do you get a readymade template wrong?

Whoever woke up from the stupor that this movie really is, and wrote the dialog for Ananya Pandey (delivered rather well, all things considering) deserves a pat on the back. So this is the scene: Ananya Pandey (as Shreya) in the new girlfriend avatar looks at love letter in Rohan’s (Tiger Shroff) hand (he’s reading it) and the previous girlfriend Mia (Tara Sutaria, rather insipid debut) who’s apologising via that handwritten three page missive sits right there rather contrite. The grown up audience has facepalmed several times by now is just numb at the goings on, and the kids in the theatre (yes, four and five year olds) are restless because Tiger Shroff has been underdog so far… Just then Ananya looks at the long letter and says, ‘Couldn’t you have just Whatsapped him an apology?’


That’s when I almost clapped! It gave me hope… I was breathing again. So far the old as hills romance plot (think Kati Patang even) with heroine running after – misguidedly of course – a sharpish guy who turns out to be a jerk was so boring and obvious (Mridula calls herself ‘Mia’ now), I had given up on the film. I am one of the few who just don’t like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, because of Aamir Khan’s perennial smirk, but even that story had depth. This film just stays in the shallows story wise and bores you to bits otherwise,


Tiger Shroff does his acrobatic muscleman thing, but Kabaddi? He did better as a man saving his ex’s kidnapped child in his last film…

Comparisons Are Expected…


Not that the original film was Mother India, but even then it is leaps ahead of this ‘ligament tear’ of a film. (matlab, painful!). Trouble is, the original Student Of The Year had so many more fun, heartwarming moments, that this film was just blah when compared. Even the actors don’t look special the way Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sidharth Malhotra did. Neither Aditya Seal, Tara Sutaria nor Abhishek Bajaj have that something extra zing that made Varun Dhawan and Alia such stars. The original story had more meat that this ‘everyone knows the story, so just let’s have them compete’ shadow of the original film. Comparisons are natural and even though Manoj Pahwa tries his best to be a ‘good’ grown up actor, you wish the youngsters had the same energy as the youngsters in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (also a college story in the first half).


They do try and do a Mrs.Braganza moment in this film by having Tiger Shroff flex his muscles to seduce the gym teacher, but it’s like a joke youngsters or anyone else who binges on Netflix shows can see a mile away: gym teachers will turn out to be lesbians. Such a shame they are still passing off this as a ‘fun’ or ‘joke’ moment. Why Karan Johar, why?


There’s kabaddi in store for much of the movie. Yes, yes, Aditya Seal who plays Manav (his hair art directed by someone with an Elvis hangover) tries to be the guy who has everything but is really a jerk with a passion that is not needed. And it doesn’t help if he is always accompanied by his Kabaddi team (lads who have the same barber and picked off from some ghastly gym). This may not be Punit Malhotra’s first film, but Manav giving Mia an obvious look of conspiracy died with the tele serial Mahabharat… The worst part is, you get to see that ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ scene in flashback again!


The songs that made the original film are all gone here. There are punjabi disco songs in this film that sound so generic, you yearn for the pink tree and ‘Ishq wala love’ from the original.


(this review sans subheads appears on www.nowrunning.com )   

Review: KALANK

Written by  on April 17, 2019

Yeh Daag Accha Nahi Hai


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


A love story set in pre-independence with Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan should have been a hit, but it’s such a mish mash of everything from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge to Casablanca to Lawaris to Bahubali to Camelot and everything in between and presented to you in a language that is so pretentious that it exhausts your patience.


Review:


I’m a sucker for romance and the songs of this film stick in your head. It’s a good thing, because nothing else makes you feel good. Varun Dhawan (with lots of Kohl in his eyes a la Shah Rukh Khan in Raees) and Alia Bhatt (dressed for a sequel to Raazi, but is in the film a martyr in mohabbat) romancing should have been a feel good, dripped in honey romance. But their love is wrong on all kinds of levels. Including one that gives you a headache.

So Complicated, The Story Out-tropes The Tropes!


Varun Dhawan is Zafar, an illegitimate son to the patriarch of a rich family (Sanjay Dutt in a perennially unhappy look, but still has a great voice) and a courtesan named Bahar Begum (played by the still gorgeous Madhuri Dixit). Laawaris anyone? Alia Bhatt plays Roop, belongs to a poor family who is made to marry Dev Chowdhry (Aditya Roy Kapoor who looks like he doesn’t know if he’s playing Devdas or Paro’s husband Bhuvan Chowdhry from Devdas) so that her family is taken care of by the husband’s rich family. Dev Chowdhry has to marry Roop because the wife he loves so much is dying of cancer. Sonakshi Sinha plays that wife. She gets relief from this complicated story early on.


But the complications aren’t over yet. Freshly married Roop insists she go to Hira Mandi (the wrong side of their town) to learn music from Bahar Begum. Her husband is devoted to the dying wife and hasn’t even seen what Roop looks like. Considering how far they show Hira Mandi is from the villa where the Chowdhry family lives, the acoustics must be brilliant for Bahar Begum’s voice to carry that far, with words being clear and all… In a Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram Leela style meet cute, Roop meets Zafar with people dancing out a Dussehra story.


Like any Bollywood romance, Zafar is a bad boy who falls in love with a virgin. She has spunk too, and it’s all very ‘do you not have boundaries’, ‘I don’t touch women without consent and I pay them’ type dialog in Urdu, if you please, with several ‘aap’s and ‘ishq’ thrown in to make the whole thing look romantic. It isn’t, because Zafar has a brother Abdul (Kunal Khemu in a wonderful villainous role) who heads a Muslim political party and wants to separate from India…


Oh yes, this is a pre-independence film, and we thank our stars that there is no Bollywood British person who shows up in a blonde wig and speaks Hindi in an awful accent.


A couple of songs later you realise this is going nowhere, so they put in a Wakanda style arena where Zafar fights a gigantic Spanish bull. He has to ride it for seven seconds or something but you don’t care because you are laughing at the computer generated bucking and the totally fake fight where Zafar gets thrown off that cliff and climbs back up. Roop is there too, watching him do this dangerous thing. Wait, why is she there? Presumably because she’s now working for her husband’s English newspaper and is writing an article about people of Hira Mandi. Of course she is impressed by this ‘heart in mouth’ bull fight, and she must get mad at him for risking his life, and he has to observe that she’s getting personal and tells her that he has nothing to live for in his life… She suggests that there is love…

Death By Urdu

While you take refuge in coffee, the love story blossoms in front of Hira Mandi locals. She submits her ‘article’ handwritten in Hindi (her desk has a typewriter) and it is rejected by her husband who is owner/editor. But the newspaper is English… You are past caring.


You have gagged by dialog like, ‘Pyaar na karne ki hazar wajah mil sakti hai bazar mein, lekin dil ko sirf ek wajah chaahiye pyaar karne ke liye, aur mujhe woh wajah mil gayi hai.’ and ‘Aap uska ishq nahi intequam ho Roop!’ You know everyone and their sword will be drawn to keep the two lovers apart. The film is that predictable. Alia is luminous, but everything about her character is so fake…

The Longest Train Platform In The World


Everyone out-martyrs everyone else in the climax and Abdul and his gang of Sword wielding goons make a Gadar like scene mashed up with the Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge train scene, and you begin to wish they’d kill someone so that we can all go home in peace. All this because Alia cannot decide whether she wants to hold Dev’s hand or Zafar’s…

But there’s more! You notice that there has been a Camelot like narration of story to a journalist inserted into the film for no reason at all. He just appears in the middle and keeps taking notes from Roop. Odd? Not at all. Considering the end is so ghastly, the journalist taking notes is like an afterthought. In the end dead characters smile at the camera, characters that are alive speak to the audience, and the audience – weary after watching the 2 hours and 46 minutes long messy nothingburger – just wants to go home, and wash off this daag of a film called Kalank.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com. note: they now rate films out of ten)      

Review: Romeo Akbar Walter

Written by  on April 5, 2019

An Action Film With Little Action,
A Thriller Without Thrills,
I love John Abraham’s Dimples,
But This Film Is Tedious To The Gills.

2 stars


Mini Review:


A bank cashier is recruited to spy for India, with several reasons to double cross. What could have been an action packed drama seems to be caught in a quagmire of stereotypes and predictability. It is so slow it fails to hold your attention despite a good premise.


Main Review:


They say that in real life, spy stories aren’t dramatic. There are no car chases, nor are there any gun battles. Because undercover spies try their best to remain anonymous. But in a movie where you recruit an action star and make him plod through a boring plot of information gathering, it seems to be gross injustice.


John Abraham plays Romeo (of all the Muslim names that a devout Muslim mother could name her son, she calls him this!) is a plain old cashier at a bank, coming home to his mother who cries a lot and knits sweaters for him (of course it is played by Alka Amin who has played that part in every film). He has a sort of love interest in Mouni Roy, who also works at the bank. His job is boring until one day when a couple of men try to rob the bank. This is when Romeo knocks out one robber and pins down the other. And promptly gets selected for training as a spy.  


Jackie Shroff makes for a really cool Srikant Rai, head of RAW. He has a great voice and manages to instil gravitas in a film that seems to be running around in circles. Rajesh Shringarpure as Avasthi, the second in command seems to be there so that Srikant Rai can explain his tactics to someone.


Mouni Roy, who was John Abraham’s colleague at the bank gives us the lamest explanation, ‘You were under my surveillance.’
Now, all trained up, John is naturally sent off to Pakistan where he shows up as Akbar Malik and becomes the right hand man to the baddie there played by Anil George (he’s played the same role before). Akbar is helped by Raghubir Yadav who plays himself but is called Mudassar.


As Akbar, Romeo sends information through a transmitter and the pace of the film drops so much, you could step out of the theater, run errands and come back to see John still taking pictures. But to show that the ‘enemy’ isn’t stupid, they have Sikander Kher show up as a suspicious Colonel Khan. By now you know that none of the actors are at fault. They are all earnest. It’s the lacklustre script and tedious twists that make the film come across as weak.


There are pointless references to aces and jokers in playing cards and a scene where Jackie Shroff catches rain on his face. Instead of telling us why he’s so please with the rains, the camera keeps focussing on a potted plant. You wonder if there’s a listening device in the plant but no…

This film fails to keep your attention, and you don’t care why in his third avatar John is called Walter Khan. Did they not find any ‘Muslim’ names? Where is this going? Of course the Vande Mataram song plays in the end where you are told many such selfless spies do their jobs today, which made some people clap. In these times where propaganda films are all the rage, you sigh and say, ‘Why not!’ and make your way home, glad the film is over.


(the review appears on nowrunning.com)   

Review: The Least Of These: The Graham Staines Story

Written by  on March 30, 2019

A Good Story Told Horribly

1 star

Mini Review:

So you want to tell the story behind gruesome murders but when you go tear you clothes melodramatic, you are doing disservice to the victims and also to the cause. If only the filmmakers had restrained themselves and told the story…

Main Review:

I watched the film at a press screening, which means everyone just guffawed the first time Manav Bannerjee (played by Sharman Joshi) shouted loudly, ‘I’m a journalist!’ to claim a free ride in a bus, then just shook our heads in disbelief when he stomps into the scene (which he’s been photographing) and demands to know ‘what’s in the envelope!’ and, ‘Tell me! I’m a journalist!’

Obviously no one bothered to check how journalists work. No journalist will ever do stupid things like this. No editor would hand over a camera (no matter how much money you give as ‘security’) to a new ‘journalist’ who looks more like an intern (because he just submitted essays he wrote which got him a job), and no journalist who’s taking pictures surreptitiously is going to march up to the supposed conversion ceremony and disrupt it by demanding to see the contents of the envelope. He comes across as completely stupid.

Plus who moves homes when one is not sure of a job, pregnant wife in tow?

So Manav meets editor of the local newspaper who makes it very clear that there is just one story Manav needs to follow: get dirt on Christian missionaries working in Orissa, because they convert the poor when they dole out help. Manav agrees because he thinks so too. 

Makes for very poor journalism when they have already reached a conclusion before investigations. But it does not care to show how the poorest of the poor get help when they do convert, otherwise die horrible deaths because the society gives bullshit about Karma and does not help them. There are instances where you want to understand where such deep rooted hatred for the missionaries comes from, but it’s just stated as a fact rather than shown how or why it has become such a big problem…

Anyway, more illogical scenes where Manav tells Graham Staines (played by Stephen Baldwin) that he’s going to report about all the conversions. Graham Staines tells him report about my work, not me. 

And you facepalm, because this is such a self-defeating exercise. 

Manav acts like he’s in a high school play, where he is supposed to look suspiciously at everything, narrowing his eyes, creeping about in broad daylight.

The second half of the film where the bad guy Mahendra who hears Manav speak against Christians and is inspired to do something gets interesting. The tedious, rambling encounters with the old leper who says he’s cured finally begin to mean something. You want to forgive Manav but who can forget that he touches the leper unknowingly and creates a scene in the bus, then forgets about it and coes home to hug his wife! People bathe before entering their homes when a shadow of an untouchable falls on them, so this scene that Manav creates does not compute…

The extended murder scene is simply horrific. And could have been done with more finesse. But then the whole movie is so melodramatic, the gentleness and forgiveness shown by Graham Staines’ wife seems to be out of place. One expected a over the top mourning scene bringing, ‘Why God?! Why me?!’ style which befits the rest of the film. 

The subsequent change of heart for Manav seems to be unbelievable, espcially because he thinks that the children were also recruting people to be converted… His repentence seems to be overdone because they show Manav kneeling in front of Mrs. Staines, pleading forgiveness. It reeks of a telenovella.  

I wish this wasn’t such a one sided film. The work done by Graham Staines and his family deserve a better film. The help extended by missionaries need a better champion than this film. It simply ends up being a propaganda for the missionaries and that is such a shame.






    

manishalakhe 2019-03-29 12:13:00

Written by  on March 29, 2019
Review: GONE KESH

Charming tale of adversity told well…


2 stars

Mini Review:


A sweet little film that makes several inroads into your heart. Touching, funny and everyone acts brilliantly. A story of a young girl in a small town who begins to lose her hair and has to live through razing from her schoolmates and then lives an embarrassed, fearful life as a young girl through college and work life. The whole cast does such a good job, this film deserves a watch.


Main Review:


When society is obsessed with long hair, what does a young girl do when she begins to lose hers?


Enakshi Dasgupta lives with her mother and father in a small town of Siliguri and has won many certificates at school for her dance. She’s sixteen and realises that her hair loss is alarming and visible when her mum discovers lots of hair in the shower and her classmates tease her about having islands on her head.


That children can be mean is known, but this happy sixteen year old has to battle more demons. She is now so friendless, she eats her lunch alone, does not play with other kids (for fear of razing) and sits at the back of the bus where no breeze will show her bald patches to everyone. Her hair loss is so alarming she has to wear a scarf to school. Shweta Tripathi plays Enakshi with so much confidence your respect for her commitment to the role grows as you see her hair disappear completely.


Deepika Amin and Vipin Sharma play her parents. There’s lots of empathy, humor and good writing here which is a rare thing these days. And they do everything parents in a small town can do for their daughter. They take her to doctors, try home remedies and worry for her…


There is plenty of humor despite the situation that seems to serious. Especially when they try and get her married off. And when the shopkeepers chat about traveling on an airplane. While you and I are so blase about air travel, you understand how important it is for Enakshi’s parents to dream about going to see the Taj Mahal some day. Humor is stupendous when Enakshi is pursued by a young lad who is hesitant to ask her out and gets advice from his best friend. Jitendra Kumar makes for a pleasant love interest for Enakshi.


Of course, Enakshi’s test comes when she can face her inner demons and stand confidently in front of the world. Initially you think that the story is going to be predictable, but the little film surprises you.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Review: NOTEBOOK

Written by  on March 29, 2019
Creepy Ya Cute? Cannot Decide…
Lekin Kashmir is Awesome


2 stars


Mini Review:


It’s an official remake of Nicholas Sparks’ romance made by Hollywood a while ago. Except this is set in Kashmir and hence stunning. Plus the newcomers are not bad at all, and the kids are the sweetest.


Main Review:


The film introduces Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl as Kabir and Firdous, both teachers at a small school in the middle of a lake in Kashmir. The setting is gorgeous and distracts us from the fact that Zaheer as Kabir is not really Ryan Gosling from the original story, but I suppose he has his moments, and has a decent voice.


Kabir is not a very good teacher, but the kids begin to like him, and so do we as an audience. He finds a diary left behind by the previous teacher, and begins to read, promptly falling in love with the writer, Firdous teacher.


At first the reading seems to be tiresome, but it slowly introduces the characters and we realise that we don’t really mind them. Perhaps it is the stunning setting of the film that distracts us from the premise and you don’t think that the lad is rather creepy, seeking out Firdous whom he has never met. His jealous rage when he reads that Firdous is about to get married to another man makes you pause. This is a very weird kind of love, he is jealous of someone he has never met and can burn the notebook he has really no right to be reading…


At least in the original story, Ryan Gosling is reading the diary to an old man to help him reclaim his memories, here, when Kabir actually goes to the school where Firdous is now teaching and wanders from classroom to classroom looking for a teacher with a tattoo of a star on her hand (and no one stops him!). If that doesn’t send alarm bells ringing for the safety of the children in that school, what will?


The film tackles the Kashmir situation between people and their loyalties rather well. With one father ready to convert his son to radical religious teaching and the teacher pleading with the father to help change the discourse is what earns this movie its stars. And yes, the children in that floating school are so cute, you forgive the creepy teacher who is reading another person’s diary. The kids have been cast well, and they do not annoy you as other kids do in Bollywood movies. If nothing, this movie will perhaps persuade young people to keep a diary and step away from their infernal phones.


(this review appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: JUNGLEE

Written by  on March 29, 2019
It’s what happens when you try to mix action with emotion…


1 star


Mini Review:


Remember Ong Bak? Where the young lad and the elephants share a chemistry and save their world? Well, this one tries hard to bring the story of a boy and an elephant, ivory poachers, martial arts, relationships together and makes an unpalatable mess of it all.


Main Review:


There are not one, but three Ong Bak movies to steal material from, Vidyut Jamwal is a good martial arts action star, plus the film has been directed by Chuck Russell who has made films like Mask and Nightmare On Elm Street and Eraser. So how could all this go horribly wrong?


It does. Because they expect Vidyut Jamwal to emote. The closest he comes to that is mimicking a two by four. His film Force saved him from baring his lack of acting chops because it had lots and lots of action. Here, he’s introduced to the audience by fighting silly looking chaps videotaping a fake torture of a puppy! Who thought this up?


So Raj is a vet in the city, and his dad runs an elephant sanctuary in the… yes, you guessed it: Jungle. ‘Welcome to the jungle!’ is an actual dialog in the film! Dad wants son to come to the jungle for his mother’s death anniversary, and Raj reluctantly agrees because he’s supposed to hate his father for the death of his mother… Needless back story, but here we are, trying to summon emotion from an action star. It’s setting itself for failure right away.


There’s a journalist who travels with bags and a tent and everything else who suddenly seems to have a crush on Raj. There’s a girl, Shankara (played by Pooja Sawant)  who he left behind who is the only female Mahout in the country (she wears an elephant head nose-pin and a lapel pin so you don’t forget that), who also has a crush on Raj. There’s a Ranger (played adequately by Akshay Oberoi who seems to get stuck with such roles), a poacher who spouts Sanskrit lines from the Mahabharata needlessly (Atul Kulkarni hams it like no one’s business), there are several gangsters of various nationalities (Singaporean, Thai, Indian and yes, a blonde gangsters moll too).


The elephants are killed for their tusks, and Raj and the Ranger fight out a very badly staged fight which the poacher ends by bringing a gun to the martial arts fight and shoots them down. It would have been a relief had the hero died, but they have a rather idiotic interference by the elephant headed god Ganesh who tells Raj that he has to live. Before you can facepalm, Raj is out there, alive and avenging the elephants and dodging bullets.

This film is so awful, the one sentence where you are told that you should not buy ivory products earns a happy nod and the appearance of the baby elephant is so sweet you ignore the fact that they have the boy who played young Raj rush at the baby elephant with other kids to pet it. You just hope you forget you watched the bad cops trying to break Raj’s bones with a hammer. You just hope they don’t make a sequel.


(this review appears on nowrunning.com)   

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)