Review: SUPER 30

Written by  on July 12, 2019

Gamchhe Ke Peeche Kya Hai…


Two stars


Mini Review:


A story about a free school for the poorest of the poor IIT aspirants run by a maverick mathematician should have been a hugely inspiring film. It starts out to be fabulous, introducing us to a bright mind and his yearning to become someone. The film crash lands and how! You hate everything about it, especially the brownface that Hrithik applies on his face to look like a small town lad. 


Main Review: 

Bihar Does NOT Mean Everyone And His Uncle Sports A Gamchha

I’ve lived in Patna, and what they showed in the film is not Mithapur (where the real Super30 school is located), neither is it Patna. It’s an urban idea of poor small town and their ‘sad’ lives where mother is forever making rotis and dad has a rickety bicycle and spouts homilies. Fuck the facts. They even claim the original teacher Anand Kumar has helped with the script. Did he forget to tell the filmmakers that he is a civil servant? An IFS (Indian Forestry Service) officer? Obviously it was easier to show dire poverty to make it more filmi, more melodramatic.

Also because they’re Bollywood’s idea of poor, they will all be:
1. Brown and dirty all the time (gag!),
2. Won’t have food but have big hearts (barf!) and
3. It will rain over their proverbial parade/adding to their woes all through the movie (puke!)

But Why Ruin Hrithik Roshan For Fans

I understand why everyone and their uncle wants to be politically correct and show ‘desh ka vikaas’ and all that, but why turn a gorgeous leading man who can out dance any hero that claims to know how to dance and give him a role that need him to downplay his assets? And NEVER break into a dance? Kya faaltugiri hai!

No one can deny that Hrithik Roshan is a good looking man. Then why does he have to tone it down by liberally applying the bronzer to look like he is a very poor, small town lad? Can someone tell filmmakers that ‘brownface’ might be insulting?

And what’s with the eternal hangover with the ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ mentally challenged act? That run, that confused look when he’s concentrating on the math is just wrong when repeated so many times…I did puke inside though when they made him look at his dad – awed by the homilies – like he was a ten year old instead of someone who had solved the most unsolvable math problem!

A Teacher To The Underdogs… Bollywood Ruins That Trope Too!


Hrithik still works in the first half of the film where plays the role of Anand Kumar, a math genius, doing the Good Will Hunting write on the blackboard thing. He hits sublime moments too, but the dirty gamchha gets in the way…

Alas he doesn’t have Michelle Pfeiffer of Dangerous Minds or Vind Khanna of Imtihaan to support him or inspire him he is going to be that prof himself…

But if Hrithik insists on being Koi Mil Gaya, it falls on the character actors to who win your heart.
His dad Eeshwar, played by Virendra Saxena is rather sweet and inspiring postman.

His brother Pranav played by Nandish Sandhu (great casting, looks like Hrithik’s brother in real life) is a great support for his school.

Pankaj Tripathi is flawless as the local politician who has his paws deep in the dirt of the business of education.

Even Hrithik’s dialog coach for the film Manish Kumar Singh has a one minute scene as a policeman who is unable to help protect the brothers against the threat to their lives.

Vijay Verma whom you saw in Gully Boy shines in this film as well as the award winning student of the Super 30 program reminiscing about Anand Kumar, a genius who could not make it to Cambridge because of poverty. 


The best act of course is by the villain. Aditya Srivastava plays Lallan Singh who runs a successful coaching class which becomes even more successful when Anand Kumar begins to teach there. When Anand realises that the coaching classes are only for the very rich, and that he is contributing to the scam by teaching there, he gives it all up and decides that he will coach 30 poor but bright kids for free. 


So far so good. You even hope that you will see something like Stand And Deliver where students from the wrong side of the tracks learn high math by teacher Edward James Olmos… But no! The filmmaker chooses what he thinks is going to work commercially and you facepalm when you see the students turn the film into a hospital version of Home Alone with many stupid baddies out to assassinate the teacher as well as the students. That half an hour spent on using math to defeat men with guns is perhaps the worst one has seen. It squanders all the goodwill Hrithik and the kids earned in the first half of the film. Of course all 30 students make it to IIT. But you are so disappointed, you want to drown someone in a vat of bronzer… 

(Why haven’t I mentioned the romance angle? Because it was dumb to show a heroine who only dances and then gets married off to an IAS officer. That made me chew the handle of my Gucci bag to bits. That Mrunal Thakur was sweet in the role fails to count)

P.S. Biharis will be grateful that they didn’t show the chhath puja to make the film ‘look and feel’ authentic!


(a sanitised version of the review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Review: MALAAL

Written by  on July 5, 2019
Dekhne Walon Ka Bura Haal!
1.5 stars
Mini Review

Meezaan and Sharmin Segal offer the same ole love story, a mish-mash of every love story since Bollywood began making romances. The film is executed so poorly, you wonder why it is under the Bhansali banner. It’s plain excruciating to watch predictable romance movie tropes go on and on for 136 minutes.

Main Review:

Who would’ve thunk, Bollywood would fail at romance?
A remake of Selvaraghavan’s Tamil film ‘7G Rainbow Colony’, Malaal attempts to make magic with two newcomers Meezaan (Javed Jafferi’s son) and Sharmin Segal (Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s niece, not related to Steven), but falls flat on its unoriginal nose. It’s sad because the two are quite promising, the girl more so than the boy who comes across as a poor man’s Ranbir Kapoor. The girl is rather attractive, but has limited acting chops.

And the story does not help. Not at all. He’s Shiva, the no good lad from a chawl (housing project like rooms connected with a common balcony, for common folk, unique to Mumbai), where his dad comes home to beat his mom who makes chaklis (Marathi savoury snack). Sharmin plays Aastha, who has just moved in next door with her parents – dad (two heart attacks, so you know he’s going to be villain) and mom (attempts to play martyr) – because her dad was once rich but has lost all the money at the stock market. By the way, this film is set in 1998 and tries hard to play the communal card (he’s Marathi, a local, and she is a North Indian, a Tripathi) but it peters out rather early in the film because lack of courage to make something courageous as love between different communities. 

And that’s just the beginning. Shiva has a temper, but he won’t turn into Sanjay Dutt of Vaastav. She’s all Simran of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge but doesn’t have the sass that Kajol’s character had in the film. Neither are her parents Amrish Puri and Farida Jalal. There are some songs that happen and the dance moves (Javed Jafferi’s son has an additional burden of dancing as good or better than dad) are tired. Not the lad’s fault. You just wish his hair wasn’t so carefully casual.
IRL, Stay away from such gals!
Aastha is scary when she does the very tiresome girlfriend thing: If I take one puff of that cigarette you will stop smoking, And if I drink one peg of whatever you are drinking, then you will stop drinking… You groan! Is she his girl or his mom?! Lads should swipe her left if any girl should  say something this bizarre!

The weirdness does not stop there. ‘Walk behind me or ahead of me because no one should know we are together’, she says, and he obeys. She’s basically Taliban. He counts the number of steps she walks every day. So he’s Fitbit. She plays more paper messages from one balcony to another, and when he asks her if she loves him, she tears the paper and throws it down the balcony. And after a bit when she’s sitting on the rocks by the sea (couples go to canoodle there) she produces an account opening form for him to fill. Before you go whaaaa… She has got him a job at a stockbroking firm as an office boy who gives tea to the brokers and carries messages. She is still playing his mom. Especially because she knows he has 12 shirts and 3 tees and some ganjis (undershirts) and one of them ganjis has holes (she knows exact location of the holes). This is how much she loves him. He preens. The audience has hurt itself facepalming. She sounds more like his laundry lady than lover. 

Neverending groanfest…

A Sanjay Leela Bhansali production usually boasts of fabulous sets, This film went super low budget with location that look tacky. Even the birds in the cage look fake. There is not a single original thought in the script. Why bother to make a film that is careless? Why don’t star kids study hard at school and become something else rather than star in these pointless movies?
Back to the groanfest. Aastha tells her mom that she wants to be with Shiva because she would soon be married to Aditya (please don’t ask who this sleazy Mercedes driving foreign returned creep is, but he’s the Parmeet Sethi from Dilwale Dulahniya without the charm). Mom is ineffective and let’s her go. They make out (thankfully they don’t show us sloppy kisses) but they wake up fully clothed. When walking home from friend’s apartment, she crosses the street without looking and yesssss! Relief! She dies, and he’s injured. She has been telling him that he needs to make something of his life… Alas the movie does not end there. While you have finished your neighbor’s popcorn out of sheer boredom because he has fallen asleep, Shiva has grayed and predictably heads Aastha Wealth Management, and is still talking to the dead Aastha… 

You discover that you have aged too. You reflect at the paucity of ideas in the film industry today and wonder why the once hugely popular romance genre is not even pulling 20 couples to the first day first show.

(this review sans rant about star kids, appears on nowrunning.com)



Review: ONE DAY JUSTICE DELIVERED

Written by  on July 5, 2019
Akal Ke Saath Anyay!


1 star


Mini Review:


Justice Tyagi retires from Ranchi High Court and proceeds to take the law into his own hands to punish the men who went free because their crimes weren’t proven. This is no whodunit, not even why-he-dun-it. It’s a straightforward story laughably told. The usually reliable character actors are made to ham so much they seem to be competing for the Razzies. 


Main Review:


Anupam Kher (Tyagi) retires as a High Court judge who gets slapped or cursed by victims of the justice system. His daughter is about to get married and we see the whole family go shopping for her wedding saree. None of the actors are known and are treated like they don’t matter. Judge saab though walks out of the saree shop and walks next door to what looks like a hardware garage and casually orders five rolls of barbed wire. 


He is shown taking a morning walk and chatting with Inspector Satya Prakash Sharma (Kumud Mishra). Then at the daughter’s wedding a doctor couple vanish. Inspector Sharma comes to Tyagi’s home to ask if he knows anything. Tyagi denies it, but helps with the name of videographer at the wedding. While Sharma and the son (a product of the hysterical school of acting, hereafter referred to as HSA) watch the wedding videos for clues, Tyagi casually walks into what looks like a garage next to his house where the doctor couple are tied by barbed wire. Confess on camera that you admitted Abdul (HSA graduate) into the ICU to get more money. Confess that you killed him! 

Can’t get the visual of the sweaty item girl in red outta me head! And the cringeworthy rhymes: Tu bada fancy hai, Groove bada dancy hai’! Ugh! But back to poverty…


Abdul’s mother (played by Zarina Wahab) looks too poor to afford anything, let alone hospital money. And before you groan at seeing another Muslim person on screen praying in hospital corridors, crying, ‘Allah, Rehem Kar!’ (God, save us!), you want to say, ‘Hey! You don’t puncture the saline bottle directly to inject something into a person!’  


We get to know that Abdul was blaming someone call Afzal for the bomb that injured him. Afzal was goon to a politician (Zakir Hussain) who sports a moustache first and then doesn’t… Afzal is also connected by crime to a hotelier (Rakesh Sharma) who has ordered an mms made of a honeymooning couple and the CD was distributed everywhere (wait, what?!). The shame kills the young woman Shagufta and ruins her newly married husband Shamim’s life. 


Of course Justice Tyagi who does nothing to hide himself from his kidnapped men and women gets confessions. But there’s a Haryanvi cop (Esha Gupta, who channeled her inner Salman Khan rather decently) Laxmi Rathi who reads files upon files and discovers the culprits behind kidnappings. It is Tyagi and Sharma! Wow! But we already knew that and we lived through two item songs too that were crammed in. But Esha realises that these criminals will eventually still be let off, so she kills them all. That’s what you feel like doing to the filmmakers when you come back home.


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com) 

Review: KABIR SINGH

Written by  on June 21, 2019
WHY DOESN’T ANYONE SLAP HIM?
2 stars

Mini Review:

A shot by shot remake in Hindi of the Telugu hit film Arjun Reddy, this film stays true to the tale of an obsessed lover. Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani are lovers in medical school but when she’s forced to marry someone else, the brilliant doctor goes into a downwards spiral of alcohol and drugs. The misogyny is very difficult to swallow for 174 minutes. The acting and the relationships between the characters make this film a decent watch, even though you slap people in your head several times.

Main Review:

SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! Right across their faces!

Never could understand why it is okay to endorse misogyny if the lad is good looking and brilliant and bad if he is/looks villainous. I have never slapped people in real life, but did so several times to everyone in the movie and even those who made such a toxic film.

One Tight Slap for thinking that it’s okay to REMAKE Southern Misogyny as Northern Misogyny
If you have seen Arjun Reddy, you will naturally compare the film with this remake. Vijay Devarakonda makes for a super convincing character: short tempered and violent and yet brilliant at his work. Shahid Kapoor is a wonderful actor too, and the casting is not at fault. It’s just that in this case, he just doesn’t look like someone would throw down a baseball bat and hit someone with his bare fists. Promoting violence like this is just plain awful because there seem to be no consequences.

Besides, Bollywood’s obsession with neat beards just does not sit well with a character who just flings himself down a spiral of sex, drugs and alcohol. That’s why Devarakonda’s Arjun Reddy was alarming and Shahid’s Kabir Singh is not as demented.

But if you have not watched Arjun Reddy on Amazon Prime, then you’re coming into this film cold. Kabir Singh is a wild card and yet the best student at a medical school. He loses his temper on the football field and gets suspended for beating up the members of the opposite team. He’s unrepentant and offers to transfer to another med school. As he waits for the Dean to sign the papers, he spots a gorgeous girl, Preeti Sikka, among the fresh batch of students and tears up transfer papers.

Slap! The Girl Is ‘Rank Holder’ But Spineless! Slap! For Everyone who thinks they can Brand Women as ‘Mine’

What happens next is so cringe inducing you will either walk out of the theater in disgust or take it like a masochist. Kabir proclaims that the girl is his. And no one dare say anything, including the girl. She has no choice. He tells her whom she should befriend and how she should study. He just drags her out of class and teaches lessons to her. She just accepts this like some lamb to slaughter. And you are supposed to find this behavior tolerable because he lets her stay in class when it is time to learn about the anatomy of Upper Thorax. Also because he won’t let anyone even look at her, beats up the lad who touches her. The fact that he kisses her against her will is considered as ‘something cool’ rather than repugnant. The reaction of his best friends is worse! They behave as if Preeti is privileged to have been ‘chosen’ by Kabir. Imagine a filmy villain like Prem Chopra or Ranjeet doing that… Why is that not okay, and this awful behaviour by Kabir ‘cute’?

You cannot stop rolling your eyes, when Preeti falls in love with Kabir and moves into the boys hostel. They’re physical and the friends seem to encourage this ‘Kabir rules!’ behavior. She’s also shown to be obsessing with him, showing up unannounced at his new med school where he’s studying to be a surgeon.

Slap To Everyone Around Kabir. No One Calls Him Out!

Thankfully they insert ‘years pass’ into the film and both are back in Bombay. He shows up at her doorstep, kisses her and her dad naturally throws him out because Indian culture. Of course he overdoses on morphine in anger and she’s married off. Now he’s angrier and drunker and tries to forget Preeti by doing drugs. Of course the Indian Censors are very strict with Hindi films and they don’t show Kabir do any kind of drugs as they let Arjun Reddy do. So the whole I’m drunk because she’s on my mind does not work because he’s also supposed to be a brilliant surgeon. How does one do mind bending drugs and still operate? Why are the nurses plying him with alcohol? Kabir tries to forget Preeti by trying to have an affair with a movie star and almost rapes another woman (at knife point) but fails… And even if you like Shahid Kapoor, the story gets too long winded. The end cannot come sooner. And if there’s a handy wall nearby, the explanation of the slap-one another love will make you want to crash your head on the wall. And then when you hear Kabir’s friend say, ‘Preeti’s pregnant, so she probably liked being with her husband…’ makes you want to slap the next person who says that this movie is great.

Arjan Bajwa is a good older brother to Kabir. His best friend/ sidekick has the best lines and makes for great person to have in your life. His grandma played by Kamini Kaushal is sweet too (Actor Kanchana plays the granny in Arjun Reddy and is leagues ahead!). With so many good people around him, it’s a miracle no one tells Kabir off, or at least slap him. At least once?

Again Vijay Devarankonda in and as Arjun Reddy is not only alarming when drunk and drugged and angry but also brilliant when he shows his softer, vulnerable side when he’s around Preeti. The music in the Telugu version is more mellifluous in comparison. Kabir Singh is not a good guy, and neither is the misogyny. But there’s something about poisonous love that draws you to such stories… And do remember to slap yourself for spending hard earned money on such films.
(this review sans slaps appears on nowrunning dot com)

         

Review: THE EXTRAORDINARY JOURNEY OF THE FAKIR

Written by  on June 21, 2019
A Delicious Frothy Fun Filled Fairy Tale


3.5 Stars


Mini Review:


Can a little boy from a slum in Bombay dream of Paris? Sure! When he grows up can he use his street smarts and a fake hundred Euro note to get to the city of his dreams? Dhanush (whom you saw in Raanjhana) makes this journey frothy, fun, magical and wonderful.


Main Review:


The film begins innocuously enough. A little boy in the slums gets his first lesson in school, he realises that he’s poor. His mum – who washes and irons clothes for a living – teaches him how to dream big. Tells him that if he talks of poverty, she won’t take him to Paris.


The Paris dream, now firmly planted in his brain, little Ajatshatru grows into the street smart thief/magician/fakir (played brilliantly by Dhanush). You realise that the film has made you fall in love with his dream and Mohini (go find out for yourself who she is!). This happens so naturally and easily, you find yourself grinning as someone in Paris tries to con him.


This is where you will decide whether you like the film or not. If you do, you will enjoy the escapades of this young man. You will ignore the leap of faith you have to take and enjoy the film. If not you will see a large hole: how can the large ‘Swedish store’ have the same furniture as in the catalog Aja loved as a child?


However, if you choose to ignore that gap in tale, you realise that everything the lad does in the store, including flirt with a young American girl (Erin Moriarty) makes him adorable. And as he promises to meet her at the Eiffel Tower, you know something will go wrong. It does.


From Ikea to the Eiffel Tower is a long journey for Ajatshatru. That’s the fun part of the film. The froth is in his never-say-die attitude. He meets many interesting people on his journey and he learns so much from them. The stunning Bernice Bejo helps him make a wish at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, and Barkhat Abdi (you saw him as a Somali pirate in Captain Phillips) shows him the human side of refugees in Libya.


No don’t ask what happens, book your tickets and watch this delicious film that has already made waves at film fests… Oh yes, we also get to see Dhanush dance to ‘Madaari’ at a Roman Nightclub…



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


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)