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)