Review: STREE


Na Horror Wale Ghar Ki Na Comedy Wale Ghaat Ki


2.5 stars


Mini Review:


There’s a tale of Chander town of a ‘chudail’ (witch) called ‘Stree’ (woman) who shows up during the four days of the local temple festival and preys on men, taking them and leaving only their clothes behind. A young lad Vicky who’s the local tailor and his two friends get embroiled in the witchy tale and begin suspecting a beautiful visitor who shows up only during the festival. Small town rumors and witty one liners make this horror tale funny, but you come away with a niggling dissatisfaction. Should they have downplayed the humor and raised the horror quotient a bit more? So many possibilities…


Main Review:


Rajkummar Rao is Vicky, the gifted tailor who can measure women just by looking at them. He is in demand. Especially during the temple festival which lasts for four nights, when the women need new clothes. But his town hides a secret: a chudail (witch) called ‘Stree’ (woman) visits their town at the time of the festival. If homes have a message scrawled on their walls, ‘Stree, come back tomorrow’ the homes are safe. But if she finds men alone, she whisks them away, leaving only the clothes behind.


The small town of Chander is brilliantly captured. They do overdo the little touches of small-townness (like the signboard on Vicky’s tailoring shop which says, ‘Azaad Auraton ki Azaad dukaan’ which translates to something like ‘Free women wear this freedom clothing’, and they have a sewing machine enshrined in the shop, garlanded as Indians do to pictures of dead family elders), but the little town is very picturesque, even in its horror.


The horror is terrific. There are bigger possibilities than the filmmakers care to explore. Vicky’s friend Jana (played brilliantly by Abhishek Banerjee) is a boon to horror films. He expresses fear when walking home alone so amazingly, it was fun to watch some newbies in the theater jump out of their skins when he comes face to face with Stree. Aparshakti Khurana as Bittu is wonderful foil to both Vicky and Jana, as the friend who always has ideas about what to do.


But the genius is casting Pankaj Tripathi as Rudra, the man who owns a bookstore, a man so educated he has degrees in every subject you can dream of is the best decision the filmmakers could make. He is so brilliant, he even makes the outrageous claims like: Stree knows everything about all men in town because she has the Aadhar link to all their cards. (Aadhar is like a social security card), and the villagers buy it too. His claim to fame? He has done ‘in depth research’ on the topics of ‘Stree’ and other ‘chudails’ and has books and material enough to see us through the film.


The writing is good, and you see brilliance sometimes. For example, when Jana brags about how deep his thoughts can be, Bittu calls him ‘Pacific Ocean’… The film crackles with one liners and if you understand Hindi the joy is doubled. The trouble comes when they want to add the elements of horror into a script that is more comedy than scary. Shraddha Kapoor shows up and Vicky falls in love with her, but it’s a gaping hole in the script logic when they cannot explain her behaviour or Vicky’s quiet acceptance of her demand for mutton. Village festivals, are observed by everyone as holy, and not even the rowdiest of crowds of young men would not want to incur the wrath of the gods or even ‘Stree’ by inviting a dancing girl, who conveniently walks off when the song is over.

So the film swings from fun to tedious and then piques your interest in the horror and lets it fizzle out, making the whole experience like finding that your expensive coffee is only froth and no brew.



(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)

Review: YAMLA PAGLA DEEWANA PHIR SE


Not ‘PHIR SE’ But ‘KYON’?


1 star


Mini Review:


Puran Singh is blessed by his ancestors and treats everyone with medicines from Ayurveda, and his family clinic has a secret medicine called Vajra Kavach that works like magic on dreaded diseases. Many pharma companies want the formula, but Puran Singh is happy doing his thing for charity. But a young woman who comes to learn from him steals the secret formula and Puran Singh now has to defend his family’s honor. The film is so loud, and so obvious, you will need earplugs as well as sunglasses, and you will also wonder why they had to make this humorless film.


Main Review:


At 147. 54 minutes, this third part of Yamla Pagla Deewana is plain unbearable. Dharmendra who is a mere shadow of the beautiful man he once was, is made to look foolish, talking to ‘apsaras’ (angels) only he can see. Of course, the audience gets to see two women dressed really oddly, their cgi images shaking and wavering like they were emerging from a lamp like a genie does, while the characters in the film see Dharmendra talk to himself. If that wasn’t enough, they have him listen to old Hindi film songs by plugging the branded player. My heart just hurt seeing the gorgeous hero of Bandini and Satyakam reduced to such ridiculousness.


Sunny Deol plays Puran Singh, the Ayurveda doctor who is powerful enough to pull two tractors. He’s even shown dispensing medicines kindly to his patients. But when he refuses to sell the formula for Vajra Kavach the medicine that cures all diseases, the pharma company boss from Gujarat pledges revenge.


Suddenly a pretty, young thing from Gujarat shows up to learn Ayurveda from Puran Singh. As the audience gasps disbelievingly, we see Puran invite the girl Cheeku (Kriti Kharbanda, in a yet another forgettable role) to stay at their home.


Bobby Deol is Kala, Puran’s younger brother, who is ready to make a quick buck. He drinks every night and we endure a very poor version of Dharmendra’s famous drunken act from Sholay again and again and again, until you wish he’d save us all from the pain by falling off the terrace.


There’s much loud Gujarati people are like this and Punjabi people are like that attempts at jokes. But the only funny line is when Cheeku goes away (of course they think the audience hasn’t made the connection between Gujarati pharma company and Gujarati girl suddenly appearing in Punjab, so they show Cheeku taking pictures of the ancient Ayurvedic texts while all the Punjabis are dancing in the streets).


Yes, Punjab is the land of color and festivities but you want to wear sunglasses or you’d be blinded by the garish colors on the screen. And you hear the loud musical refrain of the famous song ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ so often, you just want to put your head in the nearest bucket to drown out the sounds. Poor Bobby Deol is made to be romeo, singing and dancing in outrageous clothes, even though it looks like he wants to be back in the Salman Khan film fighting shirtless in Race 3 instead.


Yes the stolen formula needs to be fought for, and Dharmendra is lawyer. Yes, the film is that obvious. Everything derails after that. And you come home wondering why they would need to do this to their countless fans. You come away Ghayal ( ‘Hurting’, also the title of Sunny Deol’s most popular film).             

(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)

Review: HAPPY PHIR BHAAG JAAYEGI

Haw…Haha…Hahahahaha…Why Is This Funny…It Is, It Really Is!

3 stars

Mini Review:

In the first part of the film, Happy was chased all over Pakistan by politician Bagga and the policeman Usman Afridi. This time there’s another Happy, and she in China, chased by Chinese henchmen who think she’s the original Happy. Bagga and Afridi have also been kidnapped and they’re on the run too. If you cannot laugh at racially insulting jokes, you will laugh at the physical ones. The writing is superb and you will end up enjoying yourself immensely.

Main Review:

‘All Chinese look alike,’ the girl says and you sort of gasp because you don’t think such jokes should be made. But when you look at the situation where Harpreet Kaur or Happy is being asked to describe her kidnappers, and you have seen the Chinese gangsters dressed alike in black suits and dark glasses, you understand her dilemma. Sonakshi Sinha plays Happy with so much abandon, that you get sucked into her situation and begin to enjoy yourself.

Bagga and Usman Afridi are back too! Jimmy Sheirgill is simply marvelous as the politician Daman Singh Bagga who just stops short of being married. And Piyush Mishra plays Usman Afridi who is a policeman who attempts to explain his Urdu vocabulary misunderstood by Bagga. This misunderstanding is so brilliantly written, you wonder why the writer-director Mudassar Aziz does not write more.

Meanwhile Ali Fazal who plays Guddu and the original Harpreet Kaur ‘Happy’, are the original invitees by the gangsters are wandering all over Shanghai having missed the gangsters.

Part two is funnier than part one where you wondered why so many dishy men were enamoured by the gangly Happy (Diana Penty) who could not act to save herself out of a flower truck. This one is funny because there is a certain cat and mouse drama and you cannot but laugh at Afridi asking Bagga if his cup noodles were ‘halaal’ and then you see Chang slip and fall over the same noodles. Of course there are a few new characters. On the good side is Khushwant Singh Gill (played rather sweetly by Jassi Gill), Happy’s dad Babuji (played by Raja Bundela, on screen after a long time) and funny man Jeeveshu Ahluwalia in a funny role. On the side of the baddies is Denzil Smith as Adnan Chow who is the funniest Urdu spouting Chinese villain, Chang (played brilliantly by Jason Tham), and more…

You will leave your logic behind and not ask why two Chinese people in costumes are following our good guys gang on bicycles, singing in Punjabi. You will not wonder how good Sonakshi Sinha looks on screen, or how everyone is so wonderfully turned out even when escaping baddies. You will not roll your eyes at Piyush Mishra who behaves badly in the sex shop district, nor will you facepalm when drunk Bagga and Afridi help the baddies… You will simply laugh your head off at the clever politically incorrect writing and come home trying to imitate Piyush Mishra’s birdcall, the ‘koyal’ sound.  


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )


Review: SATYAMEV JAYATE

Pyromaniac Vigilante, Hyperventilating Cop
The Audience Facepalms.

1.5 stars

Mini Review:


The Mumbai police are in a tizzy because a vigilante is slowly killing corrupt cops. The one honest cop has been given the job to find out who it is. We know it is the hero and we are alarmed at the violence on the screen. But after a while, you just want the 80s style violence to be over and scoff at the super cheesy dialog and John Abraham’s gorgeous dimples just stop working for you.

Main Review:

The film opens with Patil in police uniform being burned alive to the tune of Hindu chant of Shiva’s anger. It is John Abraham, in a black hooded jacket, staring sternly at the fire he started. Then we see a cop asking directly for money to be wired to ‘my account’ after an accident should he let the chap who killed a pedestrian go home free. Of course, John Abraham shows up at the cop’s home and burns him too because, ‘Patil ho ya Kadri, sabki ek biradari’ (Whether it is Patil or Kadri, their brotherhood is same: corruption). You gag when you hear such cheesy dialog, but wonder idly why John Abraham is burning these bad guys.

Vikram was Colorful and Wild in Anniyan. This? Not.

It’s a reminder of the 2005 Tamil film Anniyan (which was called Outsider or Stranger in English, Aparichit in Hindi) where an upright man who cannot see injustice wears different masks and metes out justice as seen in the hellfire and damnation part of Hindu scriptures, instilling fear in wrongdoers and winning the hearts of the poor. That film was a hit but at least the weird costumes and the hero with a multiple personality disorder had an excuse for the violence. Here, the live burning of victims is plain ghastly.

Chillao, Aur Chillao! Indians Like LOUD Cinema!

The cops are terrified too, so they ask the Deputy Commissioner of Police Shivansh Rathod to report back to duty from his holiday. Manoj Bajpai, usually a fine actor, hams through a role which could have been played with the same cool as Tom Hanks does in Catch Me If You Can Remember the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio asks Hanks why he’s at work on a holiday? And Hanks, sitting alone in the dark office says, ‘I volunteered’ and asks Leo to talk to him face to face? Well, this film too uses the same sort of situation of an empty office, but we see Manoj Bajpai lose his cool and begin to yell at the vigilante.

The whole film is loud. The background music, the dialog that has the sole purpose of evincing applause from the cheap seats, the misplaced romance between a vet and the killer… And it doesn’t help when the clever DCP figures out that the vigilante is killing cops from marked police stations that are included in the title of the film ‘Satyamev Jayate’ (‘S’ for ‘Santa Cruz’, ‘A’ for ‘Andheri’ and ‘T’ for ‘Thane’ all neighborhoods in Mumbai). You idly speculate what areas is John going to attack next while laughing at the ridiculousness of word play of the third threat: I will enter ‘Thane’ and kill a cop. Now ‘Thane’ or ‘Thana’ is not just a local word for ‘police station, but also a suburb of the city. So while Manoj Bajpai and his cops are on high alert expecting a vigilante to show up, John simply beats up and burns a cop at a gas station in the area called Thane.

How Long Do We Suffer?

Then you realise there are 11 letters left in the title of the film! Are we going to endure 11 more murders? You begin to sink in your seat at the realisation of how thin the plot is, and pray for a twist in the plot. One comes at the Intermission. But everything is downhill after that. The backstory is so ghastly and so pathetically patriotic, you want to be killed by a stray bullet. The corrupt cops are very corrupt (one even has gold teeth made from money from bribes!) and John Abraham is good even when he’s burning up people (we know he’s playing Veer, and he’s extracting revenge for his cop dad unjustly killed).

The film is so boring, during the item song ‘Dilbar Dilbar’ one shot has the belly dancer emerge from the sand and you are reminded of the Graboids in the film Tremors and your laughter is drowned by the deafening sound of the song. The oath of allegiance that cops take during their swearing in ceremony is said so many times, you know you can repeat it verbatim in case you are asked. The film is that tedious. An obvious manipulative release for Independence Day, this film hopes you will want to salute good cops. But you don’t fall for it one bit. And even if you have previously fallen for John Abraham’s dimples, you come away unimpressed with his seething.


(this review appears without subheads on www.nowrunning.com)

Review: GOLD

Hokum Patriotism On Hockey Field

2 Stars

Mini Review:


Based on true events following the exploits of the Indian hockey team that won independant India its first Olympics gold medal in hockey. The conflict is fine, the principle characters beautifully etched, but what drags the film down is its predictability and its slow pace. At 152.42 minutes you want to turn the hockey stick into a sword and run into it.


Main Review:


Akshay Kumar plays Tapan Das, assistant manager cum talent scout cum hockey crazy person who pawns his wife’s jewellery to find good hockey players for the team. He makes you want to like the game of field hockey as much as he does, and you understand his die-hard enthusiasm and also feel his misery when he is forced to be away from the game.

The film opens with team India winning the field hockey gold at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. When the British anthem is played, the team salutes the Indian flag Tapan Das the manager, carries secretly in his pockets. It’s a fabulous, cinematic moment which makes the point that the team yearns to play for india and not the British.

The rest of the film alas, manufactures patriotism with the finesse of a sledgehammer. Plus they chose to release the  film on India’s independence day which falls on August 15. And also take advantage of the fact that on the 13th of August, 1948, the team fulfilled their hockey gold dream. And that’s why the title of the film

With the World War destroying most of the world, Tapan Das’s sports career is down in the gutters where he is frequently found in drunken stupor. Akshay Kumar plays the role of Tapan Das well. His passion for hockey seems real even though his accent isn’t. If you grit your teeth to the appearing and disappearing accent and manage to sit through that, you get to see how Tapan Das, with the support from the president of the hockey federation – a caricature Parsi person – a Mr Wadia, reuniting the old team by traveling the length and breadth of the country. Captain Samrat has retired and is coaching Gwalior Colts. The dashing Kunal Kapoor is Samrat is rather under-utilised in this small role. And you, along with Tapan Das are disappointed. But we come across the hotheaded Himmat Singh romancing his girl (of course she says cliched things like ‘win me gold if you want to marry me’). You get tired of counting cliches in the film but you find solace in the lotus pond setting where Himmat Singh romances his girl. But counting sports movie tropes does not end. There’s Amit Sadh who plays ‘prince of Balrampur’ named Raghuvendra Pratap Singh, who is a very good hockey player but arrogant and entitled. And even though the comeuppance he gets from the captain – play tennis because in that game you can take credit for the wins, but hockey is a team game – the whole character seems to be a gigantic bore. Obviously, in the end the sports brat will learn to play as a team member.

Thankfully the British leave and there is more chaos when the Muslim players leave the team and go to Pakistan. the sudden change of the players’ hearts seems very fake and you know the film has shattered by a wrecking ball called patriotism.

Tapan Das has to recreate the team as you step out and get another coffee. This time Samrat reappears to help the team and you facepalm several times at the training and team building efforts which you have seen in every sports film ever! The daftest thing is the setting: the team stays at Buddhist caves (Kanheri caves), but your disbelief is suspended so much you don’t care to ask why monks would own a hockey field.

The super pouty lips of the TV show Naagin Mouni Roy do nothing for her Monobina (Mrs Tapan Das) who makes you sigh into your popcorn when she nags and nags her husband and then coyly handa her jewellery to be pawned because she loves hockey too. For a cricket mad nation (currently) to show hockey crazy kids and entire villages listening to hockey commentary seems odd. However, you cannot not compare all half time speeches to the one Shah Rukh makes to the indian girls hockey team in a sports film which is perhaps the best of our times. In Gold, everything seems to be an also ran.

Thanks to more cliched  political machinations of the federation, the team finally reaches London for the 1948 Olympics, where they meet Pakistan Captain Imtiaz Shah (played by Vineet Kunar Singh from Mukkabaaz) who was a part of the joint team that won in 1936. Imtiaz mouths the 1936 team promise: we are here to avenge 200 years of slavery and to hear our national anthem when our flag is hoisted.

Yes, there are more ‘game’ cliches and you discover like in all sports films, the referees will be biased against India (and Pakistan) and despite all odds, team India will win, and the ‘foreign’ audience will cheer for India because they are ‘true sports fans’. The clever play on the field has been choreographed by Sandip Singh (whose life has been made into a biopic recently called Soorma) and the unique play in the rains is a welcome relief from the tedious sports movie story.

The winning feeling is ruined because the director chooses to end with a National Anthem being played, which forces the audience to stand up and watch the triumphant team watch the flag with pride. Of course they want you to be overwhelmed and cry. But this brand of patriotism makes you wish this was Chak De! India rerun instead.


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)


Review: REDRUM: A LOVE STORY

Redrum Murdered Cinema

1 star

Mini Review:

A ‘rock star’ Daksh comes under the scrutiny of the Narcotics department who want to find out who supplies him with drugs. The Ghalib spouting cop asks Daksh’s manager plus girlfriend to help them. Daksh has rage issues and in an angry fit he kills the girl and hides the body in the attic. They claim the film is based on an Edgar Allan Poe’s story: The Tell Tale Heart, but you know it’s based on every cinematic cliche they could think up of and you know you can never get 100 minutes of your life back.

Main Review:

The Tell Tale Heart is a creepy psychological horror short story which convinces you, the reader that the narrator is sane even when he tells you he has murdered someone.

Now this film is nothing like the story. The protagonist Daksh (Vaibhav Roy, you have seen him in Hindi TV serials) sings in bars and is spotted by a girl who thinks that he is ‘hot’ and decides that she is going to become a manager and promote him because he has a great voice. The film opens with a song ‘Imtihaan’, which is soulful and melodious. For a moment you think this small film just might turns out to be good.

But you begin to cringe when they try to pass off two chairs and a table in someone’s home as a coffee shop where the girl and the singer meet for a date. Everything goes downhill from there because the filmmakers use a sledgehammer to tell the story of his childhood and his rage against his mother to excuse his drug habit now.

A narcotics officer who spouts poetry by Ghalib (overdoes it, actually) finds Daksh’s name in a notebook found on a drug dealer. The drug dealer was carrying an exercise book of all his contacts and their telephone numbers with him at a drug exchange! You wonder why they he doesn’t have a cell phone like most people do! The cop is played by Tom Alter (who died in September 2017) who doesn’t have to do much but use his voice to spout poetry. He is even made to walk all over the house where he suspects a murder has occured. Anyone who has seen cop shows on TV will tell you that he is walking over evidence and destroying it!

Daksh falls in love with a girl at the bar who begins to manage his shows (and him). Her name is Aarika (Saeeda Imtiaz) and she is clueless about Daksh’s drug habit. He acts weird around her though, and his fits of rage should have given her some idea that Daksh’s behavior is not ‘normal’, but she seems to be clueless overall. Daksh keeps going into flashbacks of his mother who brought ‘uncles’ home and ruined his childhood and propelled him to use drugs. Yes, the poor filmmakers make the hero snort lines in bathrooms, rub ‘white powder’ into his gums and snort from his hand too (too much Netflix has been watched, obviously, because the scenes seem to be hurried and overdone)

In a rage Daksh kills his girl and hides her body in the attic. Then he brings it down and decided to cut her up. We begin to see her ghost and wonder where the film is going now. The cop shows up, convinced that Daksh has killed the girl. Daksh stabs the cop, and then kills himself. The dead girl opens her eyes. What?

Looks like they ran out of film stock, perhaps realised that the story was going nowhere, and that the very loud horror movie sounds had made the audience run towards the exits. What a waste.

(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)           

Review: VISHWAROOP 2

VANITY PROJECT #Fail


1.5 stars


Mini Review:


Wisam Ahmad Kashmiri is an Indian spy who has infiltrated deep into Al Qaeda, and has helped not just finding Osama Bin Laden, but has helped rescue American soldiers, diffused a nuclear bomb in New York. If you buy this, then you’ll see him in a fistfight underwater, and hand to hand fights all over the world, diffusing more bombs and rescuing the heroine. Alas, the pace is so slow, you may fall asleep…


Main Review:


Not too long ago we watched a 56 year old Tom Cruise outrun
everything, jump into a helicopter and climb cliffs in Mission
Impossible. So you don’t think how ancient Kamal Haasan looks
when he acts out his James Bond, rescuer of the world fantasy
as Wisam Kashmiri. Or how unfortunate it is when a seasoned
actor of his calibre has to include, ‘Perhaps I am a good actor’
as a dialog in the film.

And he was superb. Once upon a time. His ‘Thakita Thadhimi’,
the drunk dance on the well in Salangai Oli is matchless, so is
his monkey dance in Sadma. When you think of ‘sad lullabye’
you cannot but list ‘Surmai Ankhiyon Se’. A list of his fabulous
performances is endless. And even though part one of
Vishwaroop won awards, this part ends up looking like a
vanity project of an aged superstar.  


To be real, he has not aged well. And even though he is shown
kicking and fighting hand to hand and maiming dozens of baddies,
it is tiring to watch him. The close-ups and love-making scene
are a bit much to watch. And yes, the fantasy of an older man
who has two young women falling all over themselves over
him is unwatchable. You wish he had simply directed this film with
a younger man in his role. When an older person attempts to
look and act young, it’s a tad weird watch.


This film uses a whole lot of footage from the earlier film to make
us understand who Wisam Kashmiri is. And the pivot point
camera movement or the Bullet Time shot, which you first saw
in The Matrix, is helpful here. It freezes the frame and you see
the action from almost everyone’s point of view. This technique
is used again and again and again until you want to fast forward
the film and say ‘get on with it’!


The action continues from where part one left off and we are
reintroduced to Wisam and co flying to England where Al
Qaeda is about to blow up a shipwreck full of World War two
bombs (in neat stacks like you saw in Wonder Woman) with
a nuclear device (‘Eh, what?’ you say) so that London drowns
in a gigantic Tsunami. They don’t call the British Authorities
because one guy they call is stuck in traffic. Stupid? Ridiculous?
What? And of course one the two women Wisam is with is a
doctor of Nuclear Medicine! She must dive in the waters to
identify and diffuse the bomb. Of course the terrorists are so
dumb that they leave the ‘audio switch’ that will set off the bomb
right above the bomb on the jetty…


If you thought the insulting game with a political stooge played
by Anant Mahadevan was terrible, the underwater fight for the
‘audio switch’ for the bomb tops it by being ridiculous. Water
(and high tide is approaching fast) restricts movement and to
see this kind of fight without displacing any sand (there’s even
a starfish!) is silly to say the least.


The action shifts to India, thankfully (the audience is tired of
token ‘foreigners’ and a visually fake backdrop of the MI6 HQ
building in Anant Mahadevan’s office window). The story gets
predictable here, with the women in Wisam’s life getting
kidnapped by Al Qaeda guys in Delhi while Wisam is waiting
for some meetings in South Block. Don’t ask why, but watch
Jaideep Ahlawat play a scary sidekick torturing Wisam’s wife
and mother with jalebis. Thankfully the other woman in Wisam’s
life his partner Ashmita (played by Andrea Jeremiah) is dead,
and the mother (played by Waheeda Rehman) has Alzheimer’s.
The nuclear medicine doctor wife (Pooja Kumar) gets to be
plain awful when she mouths dialog like,’God will punish you!’


But you are yet to see Rahul Bose of the weird eye. He is Omar,
the terrorist who first befriended Wisam and took him to
Afghanistan. He’s now suffering from radiation poisoning, so he
eats but cannot keep his food down, his voice box is affected
and so is his skin. On top of it you see super hamming. The worst
part is that he just doesn’t seem to die. He doesn’t die when he
falls off a building, by American missiles, a nuclear device, and
lives even after being shot at by the hero  He does not even die
when he gets burnt. This new age Bhishma dies only after
seeing his family in the hospital and after hearing homilies
about how as a terrorist he would have killed his own children…


And even though this is an action film, it takes effort to stay awake
through totally implausible things happening on the screen. And for
a Kamal Haasan fan, a huge disappointment to acknowledge
that vanity overtook his talent.

(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)


Review: FANNEY KHAN


Fanney Good Baaki Sab Unfanney

2 stars

Mini Review:

A father loves his daughter so much, is so in love with the idea of making her the next Indian Singing Star that he kidnaps the current superstar in order to get her a place in the contest. The film is based on a story from a Dutch film ‘Everybody is Famous’, but for a music based story the music isn’t up to par. What shines are performances for Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao. Everyone else, especially his daughter deserve a good hiding.

Review:

The film starts with Anil Kapoor singing in a neighborhood for an orchestra at night. He’s simply sensational as he sings and dances to cheering crowd. During the day he operates a crane for a factory. He loves music so much, he names his baby ‘Lata’ after Lata Mangeshkar. He’s called ‘Fanney’ by his friends and his wife, because he is a ‘fankaar’  a man who has the ‘fan’ (pronounced ‘fun’) or the talent. Now the word also means someone who schemes and plots in order to get ahead in life, but Prashant Sharma aka Fanney Khan (played by Anil Kapoor) is a good guy, who lives for his music and his family. He wears his funky shirts with as much confidence as he wears the lungi at home and his taxi driver’s khaki shirt. His wife is played by Divya Dutta, and the filmmakers keep her like a cardboard cutout simply to ‘tsk, tsk’ her husband and pacify her daughter. We understand that a singer who is very talented wants his talented daughter to do well and dreams of a hit album for her.

It’s the kind of father every child should want to have. Someone who lives so that their child can make their dream come true. But this child, this daughter, is so ungrateful and so rude you either want to slap her really hard, or hope that she fails. The worst part of the casting is that they have picked a large sized actor to play the part (Pihu Sand). So one has to tread rather carefully because criticizing the character will be deemed as body shaming (which is done by people who laugh at her in local contests where even judges are cruel to her about her size and choice of songs). Keeping love for your child aside, why does no one from the family or friends tell the daughter Lata, that if you need a different kind of attitude and song choice (remember Rebel Wilson plays ‘Fat Amy’ in Pitch Perfect movies?). You just don’t buy the logic that the parents as well as Lata’s best friend cannot see why people are laughing at Lata.

And Lata is rude and obnoxious and demanding. For a child of poor parents, she comes across as rather entitled. That doesn’t endear her to the audience at all.

Then there’s Rajkummar Rao who plays Adhir, Fanney’s friend, who is also a nice guy with a girlfriend who borrows money from him all the time and looks like she is cheating on him from a mile away. Again, a cardboard cutout. But Rajkummar Rao is so good he does not see her rather obvious duplicity.

The friendship between Fanney and Adhir is shown really well. When the factory shuts down, they have to find other jobs. And you suddenly hear Anil Kapoor begin to talk in a Hyderabadi lingo. Before you can ask why, he has kidnapped Baby Singh the singing superstar (Aishwarya Rai who perhaps has not really acted after Iruvar, Kandukondain Kandukondain and Guru). Adhir who is at first appalled by the act, becomes a partner in crime. The interaction between the fresh at crime kidnappers and the spoilt singing star is funny at first, but gets annoying after a while. How simple are simpletons meant to be?

The second half of the film and especially the singing contest/reality show melodrama goes on and on and you begin to throw popcorn at the screen. More when the cardboard cutout villain played to the gills by Girish Kulkarni who is helped by his weird costumes of an evil manager of a singing star in weird colored lenses and a permanent leer. Since the producer and the manager have spoken of how wardrobe malfunctions increase TRPs of the show, you will watch in trepidation, not wanting to see that ‘accident’ happen to large Lata. Thankfully you are treated to a scene where Anil Kapoor is overwhelmed at seeing his daughter on stage on TV. The end is daft, but you come away relieved that the movie is over, and you come home with a great cinematic character of a great dad (with all his flaws) played brilliantly by Anil Kapoor.  


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )

Review: MULK


How Patriotic Is Your Beard?


2.5 stars


Mini Review:


How do you prove that you are patriotic? A Muslim patriarch
in Benaras battles to answer this question when his nephew
has been shot dead as a terrorist and his brother has died
following the legal and social troubles the family faces as a
result. Will his Hindu daughter in law help him get justice?
Or does religious fanaticism sweeping the nation currently
win? A delicate subject rather well tackled despite several
rather convenient events in the film.


Main Review:


The Rishi Kapoor that you remember as a singing, dancing hero
in Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin is now a fabulous character actor. And
despite the typical Muslim beard (sans moustache) occupying his
face, he manages to emote brilliantly. He is Murad Ali Mohammed,
the head of a wonderful family – a wife (Neena Gupta as Badi
Tabassum), an NRI son, a Hindu daughter in law (Tapsee Pannu
as Arati Mohammed), a brother (Manoj Pahwa as Bilaal), brother’s
wife (Prachi Shah as Choti Tabassum), a niece (Ayaat), a nephew
(Prateik Babbar as Shahid) – and they are celebrating Murad’s
65th birthday. We have seen Murad living happily with his Hindu
neighbors. Everything seems happy until his nephew Shahid
blows up a bus after having been radicalised.


This is where we come across Danish Javed (Rajat Kapoor in a
wonderful, believable anti-terrorist cop role), who believes in
making a spectacle of Shahid’s capture so that other radicalised
young men will know that the police mean business. The police
investigation results in upsetting the delicate social balance in
the neighborhood. Suddenly, it is ‘all Muslims are terrorists’,
‘Murad and his family should go to Pakistan’. Stones are thrown
at their home, and his friends shun him. His brother is dragged
away and questioned and accused of aiding and abetting
terrorism by the prosecutor (Ashutosh Rana as Santosh Anand).


Since Murad is a lawyer, he promises his brother that his name
will be cleared. But the attacks from the prosecutor and the
comments from the judge (the inimitable Kumud Mishra) seem to
push Murad to breaking point. The trial is well written and very
engaging. There is a character who handles social media for the
prosecutor introduced but apart from a stray dialog about, ‘Do you
know what is happening on social media?’ nothing is really done.
The two Tabassums in the house have not much to do but to look
tragic. The daughter in law Tapsee Pannu looks too weepy in court,
which undermines the the legal argument she makes.


The religion, justice, civil rights arguments are decent and topical.
This is where Rishi Kapoor makes a fabulous case. But it is
Kumud Mishra who is the judge who makes a convincing decision
for the audience.


The film has been shot brilliantly by Ewan Mulligan (the long
continuous shot at the beginning will surprise you rather wonderfully).
The only thing that makes this film a tad weak is the overdoing of
facial expressions by Ashutosh Rana. His grimaces and his
meanness seem needless. His grin is meant to be evil, but had he
been reined in, the film would have been better. Danish Javed’s
prejudices are very well brought out. The subject of Hindu-Muslim
social relationships is volatile even after over seventy years of
independence, and this film strikes a balance, the judge’s words
making it plain. The trial seems to go on and on, and perhaps
they could have avoided repetitions and edited them. But the film
might appeal to ‘believers’ of both religions.


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com )

Review: LATHE JOSHI

Gharche Loka Mast Aahet,
Joshibua Kadhi Shikteel?


2.5 stars


CBFC RATING: U


Pravah Productions and Dawn Studios
Producers: Sonali Joshi, Mangesh Joshi
Writer/Director: Mangesh Joshi
Stars: Chittaranjan Giri, Ashwini Giri, Om Bhutkar,
Seva Chauhan


Story:


After working for 35 years, Joshi is laid off from the factory.
The reason, automation. His wife has a thriving catering
business and his son repairs computers and machines and
they tell him to relax. But Joshi, who excels at the Lathe
machine wants nothing but to continue working. Can he
compete with modernisation?


Review:


The Joshi family lives in a dilapidated wada (old style home),
and they seem to be delightful simply because somewhere the
audience knows someone like the characters occupying the
house, or have been in similar domestic situations, like the
Joshi family.


‘Will someone give me tea today?’ complains the granny, who
wears the dark glasses that eye surgery patients wear.


Before you can say, ‘Old people never have the patience,’ the
on screen granny (played brilliantly by Seva Chauhan, has
already ranted five times about how she’s being ignored and that
no one cares… When the daughter in law brings the tea, the
granny is upset because the grandson Dinu (nicely done by
Om Bhutkar) has teased her about acidity and her old age.
Dinu’s mother (Ashwini Giri, terrific in her role) gently rebukes
him, ‘Why do you tease her! She’s already cranky enough!’
The granny hears the word cranky and now refuses what we
now know is the third cup of tea! She drinks it, of course, but we
are waiting for Lathe Joshi who has said nothing since the
beginning of the film, to tell his family that he has lost his job.


He cannot because his wife is busy cooking and finishing the
order for the day…And you realise, that he is not about to tell
his family that he has no job, because his factory unit has been
sold and the company has opted for automation.


The film is as slow paced as can get. Very old world, like Lathe
Joshi himself. He has little to say but he observes everyone and
everything. He doesn’t belong to the world where his wife watches
cooking channels on TV, wants to keep up with the Joneses
because she’s catering to their parties and events; his mother
wants nirvana, will not chant the mantras, but just counts the beads
as the recorded machine chants continuously, she cannot see,
but will hear her favorite TV show on channel 788; the son who
repairs computer, but knows how to charge more than the cost
because he wants to make money. Joshi cannot adapt to this world.


He looks at his colleagues who have accepted their fate, and is
determined to change his. The film has been shot with love.
Written with love too. There are blatant brand endorsements too.
But this is a film that goes nowhere and the solution offered is
too easy a way out. Cinema needs to infuse hope, this doesn’t.
Watch it on a Sunday on TV.

(you should read the ghastly changes toi made and posted!)