Review: HALKAA

If It Looks Like Shit, And Talks Like Shit…


0.5 stars


Mini Review:


A little lad called Pichku cannot defecate in the open like everyone else in the slums. He wants privacy which is hard to come by when they live such desperate lives. While grown ups in the slum are trying to scam the government for the money given to build toilets, this little boy with two friends dreams and works hard to save money to build one. An awful tale about shitting told crappily. This is worse than government funded propaganda films…


Main Review:


The song goes on and on about how the lad is the only one with undies in a basti full of naked people… Pichku is that boy who hates the fact that everyone in their slum defecates and showers in the open. When his mum (Paoli Dam, looks the part) and dad (Ranvir Shorey, rough and uncouth rickshaw puller) leave for their day jobs, Pichku comes home, lights incense sticks (to drown out the stink), does the deed on paper, wrapping it in plastic throwing it all out in the drain behind his home. In the name of reality, people are shown defecating on railway tracks, and Pichku’s routine is shown in great detail. You want to say that you get the point, but no. The filmmaker wants to show poverty and what it does to people.


The kids laugh at Pichku because he cannot do it in the open, and his father drags him mid act to the tracks and orders him to finish in front of everyone who gathers to watch.


Disgusted yet?


Pichku meets Gopi doing his business in an abandoned, haunted factory and they become friends because both cannot do it in the open. They find that the factory is not haunted but occupied for the same reason by a medicine man (played by Kumud Mishra). The three decide they need to build a toilet and buy a commode (don’t even ask about plumbing and how just buying a pot will help). They begin to work (the boys work at a recycling dump) and they give money at the shop as payment towards a commode.

The government runs a scheme for the poor to build toilets and give money for the same. But the grown ups as well as the government official pocket that money and continue their set routines. Pichku’s father pockets the money but an honest officer shows up and begins to round up everyone. Then there’s a shameless plug of a school run by a charitable foundation who are producing the film. It’s like watching the promotional video of this international school embedded in the film.The kids build a toilet by the stinky drain that saves the day.  Don’t ask. This film stinks. Literally and figuratively.


(this review appears on www.nowrunning.com)

Review: LAILA MAJNU


First Half Is Awful Romance
Second Half is Awesome Tale Of Love


3 stars


Mini Review:


It’s the love story everyone has seen growing up, our very own Romeo and Juliet. A tragedy made popular and unforgettable. But this pair of doomed love birds are modern, cell phone carrying teens. The gal is meh, so the magic of instant love seems to be missing. But the writing is brilliant and the lad is too. Looks like Imtiaz Ali has got his mojo back.


Main Review:

CELL PHONE TOTING LAILA LIVES IN MAINE PYAR KIYA WORLD. EH WHAT?


Set in picturesque Kashmir, this version of the love story of doomed Laila and Majnu is modern in many ways and old fashioned melodramatic in others. A little bit like India. Laila is gutsy, flirty and not shy at all. In fact, she has the local lads chase her all the way from home to college. Not what you expect from your regular Hindi film heroine at all. Alas, Laila (played by Tripti Dimri) is so ‘meh’ you wonder why all the lads are in love with her. You are alarmed at her bed head scene right in the beginning of the film, but she’s sassy with her dad, and you hope she’ll get better. No. Her makeup is ghastly garish (not her fault), and her dialog delivery is just plain odd. Not that Ranjeeta in the 1976 version was a better simpering miss, but she looked beautiful despite those hilarious Disney’s Princess Jasmine clothes. This Laila just doesn’t make an impression even though the director wants us to be in love with her.


Seriously? She’s got cooing pigeons as she lives her Maine Pyar Kiya fantasy. Then you are forced to look at Kais. The rich lad who is stalking her relentlessly. He’s not a pretty lad, this Kais Butt. In fact, he’s a bit of an Anl Kapoor throwback when it comes to body hair. And he’s peeing on Laila and her pretty sister hiding in the bushes in the intro scene. Ugh! You are not going to like this film.

THE 1976 LAILA MAJNU WAS AWFUL COSTUME DRAMA TOO, YOU KNOW…


So who are we to give up on a love story? We sit through the rather tele-novella type first half. Love birds are separated because Shakespeare ordained it, Montagues and the Capulets shall never meet. Thankfully, the director Sajid Ali concentrates on the proud lad who tells her, ‘If you want me, you will have to come and find me.’ But as love will have its way, Kais turns into Majnu, someone who hankers after his Laila. And this hankering is brilliantly written by Imtiaz Ali. Kashmir plays witness to how Laila makes him wait. How that wait drives him crazy. And you forget the old exaggerated song with Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta, ‘Koi patthar se na maare mere deewane ko’ because Imtiaz Ali pens the most amazing scene where Majnu – crazed by his waiting and loving can see nothing but Laila everywhere – asks the men sitting for prayers, ‘I was talking to my beloved. I see no one else. You are praying to your beloved, how is it that you noticed me?’

YEAH, WE NOTICE. AND WE NOTICE. AND WE NOTICE…


This is where you realise that Avinash Tiwary, who plays Majnu in the film is something else. His character just grows on you. He is a find. He is so good, it doesn’t matter if his Laila cannot act herself out of a speeding ticket. He is phenomenal. In fact, this film should be called Majnu. His dance of passion, of madness is marvelous and the music draws you in. Mind you, from the many songs not a line or refrain is memorable, but the music is pleasing to the ears. The supporting cast, especially the bewildered house help, Majnu’s younger brother and friends, Laila’s beautiful sister and Laila’s creepy husband make their presence felt. But the film belongs to Imtiaz Ali and Avinash Tiwary.  


(This review appears on www.nowrunning.com)         

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: 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: 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: 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: GENIUS


Not Even Nawazuddin Can Save This Genius

1 star

Mini Review:


A writer/director launches his son in a story that is so old, it was probably written when he was born. The unremarkable lad is made to sing and dance in the most ridiculous situations and then we have to see him as patriotic action hero. Not even Nawazuddin Siddiqui as campy villain can save this terrible, terrible film.


Main Review:

SharmaJi Ka Beta Bechara Nikla…


Anil Sharma’s Gadar still plays to TV audiences and makes
people raise patriotic fists in the air with reruns. But the patriotic
narrative has changed. We have seen Raazi and even Mulk.
But this ‘will die protecting the flag’ style patriotism seems
terribly anachronistic. The story of a bright, young lad from IIT
being chosen to join RAW and then getting to face off a similar
chap gone rogue could have been good. But the story is so
entangled it twists around itself and falls flat on its face.


Utkarsh Sharma is best described as unremarkable. As Vasudev
Shastri, born in Mathura and orphaned during religious riots, they
overdo the Hindu – Krishna – Gita thing during the introduction.
You choke over your coffee when you are told he topped IIT and
the heroine (Ishita Chauhan, quite fetching in the manner of
Hansika Motwani) came second to him. He flirts and she
predictably is angry over three or is it four songs which are shot in
the style of what could be best described as glorified wedding
videos. We know now that the lad cannot dance. Or act like the
lovelorn lad. The music by Himesh Reshammiya is fine, but it
just doesn’t work with the lead pair.


You wonder if the film is going to be all about fantastical claims
about how all scientific discoveries were written in ancient Hindu
texts. Thankfully, the director remembers that he has to get to
the patriotic part and we suddenly see a sanskrit spouting
computer geek shooting guns, fighting ninja style (yes, really!)
and generally becoming a super agent sent off on a super
secret mission.

No Attempt At Logic…


No, we do not laugh when we see Nawazuddin Siddiqui show
up as villain called M.R.S, but we do wonder why is he dressed
like he’s in the Arctics: Woollen trench coats, Woollen scarves,
gloves and hats? But the hero is wearing velvet trench coats
and hoodies and gloves too, so you begin wondering if we are
going to see Polar bears in Lakshadweep (that’s where the
action is). The dialog the campy villain has to spout is all about
hating that ‘Kaalia’ (the dark guy) aka the National Security
Advisor played by Mithun Chakraborty (complete waste of his
talent, you know the role is so rubber-stamp pointless, it could
have been played by anyone used to such roles, from Anjan
Srivastava to Anant Mahadevan). MRS (nopes, they don’t
realise that it is not too macho a name for a villain who wants
to create a mayhem in India) is written like they just got stuck
with the Riddler from Batman. Nawazuddin does not make even
an inch of effort except when he begins to dance in the disco.
You wake up and wonder if the movie could be going somewhere.
But no such luck. There’s awful things like a Rubik’s cube setting
off a bomb (which of course our IIT lad turned RAW agent can fix),
Nawazuddin wearing saffron robes and a beard to pass off as a
sadhu so he can blow up Mathura…


There’s medical stuff that is so mangled you don’t know whether
to laugh or to put it down to suspension of disbelief: the hero has
tinnitus caused by bullet whizzing past his skull, and that is leading
to brain damage and schizophrenia. The spy technology is
laughable too! The heroine unknowingly wears lenses that have a
spy camera that helps hero see whatever she sees and earrings
which have microphones to help him hear what she’s hearing.
You know a man has written this part because she never ever
changes her earrings!


Over two hours and forty minutes they tell us again and again
that the lad is a ‘genius’, when he mostly looks like Mr. Pitiful.        





(this review appears 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)