Friday, October 21, 2016

Review: 31st OCTOBER

Bad Cinema Won't Help Find Justice

1 star

Mini Review:

The story of the Sikh pogrom after the Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated (31st October, 1984) has been well documented and accepted as something where no justice can be truly offered. But when a film attempts to dramatise the events in an amateurish way, the heart-wrenching awfulness of those events is lost. The audience feels no empathy in the fake emotions and the graphic blood and gore fails too.

Main Review:

Everyone is nice. Everyone is bhaisaab, behen and even the poorest of neighborhoods are picture perfect. And they turn into burning boroughs of hatred. There’s only one passing reference to Operation Bluestar, something that Sikhs hated. The Indian Army, invaded the Golden Temple where Sikh extremists had holed up with AK-47s and rocket launchers and all kinds of weapons, and every terrorist was killed and their demand for a nation of Khalistan was dissolved. There’s no mention of the Army stepping into the temple barefoot (to maintain the sanctity of the temple), no mention of the armed terrorists, only a dramatised version of the Sikh bodyguards killing the Prime Minister (and then getting shot themselves).

This was a chance to explain the motivation of the guards to kill someone they were supposed to be guarding, but no. The film quickly jumps into what followed: people listening (endlessly to radio broadcasts) and sudden riots. This was a chance also to show how political parties jumped into a situation and incited the riots. But no, just one dialog: you need to avenge the death…

Seriously? Is that all it took?

But we are back to Devinder pra-ji (Vir Das in a role so unconvincing, you want to beg him to stick to comedy) whose wife (Soha Ali Khan in a ghastly dubbed voice) has relatives who seem to die every time she calls to check on them! If that was so badly done you would have been shook! But she calls, and the relatives fall prey to rioters. It is so terribly done, you want to tell her to stop calling people.

Vir Das and wife have two boys and a baby girl. They say rightly that the director needs to be genius to be able to work with children and animals. In this case the two kids have learnt the lines by rote and the scenes are very stilted. Even good actors like Deepraj Rana and Vineet Sharma look helpless in front of a terrible script. And you wonder why they had to choose a very Marathi actor (Nagesh Bhonsle, usually very good) trying really hard to sound Haryanvi.

The fires on the riot affected streets seem very organised and carefully placed on the side. When Soha is pushed out of the bus that is set on fire, she takes forever to run away from the bus, turning around to look at it. When there are rioters on streets, no one will ask their sister and her family to leave their home and drive across the city to come to where you have found shelter! The whole premise seems to be too flimsy, and does not do justice to such a horrendous part of our recent history. Movies like Amu (directed by Shonali Bose, and starring Konkona Sen Sharma in 2005) have handled this subject with so much more sensitivity and manage to make the events shocking even to those too young to remember. The final nail in the coffin is watching Vir Das (who could not be more than 30 years old in the film) in a full white beard, old man’s shakes and all and Soha Ali Khan with white powder in her hair and an Arthritic knee tell us that justice will never be given to the victims… Such a waste of a great opportunity.   

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: 1: 13: 7 EK TERA SAATH


1/2 star

Mini Review:

Set in pretty Rajasthan this tale of a palace haunting and murder is being investigated by a policeman. The idea is great, but the execution fails so miserably, that you begin to laugh at the over the top acting by the lead characters: Prince Aditya Pratap Singh who looks more scared of his dead wife’s ghost than enamoured by her, the girlfriend, the queen mother and other royalty… It’s howlarious instead of horror.

Main Review:

The Prince Aditya Pratap Singh appears on screen riding a horse (quite competently, you think, until you realise that he is horribly familiar, and you’ve seen him in Maharana Pratap the TV show). He’s wearing cowboy boots over jeans and a brocade Sherwani kurta. All this in the intense Rajasthan heat. He holds that,’I’m Hukum (Prince) and hence will look intense’ expression for ever. Even when he’s at the dining table with his America returned girl-friend and also with the police inspector.

He lives in Darbar Palace with his family - all ghosts, talks to them and even introduces them to the policeman. He is tended to only by a demented looking manservant (we don’t know why he gives the evil eye to the camera every time he appears on screen even after the movie is over), and his wife who cackles like a witch (you know that laughter from high school plays). Of course, there’s a spirit of Aditya Pratap Singh’s dead wife Kasturi, wandering around in whites singing a song and crying (that crying is just as fake as the cackle).  

All in all, a tourist couple shows up at night and are killed because of these spooky goings on. That becomes the reason for the policeman to show up at the castle. What you wonder is why Kasturi needs to wander from room to room and walk on the ramparts of the palace searching for her love when he’s chasing after her and lives right there in the palace!

Before you ponder too much, an America returned college friend shows up, hoping to make the prince, her ‘Addy!’. Several scenes of touristy dances and open jeep drives and swimming pool frolic later, she persuades the prince to do something! Kasturi has been breaking chandeliers and mirrors and scaring the heck out of the girl-friend.

The prince loves his ghost wife, so you wonder why he agrees to get a panditji to do some ghost purification of the palace. But he does! And now we know why the movie is titled thus. Exactly at thirteen minutes and seven seconds after one am, Kasturi and other resident ghosts are put to rest by the chanting of mantras.

The prince then happily goes off to Delhi to party with the girl-friend. Before you can say, ‘What?’, ‘Why?’ they bump into Kasturi 2.0 dressed in skimpy clothes at a nightclub. He begins stalking her at college, on social media, even shows up at her home. The girl tries to say, ‘I’m not Kasturi!’ but the prince has lost it!  

This is where the silliness becomes utterly laughable. The well-meaning girl-friend takes the Prince to a psychiatrist, who checks his blood pressure and announces, ‘He is Shitzophrenic!’
Yes, that pronunciation. You do not recover after that. But the half star this movie deserves is for the twist in the tale that turns out to be very clever, very ‘I see dead people!’ clever (The Sixth Sense). But it’s too little too late. The good idea of the film has been long dead.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Isme Action Hai! Romance Hai! Emotion Hai! Paisa Vasool!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Tom Cruise is still top gun when it comes to action movies, and this second movie in the Jack Reacher series is eminently watchable even if it is filled with every cliche an action movie should have. This time Jack Reacher saves the career of a US Army Major by tracing all the dangerous and illegal goings-on in Afghanistan. It’s paisa vasool!

Main Review:

Tom Cruise has aged, and even though he no longer flashes deep dimples and can jump about saying, ‘Show me the money!’ he sure can give the young action stars a thing or two in the action department. And boy, can he run!

Jack Reacher rescues an imprisoned US Army major from a high security prison (what a super sequence that is!) and makes a run across the Washington Needle mall to the Lincoln Memorial roundabout where they jump into a cab…

There have been many b-grade action flicks about illegal dealings between renegade US military personnel, government contractors and the enemy - Taliban et al. Even Ironman could not resist the theme. Here too we have people investigating such war crimes being killed one after the other. Now It is up to Jack Reacher to help save the situation.

It doesn’t help the situation when a young, sulky fifteen year old is added to the equation. But Jack, the quintessential action hero takes it on his chin and deals with the problem.

Of course, like all action flicks, trouble takes the trio from Washington DC to New Orleans and the bad guys seem to be one step ahead of them at all times. And the bad guys seem to have the coolest haircuts and filled with some sort of manic rage. The on-screen violence makes you wince but when bad guys kill other bad guys, it’s okay, one supposes.

And oh yes, if you only took tourism lessons from the movies, you’d assume it’s always All Souls Night in New Orleans. So we see the seedy side of the city as much as we see the chase through the parade. But you don’t mind the cliches because the movie is constantly moving forward.

The action scenes are wonderful and the movie has been written with a streak of humor that keeps it popcorn light. Happily, Cruise’s co-stars Cobie Smulders (You’ve seen her as Maria Hill in tv series and movies: The Avengers) and Danika Yarosh (familiar face from the TV show Heroes) have an equal share of the action and fit right in. And the last smile that Tom Cruise offers you, reminds you of the Top Gun days. Go on, buy the tickets and don’t forget the pop-corn!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, October 14, 2016


This Train Ride Is Deathly Boring. Derailed!

2 stars

Mini Review:

While Gone Girl brings a visceral reaction from deep within you, The Girl On The Train just makes you think you’re on the wrong train and you check that ticket more than once. With only six characters and no reference to a one-armed man (like in The Fugitive), the suspense is as good as pie in your face. By the time the train reaches its destination, you wish you were as drunk as Emily Blunt is.

Main Review:

As the name suggests, Emily Blunt plays The Girl On The Train. The pictures on the poster show a forlorn face at the train window. Forlorn is what you feel when you realise that the whole premise is wrong.

That’s vodka, not water in her water bottle. And they tell us she’s been like this for a couple of years now. Woah! If one was that drunk, one would not be able to look at anyone in the train, let alone at the goings on in the houses where the train slows down.

Even when we put that logic aside, and believe that she hankers for a life that the seemingly perfect couple in ‘that’ house by the track, then we are told that the perfect couple live a couple of houses down from her previous home!

Then you realise that you fell asleep when reading the book. Comparisons with Gone Girl are inevitable because the story falls in the same genre. But It takes all of Emily Blunt’s acting prowess to keep the audiences interested. But you wouldn’t be human if you wish she wasn’t sniffling so much or that her nose was less like Rudolph at Christmas.

Haley Bennett and Luke Evans play the perfect couple, and their life does look like an endless honeymoon (we never really see him leave for work, kiss his wife goodbye, eat apple pie… everything you think a man with a picture-book-perfect white-picket home would have!). Full marks for the director though, for making Luke Evans wear low slung track pants… A little bit of ogling helps the train go somewhere.

Rebecca Ferguson and Justin Theroux play the new wife and Emily Blunt’s ex-husband, another couple she seems to be stalking via phone messages and incessant calls. But their domestic life is so dull, you wonder why she bothers…

There are some awesome human moments like Emily Blunt trying to help by meeting the Shrink and how she attempts to make conversation with fellow commuters and fails… But the whole monologue style just adds to the chug-chug-chugging of the train, and you realise that it is going nowhere. For those who have never read any crime fiction the end comes as a surprise. But for the rest of us, there’s no one-armed man there. So, du-uh!

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Dante Ki Maa Behen

Not 3 stars but not 2.5 stars either

Mini Review:

Robert langdon is called upon again to save the world. And this is paint-by-numbers movie is made from a Dan Brown bestseller. As always there are literary clues, visits to museums and churches, ancient cities to explore, anagrams and women who betray. The only salvaging presence is that of Irrfan Khan, and he shows up too late. The endless walking towards clues has tired the audience out.

Main Review:

Robert Langdon is back. But this time he’s trying to figure out what is going on inside his head. The visions are horrific. But hold that thought. The nine circles of hell that Dante describes are fairly non-horrific. They are: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. The punishments are milder than what Ron Howard offers.

Dante offers Milder Heaven for sinners in Limbo. Lustful people are punished by strong winds that blow them back and forth that they have no rest. If guilty of Gluttony, you lie down in vile slush forced by icy winds. Greedy sinners get to push great weights with their chests, angry people fight each other on the surface of the gurgling river Styx. Mild, what?

But it gets better. Heretics get to live in burning tombs. Violent people (three levels of punishments) get to drown in a boiling river of blood and fire, eaten by harpies and dogs, and reside in burning sand deserts with fire raining down upon them.

Then it’s back to something seemingly mild. Fraudsters get to reside with monsters under bridges, and you’d think hell would be hot, but the ninth circle of hell for treachery is icy cold rivers.

And the filmmakers should have used Google to better use. Because those suffering with pestilence and the plague masks seem very out of place if you have read the Divine Comedy. But you do get a thrill to see Dante’s death mask. The fun would have been had Langdon mentioned that the authenticity of the Kirkup mask we see in the movie is questionable. Again, a little more interest in the life of the poet on the part of the filmmakers would have helped.

And instead of moving the action to Istanbul and some mind-blowingly powerful germ that would decimate half the population, it would be fun to actually go to take the film where Dante lived in exile and actually make the super germ that would be infect people with an incurable Malaria (Dante died of Malaria).

But Irrfan Khan shows up and saves the day by his zinger dialog. Makes sitting through another tiresome wannabe high culture art suspense movie worth the while. In Irrfan Khan's style I'm sayin, 'Dante Ki Maa Behen Kyon Ki? No, don't answer that. It was rhetorical.'

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


A Heist Movie Drowned In Gaalis

½ star

Mini Review:

Fed of poverty and his inability to provide his girl with nice things, a small time crook plans a heist. And yes, it goes wrong. In fact, everything from the language that is used in the film is wrong. It’s a mystery how the Censor Board allows the word, ‘Kutiya’ (bitch) being used again and again to describe the girlfriend! This film should go wash it’s mouth with soap.

Main Review:

So suburban Delhi has people who use swear words as if they were going out of style. They also have names like Haggu (literally, Shitter). Of course they don’t have jobs. Their skills include picking locks, conning tourists and oe even claims to be a lawyer.

If you’re not balking and gasping at the air turned blue by the vituperative, you will certainly puke into the popcorn when you see the lovemaking between the small time crook (played by Manoj Bajpayee in a ghastly Beatle mop top) and his girl. Their kisses should be shown to curb population explosion. And to top it all, he calls her, ‘Kutiya’ again and again in such a misogynistic manner you wish to leave the theatre.

Isn’t it the responsibility of a respected actor to refuse to say dialog demeaning women? Even if they play a part of a lowbrow crook? To hear Manoj Bajpayee say these words is just horrifying. Vijay Raaz who is usually a great character actor plays the part of a shady lawyer and his vocabulary is plain stinky. Annu Kapur plays a bizarre madman with hypnotic abilities.

When you figure out where the film is going without wincing over gaalis, it promises to be fun. Kay Kay Menon is a cop who is attracted to the same girl, and his reaction to her is so hilarious you think that you might just like the film. Alas, it doesn’t last. Because Anupam Kher shows up as a trigger happy owner of a haveli who has lost his marbles. It’s a torture to see him play the near blind guy with a gun again (and you don’t care enough to find out where he plays the role)

So they plan to steal the supposed gold in the safe in the haveli (an old woman screams and screams about it). And the sneaking into the haveli at night and getting to the hidden treasure takes so long, you want the film to be a part of training material for torture of prisoners.

You don’t really want to know what happens, except you know you will run a mile in the opposite direction to small budget film set in gallis in any city North of the Vindhyas about ‘quirky’ characters trying to make a quick buck.


Sunny Leone's Imperfectly Perfect Love Story

1 star

Mini Review:

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, they say. And when this woman turns out to be Sunny Leone, you wonder who in their right minds and eyes in their head would reject her romantic advances and why. The movie is horrendous but for the honest emoting by the heroine. Seriously!

Main Review:

You know she’s pretending lust for the camera, and you know it is better than the plastic lovemaking shown in mainstream Hindi movies. So while you are in awe of Sunny Leone’s body confidence and how well she wears all the clothes she does, you know when she stretches on the dining table and let’s the hero (Rajneesh Duggal) watch, it is just that, a show.

That said, you will see that Sunny Leone is the best actor of that entire star cast. And you have seen them all before. So Rajneesh Duggal plays Raj Malhotra, the playboy son of a jeweler father who gets slapped at a nightclub for making a pass at Sunny (she’s the good girl Sunaina). He discovers that the girl works for his father, and yes makes a bet with his brother in law that he will have her in bed within ten days.

Raj seduces her by playing the reformed man and manages to sell old unsold jewelery pieces to unsuspecting Chinese buyers. But Sunaina does not even think that it is unethical, and falls for the lad. Before you facepalm, he has put sindoor in her maang and has had her under gold sheets. The brother in law plays spoiler and shows up with the entire family at the ‘bungalow’ and the family agrees to get the two married ‘properly’. At the engagement ceremony Sunny’s mother is discovered as ‘bar dancer and sex worker’. Raj finds a reason now to reveal that he seduced her to win a bet.

Sunny storms out with her teared up mother after slapping Raj across the face. Again. You wish someone had slapped the author of this soap before it turned into a film. But they’re not as skilled as Harold Robbins, so you watch the mother commit suicide. This turns sweet Sunaina into a revenge machine and she destroys the Malhotras by starting a jewelry company and underbidding everything. Raj in the meanwhile gets engaged to Sanjana, the scantily dressed harpy, who he discovers does drugs and sleeps around. So he comes back to Sunaina and wants to be slaved… I mean saved. Over some non-descript song about how love is everything we see the two pose and make love in a topless car (parked in the home), in an outdoor tub, in bed, on the floor in a library (woah! Sunny reads too?!)... Then she kicks him out of the home for ultimate revenge.

Just when you wonder how Sunny is going to finish the Malhotras off by revealing that the son-in-law was betraying the business by sending her the tender quotes, you watch dirt streaked love-lorn lad on Marine Drive talking to himself. Love has finally driven him over the bend. Sunny spots him from his car, her eyes filled with tears, she wants to get off and help him. Then a series of insult flashback montage happens and we see her wipe tears, put sunglasses on and the frame freezes. ‘You should not insult a woman…’ type life lesson shows up on screen.

Why the whole story as review? So you won’t be curious about the bland lovemaking scenes. So you won’t waste your time trying to figure out why such movies are made. The song ‘Mere peeche, mere peeche, mere peeche Hindustaan hai’ is quintessentially Sunny, and she has a twinkle in her eye when she dances which is one star worthy. But you can watch that online. The rest of the movie, as you can see, is forgettable.

P.S. Years after Kidnap the movie where Sanjay Dutt stared at Minissha Lamba's ample assets and mouthed the words, 'She's grown so much' has any character made the audience double up in laughter. In this film the scantily dressed Sanjana, spilling out of her barely there clothes says a 'bye' to her father (who cannot stop touching her) and Raj's dad (who cannot stop drooling over her) says, 'Kids grow up so fast these days!' offered unintentional comic relief in the movie.

(this review appears sans post script on nowrunning dot com)

Review: FUDDU

Forgive My French, But Fuddu Is A Fully Fuckall Film!

½ star

Mini Review:

A young man comes to Bombay with dreams and even though he manages to find himself a job, and gets married, he is unhappy. Living in a room with his two brothers and their wives and kids, he is unable to make love to his wife, who ups and leaves him. Is he the ‘fuddu’ people label him o will his parrot fly out of the cage? You come away wanting to shower after watching this… This swamp thing.

Main Review:
Filmmakers should realise that the characters they create - no matter how small or large - need to evince empathy. So much so that the audience should feel along with the character. Laugh when he laughs, cry when he cries, and so on. But when your audience laughs at the character and not with him, when the audience doesn’t really care what happens to him, then you have a problem       

This film starts out with a young lad from Benaras coming to the city with big dreams in his eyes. The dreams crash instantly when he realises that his brothers live with their wives and kids in a one room home in a chawl. And he has to stand in a queue with residents to use the public restrooms. He is not exactly a good looking young lad, but so far so good. You smile weakly at his naivete when he calls up a cell phone number (written on a wall in the public restroom) thinking that the number belongs to a popular movie star. Turns out the number belongs to the local woman cop who screams at him.

You try and understand why the filmmakers give him a job as a lingerie salesman and then have no more humor to offer. Such a missed opportunity here! No awkward sales calls, no middle-class style embarrassment. And no slapstick scenes with piles of bras falling down on his head. The office just looks vague and the people are tie-clad and working at computers.

Then we see a rival at the office suddenly turn into a friend who takes the hero to prostitutes. What? How? Why? Of course the lad is a failure here too, because he is a virgin and does not understand the lingo ‘cap’ for ‘condom’, and wears a girly hat (literally!) and stands in his undies. The prostitute laughs at him. But you cannot bring yourself to laugh at his stupidity.

Everything goes downhill after that. He gets married and his young wife moves into the room. Their ‘suhaag raat’ is very well done because they put the mattress on the floor and it feels real when the lad just rambles on about some nonsense and the young bride waits to have her veil removed, and there’s a power cut. That scene earns this film the half star offered. And then we realise he just cannot make out with the new wife because his makeshift room is between his two brothers sleeping (the oldest one sleeping with wife and kids on one side, the other older brother making out noisily with his wife on the other side). His young wife does not understand why he does not touch her and goes back to her mother’s home, her father labeling the lad, ‘Namard’ (Not a man).

What follows is a horrendous misogynistic lesson: women need to either be persuaded to put out, or be dragged by their hair and shown ‘who’s the man’. Of course he needs to haul his wife back and prove to everyone in the vicinity that he’s a man. They even sing a song about it with lyrics like: his bird has flown the cage... etc. By this time you are so disgusted, you just hope there’s no traffic on the way home and take refuge in jokes shared by your family group on Whatsapp.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Saturday, October 08, 2016


This is not a movie, it's a TV show.

(there's only one star in this show)

Mini Review:

The one and only Dr. Sant Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh Ji Insan is back! This time to save the Earth from aliens. This time there's less preaching and extolling the work he is doing, but a telling us how he's a descendant of the Pandavas. This time he's a saviour to Dharti mata and all behne'. And this time he has alien-decimating weapons from Mahabharata. Okay then! It fits in well with current mythological TV shows...

Main Review:

MSG is more superhero Sherdil than Godman in this film. And it's a good thing, because the first two movies he has made put off a whole section of urban audiences unfamiliar with the phenomenon he is among the folk up North. 

He has the coolest gadget since Ironman's suit came out of a suitcase. He has a wheel appear out of what looks like a pocket square and it just morphs into a gigantic motorbike which he rides across to the police HQ where it morphs right back into a red bag perfect for a kindle. Then during the briefing about aliens attacking Earth, he taps the red bag open and it turns into a laptop! Even Ironman cannot compete with that!

The fact that the motorbike could have been a speed monster, but looks like it was put together in a prop shop does not faze the filmmakers at all. Because they introduce 'udan tashtari' riding aliens.

The fun begins here. The aliens are all wearing costumes that remind you of the bulb lit jacket of Amitabh Bachchan in Yarana 'Saara zamana...' 

The alien leader announces that they are going to rape all women so that humans can be wiped out from the Earth. The speech sounds fine until we see what they do to the people with their death rays: they turn everyone 'paagal'. You see a whole bunch of extras really letting themselves act all the 'paagalpan' out. Imagine nations turning crazy...

Now Sherdil leaps into the air to intercept the low-flying udan tashtaris but gets zapped by a death ray. Damn! You think all is lost, but he is saved by a white bearded sage (played by none other than Dr. Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan in a white wig and white beard). 

The old man tells an injured Sherdil, 'You are the descendant of the Pandavas who hid their divine weapons in a magic cave. Collect those and fight the aliens.'

The film just becomes awful after this, worse than perhaps the mythological Tv series we see. But Sherdil says, 'Hmmm!' and shakes his head to say, 'I know you are mayavi, but I will fight you.'

He fights with such bad computer designed monsters (one has a lizard head but turns out to be snake with T-rex type body and limbs, another has a half robotic, half stone body). You want to fast forward the movie, but then you'd miss fairies, yes, fairies, with wings, white dresses and all, who give Sherdil vardaans - the divine weapons - so he can kill the aliens.

Meanwhile, the population all the countries has gone nuts and the kings have been enslaved by the aliens. Wait! Weren't they going to rape all the women? What are they doing with the kings? Don't ask.

The aliens die, Sherdil forgives one, he leaves. People are cured and Sherdil becomes Dharti Rakshak. 

Oh yes, he has these two sisters Saugaat and Saugandh who add to his domestic charm where his wife and children miss his company... 

But the movie has taken so long to tell us the story and we still have aliens who have arrived in 2016 to deal with. Thankfully the modern day gadget guru sells a scooter (what?!) and a title card warns you that 'Hum Phir Yuddh Karenge!'

You make your escape while you can.

P.S. Why did Pandavas need alien-decimating weapons during the Mahabharata?