Friday, May 18, 2018


Magar Audience Aasman Se Gir Ke Seedha
Nark Mein Jaati Hai

1 star

Mini Review:

A copy of the Marathi film Ventilator, Khajoor Pe Atke
exaggerates in every possible way bringing down what
could have been a wonderful situational dark comedy to
something unsavory. A brother is about to die, and the
family gathers around to ‘be there’. Each person has his
or her own motives for being there. Alas, instead of letting
the audience decide when to chuckle and when to fall off the
chair laughing, the loud comic sounds and the constant
overacting puts you off.

Main Review:

There’s nothing subtle about this film. There’s no dark comedy
here. There’s only loud acting, ghastly music and comic sounds
that deafen you and blind you to the really, really funny bits in
the film.

The Marathi film Ventilator too had the same story. An older
person is in ICU, about to die, and relatives show up from all parts
rural and semi-urban places, to claim love and hope to inherit the
mango trees in the dying person’s care. In Khajoor Pe Atke, it is
a brother who is in the Intensive Care Unit, and his two brothers
and their oddball families, their sister and her son show up to
offer support to the soon-to-be-widow and her son.

The poster should tell you how exaggerated this film is going to
be. Everyone has googly eyes, everyone speaks as if the rest
of the world is deaf, everyone has strange quirks, everyone
overdoes the small town person wide-eyed in big city thing. If
that is not enough, everyone in the big city is ‘bad’, out to
cheat the out of towners. Or just horrified at these ‘item’ people.

Nikhil Pahwa is Jeetender Sharma, married to Sushila
(Seema Bhargawa). They have two kids a son and a daughter
Nayantara (she’s stuck by the Bollywood bug and wants to
be heroine).
Vinay Pathak is Ravinder Sharma, married to Anuradha
(Suneeta Sengupta), and they have a kid. Dolly Ahluwalia is
Lalita Didi who has a grown up son. So these nine people
show up at the hospital where their Debu Bhaiyya is in ICU
and his wife Kadambari (Alka Amin) and son Amol host them
in the waiting area.

The brothers and their wives are hoping that after the brother
dies, they will finally get a share in the ancestral apartment the
dying brother has been living in. They have to bribe the hospital
staff to enter into the ICU at will. Ganpat the hospital chap is
played by Kishore Chougule who has a finger in all the pies (he
can arrange not just the funeral, but the bhajan singers as well
as fake guests at the wake, he knows the local cops and can
rescue the lads after getting them into trouble). Nayantara has
a whatsapp love affair with Rokky Dilwala (a delightful creepy
lad played by Prathamesh Parab) because he has promised her
a role in a movie. The boys are there to stare at girls and want
to experience ‘dance bar’ delights. Kadambari eats non stop.
The dying man’s son has a girlfriend who cannot stop saying,
‘I understand you’. The worst of these ‘eccentric’ offenders is
played by Dolly Ahluwalia who brings a babaji into the ICU to
smear (and feed) ash on the dying brother.

The joy of watching a dark comedy is about doing really horrible
things (like trying to arrange a wedding match for their daughter)
in a straightforward way, as though they were a part of everyday
ordinary life. Kadambari eating in every scene is so brilliantly
done, you wish the rest of the scenes weren’t so exaggerated.
But Vinay Pathak cannot resist his  parodying of Amitabh
Bachchan’s Deewar dialog…

Nayantara’s audition is funny, but did it need so much
accompanying cartoonish music? The rented funeral
arrangements are funny because the man isn’t dead yet, but
you wish you did not hear the comic phone ringtone.

You end up not caring about the loud portrayal, the item number,
what happens to the dying brother, the eccentricities, the fact
that this ensemble cast could have been so much funnier had
they not been so loud…

(this review appears in nowrunning dot com)


Lessons in Love and Longing In Benaras

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

A lovely story about love, duty, everyday life set in Benaras.
A grouchy, crotchety man who does his duty by his wife
and daughter announces that he has arranged for his
daughter to be married off. The daughter rebels and
questions her dad: do you even know what is love? How the
question is answered is this lovely tale of heartache and
love and new beginnings.

Main Review:

Think Sanjay Mishra. And you know he can deliver the grouchy,
dissatisfied with his life, crotchety father who works at the post
office, quite well.

Think Anshuman Jha, and you know he will do his role of small
town lad Jugnu, who is love with the crotchety dad’s lovely
daughter very well.

Think Brijendra Kala. And you know he will make a very sweet
dad to Anshuman Jha. Slightly eccentric, he is a foil to Sanjay
Mishra’s Yash.

Think Shivani Raghuvanshi whom you saw last in Titli, makes a
very pretty daughter Preeti who is in love with Jugnu and mostly
good daughter to grouchy Sanjay Mishra.

Think Pankaj Tripathi and you know he can surpass any role
given to him. In this film he is Firoz, the husband of Suman, who
is on her deathbed. Pankaj Tripathi is shown to be the man who
loves his wife so much he is willing to give up everything so she
has a few more days to live. Pankaj Tripathi’s very evident love
stuns Sanjay Mishra (who has promised to and delivers a very
important letter that would bring money for Suman’s hospital stay)
who is amazed at such display of emotion. Pankaj Tripathi is so
good at this small role, you wish he were cast as Sanjay Mishra’s
grouchy dad instead.

That brings us to last character in the story. Ekavali Khanna.
Remember this name. This actor plays the long suffering yet
quietly happy wife to grouchy Sanjay Mishra and mother to Preeti.
She is the buffer between daughter and father, the foundation on
which grouchy Sanjay Mishra can live his grouchy life smoothly.
This actor is magnificent. She is beautiful in close-ups, conveying
her hurt and love and every other emotion demanded by the role
with ease. And she’s stunningly beautiful. She’s wearing sarees,
and salwaar kameezes in the film, and you want to know where
the costume design person sourced these clothes because you
want to buy them. You also wonder, how is it possible that Sanjay
Mishra is unable to say that he loves this woman? The audiences
sighed and fell in love with her wonderful screen presence!

Sanjay Mishra is a fine actor. And you know and understand his
dilemma. The fact that he doesn’t realise that love needs to be
expressed, and he hopes ‘she understands that I love her even
though I don’t say it’ is very obvious. His ego is wonderfully written
and his change of heart is also good. Although his attempts of
wooing his wife back are so terrible, one thinks the film is going to
go off the rails and shoot itself in the foot. Thankfully the awful
sequence is just an aberration (maybe the newbie director could
not rein in the overacting by a senior actor like Sanjay Mishra) and
the film is back on track.

The end is horribly predictable because we love the wife’s
character so much, and it seems like a compromise because
Sanjay Mishra’s patriarchal character is ‘hero’. But all in all, if you
know someone who is unable to express their love, drag them to
this lovely little film.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: DEADPOOL 2

No Holy Cows Here!

4 stars

Mini Review: 

Deadpool is back. More irreverent than before and even more over the top when it comes to rules. Fourth wall? What is it? It remains shattered. The story? Gets wilder and crazier by the minute. And if you get all the references, you'll be sitting in the theater like I did, with a grin on my face...

Main Review:

Juggernaut is a villain naam ke waaste! Our superhero is the motormouth, decimating every holy cow with impunity. And that's why you have to pay attention to what he's saying. You grin and you grin and grin some more. As the references get meaner and hence funnier you realise that there's so much comic timing at work here, even though you don't see his face as he's delivering those wicked lines. You know he's as deadpan as it gets. I loved, loved, loved the writing. Especially the references to Cher!

The action in Marvel movies has been turned into a fine art. But with Deadpool, you can be ready for mayhem. But before you go,'Thanos!' you see dismemberment, slashing and bodies lying in the wake of a superhero who does not stop yakking!

We are casually introduced to the bad guy Cable, who seems to be part human, part machine, part magnet, part softy (Awww! He carries a teddy bear!)...

You will fall in love with Domino whose superpower is Luck...And there's Zeitgeist, Vanisher, Bedlam and Peter. You have so much fun watching them join Deadpool's X-Force (because 'X-Men' is so not gender neutral!). The idea that somebody lists 'hurling acid' as their superpower should make you smile.

Deadpool offers to go on a mission with the X-Men and Colossus reminds him, 'No Killing!' and discovers Russell who calls himself Fire Fist...

The story then moves from Deadpool wanting to kill himself to saving the lad to saving the planet. Things escalate so quickly and with so much irreverence that we laugh crazily enough to dislodge your neighbor's popcorn. The writing doesn't spare anyone, including Wolverine's 'Fix The Timeline'!

Ryan Reynolds is a violent, foul-mouthed savior and he makes for a great hero (what's not to love?!) because every person in the audience is wishing they could also speak their minds in their own lives.

Watch the film. I'm going to watch it in Hindi! Hope it is as brilliantly written as the English one!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: RAAZI

I'm Sure You Will Agree,
Raazi Is The Best Spy Films Of Our Times!

4.5 Stars

Mini Review:

How do you make a patriotic film without any bombastic
dialog and still manage to move the most cynical filmgoer
to tears? Raazi is one of the finest films to come out of
Bollywood. It is the story about a young Kashmiri girl who
marries into a Pakistani general’s family and in her own way
and at great danger to her life spies for India and practically
saves the day during the war between Pakistan and India
in 1971. It is a tale well told and brilliantly acted. Must watch!

Main Review:  

We have seen loud and bombastic Gadar where everyone wear
their patriotism on their sleeves that are rolled up to kill the enemy.
Anyone could have made a similar film with this girl spy married
off into an enemy household into a loud film where she chops
vegetables with a vengeance and proceeds to chop other family
members of the enemy general too. They could have shown her
being tied and tortured a la Van Damme. Thankfully Meghna
Gulzar does not torture the audience with a film like a typical
‘throw coins at the screen’ or ‘tear your heart and prove you are
patriotic’ type film.

She makes a film that tells the story of an ordinary girl who
chooses to put her life in danger and becomes extraordinary
without losing the audience.

The director treats everyone in the film as essential and with
respect, does not make the religious and national differences
obvious, and even when she is taking sides, does not grind the
other to the ground. The director extracts performances from
every actor so wonderfully, you come away from this spy
thriller fulfilled.

Based on a true story ‘Calling Sehmat’ written Harinder Sikka,
Raazi is the story of a 20 year old Sehmat (Alia Bhatt, truly
magnificent) who agrees to continue the work of her father
Hidayat Khan (Rajit Kapoor, very convincing), a Kashmiri who
spies for India by supplying information to Pakistan. She
agrees to undergo training and is then married off into the
family of a Pakistani General Brigadier Syed (Shishir Sharma,
brilliantly played!). The general’s sons are also in the army.
Sehmat is married to the younger son Iqbal Syed (Vicky
Kaushal, rather upright and a good foil to the delicate Sehmat),
and the older brother Mahmood (Ashwath Bhatt, wonderfully
suspicious and yet upright amy officer) is married to Munira
(Amruta Khanvilkar, rather lovely). There are also other
Pakistani generals and their wives (Why list the actors?
Because they make a wonderful family.). And not once are
you made to hate them because they are Pakistani.

The tensions between the two countries was very high, what
with East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) wanting to secede from
Pakistan and India helping their ‘Mukti Bahini’ (freedom fighters).
In this situation, it was but natural that the Pakistani army would
plot to decimate the Indian counterpart. The story is told so well,
you don’t hate the enemy at all. But there’s Sehmat, the new bride
who finds time to quietly find out what’s being discussed in the
meetings at their home and transmit the information back to India.
The situation that Sehmat finds herself in escalates very rapidly
and we are afraid for her, we don’t want to see her die. We begin
to root for her ingenuity and gentleness.

On the Indian side, Jaideep Ahlawat is great as the trainer to
Sehmat’s spy. The Indian spies in Pakistan (who, alas have
small roles are not credited anywhere online, but are brilliant) are
the rickshaw chap, the flower seller and the grocery shop man.
Roles you would not consider important, but are well acted.
Sehemat’s mother Teji (Soni Razdan) does not have to say
much, but conveys a lot.

The wedding is delicious and we learn to appreciate everyone in
the family. The gentleness is conveyed in her relationship with
her husband Iqbal so beautifully we forget for a while that she’s
a spy. The sweet romance between the two of them is something
you cannot miss. And he’s not shown to be some sex-crazed
monster simply because he’s the enemy.

Alia Bhatt has proven herself in Udta Punjab but here, she’s not
just innocent, but spectacularly beautiful (her dress designer
should take a bow for making lace edgings of her salwaar
kameez and her gorgeous dupattas and the color palette
stunning). And she can act (understatement of the year). She
leaves everyone in the Bollywood pantheon way behind.

Yes, this could have been a five star movie, except that there
are some obvious ploys that could not but be a part of the film.
Sehmat’s training is predictable as in any underdog training to
be hero film. Then there’s the suspicious servant Abdul (played
by Arif Zakaria) whose actions are predictable. And just to
nitpick, Sehmat’s last emotional outburst has been added to
show off her acting talent. Was just not necessary.

But the film remains an amazing tribute to all the people who
sacrificed their lives without needing any kind of acknowledge-
ment. The film is patriotic, but amazingly so. And the story just
seeps into your bones - just like the Mere Watan song - and
stays with you long after the movie is over.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)



Heart Is In The Right Place
But So Exhausting And Dull

2.5 Stars

Mini Review:

Everything old is eventually replaced by something new,
and it’s best to adapt. Whether it is an ancient photocopier
or a big old house. This is a lesson that this small feel-good
family film that has the heart in its right place brings on
the big screen. They try really hard and even though little
scenes from the film are good, the film drags on and on
and you wish it had been made for TV movie instead.

Main Review:

Old man Nagesh Srivastava is stuck on his ancient photocopier,
it occupies space which could be turned into his granddaughter’s
room. Son Aamir Bashir and daughter in law Sonali Kulkarni try
to persuade him gently to let go of the machine whose spare
parts cannot be found. The grand daughter tries hard to help him
get that missing lens too…

But it is the cricket-crazy grandson who steals the show. This little
boy is Kabir Shaikh and he is just brilliant. When he’s comment-
ating ‘Gupta dadu pavilion ki ore stretcher par ja rahe hain’ as the
mourners take away the dead neighbor Guptaji away for a funeral.
The little boy is better than most Bollywood actors when he feels
guilty of leaving a kid inside a big trunk back at his grandma’s
home. His guilt, his fear, his inability to share the event with his
parents, the joy at solving the dilemma are brilliantly acted by
this little boy.

Just like the old photocopier, there is grand old palace like haveli
which is being given to a hotel chain for redevelopment, there is
a son who hankers for his old phone because there is data on it…
Every problem is solved nicely but it takes so long you begin to
lose patience.

Thankfully Naseeruddin Shah who has in his last appearances on
the big screen is usually unrestrained and hammy is not. His
performance is restrained even though his conversation with the
old photocopier is annoying.

The drinking with dad scene between Aamir Bashir and
Naseeruddin Shah is sweet. So is Sonali Kulkarni’s apologetic
but guilty for throwing away the old photocopier scene where
she offers her father in law tea is heartwarming. The granny
(beautiful and graceful Beena Bannerjee) who teaches the cricket
crazy grandson how to play the old gramophone record player is
such a wonderful scene. Events you have experienced if you are
living with a family that includes older parents. The only annoying
part is played by the younger son, who comes bearing expensive
gifts from Dubai. His connect to an old phone seems to be illogical
and his story seems to be too forced in the film.

And when the aerial shot shows us how isolated and stand alone
grandma’s palace is, you wonder where the kids who were playing
hide and seek and cricket come from?  

This film has a decent slice-of-life feel and it comes to the screens
a week after 102 Not Out - the movie that received big publicity, and
starred two fabulous actors. But it should have gone straight to television.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)