Friday, April 21, 2017

Review: NOOR

Noor is So Superficial, It Gives Veneer An Inferiority Complex

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

A young journalist is stuck doing fluff interviews and she wants to meaningful work. But she has much to learn, and when she stumbles on a great story, she shares it with a boyfriend who uses the story without any corroboration. The consequences aren’t great, but then she learns a valuable lesson. Alas, the movie is so poorly researched and journalists will have a great laugh.

Main Review:

Noor, played by Sonakshi Sinha with all the earnestness she can muster, but the script is so badly researched, so superficial, it gives journalists a bad name. Certainly no journalist, even when a trainee would behave the way Noor does at a job.

She is judgemental about everything and looks at things in an extremely negative way. It reflects in her work and as audience you wish someone would shake her up or slap her, at least. But the film takes its own sweet time to teach a wannabe serious journalist a hard lesson. We see her flitting from a pub to a discotheque to an art gallery with her two best friends Zara (Shibani Dandekar) and Saad (Kanan Gill).

She even falls in love with an ex CNN photographer Ayan Banerjee (Purab Kohli) and Noor’s little complaints about her job are forgotten when she meets him at coffee shops and pubs and then at his hotel room. Of course she shares the story she is working on with the lad, and he predictably turns out to be a cad, and steals the story and broadcasts it to the world.

The story turns out to be sensational, but without any corroboration, without proof it dies a natural death. Noor is unhappy that her editor (played, again, in all earnestness by Manish Choudhary) made her wait for ‘her story’ and ruined an opportunity to be the one who ‘broke news’

But the script fails to explain to Noor that you cannot just publish any story, you need to find more proof, more evidence that the ‘scam’ is widespread. Did the scriptwriter not watch the Oscar winning film about investigative journalism called ‘Spotlight’?

Noor’s best friend Saad whisks her off to London because she’s heartbroken over Ayan’s betrayal, and then she comes back and in one viral video breaks the net. Her editor is happy, she is happy, offers her carte blanche and fabulous real estate to start a new newspaper and her best friend proposes to her like it were some storybook romance. Why? Because no girl is complete without a man in her life. Independence and being great at her work are not enough to offer happiness.

The film is like a fancy Vanilla Latte you ordered that was brought to you with only foam and no coffee…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Review: MAATR

Keval Bakwaas. Bechari Raveena.

1 star

Miini Review:

Delhi is a rape capital and this time it is a mother-daughter duo who get raped and the daughter dies. Of course the culprit is the Chief Minister’s son and his pals, and the police frame some innocents to close the case. Raveena Tandon in her comeback film plays the feisty mother who avenges the crime by finding out and killing each of the seven perpetrators. The subject is handled so ham-handedly, you cringe at the mistakes and wish they’d stop making rape an easy subject.

Main Review:

Raveena Tandon is earnest as a mother who turns into an avenging angel. She looks great for someone who has stayed away from the silver screen for years. That said, the role she has to play in this movie is so melodramatic, it borders on ridiculousness.

While NH10 made you feel for the characters because they inadvertently witness a crime and are hounded by the villain, ad the violence, though graphic, made you feel vindicated.

In this movie, everything is reduced to a caricature, and that’s why you begin to wonder when the revenge saga would end.

Seven men follow a schoolteacher and her daughter in their car, crash it deliberately and then abduct and rape both the mother and daughter, then leave them for dead on the side of the road. The mother just happens to be alive. When she implicates the Chief Minister’s son, the police back off. What follows is a predictable revenge story that completely ignores trauma and social stigma that is usually attached to rape victims regardless of their social class. And it tries to justify acting lawlessly because the law will not give her justice.

Raveena Tandon’s fans will be happy to see that she is still gorgeous, but the Kisi Disco Mein Jaayein girl, wanting to suddenly be Liam Neeson from Taken is not going to be easy with a weak script. And how weak? They haven’t even done research on police procedures: no policewoman is shown at all - not when the policeman takes a statement from a battered Raveena at the hospital, not even at the women’s cell at police station. And which policeman informs the victim that her daughter is dead? And the news channels and newspapers who are, by law expected to not reveal the identity of sexual attacks brazenly inform the public at large who she is in headlines!

The husband too is shown to be so pathetic, and that’s fine. But he keeps repeating, ‘You took a wrong turn’ again and again until you wonder if the scriptwriter was paid per line.

Then comes the effort Raveena puts in at the gym to get well. She begins teaching at the school once again, and again we realise no one raises half an eyebrow at her coming back. There is no residential trauma, nothing.

Divya Jagdale, her artist friend vanishes from the scene when Raveena cases the movement of one of the bad lads by chance. Divya is fiery and accompanies Raveena to the police station, offers her a home when the husband turns her out (there again, how does someone who has revenge on her mind let the husband behave badly?), but does not know Raveena has murders on her mind?

The revenge drama is so awfully predictable you begin to wonder how Raveena acquired so many skills. She has no training, nothing. She suddenly and simply just stumbles upon these baddies one by one and kills them. It is so tackily done, you don’t even want to know from where she acquired the gun, and if she picked it up from the baddie who tries to kill her, then how and where did she buy the silencer? Thankfully she kills four of them in two encounters, which saves us from watching the horrendous revenge thing.

Slumdog Millionaire child actor Madhur Mittal plays the bad guy who is shown to be forever smoking and drugged and fornicating. Had the scriptwriter been whipped for cliches, he’s be dead trying to defend this badly written villain. What is worse, is Raveena getting past seriously big police ‘bandobast’ by simply wearing sunglasses. We feel what the policeman says in the end, adding a silent thanks to the gods,’I think it is finally over.’

And the horrible crooning of ‘Maa’ - a song about ‘Aisi hoti hai maa’ helps you run out of the theatre...

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Stuns You With Its Humanity

2.5 Stars

Mini Review:

It’s a true story of how the Zookeeper couple Jan Zabinski and Antonina save the lives of 300 Jews during the occupation of Warsaw by Nazis. It’s humanity touches you deeply, but what is amazing is how Jessica Chastain gets into the role, caring for animals who seem to be comfortable being close to her.

Main Review:

She rides her bicycle through the zoo, talking to animals, asking the baby camel to run along her, she feeds elephants and hippos and even lets lion cubs sleep with her son. She’s Antonina, the zookeeper’s wife, Jessica Chastain in the title role.

You marvel at the casual comfort between her and the animals, but you know what they say, ‘animals sense fear in people’, and when you see the rabbits as well as lion cubs and a raccoon snuggle in her arms, you can but admire her courage, not to mention the bison scene.

No, I’m not giving the plot. Am admiring the zookeeper’s wife and her awesome lipstick. Book your tickets now.

Yes, it’s a true story and no matter how desensitised you and I have become to the suffering of others, this story of how they smuggle people out of the ghettos touches you somewhere deep inside. The cruelty of the Nazis and the innocence lost during war makes you aghast, makes you wonder if we are doing the same to the refugees escaping Syria every day.

You admire the courage of the people who risked everything to save others, people who refused to believe that neighbors had suddenly become less than human…

Yes, again, book you tickets now, watch the film just so we don’t forget what horrors we are capable of as human beings.

Watch the film if you love animals. Watch the film to see how brilliant the entire cast is: the little girl who is traumatised, the friend who hides in the attic, the man who takes care of the animals. And promise to never forgive people who kill birds for sport and say, ‘Have it stuffed and mounted.’

The film does manage to take your heart and squeeze it, but it loses points in the beginning when it comes across as rather stilted. You want to invest in the other characters but there isn’t enough time… But it is indeed a good film. So watch!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: SONATA

Sexless In The City

2 stars

Mini Review:

Mahesh Elkunchvar’s Marathi play Sonata has been shot by a movie camera. But the inherent problem remains: it portrays single women in the city as unhappy because they don’t have a man in their lives, and if they are in a relationship, it is abusive. In one fell swoop it insults all single women and such a shame that three wonderful actors fell to this pretentious excuse of ‘a play that speaks in the female voice’.

Main Review:

Just Plain Awful Conversation

‘I’m exuberantly happy, ecstatically so!’

‘I sway through life with abandonment.’

‘I don’t like perfume, I want to smell of my man.’

(Ewww! She doesn’t bathe?!)

‘We all live in boxes, you, me and that woman in the window.’

‘Only in their briefs! I wonder who gets to bed them’ (Looking at an ad about men’s underwear on TV)

WHO SPEAKS LIKE THAT? The film introduces three lifelong friends, two single, one in a ‘relationship’ with such awkward sentences.  

Looks like these women have been living in a cocoon instead of the real world. Ogling at men’s underwear ads? Never heard of Internet, miss? They speak of pornography and giggle. They’re still in rental VHS world.

Even when they say, ‘We earn, we spend. We don’t do charity. And we’re not even Feminists,’
you know it’s for effect.  

And if you have any LGBTQ friends or are simply better aware of the world, then you realise that if these friends have indeed helped Sameer transform into Sameera, then they would never say, ‘Is my touch dirty?’ or ‘Do you think I’m like that?’

Then to add to inadvertent fun, they claim to have sold ‘Grandmother’s family jewels’ to help Sameer, which makes you wonder if poor grandpa were in pain…

No Mr. Big. No High Heels. Just Desperation.

Aparna Sen who directs the film should have known better. She lapses into her Bengali accent so much that you wonder why she could not be Bengali professor of ancient languages. Why Arundhati Chaudhari from UP? She could have been saying ‘Hain’ like Amitabh Bachchan or be chewing on a Benarsi paan and she would not have come across as a North Indian.

Shabana Azmi is Dolon, the chirpy friend who is supposed to be an H.O.D in a Bank. Whaaa? At a bank? Head of the Department are seen in colleges… A banker is a banker, no?

Even though her chirpiness seems fake, ‘Put MTV on, I’m changing!’, she sings Rabindra Sangeet like a dream! When she emerges in a saree and proceeds to sing, she deserves a star and half for just that. She actually saves the film despite the awful confession scene which keeps the ancient male myth alive: women fight over men.

Lillete Dubey shows up with gifts from London (comes across more of an air stewardess than a journalist). Do article-writing journalists get paid enough to travel to London, and then get fired because their article was edited? Didn’t collate. She is made to dance awkwardly on Babuji Dheere Chalna and you feel pity for the woman rather than think of her as ‘cool’.

She’s in an abusive relationship with a chap who owns a garage (really?), and throws things down at him (He’s raving and ranting under the window).

The women talk so much you want to step into their kholi (ten by ten they keep saying, and it looks like a well-appointed apartment) and duct tape their mouths. It’s supposed to be banter, but it’s mostly unmitigated balderdash, pretentious mouthfuls of words like, ‘He’s a celebrated, internationally renowned artist. He still has fire in his eyes, but it’s mixed with pain now.’

The conversation does show how fragile the three women are, but it is so tiring to watch, you wish you had a hip flask with something stronger than the color changing wine the three drink. You don’t want to know why the straight-laced Arundhati suddenly chooses to drink after twenty something years of being a teetotaler. But you just wish Sameera and Peter would show up and end this fake drunkenness.

Update The Film. It’s Not A One-Act Play  
I do wish they had updated the Marathi play, talked to single women about their concerns today, and their lives instead of trusting a playwright who thinks women who live alone in apartments lead miserable and sad lives. (The woman in the window is called ‘Tuk Tuk’ in the play and ‘Typo’ in the film.)
If only the filmmaker had read Marathi stage reviews, she would have realised that people found the premise that independent women come to grief, not satisfactory at all way back in the year 2000 when Gargi Phule, Rajshree Wadh-Sawant and Ashwini Giri reprised the roles.

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple worked marvelously on film, and Polanski’s Carnage did too. But somehow, the stereotypes in Sonata, despite the huge potential, remains just that. Shame that after writing Wada Chirebandi and Haravlele Pratibimb the playwright chose to stumble in the dark with this subject.

Yes, if one and a half star is earned by Shabana Azmi’s singing, what about the other half star? It is earned by the scene where they flop on the sofa doubled in laughter and that one deft touch of direction when Lilette Dubey is throwing things down at her boyfriend and Shabana Azmi persuades her to leave the vase and throw the empty wine bottle instead.

P.S. Whatever happened to the rice washed and kept aside for dinner?

Friday, April 14, 2017


Family, Family, Family! Has Sooraj Barjatya Gone Rogue?

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

A beautiful but villainous Cipher blackmails Dom with a secret (obviously from his past) and he turns his back to his new wife (they’re on their honeymoon) his team and begins to steal for the villain who is flying around the world in an airplane that cannot be spotted by any radar. The team is blackmailed by unknown police agency into delivering Dom. Many vehicles blow up, there are many wisecracks and fans come away having consumed lots of popcorn with cheese.

Main Review:
We know their faces, fans know their names. We have seen umpteen re-runs on TV and we know they drive fast cars and steal fast cars and cops chase them but can never catch them. Fans know who drives which car and know who has a girl and who doesn’t and why they are the way they are. Each film adds a ‘cool’ character as either an opponent or as a team member and everyone hears Dom give thanks for the family.

But Sooraj Barjatya’s family obsession was never more evident than in this film. I will do anything for my family, including betray them. But we know Dom can never turn on his family, but the family has to believe that he has betrayed them…

So the story makes you wish this was a great heist movie or a movie with some bad guy selling cars or something that justifies explosive action and car chase sequences the fans love. ‘The dying for my family’ bit is too much to swallow. But it relieves Vin Diesel any responsibility of acting. He just has to be stern faced to hide his emotions.

Action, alas does not come fast and furious. Now the war is between good guys typing at breakneck speeds on keyboards and Cipher and her guys typing even more furiously on their keyboards.

The film has been shot beautifully and you feel as if you were the part of the action. The car race in Cuba is a standard beginning of the franchise and you love the fact that Dom is going to give you gyaan at the end of the race. You look forward to the action bits and those parts do not disappoint. Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson make for great love-hate partners. Helen Mirren is a great addition to the team, and you wish you know more about her. Charlize Theron again is a great baddie. Would have been fun to see her drive, though...

Only when the action movies to New York where they steal ‘Nukiller’ codes, do you begin to sit up and take notice.


The action bits are awesome and the last forty five minutes are fabulous and full paisa vasool. The witty dialog adds to the fun too. The audience enjoys the popcorn because it come with so much cheese. But isn’t that what such action movie is all about?


Jaan Nikaal Dee Is Bakwaas Ne

2 stars

Mini Review:

Set during the partition of India, this film chronicles the life inside a whorehouse set smack in the middle of the India-Pakistan border. The mistress of the house, Begum Jaan rules the home with love and an iron hand. Unfortunately Vidya Balan who plays the lead role cannot save the hopelessly predictable goings on inside the house, until the Border officials decide to force them to leave with the help of a crook. Such a terrible, bloated and tastelessly overdone copy of the Shabana Azmi starrer Mandi (1983).

One star for the earnest Vidya Balan 's appearing and disappearing unibrow and the other for Chunky Pandey's neck crackle.

Main Review:

Thesaurus dekho for words for prostitute!

Just because Begum Jaan runs a whorehouse, the women are made to behave how you’d expect women in the oldest profession be: they scream at each other, call each other crass names, wear clothes created by an over-enthusiastic art director, and pose as if were an audition to a high school play about a whorehouse.

Vogue! Vogue! Vogue!

In fact, the whole movie seems to be over staged. The idea they started with is interesting. The whorehouse falls right in the middle of the new India Pakistan border. The women have to evacuate, and Begum Jaan won’t leave her home. After all, she has the support of the local king. Her refusal to move gets both the representatives of India and Pakistan to survey the border markings really pissed off. The finally get a super bad mercenary Kabira to evict her.

Unfortunately for Begum Jaan, played earnestly by Vidya Balan, is just not enough. And after a while even she starts sounding ridiculous: I rescued each one of you from a fate worse than death and made you into prostitutes, so show some gratitude!

Since we see the women either yawn while they are with the clients or run out of the rooms when the clients behave like beasts, we understand why there is no gratitude from the girls.

Mandi Film Ki Gareeb Cousin

If this were a tribute to the 1983 cult classic Mandi, then they have done a shoddy job indeed. Mandi was clearly well thought out, well written and had fabulous performances. Even the traumatised runaway girl (Phoolmani played by Sreela Majumdar) could speak volumes with her eyes without saying a word. In this film everyone simply poses as if it were a fashion magazine spread where models go slumming. This is a poor country cousin pretending to be the real thing because they gave Vidya Balan a unibrow and light colored contact lenses.

Shakespeare Bhaiyya Kahin, 'Inner Weather Reflects Outer Weather', But This Film Ruins It

Let’s not even get into the weather! It’s Holi when everyone wants to look like a magazine spread, and it rains because the director does not know whether to show one of the prostitutes (Gauhar Khan) make love with the servant of the House (Pitobash) after they admit that they care for each other and the body is the body. Please don’t miss the moralising, the speechification: ‘Chaati kya hai? Maans hai’ (What are breasts, but meat) and so on by Gauhar Khan is unbearable rather than ‘acting’ with a chance of an award. Back to the weather, when the duo return to the House, the wind brings in dry leaves and twigs you see during Autumn.

I Went To Film School Syndrome

The two men responsible for drawing the border: one Hindu (Ashish Vidyarthi) and another Muslim (Rajit Kapoor) have been shot so oddly you wonder why the frame contains only half their face and the rest is a blur. Maybe because what they’re saying is trite and needless.

Kancha Cheena Ki Jai

You have barely recovered from seeing Naseeruddin Shah in a shiny brocade sherwani clearly made for Gabbar Singh or Dwayne Johnson when you suddenly find yourself apologising to all the casting directors of mythological TV shows. They don't get their casting wrong!

Imagine the relief when the salve comes in the form of a super bad mercenary Chunky Pandey who does his best to channelise his inner Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt from the new Agnipath) and does a great job. But even he has not much to do but crack his skull as musclemen are wont to do while spouting dialog like, ‘Mere aadmi phir kuch bhi kar sakte hain.’

Partition Sankshipt Mein

They keep having to go back to from the whorehouse to their original idea, and everything the filmmaker does turns out to be howlarious. We see characters who are such pointless cardboard cutouts you can only shake your head in despair: three people discussing how the partition is going to affect them . One is a token Muslim, one Sikh, and you hope the third one does not turn out to be Anthony or Peter or John. You see the resulting divide between Hindus and Muslims treated so flimsily, you want to throw things at the screen. You see Hindu kids on one side crossing another bunch of kids (skull caps and all), each group staring at each other looking scared. Seriously?! To top it all, they take a classic song ‘Woh subah kabhi toh aayegi’ and remix it in what can be only called as a pseudo-caring version.

This is a sham of a film making a pretense to art. Buy or rent the DVD of Mandi instead.