Friday, September 30, 2016

review: M.S.Dhoni: The Untold Story

The Awesome Supporting Cast Behind Captain Cool

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Neeraj Pandey proves that he is a Dhoni fanboy. The movie starts out awesomely well, telling us details about Mahi’s early life we eagerly lap up. But we want to know about his growth from getting selected in the team to becoming a captain. We get Bollywood style romance instead and then we begin to look at the time: 190 minutes. Cricket wins, but the supporting cast steals the show.

Main Review:

Let’s get one thing clear: we’re cricket crazy. And the kids in the audience (who bunked school) and college lads (who skipped classes) were all there to watch anything and everything about Dhoni. We don't care who plays Dhoni, as long as we get to watch cricket. And poor Sushant Singh Rajput. He means well, but his arms are never going to be as sexy as those on Mahiman. And his back (when he strips to wear his #7 shirt does not look anything like what the girls would imagine makes great helicopter shots.

But the excitement stays with you for the whole first half of the film. The little boy Mahi who wants to play instead of studying earns a lot of laughter and shared emotion in the theater. Every frustrated sports person who has parents who believe that a good job is everything nodded their head in the movie. Anupam Kher rightly says, ‘Everyone cannot be Sachin Tendulkar!’. But for every father like Anupam Kher, there is a Coach (played brilliantly by Rajesh Sharma), a mentor - the head of Railways (Mr. Ganguly), his friends (each one has acted better than the main cast), his mother (uncredited on the film’s wiki page), his railway homies, heck even his girlfriend’s roommate Ritu.

It’s actually for the supporting cast that you should go watch this film. How else would you know how this star was made?

The first half just sails past you like a catch you have missed in the field. Then the movie begins to stump you. However does he become captain? The movie will not tell you. How does lad from Ranchi become Captain Cool? Where is Sapna Bhavnani who gave him freaky hair? How did he become such a motorbike fan? The movies does not tell you. Were there machinations involved in team selection? The movie does not tell you. Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni have crossed paths as kids, do they become friends as they both become teammates? This movie does not tell you.

The movie goes full frontal Bollywood with his first girlfriend whose story seems straight out of afternoon soaps. Each time she says (and she says this so many times), ‘We do have lots of time together, don’t we?’, you know that horrible things will happen. Each time Bollywood shows anyone driving with a vapid smile on their face thinking happy thoughts, you know they’re heading towards a disaster. And here’s where you want to ask Neeraj Pandey, ‘Who needs to fiddle with the steering wheel so much while driving straight ahead?’

Anyway! This fanboy tale drags on through several, no more than several terribly morphed shots of Dhoni into Sushant at different matches. But the film won’t tell you how Dhoni learnt to be the master strategist of the game? Did he sit down to watch his opponents play with someone? Did the team party together? Did they hate each other?

Azhar the movie failed because they whitewashed all his misdeeds and portrayed him as 'good'. This one comes very close to sugarcoating everything about Dhoni as well. You know BCCI is not exactly untainted. You know careers were made and broken when he became captain. You want to know this and you are shown more Bollywood. He meets the girl who he is to marry in the same fashion he met the girl before. Now that’s so Bollywood, you forget to laugh along with the hero worshipping roommate Ritu. What a lovely little cameo.

And songs! Who needs pointless songs? Why can't they just make a sports movie? But you know they're going to take you through the final world cup win, which makes the bad morphing (sometimes you know that is Dhoni and not Sushant Singh Rajput) tolerable. But how did Yuvi take the change of batting order? The film does not tell you. It needs to get back to cricket.

And cricket fans just love watching the world cup win again and again. The theater erupts in wild clapping when the real Dhoni is shown at last. And you realise that had this film been a documentary of Dhoni’s achievements, it would be a full house. But then you would not have seen so many lovely uncredited characters (the film PR has done them injustice!). You come back home 190 minutes later wishing there was someone like Coach’s wife (marvelous bargainer of fish!) at home who understood the game and made you chai.

Take a bow all you awesome actors: Rajesh Sharma the school coach, his bargaining-brilliantly-for-fish wife, Dhoni's mum, Dhoni's best friends, local cricket commentators, the BAS bat maker, Bihar selector who is in a meeting and forgets that Dhoni might not have money to reach Kolkata, Mr Ganguly of the Railways, all ticket collector friends Dhoni shares his 'quarters' with, young lad who plays Dhoni at school, the young man who plays Yuvraj Singh, the Pakistani shopkeeper who is a cricket fan, and even Sakshi's dizzy over Dhoni roommate Ritu. Without you people, the movie would have been just plain awful.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: BANJO

Fun, Frothy, Musical Romance As Long As Nargis Fakhri Does Not Speak

3 stars

Mini Review:

We make good musicals, that everyone knows. This film is about a street music band, hugely popular at religious festivals, community celebratory gatherings like dandiyas, but get no respect because they’re not posh ‘rock’ bands. This film brings their music and their lives on to cinema and tell us an engaging love story.

Main Review:

Local hoodlum Tarrat (played quite convincingly by Riteish Deshmukh) is an extortionist by day, and a Banjo player by night. His band is a bunch of misfits: Grease, Paper and Baaja. Grease (Dharmesh Yelande) obviously works in an auto garage; Paper distributes newspapers, Baaja plays little drums in a wedding band that plays melancholy music to get the bride to cry…

They make awesome party music. And the drums play through your chest as the Dolby Surround sound in the theater adds more magic. Then comes Nargis Fakhri out of New York, bearing her bizarre accent to Bombay in search of the sound and the frenzy that Banjo generates. The surprise connect is Luke Kenny who looks like a ‘firang’ but speaks like a local (the audience loves it when he speaks perfectly good Hindi!).

The accent is the one thing that annoys you so much you stuff popcorn in your ear to simply watch her generous lips (trying hard to not say ‘duckface’) mouth those words and wonder: How does she pout so much?

Her fisherwoman fantasy act in the song ‘Udanchhoo’ will make you forgive her everything. She looks gorgeous then. And there’s a club song ‘Rada’ is fun too.

Now Ms. Bizarre Accent wants to record two songs with the Banjo group to enter some contest (of course she seems to forget all that until the very end) so she gets some gig...But she ends up working for this awful research agency who sends her off to take pictures of unhappy people in slums. Who? Whaaaat? Whyyy? This brings Tarrat (she calls him Tarot in her bizarre accent!) to her. Every time she wants to tell him why she really is wandering about in the slums, something happens.

You cringe because you’re going to her her speak some more, alas.

The band is fabulous, and they share a brilliant chemistry. The film has been shot in narrow alleyways and the local thug Patil saab makes for a fun character to watch too. More than his gold, it was fun watching him near a plate of the mava cupcakes, every single time (even when he’s on the phone on the terrace, there’s a goon holding a plate of those cupcakes behind him!). Well done Ravi Jadhav! It is these little details that make up the movie.

While the second half sags a bit, it picks up pace rather quickly and you have fun. Loved the four of them at the funeral and loved the awful cops that beat up and talk at the same time. There’s a little boy called ‘Cutting’ who was a delight to watch. I loved Luke Kenny’s quiet support role, as much as I did the old man in a band uniform in the scene where Tarrat comes home drunk both on love and alcohol, and he quietly places his hand over the lad…

The fly in the ointment? The horrible stereotypical club owner played by Mohan Kapoor. Come on! We’re not in the 70s any more we could have done with a less lecherous person.

The climax is good fun. The movie ends rather well. Great song, and ending of rivalries. Yes, yes, there’s a rival band there too. Go watch them, and dance in the aisles. And hope Riteish stops acting in the awful sex comedies and gives us such happy frothy romances.     

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


The Franchise Is Truly Dead.

1 star

Mini Review:

Want to see what a fizzled out franchise looks like? Then watch this film.The cast you loved is all there. It’s just that they don’t realise that they’re all rather ancient and pretending to be cute looks just puts the audience off their popcorn.

Main Review:

Bridget Jones is still writing in her diary. She’s still complaining about her batty mum and dad. She’s complaining about this and that and being cute yet alone and being cute and yet drunk and being cute and… You get the picture…

She’s 43, people! And to watch Renee Zellweger scrunch up her eyes and nose to try and look like the original young person struggling to keep her job, lose weight, find a man, and she’s dancing and jumping on her bed to a song (Jump Around by House of Pain) that was released in 1992 in 2016… No wonder she doesn’t recognise Ed Sheeran. Cute? Perhaps the only thing cute in the movie. And only because all of us have some time of the other missed recognising celebs on a flight or at a restaurant.

The rest seems to be forced and after a while ‘I cannot pronounce foreign names because they sound stupid’ or ‘All Chinese look alike’ type jokes seem really juvenile and xenophobic even.

But there’s Colin Firth and his Brit accent that makes everything tolerable. Remember Jennifer Aniston’s rom com movies like Object of Affection and how we sort of thought that pretty women manipulate men into doing things they want? Here, even those of us who invested our attention on Bridget Jones because she fell in love with Darcy (from every girl’s favorite novel) cannot help but be a little angry at the woman who wants Jack played by Patrick Dempsey (so-oh the perfect boyfriend material!) but cannot let go of the inner hankering of Darcy. ‘I didn’t feel like telling’ is not a cute excuse at 43, it is a calculating move. You hope both men walk away into the sunset leaving her gold-digging arse behind!

Fans of the original movie should skip this one. And if you have a hankering to not miss rom-coms, the wait for it to show up on the telly.    

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Same Ole Abala Naari Tale In New Bottle

2. 5 stars

Mini Review:

Rajasthan is probably the heart of patriarchy land, and the villages hide many ugly tales. But three friends are there to support one another and they eventually learn to help each other fight the ugly reality that is their life. Shot beautifully, the film seems much longer than its running time because it is full of cliches about women and the feminist text seems to be borrowed rather than believed.

Main Review:

‘How come all the insults are connected to women? Why only ‘motherfucker’ and ‘sisterfucker’, why is there no ‘fatherfucker’ or ‘brotherfucker’?’

Such easy feminist rants have come and gone on social networks. So you wish the filmmaker had thought up of some other ‘clap because I’m saying cool things’ moments.

Shot beautifully in a Rajasthan village, this film is a story of three women frineds - Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte and Surveen Chawla - and how their lives keep them thirsting for a better life.

Some will choose to be shocked at the lives they lead: women are ‘allowed’ to have cell phones, but no tv; women do all the work and put up with husbands who prefer whorehouses than home; not one woman expects tenderness from the husbands… Adil Hussain is wasted as a one night stand and the young girl who plays Rani’s daughter in law is made to cry all through the movie as a cardboard cutout. But others are no better. It’s just that the actors are talented and they bring their own personalities to the characters they play.  

Tannistha plays Rani, a widow householder who is ready to get her son married to a girl barely fifteen. The son of course is a nasty piece of work called Gulab.

Radhika plays Lajjo, a wife who cannot have babies (hence cursed) and lies with her abusive husband.

The surprise package is Bijli, the dancer, the whore who is Rani’s friend (and therefore by association, a friend of Lajjo too!). Surveen Chawla is simply outstanding in her portrayal of a dancing girl who hankers for love under her natural outrageousness…

The connect between the three women is so amazing, you wish all the other domestic things they are shown involved in go on for too long. You wish the filmmaker had been inspired by Thelma and Louise and had learnt the art of brevity and precision from there.

The story wanders along the pains and the suffering so much you begin to groan each time the women are tortured by the menfolk. The violence is not new but there’s only so much of slapping across the face one can watch on the screen without cringing. Some moments are luminous, but you fail to understand why no one sits down to edit, edit, edit.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Exactly As The Title suggests: Magnificent

3 stars

Mini Review:

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai has been made and remade and made again in so many languages. Now Antoine Fuqua brings you his version of the same story. It may not rent your soul like Seven Samurai does, nor does it make you drool over the easy macho of Yul Brynner and other cowboys in the 1960 version. But it’s fun, fully action packed, and has seemingly unending ammunition.

Main Review:

If you have watched Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, you have seen humanity at it’s wretched worst. Your hearts melt at the poverty the villagers have been trapped in and the cruelty of the bandits. The 1960 version is less wretched even though it remains a tragedy, but it gives you heroes each with his own unique quality.

If you are a fan of the earlier versions, you will expect this new film to have the same emotional connect. It doesn’t. You know the story too well and yet, the beginning freezes you in the seat. It is surprising. It is shocking. And it sets the tone for the story. You are terrified of Peter Sarsgaard as you should be. You want the village saved.

As you settle down with the popcorn, you wish you could have had a better emotional connect with the cowboys but you are happy just watching their skills.

‘Throw, slice, stab!’ There’s nothing more to it, Billy Rocks tries to teach the villagers to use the knife…

‘Her name is Ethel, and she’s the love of my life,’ Faraday talks about his gun…

And Denzel Washington attempts to be as laconic as Yul Brynner but his character comes across as too broody.

But Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio bring so much passion to their characters, you fall in love with the story once again.

The body count is more, and the bad guy is badder and even more cruel than Gabbar could ever be in the desi version of the story. The second half action as the movie prepares to meet the baddie are really shot like they loved it. But in spite of all that, you do wish for a Revenant like view captured for the big screen. But still, when the old familiar music comes along with the end credits, you emerge happy from the theater, pleased with the experience.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, September 16, 2016

review: Raaz Reboot

Isharon Ko Agar Samjho RAAZ REBOOT Ko Raaz Rehne Do!

1 star

Mini Review:

Emraan Hashmi is Aditya again. Alas there’s no Bipasha Basu rebooted as Shanaya, but another pretty girl (Kriti Khabanda) rebooted as Shaina redoing the Arth 'mangalsutra beads are broken' act, the ghosts that possess bodies are still levitating and contorting bodies, and creaking doors and yanking screaming women under the bed… Reboot means Rehash.

Main Review:

The movie has great locales and the setting is so amazing (it earns its sole star), you wish they had taken advantage of the local legend of vampires (the movie is shot in Romania) to make it a little more fun. But it’s the same ole story of possessed bodies that levitate and contort, get dragged under beds, screams and dreams, creepy crows at windows and exorcists that run out of rooms terrified.

There is a moment of hundred per cent creepiness, though. It’s when the creepy crow turns kamikaze and crashed through the windscreen.

Sorry to tell it, but the rest of the times, it’s a very tedious watch. Shanaya has fought with Rehan the reluctant husband (he does not want to be finance head of a Romanian bank, he does not want to sleep with his beautiful wife) and have now come to Romania where they met and fell in love. Within a month, the pretty wife is possessed after she unpacks a bleeding computer (am not offering a vituperative, the computer really does bleed).

Why is Rehan (Gaurav Arora) so reluctant and sulky? Maybe he needs a haircut (his hair weighs probably more than his entire body weight, and it’s so fluffy, they missed a shampoo/conditioner endorsement!), maybe he needs to wear less tight trousers, or maybe he realises that he missed acting classes that taught expressions other than plain sulky… But they tell us that he has a secret that makes him permanently sulky. And the trouble is Shanaya wants to know it and on top of it, she is plagued by a spirit. How one missed Bipasha’s Shanaya and Ashutosh Rana’s Professor Agni Swaroop here. But all is not lost! We have a blind man who writes with a pen on paper (would have been easier in braille, no?), he even knows when there is no more space left on the page, and reads from an illustrated ancient text he carries around and reads from…

But thankfully the pretty girl is very pretty. So pretty, the spirit wants to drink chai from the same cup with her! And follows her everywhere and lays her naked on the dining table (all the better to feast on, I suppose), It even… You have to stop falling asleep in the movie, the person next to you shakes you awake. You miss Adhyayan Suman here… Even though he lost the baby with his Nandita in the second Raaz, at least he gets her to the hospital. Here sulky Rehan with silky head of hair simply attempts to imitate Hrithik Roshan’s pinched nostril act and fails. His friends (poor Indian couple) get stuck with reading what the blind man has written and generally there so that the spirit can beat someone else other than ridiculous Rehan.

Emran Hashmi must have has a whale of a time in this film. He is Aditya again. This time a Creative Director, photographer who has had a passionate affair with Shanaya (rehashed… I mean ‘Rebooted’ character), and just like Prithvi who drew slashed wrists pictures, this time he dreams vivid dreams…

By the time the music has lulled you into thinking you have heard these tunes before, thankfully spirits have emerged from the possessed girl in a black smoke and crashed into the windows and it is daylight again (the ushers in the theater have opened the ‘exit’ doors for you). It’s a relief from this terribly rehashed story.    

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

review: PINK

Drama Stuck In The 90s

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Two hours and sixteen minutes long moral science lessons on molestation of women and the attitude society still nurtures. You learn nothing new, you haven’t seen anything different, you have heard it all before. But having Amitabh Bachchan make an argument for the cause, his whisky and honey baritone commenting on male entitlement and patriarchy makes all the difference.

Main Review:

Remember Damini? With Sunny Deol’s fist on court desk  makes a memorable point about courtrooms, ‘Tareekh pe tareekh!’? Well, it’s been 23 years since that iconic film, but looks like nothing has changed. This time it’s Amitabh Bachchan using his impeccable baritone to preach to the converted, ‘No, means no’

Is the film good? Sure. It has superb moments when Amitabh Bachchan lawyers up and finds all the loopholes in the investigation made by the police, the prosecution. It has outbursts from the girls who have been accused of everything from solicitation to attempt at murder. But it also has a sleazy prosecutor (Piyush Mishra) - a stereotype you have seen in so many movies (and on police tv shows) you are not surprised at all at any dialog. Not one. It’s so formulaic, you are not even surprised at the outbursts from the girls and the judge admonishing them. The only thing missing is the instruction to the jury (you’ve seen in Hollywood movies) which goes something like, ‘The jury shall ignore the last remark’ and to the court reporter, ‘Please strike that last outburst from the record!’

The subject is current and important. Molestation is never right, and it does not matter if the girl was drunk or wearing flashy clothes, when she says, ‘No!’ the men need to back off. So when you hear praise for a film such as this one, just step back and look at it as cinema. You’ll realise that everything that happens is so ‘seen that, heard that’ - from the neighbors who ogle at girls, to the gentle landlord (whatever does happen to him, you wonder!), to the waiters and manager at restaurant, to Falak’s office colleagues - everything and everyone is so predictable, you actually admire the bad boys. They are brilliantly cast: the creepy cousin (Vijay Verma) who wasn’t even there but is outraged about women who do not stay in ‘aukaat’ (boundaries), the Bengali lad (Tushar Pandey) who is accessory to the molestation but attempts to do the right thing, even the two girls Falak (played beautifully although hysterically by Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea Tariang are cast well. But the stories of the girls are so much like you have seen on TV shows like Saavdhaan India and Crime Patrol that you find more mystery in the mixed caramel and cheese popcorn tub in your arms.

You wish Tapsee Pannu did not have to be such a wuss at the trial (remember Jodie Foster in The Accused? You want that!). You wish the film had been crisper. You wish there was at least one Amitabh Bachchan dialog you could take home with you. ‘No means no’ does have the same drama as Sunny Deol’s ‘Tareekh pe tareekh’ or the laconic brilliance of ‘Tera naam kya hai Basanti’... Watch it because you cannot miss out on a film that attempts to talk about a subject that needs talking about. Just remember that the subject alone does not make it an amazing film.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


The Best Film Seen This Year!

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

A girl in search of the beach where her mother found happiness finds something more sensational. The movie about the consistent threat that is the shark and grit and courage that is the girl is simply breathtakingly marvelous. You haven’t seen such amazing underwater or surf footage or felt the excitement at the back of your throat. The threat from the shark feels so real you do not breathe.

Main Review:

The Shallows is such a brilliant film, you cannot believe it has a very simple premise. A girl who comes seeking the perfect beach finds herself being encircled by a shark who has eaten the only other people on the secluded beach.

But the action is so good, you cannot imagine how deceptively beautiful the beach and the sea are. You begin to worry for the girl marooned on the rock in the shallows while the shark seeks out opportunities to swallow her as well. The last shark movie that gave you the chills was Jaws, and today Bruce the mechanical shark of that film seems too tame when compared with this vicious fin and jaws swimming in the shallows, slowly but surely encircling the hapless girl.

Blake Lively is a gorgeous body all right. And when she strips on the beach to strap herself to the surfboard, you settle down to watch a truly majestic piece of nature… I mean the beach is simply beautiful. The two other surfers there are catching the waves and seem to be spending a fabulous day in the waters that are beautifully blue. The girl from Texas, Nancy, has found the beach as she mourns her mother who is lost to cancer. She’s a med student who has given it all up because no amount of medicine has cured her mother. Will she find peace on the beach? She wonders as she waits for that one last wave of the day.

The sea and weather turn and you find yourself rooting for the slip of a girl fighting for her life. Never before have you experienced such exhilaration at her little triumphs and fear each time she encounters the shark. You don’t mind the blatant product placement of Casio and Sony products because you don’t have the time to think. You are on that rock surrounded by tide that’s rising rather quickly and you know she has to think up of something real quickly.

The ocean has been filmed with as much love here as you have seen in The Atlantic (2014) and you know that there is huge restraint on the part of the director because there is not a moment of lazy surf shots. Each frame is there to take your breath away. This review cannot find adequate words to describe the visual spectacle that is The Shallows. And you will not ever once hear that Blake Lively is just another beautiful body, ever, after watching this film.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: Robinson Crusoe

Excruciatingly Tedious

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

A kiddie animation flick about how Robinson Crusoe learned to survive on a tropical island is fun in the beginning but gets progressively tedious to watch with so many animal antics crammed in that you stop caring. Besides, the villainous cats could scare very little kids.

Main Review:

It is a great idea to have a bumbling, seasick sailor shipwrecked on a tropical island, where smart animals (a macaw, a pango, a goat, a tapir and others) help him find his feet, literally, and help him survive the pirates and the wild cats…

The animation is cute. The jokes are too. There’s body odor from the practically blind goat, overweight jokes about the tapir, and the macaw has the propensity of getting his tail feathers caught…The jokes just stop being funny after a while and you want to roll your eyes. But you see that the kiddies love the bumbling Crusoe and you continue to watch.

The pirates show up and their viciousness gets a little scary. And then there is the death of Crusoe’s loyal dog, the cats being responsible. It is not very pleasant to see death of a pet dog, or that the filmmakers cast cats as villains.

Considering how far animation has come from being just kiddie cartoons, this kind of animation drags itself down and you want to watch Monsters Inc. or UP or even Despicable Me. We’re not even getting into the realm of beautiful animation films like Kubo And Two Strings (2016) or even Song Of The Sea (2014) for comparison. This one and a half hour film just feels longer and so tiresome, you wish the cats had drowned much faster. The end is abrupt too, but you are so relieved that the credits begin to roll you say a silent prayer wishing they would stop fooling themselves by retelling the classics in such a haphazard way.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: The Light Between Oceans

The Yawn Between Oceans

2 stars

Mini Review:

M.L. Stedman’s lyrical war novel comes to you on the big screen with much gut wrenching anguish you start wondering if isolation does play tricks on the mind, making ethics ambivalent. But despite the tears and the drama happening in that small isolated community, the film fails to touch any deeper chord.

Main Review:

‘He must turn to something solid, because if he didn’t, who knew where his mind or his soul could blow away to, like a balloon without ballast’... This is what the novelist writes about Tom Sherbourne, the man who chooses to become the keeper of the lighthouse on Janice Island. He meets Isobel on the mainland, she persuades him to marry and their honeymoon on the island is like a fairy tale.

But… But all the beautiful words just fail to translate into a visual spectacle and end up with two beautiful people ‘acting’ out love scenes. Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander smiling at each other too much, walking by the ocean, kissing in too many close ups. It’s tiring, because the narrative goes nowhere. The anguish and then anger and denial of the miscarriages that is expressed in words rather beautifully in the novel just looks like what you see in TV soaps day after sentimental day. What should connect with the audience just simply looks like they’re trying too hard.

Even the shots of the sea don’t offer anything spectacular (watch Atlantic - directed by Jan Willem van Ewijk, 2014; or even The Shallows - directed by Jaume Collet Sera, 2016, to be really wowed by seascapes). The story does move forward when they decide to keep a baby found in a dinghy. But  here too, there’s too much soap-like drama that makes all the grown ups looking really ridiculous. One bad decision follows another and you can see the end from far, far away.

What could have been a tragic love story just ends up being oddly unpalatable. The director’s previously made Blue Valentine has so much more passion than this vanilla tragedy. Watch Light Between The Oceans on a lazy Sunday afternoon when there’s nothing good on the telly…

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, September 02, 2016

Review: AKIRA

Maaro, Akira, Maaro!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Sonakshi Sinha plays Akira, a girl who has been taught to stand up to bullies from her childhood. She stands in the way of a bunch of crooked cops headed by Anurag Kashyap. What unfolds keeps you hooked for one hundred and thirty eight minutes. As they say, ‘Full Paisa Vasool!’

Main Review:

There’s action, there’s lots of drama, and there’s a new reason to hate cops: Anurag Kashyap. He chews the scenery as one of the best crooked cops one has seen in the last few years, pouring into that uniform as if it were made for him. Each time he enters the frame you wonder how much more evil he is capable of creating. And all because his bunch is as stupid as they come. His, ‘Galat ladki to utha laaye, Manik!’ (‘You picked the wrong girl, manik!’) is as ominous as it gets.

The girl in question is Akira, played by Sonakshi Sinha. You have seen her in roles where she plays a simpering miss to every hero, whether it is Salman Khan or Shahid Kapoor or Arjun Kapoor. A simpering miss who bats her large eyes, wears ghagras and sarees and pretty jhumkas, waiting to be rescued from her ordinary life. Well, in this avatar, she has a cool shorn head of hair, she’s wearing pants and kurtis, the jhumkas are gone too. And even though her eyes remain large, there’s a storm in them that cannot be mistaken for anything else.

The best part about Sonakshi Sinha playing Akira? She kicks serious butt. She can hold her own when it comes to college bullies, and it’s not just during the fight in the college canteen that you burst out into instantaneous applause, but also outside when the college bully comes at her with an exacto knife. Woah! It surprises everyone. And the audience needed a new action hero. Here, we found one.

The second half of the film drags a bit (with Konkona on a track to uncover the crime that originally involves Anurag and co., the track of keeping Akira confined), but then it offers a climax worth the wait. Konkona Sen Sharma (good cop Rabia Sultan), Mishiekka Arora (plays young Akira really well!), Atul Kulkarni (Akira’s dad), Smita Jaykar (Akira’s mom) all offer great support to the main cast. Alas, the bad cops too all play ‘bad’ guys really well, have not been offered credit on the cast and crew pages at this time. They deserve a pat on their backs too.

Dir Murugadoss remakes the 2011 Tamil movie Mouna Garu (starring Arulnidhi and Iniya, directed by Santha Kumar) and turns it on its head by giving Sonakshi the lead. The movie was also a hit in Kannada (Guru) and in Telugu (Nara Rohith’s Shankara).

It’s been a long time since we watched an action flick without the necessary song and dance romance track. It exists in the film too (poor Amit Sadh gets that ineffective role), but we could have done without it too. If the mother had been given a better role than just the token one, the film could have been different. But on the whole, the movie makes you happy munching popcorn while the heroine cracks bones, makes you laugh cheesily when the creepy villain gets served his  desserts. As they say, ‘Paisa Vasool!’ (Full Value For Money)

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Why Jimmy Sheirgill, why?

0.5 stars

Mini Review:

Identical twins, weepy mother, rude brother, heroine who loves hero from when she was a child, comic relief gangster, gangster who indulges brother… Every character that you see in this film is a ridiculous homage to Manmohan Desai. The director Anwer Khan has allegedly worked with the maestro for 17 years. No one can stop you from copying tropes, but who can teach you aesthetics?

Main Review:

Jimmy Sheirgill has a knack of choosing films that have proven that he’s a consistent performer who can make the audience smile simply by being jilted in movie after movie. I suppose playing a double role, and that too a hero in a movie was too much of a temptation to deny himself. So he plays Man and he plays Mohan (Yes, yes, together they becomes Manmohan) to Zarina Wahab’s weepy mother.

So Man is in Thailand doing no more than watch his girl dance at what B-grade filmwallahs think is a ‘party’ in Thailand. Of course there is a lout who wants to take a selfie with his girl, and Man beats him (and his goons) sending him to hospital. Back in the village, Mohan does little but romance his girl and help Sapna-ji (who looks like she should be in some mall and not at a village bhaji shop). Oh yes, he also wins the local swing the stick contest by beating to pulp a bunch of lathi-wielding goons paid off by his girl’s brother (Murli Sharma).

Weepy Mom hankers after Thailand brother, so Mohan goes off to Thailand to bring him back. In the meanwhile, Thailand brother Man decides to return home because his girl persuades him that it isn’t a good idea to take on Don (whose brother is the selfie lout).

The two brothers in two airplanes cross mid air and it is intermission. If you haven’t aged by now, you would be better off if you leave the movie now. Because what happens after the lights go down again, and you are armed with coffee, is too obvious and seriously ill fitting tribute to ManMohan Desai.

Whether they shoot in Bangkok or in India, the quality is shoddy. The dialog delivery of Bruna Abdallah is scarier than Vijay Patkar's comedy. Also, the less you see of Vijay Patkar and his horrendous collection of clothes and wigs and face contorting brand of 'acting' the better you would feel about comedy in cinema. Not only does he get a double role, but he gets slapped only once.

The two brothers now save each other’s reputation. Mohan beats up the Don’s brother and his goons and the big Don himself (Arbaaz Khan, who does nothing more than wear dark glasses and look from right to left and back menacingly in extreme close-ups as though he were auditioning for the next Terminator movie). Man, now back at the village sings songs with his bhabi to be and saves his brother’s reputation. Remember bhaji buying Sapna-ji? Well, she is accusing Mohan to have impregnated her and then abandoned her. Man (now Mohan) admits that the baby is his and offers to marry Sapna-ji. Sapna-ji is taken aback (one song is all it takes) and admits that Murli Sharma is the father.

Thankfully we don’t see how Mohan flies back from Thailand with Man’s girl and Man hands over Mohan’s girl in village. We are ‘treated’ to scene where the girls don’t know which of the brothers is theirs. You stagger out swearing that it’s too much… No, cut that. You stagger out, swearing. Period.