Friday, March 31, 2017


Everyone’s Got A Tickle Spot!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Thinking of having a second adorbs baby? Are you a kid who’s waiting for a sibling to arrive? This wonderful little tale of sibling rivalry and adjusting to another baby at home is a fun watch.It’s for kids mostly, but grown ups will love powdered bums on the assembly line!

Main Review:

It’s a subject that is cleverly handled in this movie. After all, most of us are either first-borns with siblings, or are siblings to a not-so-adjusting first-borns, or are happy being the only children of doting parents. And we understand the perfectly all the emotions that could crowd inside a little boy’s head when  new baby arrives in his home, drawing away all the attention.

We know secretly know babies are manipulative and will get their way. But no one ever says it out loud, let alone make a movie out of it.

After watching Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live was so much fun, it raised our expectations with the humor. But we see amazing restraint on his part, and yet, he manages to make us smile. And smile. And laugh out loud.

Babies are made in baby heaven where bum after baby bum on assembly line is send off to homes… Or not.

Boss Baby arrives in young Timorthy’s home and takes over. Timothy Templeton has seen the baby’s briefcase and heard him on the phone. This baby can talk! He knows no one will believe him unless he has proof…

What follows is a fun watch for kids. Tim and the baby outdoing each other. But they realise they have a common enemy to beat…

The film is good fun. Yes, I know I said that. But grown ups will want some cutesy bits gone because they might remember diaper duty they have done or have had baby hurl food back at them… Watch it though, because the movie reminds you of your own tickle spot and what's more, it comes without the poopy diaper smells.


Puppy Videos! Heartbreak! Puppy Videos! Heartbreak!

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

A dog called Bailey PUPPY VIDEOS is born again and again as a dog PUPPY VIDEOS to meet his first human PUPPY VIDEOS and set things right… A manipulative film with PUPPY VIDEOS that will squeeze your heart PUPPY VIDEOS and you will be happy to let them do this because PUPPY VIDEOS

Main Review:

Warning: If you or your kids get teary, carry plenty of tissue. You’ll need them when you’re watching the film

So Bailey runs away from the puppy sale and you get a tiny heart attack within minutes because he’s dying of thirst at the back of a truck.

He’s rescued and finds himself a human.


Dad is mean and ooh! Here comes another little heart attack.

Bailey is in trouble.


Between the PUPPY VIDEOS, little heart attacks and AWWW you realise that you have been manipulated so beautifully, you stop thinking like an Indian who has grown up listening to stories of reincarnation, watching cinema of rebirth (remember concepts like Janm Janmantar Ka Saath?) and see nothing wrong in a dog being born again and again as a dog.

The film has been shot beautifully, and written cleverly so you can cry and laugh along with Bailey’s monolog that dominates the film. Apparently there’s a book, re-released with the film. But books don’t have PUPPY VIDEOS!

If you’ve ever been a human to any dog, you would know why a review of this movie would be a failure. If you haven’t, then you’ll watch it with disinterest. And seriously, disinterest when you’re watching PUPPY VIDEOS?

Review: POORNA

Great Story Poorly Told

2 stars

Mini Review:

Poorna is the story of Poorna Malavath, who at 13 years became the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest. Poorna grows up in a dirt poor part of Andhra Pradesh where girls are married off as soon as they hit puberty and are considered a burden. Although her sister cannot escape that fate, Poorna does and goes on to conquer the highest peak in the world. Although the story is inspiring, the telling of the tale is tedious.

Main Review:

Rahul Bose, who produced and directed this film needs to realise that a good docu-drama needs a little more than heart. You want to tell us the story of a poor girl who conquered the Everest, then we want to see more than a montage of her training to climb. We want to get to know her, like her. We want to see not just her triumphs but her small losses. We want to like her enough to root for her when she cannot breathe high up in the Himalayas, or is feeling despondent.

The film is a straightforward narration: Little girl from the back of the beyond finds her calling in climbing mountains and then goes on to climb the Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Her story is inevitable. There are no surprises at all.  

Mira Nair hit all the right check-boxes when she shot in Uganda in the slums of Katwe and told us the story of Phiona Mutesi the girl who becomes a chess champion, beating far more experienced players at the chess Olympiads. We learnt chess when she learns, we feel the overwhelming hurt of failure when she fails.

In Iqbal, we begin rooting for the deaf, mute lad the moment we see his dedication to the game. We have seen umpteen sports films with underdogs that work hard at making us like them. Truly ‘like’ them. In this film, we know that the kids are in a residential school for the underprivileged, but there’s nothing heart-warming when we watch the kids play, ‘Who’s the poorest of us all’. That’s plain horrible.

The story of the two cousins Priya and Poorna is really wonderful. Wish there was more of how one inspired the other. But we see a very Hindi film hug when the older one gets married. Yes, she hands over the purple paper that advertises the school to Poorna, but after all that the two risked in trying to escape, the tame acceptance by Poorna’s dad who brings her to school is a bit of an anticlimax. So is their easy acceptance of Poorna getting chosen for the mountaineering expedition.

If the filmmakers want us to think that learning to climb a rock in Bhongir in Telangana is good training for the climb to the Everest, then they think we have not heard of Reinhold Messner and his sans-oxygen climbs, Compagnoni and Lacedelli and their brave win over the K2, or even watched the movies that take us to the Everest not so long ago. Whether it was a budgetary constraint with Poorna or not, we feel shortchanged when we don’t see much of the training at the Darjeeling Institute.

In Queen Of Katwe, we watch in joy when the kids discover simple things like ketchup and other foods at the hotel where they're staying during a tournament. The least they could have shown little Poorna discovering snow: the joy, the fun and even the danger. Even an ancient film like 400 Blows talks about the yearning, the dream of wanting to see the sea. In this film, nothing! The Himalayas are so immense, you cannot be but awed when you see them for the very first time. This kid is practically blase about it? Hard to believe...

Maybe it was true that the school was shortchanging the kids by feeding them really bad food, or with facilities, but the film waffles about many things. And Rahul Bose who shows up as savior rather conveniently. Everything that they show in the film may be true, but it eats away our interest in Poorna. It is her story we want to know. Could they have not accessed real footage from the recording of the climb? The snow scenes look so staged you don’t feel the danger at any step.

When a very young child performs feats very few grown ups can perform, then the madness of either the child or the irrational dedication from coach needs to come through. Even Budhiya Singh offered us a jaw-dropping look into the coach-student connect. Nowhere in Poorna do we see anything more than compassion Rahul Bose has for the subject. Compassion will make you nod your head as audience and say,’Nice’. But that’s not enough. The titles at the end of the film say that Poorna has inspired many more poor students to apply and study at these residential schools, film ends up becoming a showpiece for the government instead of inspiring us all about this awe-inducing feat by the 13 year old…

(this review sans para 7 appears on nowrunning dot com)



Kuch Naya Bataona

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

Shabana is young collegian with a temper, and also a Kudo champion. She’s recruited by ‘The Agency’ and trained to kill. Her mission comes soon enough: she has to kill a notorious international arms dealer. A spinoff backstory of one of the characters from the successful film ‘Baby’, the story is a tad too obvious, but the action sequences redeem the film.

Main Review:

Taapsee Pannu puts her heart and soul into her role as a killing machine trained by an organisation called The Agency. The film is a spinoff from the movie Baby, where a team of ‘agents’ trained by The Agency, are brought together as a team to bring down an international gang of terrorists. This is the backstory of Shabana, and includes in cameo roles the same cast as you saw in Baby: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Danny Denzongpa, and even Murali Sharma.

Shabana and her mum live in a cliched Muslim neighborhood of the crowded Mumbai’s Crawford Market. She is being tracked by someone who knows her tragic past as well as her present: her relationship with her mother, her college friends, her loyal boyfriend, her competing at Japanese martial art Kudo. The Agency wants to recruit her as a field agent. They help her avenge a death, and she joins them.

The setting of the vengeance scene is rather cliched and unfolds tackily: skimpily dressed ‘Russian’ girls, drunk and drugged Delhi boys in a Goa hotel where they’re dancing under neon lighting. Before you groan, Shabana shows up, waits for the right time and makes her kill. As audience, that watching that kill is very satisfying. But Akshay Kumar shows up and leads her out of the room from another door when she is unable to leave the room. You begin to wonder, if The Agency is really helping her. They gave her all the information about the lads, but they forgot to tell her the hotel room has another door?

The reason why she has to avenge is also a cliche. But the training center and everything that happens there is such a gigantic cliche, you forget to laugh at her ‘handler’ (poor Manoj Bajpai standing in front of a wall projection of the BMC building, and screens that look like cctv cameras in the city (where the traffic seems to be moving in a loop!). Who has been given bizarre dialog like: ‘Women have an extra chromosome which makes them born spies’, ‘Do not waste time in sports but join us; we can teach you how to die’...

Of course you’ve seen it all before: the international arms dealer who escaped the clutches of The Agency (cliche!), the reveal of his current whereabouts (cliche!), the character Tony who is the world’s most wanted (cliche!), how the baddies remove their jackets, shirts, and get into fistfight with the hero (Akshay Kumar) who gets to also get into a tub and have a beautiful girl massage his head and back (cliches all!). But the events go on and on, as if they were discovering the country cousin version of James Bond.

The Agency, for all its fancy surveillance equipment and hush-hush operations base, seems to have really out of shape, incompetent field agents (they die at the hands of the accomplished baddie who at first has no bodyguards, then many foolish machine gun toting ones- such a cliche). And if the baddie has challenged the Agency to send him the ‘best’ if they want to catch him, why do they choose the rookie agent Shabana and use their ‘best’ (Akshay Kumar) mostly as an escort for Shabana?

The scenes get so predictable, you can step out for a coffee and you wouldn’t have missed anything. The action sequences are good, but the accompanying sound effects are so loud you step out of the theatre and punch your friend playfully to check if that sound effect is replicated. It is not. Obviously. And that is how we wish the next spinoff to be: not so obvious.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: LIFE

Life and Death On An International Space Station

2.5 stars

Mini Review:

As you heard when you watched Beauty And The Beast: Tale as old as time… This tale of an alien life in a spacecraft. You’ve seen it all before: the alien life form, the crew of the spacecraft, one crazy scientist, and last but not the least: how no one can hear you scream in space…

Main Review:

The wait for the sequel to the original series Alien has been long time coming to the big screen. The fans of space horror stories were getting restless. Life is an interesting scheduled stop, methinks. And quite satisfying too, even though wholly predictable.

As you know in any movie where men battle giant villains: whether it is Kong or Godzilla or Alien, the people in teams going into the dark jungle or space either are collateral damage: which means you don’t even know their backstories. The beast just smashes them and they just go: aaaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Or the people have back stories (soldier returning home to a dream of his life - the farm in case of the gladiator, or a new born child whose picture he carries on his iPad and so on. Or a soldier who hates everything: the heat, the mosquitoes, other critters will surely die at the hand of a gigantic critter or thousands of the critters) and you know they will be the first to die. And die horrible deaths.

In Life too, the spacecraft is full of scientist types and flight type men and women, and even though we are given fleeting introductions, there is nothing that is beguiling enough to keep us glued to the fate of the characters.

Yes, there’s an alien life form that arrives with the soil samples, and it grows. But if I were lying quietly, let’s say in hibernation, and you decided to zap me with an electrical charge, I would get my fangs out and snap at you, no? Squeeze the life force out of your zappy fingers, break those fingers and go claw my way into you mouth and eat you from the inside, no? And I would look for your friends, find your friends and kill them too, one by one. I would be Liam Neeson of the alien life form world.

And if I, life form from the alien world turn out to be Liam Neeson, then I would use every trick in the science fiction films trope collection that would help me survive in the International Space Station…

You watch and you watch and you watch with your heart in your mouth and realise that you may be, just may be rooting for the life form.

P.S. Although you do see the end come at you as fast as a decaying orbit, you enjoy the film quite thoroughly.


Phillauri Is Mostly Painful
Bright Flashes Of Brilliance Eclipsed By Long Tedious Events

2 stars

Mini Review:

A reluctant groom of a Punjabi wedding is married off to a tree citing a flaw in his horoscope. Now haunted by the ghost who lived on that tree, he has to rescue the ghost from her past and save his impending marriage to his childhood sweetheart. Vacillating between the ghost’s never-ending story of unrequited love and his own miserable tale, the film takes too long to come to a conclusion and even then it’s not enough.

Main Review:

Anushka Sharma as producer has chosen a different tale to tell. And the risk in such a tale is hoping to keep the attention of the audience. But who is the audience? The first half hour makes you think of Disney’s haunted tales made for 5 to 8 year olds. A lad discovers a ghost in the room, he crashes into furniture, faints (you expect birds in a circle chirping over his head!).

The servant cannot see the ghost, and mistakes the lad’s eyebrow wiggling towards the bed as a ‘Gay proposition’ thing and he runs helter skelter through the house. Wait a minute! It’s 2017, and the filmmakers choose to portray gay people as a joke? This is not Disney-like, and I begin to feel a slow outrage build up. But you will love the family of the bride and the groom: a lazy brother, cool dads, adoring mums and a granny who drinks at 9 am. What’s not to like?

The ghost cannot go back to the tree because it has been cut down after the ‘wedding’. So it watches the proceedings and asks questions of the groom. The ghost is Anushka Sharma and the groom is a mostly sad as he smokes up. Anushka Sharma remembers her life in the small town of Phillaur. A doctor’s sister, she leads a sober life but secretly writes poetry published in a local paper. Another poet in town is very popular for his seductive songs, with girls leaving their anklets on his door. He’s as cocky as they come, and the very first appearance and the subsequent song actually earns him a star on his own. He’s everything you’d imagine a local Don Juan to be. Diljit Dosanjh in his introduction wins your heart and gives the audience a wake-up call. The romance between Anushka Sharma and Diljit Dosanjh is shown wonderfully with a disapproving brother thrown in for good measure. Of course the pace of this romance and the never-ending song and dance sequences leave you wondering if the film were actually moving in real time.

Interspersed with interaction of the ghost with Suraj Sharma the reluctant groom, we begin to yearn for something more, something better. The bride, on the other hand seems so vacuous, she has nothing to do but cry at her groom’s reluctance. Meanwhile the ghostly tale of the past has become drab because she does to the gorgeous lad which most scary girlfriends do: change him, gets him to sing ‘serious, purposeful’ songs. You hear ‘Mirzya-Saahiba’ songs and you are reminded of how the film made on those legendary lovers bombed at the box office.

When the end finally comes upon the audience, the feeling of being arm-twisted into tearing up for a historic tragedy makes you feel disconnected. You just want the whole thing to be over with. Even this takes more than 20 minutes. You wish the editing had been so much tighter, and the filmmaker had given us more of the romance than painful village wedding rituals that seem to go on and on…

The film has flashes of brilliance, but the tedious sequences go on for so long you think you have aged when you emerge out into the sunshine.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Mogambo Khush Hua! What Awesomeness Is Swara Bhaskar!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Swara Bhaskar plays Anarkali, the erotic folk singer from Aarah, who has to fight the unwarranted attention of the local goon, a Vice Chancellor of the local Kuber Singh Varsity. She escapes to Delhi to get away from the insult, to start afresh, but her past catches up. That’s when she realises that running away won’t solve anything. That she has to turn the tables on the goons and police nexus. A brilliant little film that Swara Bhaskar handles magnificently, supported by a superb cast.

Main Review:

The film treads a fine line between the sleazy and artistic rather well. The songs released on YouTube offer us just show us the almost-sleaze song and dance routine of the film. Yes, the songs are full of innuendo but sung really well, and Swara Bhaskar, who plays Anarkali infuses so much oomph to the role you are drawn into her life with the musicians, her easy relationship with her troupe leader Rangeela (played by Pankaj Tripathi), and even the ordinariness of her everyday life.

The writer-director Avinash Das opens with a concert in the town, and makes every jaw in the audience reach the floor within minutes. Little Anarkali grows up with a voice that hits your guts and uses what Rangeela labels, ‘Shringar’ (seduction) in her songs when faced with the moral brigade who want to shut down her ‘supposedly lewd songs’.

The use of local dialect of Hindi in the film is unabashed and celebratory almost. You are secretly relieved that ‘Bihari Hindi’ is richer than ‘Burbuck’ (Daft) or ‘Bauraa gaye ho ka’ (have you gone nuts) phases and words commonly heard in Hindi cinema. And it is evident in Anarkali’s interaction with the beauty product salesman. You watch her in action as she sashays through town, unafraid of being the ‘it’ girl of this provincial town.

It’s the arrival of the Vice Chancellor of the local Veer Kuber University, Dharmendra Chauhan who seems to be a political appointee and a local goon in Anarkali’s life that the movie suddenly is more than pink lipstick and hip thrusts. Sanjay Mishra who won critical praise for his role in Aankhon Dekhi, is so good as a crooked guy you admire his acting skills (you have an amused grin pasted on your face when he encounters the Sanskrit spouting young woman, or when he drinks alcohol from a disguised water bottle, and are horrified at the undisguised menace he represents when he makes a play for Anarkali).

His encounter with Anarkali and the aftermath when the police chief Bulbul Pandey (I mean really, did they not find any other name but had to borrow from a Salman Khan movie?) has to beat up the audience comes to you as a horrific reminder what a fragile life she leads.

That she has to run for her life because she will not cow down to an indecent proposal is shown beautifully. The fans watch without helping. The only grace is the besotted young Anwar (he reminds you of Sushil from Smita Patil’s movie Mandi). In Delhi, she is recognised by the rabble as she attempts to have a meal, but encounters sweet Heeraman (again! The name and character borrowed from Teesri Kasam) who offers her his card and a deal: record your songs. Now you have seen Ishteyak Khan in many films, but in this film he is just marvelous. The body language, the dialog, his clothes, his comic timing is impeccable.

Credit goes to the writer-director for creating such amazing ensemble. You even notice the grumpy goon (called Muffler) who does not like what the VC is doing. Yes, the recording studio owner does overdo it a bit, but on the whole you are happy you watched the film without feeling like you need to be a part of the anti-lewd song brigade. It could have been sleazy so easily. You know and anticipate the end from a mile away, but when it comes, somewhere inside you like the comeuppance.

Swara Bhaskar holds the movie in her manicured hands. She is magnificent. You can’t help but stare at her, unabashedly. Watch!


(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Friday, March 17, 2017


Machine Mein Jo Feed Karo Wahi Milega!

1 star

Mini Review:

‘The Director Duo’ as Abbas Mastan are known for their thrillers with twists and turns that would make anyone dizzy. They launch Mustafa (son of Abbas) with this romance cum murder thriller cum demented psychological drama. They try so hard to offer as many hairpin bends as they possibly can add, but the young actors in this race are so callow, their romance is unintentionally hilarious.

Main Review:

This pretty young thing, Sarah (Kiara Advani, who looks more and more like Esha Deol/Hema Malini through the movie) is donating money to a school run by nuns somewhere in ‘North India’ which suspiciously looks like foreign locale. She zooms off on to the mountainous road in a fancy car, until her car skids on a patch of oil on the road. Maybe this is India, you think. But the hero Ransh (Mustafa) could be the next skid victim and she stops him from skidding. Then boldly says,’I need a ride back to town, but only if I drive your car’.

You are as surprised as the hero, but go along because there are songs after songs to establish they study in an art college, and both race cars. In North India? Hmm… You begin to laugh when their music teacher wants to produce Romeo and Juliet for the annual program and add another chapter called: Heaven because she believes Romeo meets with Juliet in heaven and are united forever. Before you fall off the chair, two classmates of Sarah (Aditya, her best friend and the forgettable but aggressive Vicky) are dead trying to romance her at the Love-Lock bridge (just like the one in Paris, but everyone on this bridge is a couple, and our heroine waiting for her secret admirer are dressed in evening clothes. You’re horrified at the turn of events but what?

Sarah and Ransh have romanced and married! Doesn’t that happen at the end of the movie? You are relieved to see Ronit Roy as the father of the bride. All is good and Ransh and Sarah are singing more songs on their honeymoon. And while saying, ‘I love you’ multiple times and spinning her around, Ransh throws Sarah off a cliff. Yes. You choke over your coffee as you watch her fall in slow motion.

It’s still not intermission and while you are scratching your head wondering why the hero threw the heroine as if he were at a hammer throw Olympic event, you see another PYT tattooing Ransh’s name on her back. Ransh is now chasing after the rich daughter of a super rich dad who sponsors car races.

Poor debut by Mustafa who is so callow a performer you laugh each time he has a dialog to deliver. He’s been groomed to be star: knows how to dance, know how to pose, has abs, funky hair, strange designer shirts...But no acting chops and a weird voice that is pre puberty. Is it his fault? Maybe. Maybe not.

But the twists in the plot are just beginning. Of course the heroine isn’t dead, but more people die (Dalip Tahil for one), we are introduced to the concept of movie: where a child is treated sternly and so strictly, that he turns into a ‘machine’ without feelings. Woah! Creepy psycho dad is… But no, that’s a twist in the tale so hilarious you stop eating popcorn for fear of choking. You see a mansion with secret safe filled with dollar bills. Money that belongs to the heroine. She calmly sets the money on fire before you can say Pablo Escobar.

Oh there are a couple more songs, one of them is a recreated hit ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast’. But the end is excruciating. If you thought Amitabh Bachchan had mastered the art of dying slowly on screen, you are in for a surprise. The hero, stabbed by Commando (don’t ask!) is so muscled in the pectoral region, he is barely bleeding, So he confesses to the heroine that he realised he has a heart (he can hear his heart beating ever since he has been stabbed,he says!) and then jumps off the cliff in a slowest of slo-mos you have seen in cinema. And as his life flashes before his eyes, you hear the cheesiest of lines he has said to the now bawling heroine: I will smudge the lipstick, but not let the kohl in your eyes smudge, ever. Some wisecrack heckles: waterproof mascara!

You wonder why so much money and effort was wasted in making a weird film in the name of romance where the ultimate love nest is ‘a house with no doors and windows and we two are locked in it for ever!’

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: MANTRA

Could Have Been Great...

2 stars

Mini Review:

A dysfunctional family in the posh Pansheel area of New Delhi face their demons in their own ways. Their individual stories are interesting: a dad who is on the verge of bankruptcy but will not ask for help, a mother who is distraught about her marital life, the older son who is constantly berated by his father for being too involved with his own business, the daughter who feels like a prisoner, and the youngest son who struggles to find himself… Wish the stories had been better woven to create a mantra for success.

Main Review:

The best scene in the film belongs to Pia Kapoor (Kalki Koechlin) who goes to the stranger’s home to return his jacket and to say thank you for rescuing her from attackers, and breaks down in confession. So far into the film, you, the audience has just been watching with disinterest because there’s nothing new about dysfunctional families that the film has so far shown.

Rajat Kapoor is Kapil Kapoor, a potato chip magnate who is facing huge competition from a multinational food company, and has lost sleep as well as his sense of humor. He lives to worry and his whole demeanour is angry and on the brink of exploding. His utter discomfort in any social situation shows how good an actor he can be. But apart from showing us a glimpse of his humanity when he interacts with his dog, his role leaves us wanting to see more.

The wife’s character (Lushin Dubey) is limited and you wish there was some spark in her instead of just weeping. Also the youngest son gets to explore his sexuality via chatting on the net. That’s terribly predictable. But the older son Viraj (Shiv Pandit), who chooses to run his own restaurant seems to conduct his business on the phone. As audience, you wish he was doing more than be angry with his father, or drink at his restaurant.

Their stories seem to run parallel to each other and you wish they intersected. You can see a mile away how things are going to end, and even though you wish the story had given you more, you are forced to shrug and accept the story as is. It has humane moments, but none match the Kalki’s scene with her rescuer.

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Title Describes The Audience' State Of Mind As Much As The Story

2 stars

Mini Review:

A young man rents an apartment in a newly constructed high rise and with the key on the outside of the main door, gets locked inside. With no electricity, no phone, no food or water, he’s trapped inside. He has to improvise his escape. Alas this Robinson Crusoe is so tiresome, you wonder if this would have been better as a short film.

Main Review:

This is a festival film, for audiences that are willing to watch the odd and the weird, films that have niche appeal. Trapped is a festival film that wants public adulation. In fact, it was recommended by anyone who watched it at the Mumbai International Film Festival. But festival audiences are forgiving, they will understand creative liberties and the need to shock and awe. General public looks at logic, and this film lacks so much in that department, it is a difficult tale to swallow.

First, the good parts. The director begins the story of a shy young man, Shaurya, falling in love with a colleague from his non-descript office. It’s so good, it raises expectations.

You like his shyness, so you ignore his ‘watching’ (stalking, really) the girl from behind a door. But it begins to annoy you that he does not even tell her he found a house on rent! Does not even bring her over at night! What could be more romantic than sharing a plate of takeaway food in an empty apartment. But the director makes sure the shy guy remembers to carry the photo of the gods (does the picture of the Devi change to Hanuman?) from his shared apartment. That’s ‘look-at-my-middle-class-cool’ part of the film (also goes with using elastic from his ‘actively’ middle class underwear. ‘Actively’ because the art director must have gone in search of underwear sold on the street.).

He lives in Bombay! And no one who has struggled with money in this big city will ever hand over hand over hard-earned cash (15k) to a stranger, without any paperwork! Plus, if you wanted the apartment for the girl, you would at least call her to tell her you found a home! And they show him eager to jump her bones, then why does he sleep alone?

I’m not saying Rajkummar Rao does not put his heart and soul into acting first as the angry, demented man, brought down to his knees by his situation (he is trapped inside the house with the key on the outside of the door) and then as someone who learns to improvise to survive and then plan his escape. But we’ve seen this before from Castaway to Robinson Crusoe remakes…

What is annoying to watch is that everything seems to be so conveniently placed. He shudders in disgust after whacking the rat in the apartment. Then suddenly he’s trapped it in a makeshift cage. Really? Wouldn’t you just stick a cardboard under the inert rat and throw it out of the window, not chat with it! And Amitabh Bachchan has already had a conversation with a cockroach in Amar Akbar Anthony already… So there’s nothing new about ‘Chat With Rat’, it’s just a ‘I’m-so-clever’ device. And how he contrives to fashion a rotisserie to cook the pigeon when he's a vegetarian is just so illogical, you want to escape being trapped with him.

You do suspend disbelief and smile with his little successes. For example, when he collects rainwater. But a nagging voice inside you says, ‘This is Bombay! It doesn’t rain like that unless it is the Monsoons, and then it isn’t sunny like that…’

It is a relief to finally see him escape. But then unkind ideas for alternate endings where the rat brings his entire family to eat him up, pop in your head. Art house films...

P.S. I tried hard to like the film, I really did. I wanted to feel that claustrophobia, that helplessness of a common man and then someone made a spoof, an alt-trailer of the film and uploaded it on twitter. I had to laugh. Hysterically. Claustrophobia be damned …

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


The brighter the star the harder the fall...

0.5 stars

Mini Review:

Govinda returns to the big screen as a hero after years. This is home production and was previously called ‘Abhinay Chakra’. It is a story of a policeman who makes an elaborate plan to trap the assorted bad guys by closing all loopholes they usually employ to escape justice. The whole thing is handled so badly, the songs and dances are a relief from the strangest goings on.

Main Review:

ACP Ravindra Verma (Govinda, rather fit for his age) presents a secret file marked prominently” Abhinay Chakra, to the President. He gets permission to tackle the corrupt politicians and their assorted goons, rapists who own educational institutions, even a woman thug.

This film is supposed to be debut to two female leads, one of them is Richa Sharma. But she has only one line of dialog: I’m Juhi. After one dance with Govinda where she makes her presence felt in a Gold bikini top is all we see of her. She just disappears.

The film starts with an assumption that the bad guys get away with anything because the ‘system’ protects them. Murderers brazenly kill people in broad daylight because they have politicians play Godfather and so on. Helpless cops tied by orders to not shoot, seem to be losing every battle.

So Govinda hatches a plan and turns into Don (whatever that means!) and tricks the bad guys into surrender. All this happens because Murali Sharma decides to intimidate and chase a girl in broad daylight in a college and she jumps off the top floor and kills herself. Murali Sharma is younger brother to Ashutosh Rana who says, ‘Murder aur rape karna hamara haq banta hai’

The cliches are horrendous and unending. The film too is shot as if the story was something to add between songs. There must be at least ten songs (I lost count after seven) that make no sense or connect with the cop story. It was as if the cop story was shot separately. They do however add one or two lines of dialog to introduce the song. For example: Suddenly Govinda speaks some nonsense to the cops at his police station, and leaves. The cops then say, ‘The boss is drunk’. The audience wonders what had just happened. Boom! The film cuts to a drunken song and dance about ‘A chhora Ganga kinare wala’. But the more cops and corrupt politician nonsense we see on screen, the more welcome the songs become. After all, it is Govinda. And despite his jiggly moobs, he still can shake a leg and say something as outrageous as, ‘Patati hai toh patt, nai toh side mein hutt!’ (Wanna be seduced then be seduced or step aside)

p.s. i felt the same sense of acrid sadness rise up from deep within my gut as i watched this film as i did when i watched Nana Patekar acted in the trashy Wedding Anniversary. Yes, i laughed at the inanities of dialog and the awfulness of the chroma (one was so bad it was the screensaver with birds flying)... But made me wonder why Govinda made this movie. 

(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)


Fall In Love With This Musical, Visual Feast

3.5 stars

Mini Review:

‘Tale as old as time!’ Sings Mrs Potts. ‘, ‘No one’s slick as Gaston, as quick as Gaston’, ‘There must be more than this provincial life’... Songs you have loved when you watched the animated version of the film in 2010 come alive in this film, making you fall in love with the fairy tale once again in a visual spectacle that will make you swoon…

Main Review:

‘If he could learn to love another and earn her love in return, by the time the last petal fell...The prince was doomed to remain a beast for all time’

You know the words by heart when you begin to see the spectacle unveil on the big IMAX screen (don’t make the mistake of watching it on a small screen!).

A sleepy town wakes up to ‘Bonjour! Bonjour!’

You can smell the freshly baked bread in this colorful town as you settle down with your coffee and pizza...You fall in love with a man who is in love with himself. You giggle like the bimbettes when Le Fou and Gaston appear, you know the words as clearly as yesterday!

‘No one’s as slick as Gaston/ No one’s quick as Gaston/No one's neck's as incredibly thick as Gaston'sWhen I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs/ Ev'ry morning to help me get large/And now that I'm grown I eat five dozen eggs/So I'm roughly the size of a barge!’

You smile and smile until he says how manly he is because ‘Every last inch of me is covered with hair!’

You don’t stop smiling until the wolves push Belle’s dad into the Beast’s castle, and after that you just gape and gawp at the stunning visuals and the beast and Mrs Potts and Chip and Cogsworth and Lumiere The Candelabra and…

Book your tickets now. Buy the yellow dress for yourself, for your daughter. Buy a candelabra for your home. Buy a rose. Forget reviews, they are all gushing out there. I am too, but you might wonder why I’m stingy with the ‘stars’. Well, I always pictured Belle to be gentler and Hermione as Belle… Ignore that. Go watch this beautiful, beautiful film. And sigh with happiness in your theatre seats.