SinhaSomesh

IMDb member since August 2019
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Reviews

Baaghi 3
(2020)

RUBBISH
#FinalVerdict

The biggest problem with Baaghi 3 is that there's hardly any storyline in the film. Sajid Nadiadwala's adaptation is lame and it rests on a wafer-thin plot. What could've been an exhilarating thriller, with pulse-pounding moments, ends up being a run of the mill saga, courtesy a half-baked screenplay (Farhad Samji). Since Baaghi 3 goes beyond the shores of India, director Ahmed Khan and his team of writers (Sparsh Khetarpal, Tasha Bhambra, Madhur Sharma) could've used their imagination and packed the film with moments that would've made your jaws fall on your knees. Baaghi 3 is a big film in all respects - big stars, big canvas, big expenditure on VFX, big expectations. Sadly, it's a big, big, big letdown as well.

The experience with Baaghi 3 is like, you enter a posh restaurant, waiting for a sumptuous meal to be served, but what's served on your plate is vada-pau. Baaghi 3 takes you back to the 1970s Bollywood, when illogical situations, blood and gore, for no rhyme or reason, were the main ingredients that made the junta break into taalis. Sorry, the formula doesn't work anymore! Seriously, what were director Ahmed Khan, Sajid Nadiadwala (story adaptation) and Farhad Samji (screenplay & dialogues) thinking when they went ahead with this apology of a script? It's perfectly okay to pay homage to the masala films of yore, but the new interpretation has to make some sense at least. The one thing that you realize after watching Baaghi 3 is, no amount of gloss, glam and top-notch stars can ever substitute for a riveting script. Great stars, great styling and great visuals work as long as the script is great.

Farhad Samji's screenplay is a complete mess. In fact, if at all there would be Razzies in Bollywood, Farhad Samji should be nominated proto for coming up with a slipshod, brainless and witless screenplay. What saddens your heart is the fact that Sajid Nadiadwala and Fox Star Studios, the producers of Baaghi 3, have spared no efforts in giving the film a spectacular look. The vision is perfect, but how about narrating an absorbing and attention-grabbing story? You remember Baaghi 3 for its striking visuals, not storyline. It's like embellishing priceless and precious jewels on a mannequin. The fight becomes too Bollywoodish as the hero eliminates an entire army of terrorists, is difficult to gulp! Perhaps, director Ahmed Khan's intentions are right, to make a hard-hitting film that marries realism and fiction beautifully, but the writing indulges in too many cinematic liberties and that's precisely why Baaghi 3 goes off target.

However, lovers of action fares are in for a treat, since the stunts, action and chase sequences in Baaghi 3 are truly captivating. Sure, a few sequences aren't for the faint-hearted, but you can't help but put your hands together for these sequences and the man behind those death-defying stunts. Coupled with top-notch cinematography (Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran) and stylish action (Ram Chella-Laxman Chella, Kecha Khamphakdee) the film begins to grow as reel after reel unspools. But, alas, the film goes for a toss in the second hour. Things actually stagnate as the hero turns into super-hero and combats an army of villains on land, sea and air. Director Ahmed Khan and his team of writers seem to have substituted action for content and that's the most glaring flaw. In fact, you feel that the director and screenplay writers must've decided to go on a vacation in the second hour, entrusting the responsibility on the stunt directors to conclude the second hour.

Baaghi 3 is soaked in high-voltage drama and action, with a consistent undercurrent of tension. As a matter of fact, there's an overdose of action in the film, though, I must admit, a few action pieces are deftly executed. But the absence of a riveting and absorbing screenplay looms large in the post-interval portions. Sure, some sequences do hit you hard, but the writing tilts heavily towards been-there-seen-that kind of situations persistently, promising little or no surprise as the plot unravels. The background score (Julius Packiam) enhances the impact, while the dialogue (Farhad Samji) are power-packed at times, but plain mediocre at places. The film's music is awful but thankfully, there aren't too many songs.

Director Ahmed Khan tries to camouflage the defect (lacklustre screenplay) with stylish execution, hair-raising stunts, eye-filling visuals, but let's not forget that the moviegoer wants to listen to a captivating story at the end of the day. Everything else is secondary! The film goes on and on and on with unwanted scenes galore (editing: Rameshwar S. Bhagat), the outdated love angle and the lenggggggthy fight sequences. Director Ahmed Khan seems to have taken the audience for granted. He has concentrated more on giving the film a slick look than narrating a gripping story and this fact reverberates at several points in the film. There's no denying that Baaghi 3 bears the stamp of an upmarket product all through, but how one wishes the director and the writers would've ensured that the film has a power-packed screenplay to offer as well.

Baaghi 3 belongs to Tiger Shroff completely. No two opinions on that. Take Tiger out of this film and the movie is a big zero. He's the lifeline of this project and his performance will be loved by the masses. Shraddha Kapoor looks gorgeous and acts very well. Riteish Deshmukh is relegated to the backseat. What did Riteish see in this role? Ankita Lokhande's character lacks meat. Jackie Shroff and Vijay Varma are alright. Jaideep Ahlawat and Jameel Khoury evoke terror that one would associate with their characters. They are fantastic.

To sum up, Baaghi 3 is regressive cinema with a capital R. The film has some engrossing moments in the first half, that's about it. The post-interval portions are an absolute downer. The plot is formulaic, while the screenplay is riddled with cinematic liberties. Fans of Tiger Shroff might patronize the movie; however, the aam junta might not take a liking to it. At the box-office, the film will embark on a strong start, but it doesn't have the merits to sustain after the initial curiosity subsides. Baaghi 3 fails as a film.

Thappad
(2020)

AUDACIOUS
#FinalVerdict

Anubhav Sushila Sinha fits into that exceptional variety of film-makers that opens up thought-processes without losing the cinematic elements that constitute a film. Right from Mulk (2018) to Article 15 (2019), Anubhav Sinha's body of work stands out from the rest.

There are two kinds of films. One, which focuses on providing wholesome entertainment. And the other, that sets you thinking! Director Anubhav Sushila Sinha's Thappad belongs to the latter category, although it has its share of entertaining moments as well. The Hindi film industry is branded for creating movies from a male perspective. The women's stories are not really exemplified conscientiously. But, out of the blue, the souk of women-centric flicks is fast turning out to be a bankable genre. Sure, masala movies are great fun, but a film like Thappad breaks the monotony, shatters the unwritten rules of the game and scores brownie points. Thappad is a commanding story, has an authoritative central character, has several dominant and thought-provoking moments, which makes it an all-persuasive film.

You enjoy a movie even more if it has the unforeseeable factor adjoined to its premise. Thankfully, a number of storytellers in Bollywood are aiming to surprise, shock and charm you with attention-grabbing yarns you haven't witnessed earlier on the Hindi screen. Some get it right, some don't, but what needs to be lauded is the effort to break the mould, to go beyond the stereotype. Director Anubhav Sushila Sinha's Thappad also dares to push the envelope. Thappad boasts of some of the most talented names on and off screen. And the outcome is laudable!

Director Anubhav Sushila Sinha attempts a film that peeps into the heart of a woman. Without doubt one of the finest realistic films made in recent times, Thappad focuses the viewer's attention to that segment of society that has seldom been depicted on the Indian screen. Director/writer Anubhav Sushila Sinha and co-writer Mrunmayee Lagoo Waikul have opted for a story that has a vigorous impact. Here's a dynamic director-writer duo who needs to be lauded for tackling such a difficult subject with the utmost sensitivity and emerging triumphant! Thappad truly celebrates the human spirit and also reflects a vital change in the society and in the attitudes of people. A film like Thappad pricks your conscience and makes you think. In fact, it's the kind of film that will lead to debates and discussions. If Taapsee Pannu is the driving force on-screen, it's director Sinha who deserves kudos and a few extra brownie points for handling the material with aplomb. His prowess and competence are visible all through the film. The director also incorporates ample emotional baggage that would make you connect with the on-screen characters. Dialogue deserve special mention. They are straight out of life.

Having said that, Thappad isn't fool-proof either. The bloated run time - almost 2.25 hours - acts as a roadblock. Also, to some extent, the story stagnates in the second half. As a result, the film feels elongated and also indulgent at times (editing: Yasha Pushpa Ramchandani). Thankfully, the film is back on tracks towards the closing stages. The final act is indeed brilliant!

A hard-hitting drama, generally, doesn't have scope for music. But Anurag Dipali Saikia's music is malleable. The picturization of Ek Tukda Dhoop song is simple but arresting, keeping the mood of the film in mind. Shakeel Sitarunnisa Azmi's lyrics are also superior. Soumik Sarmila Mukherjee's cinematography is luminous, closing in tight on the protagonist in dramatic moments. The background score (Mangesh Urmila Dhakde) is perfect and he makes sure he doesn't go overboard. Casting (Nandini Shrikent, Karan Mally), filtering, blending of characters together and depicting them in a complex film like this, without outlasting any one character's limit, is a lesson indeed and how!

Thappad is Taapsee Pannu's film all the way and there are no two opinions on that. Her performance deserves the highest marks. Her work is flawless and the impact her character makes on the minds of the viewer is also due to a tailor-made role. She projects an imposing figure of maturity, refinement and veracity. Her performance is bound to be talked-about in days to come. Kumud Mishra is splendid. What a fine actor! Pavail Gulati fantastically raises abomination. He is exceptional all through. Way to go! Ratna Pathak Shah is phenomenal, consummately. Geetika Vidya sinks her teeth into the character, giving it the much-required pragmatism that it necessitates. Tanvi Azmi is perfect. Dia Mirza looks every bit the character she is portraying and the effort is laudable. She essays her character with flourish. Siddhant Karnick, Ram Kapoor, Ankur Rathee and Manav Kaul are completely natural. Maya Sarao is outstanding. An actor to watch out for!

On the whole, Thappad is a purposeful film within commercial parameters that is sure to win plaudits by those who appreciate good, realistic cinema. The emotional and disturbing journey, the strength of a common woman and her relentless endeavour have all been most compellingly put together on moving picture. The best part is that the Indian masses will be able to identify with the goings-on. This gutsy film deserves a standing ovation! Just do not miss it. It is several notches above the stuff we've been subjected to in the past.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
(2020)

RIB-TICKLING
#FinalVerdict

The last few years have proved that 'small films' (in terms of costing) have big stories to tell. Also, one of the strengths of the recent success stories was their absorbing storyline, which was so well presented on celluloid by their creators. A film like Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan shuns the conventional plot and brings the issue out in the open determinedly. In fact, it's a forward-thinking, avant_garde movie that holds worldwide appeal. Above and beyond, the endeavor to transport the issue out of the closet and presenting it in a light tone in the backdrop is an added move that merits acknowledgement. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is the ultimate culture shock for Indian audiences.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a comic caper, with a smart screenplay and witty dialogue as its aces. It is funny, has a lot of energy and most importantly, as you protest that Hindi movies thrive on beaten-to-death formula, a film like Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan defies the stereotype and comes alive with a brand new recipe (writer: Hitesh Kewalya). The writing is airtight and the movie moves from one episode to another furiously. Original in style and thoroughly entertaining, backed by colorful characters and superior acting, there's no film quite like this one or should I say, there is no film that matches the sheer brilliance of Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. It's a top-quality comical made with guts and gusto. I can assure, you will exit the auditorium with a grin on your face.

Come to think of it, very few movies can claim to make you laugh at the right places, yet mirror the realities concurrently. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan walks the thin line wonderfully. The on-screen characters seem straight out of everyday life. The focus is on telling a story that's fascinating and enthralling. This one's armed with a fascinating premise that's nourished with care by the raconteur, magnificent act by its lead actors, dollops of humor (wicked, sparkling, smart) that's punctuated so well in the scheme of things and eye-filling production design.

While the first hour is thoroughly amusing (a few episodes are howlarious actually!), the post-interval do a somersault. Writer/Director Hitesh Kewalya introduces certain complications in the lead characters' lives, which take the familiar route and dilute the impact, albeit faintly. Also, a few episodes don't work, the pacing gets slow, the narrative is prolonged... till it gathers steam towards its resolution. The film never gets into the serious zone or melodramatic, but remains lightweight all through, which is a plus. In short, Hitesh Kewalya has cleverly written the film to suit the Indian sensibilities, which works exceedingly well for the Indian spectator.

The music & lyrics (Tanishk Bagchi-Vayu) of the film is plain okay. In terms of visuals, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan has been filmed at real locations and the DoP (Chirantan Das) captures the essence extremely well. The eye-candy locales are clearly missing here. Instead, what we get to watch are real locations and real lower middle class surroundings. Even though this is director Hitesh Kewalya's debut film, his directorial spark shines throughout the film. One has to appreciate and applaud him for paying heed to even the minutest of the detailing that has gone behind every character. However the story of the film leaves a lot to be desired. He seems very confident with the camera and its angles and is definitely one name to watch out for in the days to come. Even though the film has its 'could-have-been-better' moments, the film scores on the director's ability to extract performances from the star cast. The only problem, however, is that the film starts lagging in places, which could have been taken care on the editing table (editing: Ninad Khanolkar).

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a boy's film predominantly (although the women have key roles to play) and boy's films are always fun. The chemistry between Ayushmann Khurrana, Jitendra Kumar and Gajraj Rao is what makes the script come alive. In fact, I won't be wrong in stating that their sense of humor is very much in sync with each other. This is Jitendra Kumar's best work to date, no two opinions on it. Ayushmann Khurrana gets yet another demanding role and the actor, who has already impressed us with his acting skills, casts a spell yet again. Gajraj Rao is incredible. Neena Gupta is the scene-stealer actually. As a matter of fact, the performances by these actors will be the talking point once the film releases. Manu Rishi Chaddha is in top form yet again. Maanvi Gagroo has a naturally endearing screen presence. She does add 'weight' to her character. Sunita Rajwar and PankhurI Awasthy are equally competent and have an important part in the madness.

On the whole, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a winner all the way. In terms of content, it might just prove to be a trendsetter. In terms of business, the film holds tremendous appeal for the youth. Its business at multiplexes mainly will be amazing. Aanand L. Rai, Himanshu Sharma, Bhushan Kumar and Krishan Kumar, the producers, deserve to be lauded for treading the untrodden path. It requires courage and conviction to swim against the tide in your directorial debut. Hitesh Kewalya, the debutant director, deserves a few brownie points extra for not thinking straight. Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar deserve an ovation for not only agreeing to play these characters, but also infusing life in them, without making a mockery of the gay community.

Bhoot: Part One - The Haunted Ship
(2020)

ORDINARY
#FinalVerdict

In Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship, debutant director Bhanu Pratap Singh tackles the horror genre with utmost care. Viewers will be struck by the simplicity of the film, its incredible fluidity: the story flows naturally, naturally. The story is not very complicated. Undoubtedly, the film is well constructed, superbly designed and filmed with sometimes a lot of indulgences. The film's decorations are magnificent and the camera embraces them greedily. To be honest, Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship is no masterpiece but is atmospheric, spooky, bloodless and carried by strong acting.

Debutant director Bhanu Pratap Singh defies several 'rules' of Hindi cinema, like: a) Bhanu Pratap Singh has done away with the mandatory song-dance sequences in Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship. In fact, the film has *only* one romantic ballad. b) There are no 'light moments' or 'relief factors' in the film. In fact, the film is so content-driven that one hardly longs for any 'relief' or 'light moments'. c) The intimacy between the couple is more mature, unlike the routine stuff.

Also, one of the USPs of this 1 hour, 57 minutes' film is that the story is set in the middle of the city. There's tremendous identification with the goings-on, with every character looking believable. The desire to watch breath-taking visuals does not surface in a film like this. When the ghost appears, you get a shock of your life. The impact is eerie. Yet, Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship doesn't leave you completely enchanted or spellbound. The feelings are mixed after the show concludes. You have witnessed all this (and more) and that's where the film falls short of expectations.

The horror genre hasn't been tapped to the fullest in India. What works in favour of Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship is the fact that first-time director Bhanu Pratap Singh chooses a real-life story and garnishes it with scares aplenty. It works with those with an appetite for horror films and also with those who seek for interesting concepts. The film is terrifying enough to make you jump on your seat. The movie teases the viewers at different points as the sequence of events unravel. Scenes remain silent and still; not for long though, but long enough to make you fret. There are ample blood-curdling moments. But the problem with the film is that it takes a lot of screen time to drive home the point, testing the patience of the viewer in the process. Some sequences are so long drawn that they mellow the impact that a few brilliantly executed sequences had created. Even the climax - so vital in a film of this genre - is a downer. It is bound to have its share of adversaries. And the finale - which leaves behind the scope for a sequel, may not be fully absorbed or gel well with the orthodox Indian moviegoer.

Also, the film stagnates for a few minutes in the post-interval portions. Though the film is short in duration, one still feels that things could've been spruced up towards the middle of the second half (editing: Bodhaditya Banarjee). Bhanu Pratap Singh shows a grasp over technique, with the lighting and camera movements contributing enormously in making the situations look eerie. But the writing is not at all convincing.

Three aces of the film are Anish John's sound effects, Aditya Kanwar's apt production design (especially the set of the ship) and Ketan Sodha's background score. They are of international quality. In fact, sound plays a major role in a film like this and director Bhanu Pratap Singh has ensured that the sound quality is superior. It's more than just throbbing music, digitized screams and high-pitched shrieks. Pushkar Singh's cinematography is appropriate. The eerie atmosphere of the ship has been captured very well by the DOP. Special effects by Redefine are amongst the best we've seen in Hindi movies. Also, Bhanu Pratap Singh's storytelling is super-stylish. Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship must've been quite a challenge for Bhanu Pratap Singh from the writing point of view as well.

The performances are of a high order. Vicky Kaushal enacts a role that is in sharp contrast to his image. He portrays the character remarkably. The actor delivers a striking performance yet again. Bhumi Pednekar is superb in her role, proving yet again that she's a dependable performer. Ashutosh Rana is extremely competent. Akash Dhar leaves an impression. Meher Vij and Sanjay Gurbaxani are passable.

On the whole, Bhoot Part One: The Haunted Ship does the job of scaring you half-heartedly. At the box-office, the film has chances of faring better at multiplexes of metros. A good idea gone horribly wrong! Disappointing!

Love Aaj Kal
(2020)

TEDIOUS
#FinalVerdict

An Imtiaz Ali film is awaited with bated breath. When you have films like ROCKSTAR (2011), JAB WE MET (2007) and HIGHWAY (2014) to your credit, every step you take, every move you make comes under a microscopic view. Obviously, the expectations from Love Aaj Kal are colossal. Given a title like Love Aaj Kal, the film ought to evoke strong feelings, principally towards the second hour. But the emotional moments fail to evoke any emotion. In fact, your heart doesn't pine for the lovers and that is why Love Aaj Kal fails to create any effect.

Without an iota of doubt, you are hypnotized by the initial scenes in Love Aaj Kal, but unfortunately, it's not the screenplay that magnetizes you. The chemistry between Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan is piping hot and makes you speechless. Surely, Love Aaj Kal is not an easy film to write and execute. Like its predecessor, it has two stories set in different eras, run parallel, but have a similar end. Sadly, the script is riddled with cliches and flaws, which makes Love Aaj Kal a mundane love story that talks of love and heartache. Director Imtiaz Ali is known for his imaginative and inventive take on love stories, but the problem with Love Aaj Kal is that it starts off most impressively, has some terrific moments in between, but the writing gets so erratic and incoherent as it heads towards the conclusion that you wonder, am I really watching an Imtiaz Ali film?

With a capable raconteur like Imtiaz Ali at the helm, one expects Love Aaj Kal to be notches above the stuff we've been subjected to in the past. But the film falters after an impressive start, after you are introduced to the pivotal characters in the story. The writing (Imtiaz Ali) gets erratic as you delve deeper and deeper. The second half is stretched without valid reason and that makes Love Aaj Kal a tedious watch. Imtiaz Ali fails to outshine his previous works. Sure, he explores the emotional depths with immense compassion and also draws bravura performances from the central characters. But every film depends on a watertight screenplay and Love Aaj Kal stumbles and fumbles in this department.

In a nutshell, Love Aaj Kal suffers from a plot that appears confusing and is convoluted for an avid cinemagoer. Imtiaz Ali's direction fails to complement the screenplay and vice versa. The movie is not a regular run of the mill flick and the proceedings are clearly aimed at the classes rather than the masses. Also, music has always been a mainstay in all of Imtiaz Ali's films. But, sadly, in Love Aaj Kal, it is otherwise. Despite Pritam at the helm of things, the music, sadly, is plain ordinary and does not help in lifting the proceedings. Amit Roy's cinematography is top-notch. Every frame is picture-perfect, a painting on celluloid. Dialogue (Imtiaz Ali) deserve special mention. They are straight out of life. If any film stands on a weak foundation (writing), even 1.30 hours seem never-ending. The lethargic pacing and uneven editing (Aarti Bajaj) also mar the overall impact. The film could have been better had the editing been watertight.

Kartik Aaryan carries the most difficult parts with remarkable ease. Sure, we've seen him as the cool, urban guy in several films, but this one's the most demanding role and he glides into the character effortlessly. Sara Ali Khan looks ethereal. More importantly, she acts very, very well. This should be the turning point in her career. Randeep Hooda puts his heart and mind into every project he chooses to perform in. He is a stunner. Arushi Sharma does well in a small, but significant role.

To sum up, Love Aaj Kal is too confusing a film to be understood and enjoyed by the general public. It does not live up to the confidence and expectations from the otherwise very skilled and accomplished film-maker Imtiaz Ali. Once the initial euphoria settles down, it'll be difficult for the film to sustain. A KING-SIZED DISAPPOINTMENT! Imtiaz Ali's streak of flops continues!

Shikara
(2020)

Heart-rending
As Shikara unfolds, one realizes that the film is actually based on true incidents from life. Shikara harps on being real that we have never witnessed on the silver screen before as far as Hindi films go. Vidhu Vinod Chopra seems to have researched extensively on the issue and Shikara does boast of some razor-sharp moments and the viewer gets to have an insider's viewpoint on Kashmir, something that we haven't read/seen (on news channels/films) earlier.

Shikara comes across as hard-hitting as it promises. The film has moments that are sure to bring a lump to the throat, tears to the eyes, goosebumps to the flesh and will linger in your memory much after the screening has concluded. Director Vidhu Vinod Chopra compels the audience to invest their emotions in the film and he succeeds in bringing home the Kashmir conflict.

Shikara has been filmed in Kashmir and you're awe-struck by its beauty, with DoP Rangarajan Ramabadran doing a splendid job in capturing the scenic locales on celluloid. The camera movements also give a real feel. The written material (screenplay: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rahul Pandita, Abhijat Joshi) just stick to realism, instead of trying to strike a balance between realism and make-believe. Honestly, in the end, you recall not just the visuals but also the content. Shikara is that powerful and hard-hitting. Even the dialogue, like the screenplay writing, tries to strike a balance between real and filmy. Hindi cinema hasn't looked into Kashmir, preferring to gaze at it instead. Also, the detailing is a marvel. This is a film you could watch with the sound muted. But you shouldn't because the music is gorgeous, underscoring the narrative perfectly. Also, the performances are uniformly stunning.

With so much already happening in Kashmir, Vidhu Vinod Chopra projects the anguish of the helpless Kashmiris with precision. Usually, such films are expressions of the filmmaker's vision and Shikara is no exception. To create the tapestry of Shikara could not possibly have been an easy task. Of course, Vidhu Vinod Chopra's repertoire shows he is capable of it but dealing with a plethora of emotions, blending them in the same film is only his cup of tea. There are no confusing hiccups or moments where the filmmaker is self-consumed. Shikara is Vidhu Vinod Chopra's most accomplished word to date! Mr Chopra, now more than ever, seems assured of the power of his content and knows when to pull his punches and doesn't fall for obvious temptations. The result is a knockout, a film that makes you smell corpses, that makes you shudder with melancholia, and a film that points accusing fingers. A film that doesn't fumble.

To sum up, Shikara is an unforgettable film that doesn't flinch and is so sure of itself that it doesn't go wrong. Everything in the film works. A film that audaciously breaks every rule in the book, everything that you could have expected from it and ends up being that edgy watch which you'll savour, while you watch it from the edge of seats! Its deliberate pacing may not work for all, but this is a solid, well-acted movie that deserves your time. There is much in Shikara that deserves a standing ovation. You will emerge from Shikara shell-shocked. And when was the last time a Hindi film did that to you?

Malang - Unleash the Madness
(2020)

SLICK
Furious moviegoers often protest that superior stories are hard to find, yet I don't buy into this perspective. I really feel that we have extraordinary stories to narrate, but we mess up on screenplay writing, ruining a splendid story in the process. That's the issue with Malang as well. An entrancing idea may not convert into a captivating and tempting film, right?

Undoubtedly, director Mohit Suri has advanced into a smart and stylish storyteller with the passage of time and Malang bears testimony to this reality. One cannot overlook the shot compositions and the edit pattern. Malang has the unmistakable stamp of Mohit Suri. But a collage of splendidly executed sequences cannot make up for a riveting screenplay, unfortunately. That is precisely why Malang lacks the overall impact.

At heart, Malang is a game of chor-police, but the screenplay (Aniruddha Guha) fails to grab your attention after a point. Malang unfolds in two different timelines and director Mohit Suri does a brilliant job to establish what's what. But the writing (Aseem Arrora) gets muddled due to the predictability factor, after one has savoured some tremendous moments in the first hour. Although Malang is laced with just the proper amount of thrills, yet there are certain portions that put you off, that remain unexplained... It's a screenplay of convenience! Besides, too many cinematic liberties taken to establish a point of purpose also mar the impact.

What works in favour of Malang is the fact that Aseem Arora's script maintains dual-shade characters for almost every actor and is backed by exuberant performances. Malang moves at a feverish pace initially, but towards the latter portions, the editing (Devendra Murdeshwar) could have been sharper to register a long-lasting impact. Clocking in at roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes, Malang is much longer than it should be. Also, director Mohit Suri, story writer Aseem Arrora and screenplay writer Aniruddha Guha expect the viewer to grasp and figure out certain situations that arise in the film, instead of explaining it themselves, but as aforementioned, the predictability factor is a huge let-down.

One comes across a completely different Mohit Suri in Malang, blending emotions and thrills consummately. He has a unique style of storytelling, which is evident throughout the film. He merges his direction with sound-design very smoothly leaving a great impact. The highpoints include sharp dialogue and a popular soundtrack. The title track has already caught on and will prove to be a major crowd-puller. Vikas Sivaraman's cinematography is top-notch. In fact, Malang bears a stunning look all through. There's no refuting that the cinematographer has created some really alluring and enthralling visuals. The background score (Raju Singh) is electrifying. His sound effects combined with superior camera movements work really well for the film. In fact, the BGM is Malang's very backbone.

Aditya Roy Kapur is truly outstanding. He projects varied emotions without going overboard. Malang is sure to multiply his fan-following by leaps and bounds. Much of the joy comes from watching Disha Patani infuse believability into her character. She has never looked so hot, so inviting. But it's not about the looks, but talent and Disha scores on that front as well. Kunal Kemmu shines in several moments of the film. He impresses a great deal. The actor carries her part with elan, notwithstanding the discrepancies in the narrative. But it's Anil Kapoor who steals the show. He is excellent throughout and his work takes the graph of the film to an all-time high. A tailor-made role! Elisabet Elli AvrRam springs a surprise, essaying her role to perfection. Amruta Khanvilkar is in terrific form. This is one of her most uninhibited works!

On the whole, director Mohit Suri has scaled several notches above his past accomplishments in Malang. The film seduces the viewer with thrills aplenty, soulful music and of course, the crackling and wonderful onscreen chemistry between Aditya Roy Kapur and Disha Patani. The film caters more to the youth in metros than the hardcore masses in general. Also, Anil Kapoor makes Malang come alive.

Happy Hardy and Heer
(2020)

UNEXCITING
#FinalVerdict

By now, it has become an inevitable fact that Himesh Reshammiya is a braveheart in whatever he dabbles himself into. You may not like him and he may not feature on your favourite actor list, but certainly, you cannot ignore him. Whenever Himesh Reshammiya stars in a film, it's got to be a musical and Happy Hardy and Heer is no exception.

Happy Hardy and Heer is a slice of life rom-com that takes you back to the times when simple stories were the order of the day with ordinary-looking people and their not too complex issues and problems. The film rests on a thin storyline (Himesh Reshammiya). Director Raka makes a sincere attempt but his striking direction is let-down by a boringly monotonous screenplay - written by Himesh Reshammiya's wife Sonia Kapoor Reshammiya - ranging from interesting to mundane to yawn-inducing. The USP, decidedly, is Himesh Reshammiya's musical score but how one wishes the super music was complemented by an equally superior script. Additionally, Happy Hardy and Heer doesn't rise to entertaining levels for two reasons. One, too many songs interlaced in the narrative. Two, the pace dips and the plot loses the steam after a point to the hilt.

Though Happy Hardy and Heer rests on a fragile plot, with the writing holding your interest at places, there are been-there-seen-that kind of situations aplenty and the narrative is laced with too many songs. Whether or not the situation warrants them, you have one track ready to unspool every now and then.

Directorially, Raka has avoided going over the top and remains faithful to the subject but he's handicapped by a sketchy screenplay. He cannot do much given the fact that there's no novelty at all. Overall, his direction is impressive. Himesh Reshammiya's music is expectedly top-notch. All the tracks are lilting compositions as well. Chandan Kowli's cinematography is perfect.

Himesh Reshammiya seems thoroughly dedicated to his craft and the composer/singer/actor goes that extra mile to get the role right. He has grown as an actor and that reflects in several moments of the film. Sonia Mann is completely natural. She looks alluring and acts well. Her confident portrayal stands out. Naresh Suri is impressive. Manmeet Singh is good. Deep Mandeep is perfect. Ashwin Dhar, Sejal Shah and Trupti Khamkar lend able support.

On the whole, Happy Hardy and Heer does appeal in bits and spurts but not in totality. The film isn't bad, but it isn't great either. Though it has a hit score to its credit, it won't work at the box-office. Flop!

Jawaani Jaaneman
(2020)

ENJOYABLE
Saif Ali Khan - the name synonymous with urban rom-coms - slips into the role of a trendy, uber-cool, suave and metrosexual guy with elegance. Films such as Kal Ho Naa Ho, Love Aaj Kal, Salaam Namaste and Dil Chahta Hai have already consolidated and cemented his status in this genre. That's the prime reason why Jawaani Jaaneman generates curiosity.

Youth-centric rom-com is deemed as the most dependable genre and Jawaani Jaaneman is no exception. The film is amusing, sharp, witty and contemporary. It does some serious talking as well. The efforts are worth it and the time, well spent. Director Nitin Kakkar handles the subject with utmost maturity and ensures that there are wild-whacky moments aplenty. Being an unconventionally innovative film, Jawaani Jaaneman explores new grounds in terms of story as well as execution. The fresh concept combined with ample twists and turns in the screenplay only ensure that it doesn't stagnate.

The marriage of realism with escapism as also form and content is quite evident in Jawaani Jaaneman. There are moments that offer tremendous entertainment. Hussain Dalal (Story) borrows incidents straight from life. Jawaani Jaaneman also works because the characters are so true to life and identifiable that you can't help but relate to the issue. The icing on the cake is, undoubtedly, the execution of the film and the shot compositions. At the onset, the screenplay may give you the feeling that it's all gloss and no soul but Jawaani Jaaneman catches you slowly, but firmly and doesn't leave you till the end. There's so much happening in the film every minute. A few sequences are unconvincing here and there but the plusses outweigh the minuses in a huge way.

Director Nitin Kakkar executes the film with effortless ease, handling a number of sequences with dexterity. Come to think of it, Jawaani Jaaneman is a complex film, which reflects the complexity and intricacies of human relationships. The highpoint of the film is the three sharply defined characters, besides, of course, the styling and visuals. Also, Nitin Kakkar's style of storytelling caters more to the multiplex crowd/elite/big city junta/Overseas audience rather than the aam public/hoi polloi/masses/frontbenchers. The generous usage of English will also restrict its appeal to urban centres. The humour, thankfully, is not of the slapstick variety; it's more subtle and situational. The emotional moments are not heavy either; they percolate unpretentiously. Everything that writers (Hussain Dalal, Abbas Dalal) and director Nitin Kakkar attempt to convey through their characters looks credible and relevant. More significantly, all of this is presented in an entertaining format. But the curse of the second half, which plagues most Hindi films, troubles Jawaani Jaaneman as well. The pace drops and the film starts to meander towards predictability. The second hour is half as exciting as the first. Unmemorable songs, an over-stretched story and the lethargic pacing ail the film.

It would be blasphemous to ignore the styling of the characters in Jawaani Jaaneman. Graceful designs dictate the wardrobes of the lead actors, which not only seizes your attention but also takes fashion trends frontward. Ketan Sodha's background score is classy and effectual. Manoj Kumar Khatoi's cinematography gives the film the international feel. In fact, the film has several stunning visuals. The dialogue (Hussain Dalal, Abbas Dalal) seem straight out of real-life but are wicked at times too.

Priyata Dixit casting is inch-perfect. Saif Ali Khan has that knack for rom-coms. He fits into his character fluently and leaves a deep-seated impression. He is outstanding in both emotional and light moments. The actor has worked hard on his looks and physique and looks smashing all through. The real scene-stealer is, without doubt, Alaya F, who not only looks sizzling hot but pitches in a confident performance. She lets herself loose, surrenders to her character wholly and nails the performance. It's an incredibly noticeable act. Tabu is in terrific form, portraying the role with gusto but she barely has any screen time or real purpose in the narrative. Kubbra Sait appears very confident and performance-wise, she is spot on. In fact, her character is fleshed out very well and with her performance, she makes it even more special. This is yet another feather in her cap! Farida Jalal, Chunky Panday and Kumud Mishra contribute so much to their sequences. They are super-efficient, as always.

On the whole, Jawaani Jaaneman has a single-point plan of engaging and amusing the spectators. Although the second half is not as tempting or intoxicating as the first hour. It pales when compared to the attention-grabbing first hour. Yet, all said and done, Jawaani Jaaneman is an immensely likeable film that should appeal mainly its target audience -- the youth. Go for it!

Street Dancer 3D
(2020)

Entrancing
#FinalVerdict

One has to acknowledge that a dance film is particularly suitable for showing the advantages of 3D technology in the cinema, which has been in great demand for some time now. What do you ask for a dance film? A concrete story? Actors deserving of nominations in an official ceremony for their talent as performers? Not really. These points are certainly important but they represent only a little more. To tell the truth, what we ask of a film of the genre is an impeccable level of dance that makes us want each time to get up to shake our body to the rhythms of sounds. So yes, Street Dancer 3D has a script seen and reviewed hundreds of billions of times which, by the way, must fit on a postage stamp with regard to the anorexic thinness of the plot (love, betrayal, passion and all the usual cliches) but Street Dancer 3d ups the ante on the dance side, compared to the previous dance films. It is nowadays little exclusive - or a guarantee for an enriching, crushing film experience - when a film is made in 3D, Street Dancer 3D deserves all the praises it can get.

Street Dancer 3D is a dance movie every inch. Whether or not you are a fan, you will surely be enchanted. What the actors perform on screen is perfect, fresh and literally brilliant. Almost the entire 144 minutes are dancing, dancing and dancing. It's not a rule that the final number is the best, but here it succeeds. The film has all the trappings of a commercial Bollywood potboiler. The dance scenes are even more spectacular, artistic and expansive, cinematography even more musical, the entire film even more pop, more colourful and more fun.

Director Remo D'Souza doesn't care that he is not an intellectual high-flyer, he knows that his strengths lie elsewhere. He draws his strength from his heart, and the honesty with which his film operates is sometimes disarming. As for the story itself, nothing new awaits us. You know it: love, betrayal, last-minute arrivals and everything is coming to a happy end. But Street Dancer 3D impresses in its many dance numbers, in reckless breakdance steps and in prodigious choreographies that challenge the possibilities of human anatomy. Remo D'Souza knows where to put the camera so that each dance step is emphatic, powerful, but he is incompetent when it comes to bashing a story. Remo D'Souza is one of the promising and talented filmmakers in Bollywood, as he has a direct relationship with dance, which ultimately helped him excel as a filmmaker. You will not see this movie and judge it negative for its weak script or for the protagonists who do not have the brilliance of some great talent. Personally, I found it more striking and visually enjoyable experience than some of the recent dance films but poorer in intrigue as it follows a crude and clichéd recipe with almost no surprise. Nonetheless, it's definitely not for pseudos or advocates of arthouse cinema.

Although screenplay writers Tushar Hiranandani and Jagdeep Sidhu come up with several knockout sequences. But there's no denying that the screenwriting deviates into the conventional and foreseeable zone. While the film makes for a wholesome entertainer, it is the second half of the film that qualifies to be better than the first, as Remo D'Souza resorts to cliches to carry the story forward. Besides, the film is stretched by at least 15/20 minutes. Thankfully, the narrative gathers steam once again towards the closing portions and the finale is simply breathtaking, which will be greeted with seetis and taalis. The director has also used the added advantage of technology/VFX to keep things visually exciting for the audience at all times.

Remo D'Souza shows ample growth and confidence as a storyteller. A few emotional and dramatic moments are the mainstay of the enterprise. Remo brings alive estimable vigour, energy and imagination on the big screen. He blends the emotional quotient with dance and music and presto! You can't take your eyes off the screen every time a dance breaks out. The winsome soundtrack also compliments the theme of the movie. The choreography (Kruti Mahesh, Rahul Shetty, Tashan Muir) of each song and dance piece deserves distinction marks. It's truly inventive. Vijay Kumar Arora and Tushar Kanti Ray's cinematography is perfect - capturing the gloss and grandeur to the minutest - which accentuates the impact of several scenes, especially the dance pieces. Manan Ajay Sagar's editing should have been spruced up. Sachin-Jigar's background score is a bit loud but in sync with the film's mood.

Now to the performances! Prabhudheva, regarded as the dance legend by many, is expectedly, incomparable in dances, but the good news is that he handles the dramatic scenes well too. If you thought that playing to the gallery came easy to certain actors only, watch Varun Dhawan spin magic in Street Dancer 3D. He's magnificent, the star attraction, the soul of this film. Shraddha Kapoor comes as a whiff of fresh air! She looks like a million bucks and is a treat to watch. Nora Fatehi delivers a power-packed performance. Aparshakti Khurana impresses immensely. Punit Pathak, Salman Yusuff Khan, Raghav Juyal, Dharmesh Yelonde, Sushant Pujari, Caroline Wilde and Francis Roughly have played their respective parts competently. Zarina Wahab, Murli Sharma and Manoj Pahwa lend able support.

To sum up, Street Dancer 3D does have a strong message to send across to its audience but the haphazard writing combined with a huge number of songs, dance sequences and battlefield banters thrown in after every five to seven minutes fail to stitch the film together in an organised way. Still and all, Street Dancer 3D is an impressive dance film, which weakens a bit in the character drawings, but is far ahead in all other respects. A paisa vasool entertainment that will have the audience thirsting for more! The film has its share of moments that stay with you, especially the concluding portions. Smash hit!

Panga
(2020)

Arousing
#FinalVerdict

The rules of entertainment are altering rapidly because Hindi movie heroine is now being looked up with strengths, shortcomings, mistakes and achievements. She is ready to conduct experiments, equipped to explore uncharted lands. This holds for Kangana Ranaut, one of the most talented actresses of our time. The famous actress has persistently paved the way vis-a-vis her choice of movies. Also, director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari needs no introduction. With her debut film Nil Battey Sannata (2016), she had the audience sit up and take notice of her work. Panga, her latest offering, once again has you, as an audience, asking a question. Honestly, women's stories are not really exemplified conscientiously since Bollywood is branded for creating movies from a male perspective. But the souk of women-centric flicks is quickly turning out to be a bankable genre. Panga is a commanding tale, has an authoritative central character, has several dominant and thought-provoking moments, making it an all-persuasive film.

Panga is thought-provoking, articulate and clear. It brings the subject to light but Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari neither imposes her opinion on the audience nor do her characters. Each actor extends his or her arm within the ambit of their circumstances, never once attempting to go beyond it. That's the brilliance of this film. This is Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's trademark. She is like the music conductor who knows the symphony like the palm of her hand and directs every actor with the delicate swish of her experienced baton. Of course, the film is built on the classic theme that a talented athlete has a dream to place at the top of the stool at the big international tournaments, where the road to it is not just straightforward but full of bumps and dents that need to be forced, which puts both the psyche and the physics to a hard test. And then, of course, it turns out in the end that iron willpower can pave the way for the dream to come true. The director does manage to make an extremely worthwhile and quite entertaining film, packed with both dramatic and exciting moments.

It is absolutely amazing to experience how camera movement (Jay I. Patel), editing (Ballu Saluja), music (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) and other technical aspects of Panga blend together to form a cinematic experience that, in terms of quality, rises to a level where the entertainment value is of an entirely exceptional character. In terms of action, Panga is fantastic storytelling, where the story writers (Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nikhil Mehrotra) have managed to convey a story through the visual media to an unparalleled degree and turned it into a gripping, captivating, educational and uplifting and one of a kind experience. The film in many areas is also deeply touching. Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari ensures that Panga retains its individuality and doesn't come across as a replica/clone of other immensely likeable films with sports drama as the backdrop. In fact, her handling of several light moments as well as dramatic ones is exemplary. With the skills of a master storyteller, she amalgamates a human story in a truly striking and attention-grabbing format. There is a certain uninhibited genuineness in Ashwiny's direction. Besides, the additional screenplay by Nitesh Tiwari is outstanding; one seldom witnesses such aptitude and deliberation to specifications. Without doubt, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari gives it her best shot with gleaming sincerity. There are a few hiccups, but not the type that really go against the film. However, the climax is the highpoint of this enterprise. Also, fragments of tongue in cheek humour pop up when you least anticipate to liven up the solemn plot.

The admiration for Kangana Ranaut has scaled woozy altitudes and let me affirm, the supremely talented actress delivers a performance that's at par with her former accomplishments. She re-evaluates screen acting in Panga. She arrives with yet another enlivening, commanding character in this film and her portrayal is sure to win laurels by assessors and cine-goers uniformly. Her body language, her confidence, her vulnerability, her fury, her grief, all fall upon wonderfully. Jassie Gill is a revelation. What a tremendous actor. His sequences with Kangana are truly wonderful. Neena Gupta proves yet again that she's an exceptional performer. She makes a stunning impact. Richa Chadha is, as always, efficient. She exhibits good screen presence and holds her ground firmly, despite Kangana's towering performance. She is exactly what the highly ranked coaches are made up of. Yagya Bhasin stands out with a terrific portrayal. He's is exceptional. Way to go, boy! Megha Burman shines as the young Kabbadi player.

On the whole, Panga raises questions, challenges the age-old customs and mirrors a reality most convincingly. A brilliant film embellished with bravura performances. The highs and lows, the triumphs and failures, the laughter and heartbreak... you smile, you laugh, you weep, you cheer, you feel ecstatic... Panga encompasses it all adroitly, with the finale leaving you exhilarated. Don't miss it for anything in the world. A film that deserves an ovation!

Jai Mummy Di
(2020)

Insipid!
A title like Jai Mummy Di makes you curious and interested in the movie instantly. Some stories are only interesting to read but not cut out for cinematic adaptations. That's the problem with this film. The subject material comes across as a hollow attempt. The screenplay tries to pack too much stuff, but how everything is spread out on the table makes you squirm in your seat. Seriously, one wonders after a point, what was the writer/director trying to say? The writing is not merely humdrum and dreary, but also amateurish at the same time. Things are presented in such an amateurish manner that it fails to cut ice. Even the culmination is so filmy. It's a screenplay of convenience!

When it comes to escapist cinema, a gifted writer can make his imagination run wild. Think of a crazy story, come up with outrageous and zany situations, rope in actors who'd look believable in those parts... hey presto, a crazy potboiler is ready to be served. But Navjot Gulati's writing is plain mediocre. Besides, the second hour is lengthy, it gets tedious. After a point, the writing doesn't spring any surprises. You know exactly what's in store next and that's what bogs the film down. It also tends to get a little melodramatic and overemphasized intermittently. But the dialogues are smart and in sync with the mood of the film.

Sure, Jai Mummy Di remains faithful to the ongoing trend of providing laughs at the oddest of things, but it's more of a masala fare that's reminiscent of the 1980s cinema. Packaged in a modern avatar, of course. More specifically, the writing relies on the age-old stuff to reach the finale. Too many cinematic liberties have been undertaken and it doesn't work at times. Agreed, you don't look for logic and reason in hardcore potboilers, but the least the writer/director (Navjot Gulati) could do is provide loads of entertainment. Sadly, he makes mincemeat of a plot that had the potential to woo viewers. On face-value, what do you expect from Jai Mummy Di? Laughter unlimited. But what's served on the platter is so insipid and lame. The comic scenes (that make you laugh) are few and far between.

Directorially, Navjot Gulati goes horribly wrong. Saddled with a poor screenplay, there's not much that the director can do to salvage the show. The songs are plain ordinary. Sanket Shah's cinematography lacks the picture-perfect look. Hitesh Sonik's background score is loud to a greater extent than necessary.

Sunny Singh is getting stereotyped. He looks ill at ease at places. Sonnalli Seygall is sincere, enacting her part with utmost conviction. The drama gets a little amusing thanks to Supriya Pathak, Poonam Dhillon and Danish Husain. It is difficult to imagine another pair of actors pulling it off as well. Supriya Pathak plays to the gallery. Poonam Dhillon is superb. Danish Husain is fantastic.

On the whole, Jai Mummy Di just doesn't work. Flop!

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior
(2020)

Stupendous
#FinalVerdict

The culture of India is filled with innumerable stories of bravery and valour. Sadly, a few of them have been lost in the pages of history or only have local awareness. Tanaji Malusare is one such great man who is credited to have fought a decisive battle in the Battle of Sinhagad in 1670.

Roman Polanski, the acclaimed storyteller, once remarked: 'Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theatre.' Director Om Raut's Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior does exactly that. It raises the bar of films made in India. At a time when most dream merchants in Bollywood are concentrating on mindless entertainers that kiss goodbye to logic, Om Raut and Prakash Kapadia's story strike the right balance between logic, history, heroism and entertainment in Tanhaji. The scale of the film is colossal, the plot is invigorating and the outcome leaves you mesmerized. Without an iota of doubt, director Om Raut is a sheer genius for creating a film that sweeps you off your feet and leaves you awe-struck. After watching Tanhaji, it's not just admiration, but respect and reverence as well for Om Raut. It wouldn't be erroneous to state that you haven't watched anything like this on the Hindi screen ever in 3D. Also, as a cinematic experience, Tanhaji takes gigantic strides, taking Indian cinema notches higher... over and above the standards set by several skilled raconteurs in the past. This film will most definitely go down the annals of history.

It requires foresight, guts, vision and of course, the financial muscle to bring to life a lavish spectacle on the giant screen. And Om Raut uses his strengths and opportunities to accomplish what a majority of storytellers can only talk about or dream of. Let me add, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is not merely a visually enchanting experience, but also a well-structured film that engulfs you into its world. Director Raut belts out a story that rests on the age-old adage, good triumphs eventually and he carries a huge burden on his shoulders: He knows that the canvas, VFX and entertainment quotient has to be bigger and better than most of the historical films churned out recently. It's a daunting challenge actually. And Tanhaji delivers and how!

Several sequences leave you tongue-tied and the film has no dull, tedious or mind-numbing moment. The highpoint is the concept. The writing is smart and clever, the episodes are ingeniously integrated into the screenplay (Om Raut, Prakash Kapadia) and the culmination to the tale leaves you spellbound. I'd go the extent of saying that Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior has an unfaultable start, immaculate middle and impeccable end, which is a rarity as far as Indian films go. The film is seeped in Indian ethos, while the drama is garnished with several awe-inspiring sequences and jaw-dropping visuals. The screenwriting vacillates between light moments, high-voltage drama, tension-filled confrontations and luminously filmed and brilliantly crafted action sequences, resulting in a movie-going experience that doesn't insult your intelligence. The content is desi, while the packaging has an international feel.

There's no doubt that Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is Om Raut's most accomplished effort to date. His choice of the subject over the years has been diverse but Tanhaji is truly the big-ticket entertainer that leaves you awestruck by its powerful storytelling and meticulous detailing. Any deterrent? The soundtrack could've been better. Also, the editing (Dharmendra Sharma) could've been sharper at places.

Another prime reason why Tanhaji stays with you is, well, watching the story unfold in 3D. We have watched 3D films and also 2D-converted-to-3D films unfold on the Hindi screen. But, Tanhaji takes a leap by Indian standards and the technology adds a new dimension to this film. The background score (Sandeep Shirodkar) is electrifying. The breathtaking, larger-than-life frames (DoP: Keiko Nakahara), grandiose and opulent production design (Sujeet Subhash Sawant, Sriram Kannan Iyengar) and stunning visual effects impart sheen and sparkle. The action portions (Ramazan Bulut, R.P. Singh) provide ample exhilarating moments and I must add, it commands repeat viewing.

Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is powered by strong performances from the skilled cast. Having said that, the eyes are on the protagonist and antagonist all the while. You can sense the tension when the two gladiators clash and collide. Ajay Devgn is electrifying and gives his character the authority that they deserve. The undeniable presence and winsome act add weight to the magnum opus. Ajay seems born to play this role and he enacts it with such precision, such flourish, such confidence that it leaves you asking for more. A mind-boggling performance without a doubt! Saif Ali Khan is menacing, ferocious and nails his part with precision. His physical transformation -- a prerequisite for the character -- makes him look powerful and unshakable. He's most menacing in a role that must've been a herculean task to accomplish. Kajol gets limited scope this time but invests purity, valour and strength into her character and emerges triumphant. Sharad Kelkar uses his eyes to convey intensity and owns every sequence he's in. Luke Kenny is ruthlessly manipulative and pitches in a tremendous act. Padmavati Rao, as always, is impressive. Jagapathi Babu is unmistakably earnest. Devdatta Nage and Ajinkya Deo are impressive as well. Neha Sharma is perfectly alright.

On the whole, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is, without a shred of doubt, a landmark film. This period drama has all it takes to prove the first blockbuster of 2020. You haven't watched anything so opulent, so magnificent like this in a long, long time on the Hindi screen. It's a feast for moviegoers and has the trappings to make all generations its fan. It shouldn't come as a surprise if it goes down as a textbook on how to make a solid entertainer. EPIC BLOCKBUSTER!

Chhapaak
(2020)

Poignant
#FinalVerdict

Courage is not A virtue, but The virtue.

Most storytellers entertain, a few enlighten. A scattering number of celluloid visionaries entertain as well as enlighten. Meghna Gulzar fits into that exceptional variety of film-makers that opens up thought-processes about the condition of the homeland without losing the cinematic elements that constitute a film. Meghna Gulzar has always believed in handling an issue every time She has attempted a film. To reconstruct on celluloid a true occurrence that is oven-fresh in public reminiscence is not a trouble-free mission. However, having sensitive and explosive material on hand is not enough. The execution of the subject is of paramount importance. Fortunately, Meghna Gulzar interprets the events in remarkable style and form and makes it a cinematic experience that haunts you even after the film has concluded. She does complete justice to the spirit of the story.

Chhapaak manages to show a mirror to the society. It is a rare film that will make you cry but at the same time scaffold you with the strength to raise your voice against injustice and why one must never compromise on self-respect. As a movie-watching experience, Chhapaak is flawless. There's absolutely no compromise at the level of storytelling. Bravo! Meghna Gulzar makes it an engaging piece of cinema rather than relying on the docu-drama format. Chhapaak belongs to the unique hard-hitting, gut-wrenching genre of cinema. Script-wise, the director has tried to remain faithful to the episode that occurred and also what transpired subsequently. The events have been chronologically put forth and the daring story of Malti hits you like a ton of bricks. The film truly celebrates the human spirit and also reflects a vital change in society and in the attitudes of people.

The narration is simply captivating that the viewer thirsts for more. Such is the impact of its taut screenplay! The film abounds in sequences that have been handled with utmost care, notable among those that focus on the relationship between Deepika Padukone and Vikrant Massey. The dramatic scenes are just right and not once does any character get loud or go overboard. The emotional scenes are a treat to watch. Another highlight is the climax. A film like Chhapaak pricks your conscience and makes you think.

Director Meghna Gulzar and story writer Atika Chohan deserve kudos for choosing a thorny and contentious story to interpret on celluloid. Meghna Gulzar, in particular, deserves a few extra brownie points for handling the material with aplomb. Her prowess and competence are visible all through the film. Since Chhapaak is based on a real story, Meghna Gulzar has kept the characters and the locations real and that's what makes the goings-on very identifiable, besides bestowing an authentic feel to the film. Here's a dynamic director-writer duo who needs to be lauded for tackling such a difficult subject and emerging triumphant!

A hard-hitting drama, generally, doesn't have scope for music. But Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy join hands with Gulzar saab, the wordsmith, and together they deliver a solid soundtrack. Music has been used in a matter-of-fact manner and at no point, it takes anything away from the narrative or the pace of the film. Malay Prakash' cinematography is first-rate. Dialogues are realistic to the core. Nitin Baid's editing is perfect.

It would be a blunder if one missed out the contribution of the makeup artists. Transforming the ever-dependable actress into an acid attack survivor must've been an arduous task and Shrikant Desai and Clover Wootton deserve to be complimented for making Malti look so real.

Meghna Gulzar places immense trust on Deepika Padukone and she delivers a powerhouse performance. It is difficult to think of any other actress who could've essayed this complex role with such sincerity as Deepika. A powerhouse of talent, Chhapaak is yet another effort on the part of the actress to showcase the talent she possesses. To state that she is exceptional would be an understatement. Here's yet another award-winning performance from her. Another actor who delivers a first-rate performance is Vikrant Massey. He sinks his teeth into the character, giving it the much-required pragmatism that it necessitates. Sure, Chhapaak belongs to Deepika, but not once does Vikrant Massey dither from his position or seems inferior. This is the hallmark of a tremendous actor, which Vikrant is. Madhurjeet Sarghi is first-rate and lends adequate support.

A lot of films have been attempted on real-life incidents, but haven't struck a chord so effectively. Chhapaak should shatter this jinx. It focuses the viewer's attention to that segment of society that has seldom been depicted on the Indian screen. It will be well appreciated by the intelligent audience who are gunning for women safety and empowerment. This heroic and daring film truly deserves prolonged applause.

Darbar
(2020)

Dhamaal entertainer
#FinalVerdict

The Indian audience savours true-blue masala entertainers. Director A.R. Murugadoss has to live up to the expectations for varied reasons: He teams up with superstar Rajinikanth for the first time and attempts a cop story yet again. Darbar is one of those earthy, traditional, uncomplicated masala movies that most of us grew up on. The protagonist of Darbar is not the desi version of James Bond, nor is he any kind of a superhero. The story is interesting and although it is oft-repeated, the new angle is both, contemporary and quite fresh. But what doesn't change is the intent of making a full-blown masala entertainer. Yes, Darbar is vintage masala fare that has a larger-than-life hero, who triumphs against all odds. And, of course, it has a knockout performance by superstar Rajinikanth. If at all there's a shred of doubt whether Thalaiva is The Best in the business, all you've got to do is watch Darbar.

Darbar is an acknowledgement to one of the most successful genres -- action movies -- known for the trademark good versus evil themes and well-choreographed stunts. Darbar revives memories of the bygone era that stressed on raw action and was rich in fist-to-fist combat scenes. But Darbar is a film of today, hence the stunts are extremely stylized and polished in keeping with the times. It's raw power presented in a slick demeanour. Darbar works for varied reasons: The conflict between the protagonist (Rajinikanth) and antagonist (Suniel Shetty), the high-quality dramatic scenes, the raw action and of course, it shows how police force should work against the rampant corruption, fraudulent politicians and spineless goons. In short, Darbar is a complete package.

A.R. Murugadoss' screenplay is engaging and interesting. The first half is replete with light moments which keep the viewers fully entertained. The second half is serious but yet, very engrossing and engaging. It also offers scope for emotions. Several of the scenes will draw huge rounds of applause in the cinema halls. Of course, the single screens will resound with thunderous applause when Thalaiva comes on the screen for the first time. The climax, after that, is simply earth-shattering and the audience will experience a rush of adrenaline throughout the action-oriented climax. The twist in the tale will also bring the house down with excitement. All in all, the screenplay is so phenomenal that it will make the viewers' hearts dance with joy. In fact, the drama and also the execution of the written material keeps you completely hooked to the proceedings.

I'd like to make a special mention of the action scenes (Ram-Laxman, Peter Hein). At a time when most film-makers opt for action directors from abroad for gadget-driven thrills, Darbar goes for the desi flavour and it works luminously. The raw, hardcore action is easily amongst the high points of the movie. On many occasions than one, you have your hearts in your mouths while watching the scenes. Anirudh Ravichander's effectual background score also deserves immense praise.

For any good versus evil film to click, it ought to have the protagonist and the antagonist on the same podium. In Darbar too, it's not just the hero who's powerful and mighty; the villain is equally ferocious. That's what makes the conflict all the more enjoyable -- it's a fight of the equals. Besides the sequences involving them, a number of dramatic sequences leave an indelible impression. And, of course, the finale, which is simply outstanding. The dialogues (A.R. Murugadoss), in a nutshell, are aimed at the masses and works big time. Santosh Sivan's cinematography is eye-catching. The film bears a stylish look all through. A.R. Murugadoss' direction is extraordinary. His narration makes the drama believable. He has given the film a huge canvas and has spared no efforts to make it a visual delight. There are a number of scenes which show his genius as a filmmaker.

But even roses have thorns and the aspect that doesn't really gel is the romance between Thalaiva and Nayanthara. In fact, the romance-and-song routine comes across as a roadblock and mind you, it has nothing to do with the lack of chemistry between the two actors. It's because the drama is so powerful, commanding and omnipotent that you want every other aspect to be sidetracked. Anirudh Ravichander doesn't get the opportunity to deliver a sparkling soundtrack. Yet, the title track (rendered with a lot of fervour by Nakash Aziz) is the sole track that works. The editing (Akkineni Sreekar Prasad) is razor-sharp at most times but could've been spruced up during midsection.

Superstar Rajinikanth is in the centre of the battle between good and evil. He is the lifeline, the soul of the film. The embodiment of screen masculinity, Thalaiva enacts the central character of a righteous, hardhearted cop with flourish. He brings alive on screen a larger-than-life hero character with determined conviction, which renders you thunderstruck. He returns to the over-the-top-action genre of films with this one. In a nutshell, his performance plays a pivotal role in carrying the film to the winning post. Darbar bestows him with abundant opportunity to flaunt each shade of his skill. It's not only the plot that carries Darbar. It's also the mood and the expression of Thalaiva that makes Darbar a treat.

Nayanthara is fabulous. To share the screen space with an actor of the stature of Rajinikanth and yet remain in your memory even after the show has ended is no cakewalk. She looks fresh and photogenic and acts her part brilliantly. Suniel Shetty is in terrific form. Darbar would've faltered if the antagonist wouldn't be as convincing as the protagonist. Suniel Shetty matches up to Rajinikanth every time they come face to face. He's venomous to the hilt! Darbar has a huge supporting cast, but I would like to single out a few names that add weight to the proceedings. Nivetha Thomas impresses again. She deserved more footage. Prateik Babbar is superb. He's only getting better with every film.

To sum up, Darbar follows the existing trend to create more homespun, home-flavoured desi movies rather than pursue the money-spinning NRI souk that has, until recently, been the order of the day. While the central plot packs a solid punch, with several clap-trap situations interlaced in the narrative, it slips into the knowable zone at times. Overall, Darbar works big time for varied reasons: The energetic drama, the terrific confrontations, the raw stunts and of course, for the three 'heroes' -- superstar Rajinikanth, Suniel Shetty and director A.R. Murugadoss. This one is the emblematic formula movie with distinct essentials that Indian masses yearn for. A complete package of entertainment for the masses and devoted fans of masala movies. Go, have a blast!

Sab Kushal Mangal
(2020)

Painfully unremarkable!
#FinalVerdict

Fridays are turning into an untidy jumble in Bollywood in the matter of getting an epochal release. In actuality, releasing a film on the very first Friday of the New Year is unavoidably viewed as cursed. When there are myriad of Bollywood films churning out every single Friday, the makers are now being left barehanded other than to explore the date.

Seriously, it's damn difficult to poke fun at oneself. Sure, we relish madcap entertainers, but what first-time director Karan Vishwanath Kashyap serves in Sab Kushal Mangal transcends all limits! The jokes fall flat on numerous occasion. The situations/characters try too hard to chuckle you but fail miserably. There's nothing in the film which has got an iota of intelligence. While Sab Kushal Mangal begins on a promising note - it's a premise ripe with comic potential - the graph only spirals southwards barely ten minutes into the film. It's not sacrilege to attempt a no-brainer - the audience loves it - but the smiles/guffaw/laughter should never be in short supply. With a run time of approx. 2.15 hours, Sab Kushal Mangal drains you at the end of it, despite the actors trying so so so hard to make you giggle even when the gags are weak. Prashant Singh Rathore's editing causes extemporaneous sleep. The banal jokes and the lame PJs coupled with the muddled screenplay (Brijendra Kala, Karan Vishwanath Kashyap) are clearly responsible for the royal mess. There are several scenes in the film which make the drama appear so stretched that the audience wonders what's going on. Even the climax does not have the desired impact. Emotions fail to touch the heart. The substandard VFX by Katalyst Creates is an absolute letdown. The result is a confused, unpleasing, long-drawn mess. In fact, the film makes a mockery of everything you may have seen or heard.

While bits and pieces of the first half are tolerable, the film goes completely awry in its post-interval portions. Seriously, what was Karan Vishwanath Kashyap thinking while penning and executing this one? Choosing an unconventional story is great, but coming up with a gripping film is nothing short of a challenge and that's where this film boomerangs. In fact, it gets cumbersome to sit through the film after a point, since what unfurls is ridiculous and bizarre. The soundtrack (Harshit Saxena), too, is neither catchy nor melodious. A listless score! Sachin K. Krishn's cinematography is tacky.

Akshaye Khanna is exceptional and evokes laughter whenever he comes on the screen. He's the sole saving grace. Debutant Priyaank Sharma and debutante Riva Kishan are monotonous. Also, the spark is missing. Satish Kaushik, Supriya Pathak and Rakesh Bedi are completely wasted. They're just gap fillers.

On the whole, Sab Kushal Mangal won't live up to its title. From start to finish, there's isn't a single shred of conviction on display. Steadfastly puerile, Sab Kushal Mangal is a big splotch of utter nonsense. Disaster!

Bhangra Paa Le
(2020)

Boringly monotonous!
#FinalVerdict

What bogs the film down is that it's too predictable from start to end. However, predictability is not the sole hitch here. The story doesn't have the zing to keep you hooked to the screen for most parts and also, it unravels at such a lethargic pace that you break into a yawn at several points of the narrative. Sadly, Bhangra Paa Le is below the mediocre mark and doesn't meet the expectations at all. What's the problem? Without a doubt, the script! What starts off as a story that seems real and identifiable becomes a fairy tale in the latter hour. Also, with a title like Bhangra Paa le and the story harping on music, the songs had to be chartbusters. That's just not the case here!

The sole aspect that you carry home is Sunny Kaushal's earnest performance, who has consistently taken one step ahead with every film. This time, unfortunately, the shoddy script makes the actor's efforts null and void. Bhangra Paa Le is a chance lost! Come to think of it, most dance-based reality shows on television these days promise far more entertainment, excitement, drame-baazi and those euphoric moments than the one you see in Bhangra Paa Le.

Dheeraj Rattan's story/screenplay is the biggest culprit here, which is tacky and bland at the same time. Besides, the goings-on get too unbelievable. What starts off as a 'real' film, drifts into a 'surreal' world as it moves ahead. In today's times, when every film-maker is striving so hard to narrate a new story, Bhangra Paa Le harps on the same-old mundane, cliched, tried-and-tested stuff that you've watched again and again and again. The journey of the protagonist is so lifeless that you don't feel for him. Conversely, during the climax, when he eventually emerges a winner, you don't feel euphoric either. The writing is too commonplace to make any impact whatsoever. In an effort to strike a balance between believable and make-believe, Bhangra Paa Le falls like a pack of cards. The narrative is quite dull at times and the slow pace dilutes the impact further.

Music is another minus point. You expect the songs to linger in your memory even after the show has ended... that's what makes a musical tick, right? Sadly, it's not the case here. The movie clearly lacks a hit number to take it to dizzy heights. However, the choreography is top-notch (Vijay Ganguly, Adil Shaikh, Sahaj Singh, Bosco-Caesar). Dialogues (Dheeraj Rattan) are plain ordinary. Cinematography (Jitan Harmeet Singh) is splendid. Debutante Sneha Taurani's direction is amateurish, to say the least. Some of the scenes are stretched without any purpose. Sneha Taurani should have directed a music album instead with greatly executed Bhangra/dance numbers. Antara Lahiri's editing is also slack. The movie could have easily been trimmed by 15-20 minutes.

Bhangra Paa Le is embellished with great performances. Sunny Kaushal is top-notch, but how one wishes the script would've done justice to his talent. It doesn't offer him a pedestal to take that big leap. He makes a sincere effort and the honesty shows in a number of scenes. His dances, expectedly, are exceptional. Debutante Rukshar Dhillon is first-rate, conveying so much through her eyes. What makes this performance special is the way Rukshar approaches it - without actually replicating anyone. Besides, her dances/acrobatics are a treat. Shriya Pilgaonkar enacts her part with natural ease. She provides some pleasant moments, but the role doesn't demand histrionics.

On the whole, Bhangra Paa Le won't dance its way into the audience's heart. It will only emerge as one of the major disappointments of the year.

Ghost Stories
(2020)

CHILLING
Directors Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee, Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap pursue the journey adroitly. Ghost Stories is suitably atmospheric, full of character and sensibly spine-chilling. It relies on a well-told tale without making it appear ludicrous.

The unwritten rule for horror films/web series is uncomplicated: Supernatural thrillers ought to jolt you at the right places and also, the conclusion ought to be the paramount part of the narrative. Ghost Stories thrives in giving you those joggles at several junctures with some indisputably unnerving scenes.

On the whole, Ghost Stories may not be the eeriest experience, but the tales are sure to send a shudder down your vertebrae. Go, get ready to be spooked!

Good Newwz
(2019)

Amusingly enlightening!
#FinalVerdict

It has become a trend of sorts now that the year ends with a major release. Of late, Akshay Kumar has earned the reputation of making you laugh in film after film. You expect Good Newwz, his new outing, to transport you to ha-ha-land, given the smart-n-chic promos of the film. The prime motive is to entertain you for the next 2 hours. Above and beyond, the endeavour to shun the conventional plot, bring the issue out in the open determinedly and present it in a light tone in the backdrop merit acknowledgement. Good Newwz is one of those entertainers that deliver what it promises: Funny sequences, super performances, loads and loads of laughter and an underlining message that settles with you.

Let's get this straight. Good Newwz works in totality thanks to the kind of star power and energy that the four actors pack in - Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani. It would've been difficult to hold the film from falling apart had these actors not been competent enough to carry off their respective parts. Every situation in the film seems straight out of life and there's nothing that's over the top. The focus is on the entertainment quotient. There are moments when you laugh so uncontrollably that it gets embarrassing and there are times when you continue smiling, even during the most ordinary scenes. Things would've gone wrong had the end stumbled and fumbled, but it doesn't. The finale, in fact, takes the film back to the level that one expects from a film of this magnitude. Take a bow, Raj Mehta. You're a splendid storyteller.

Making an assured debut with a light, frothy film that still has something important to say, director Raj Mehta delivers one of the year's most pleasing films. He balances the two halves adroitly. The beauty of the film lies in the fact that it instantly absorbs you. I'd like to make a special mention of the screenplay (Jyoti Kapoor and Rishabh Sharma). Not once does it deviate to the tried and tested track. It's engaging content from commencement to conclusion and along with a set of impeccably cast actors, it's one joy ride you can't afford to miss. Having said that I'd like to add that the movie loses some steam (for a few minutes) in the post-interval portions, but, thankfully, Good Newwz doesn't get unbalanced. The movie accomplishes what it sets out to do -- it enlightens and entertains and that, in my opinion, is no puny achievement. The entire movie will make you enjoy the war of words between Akshay, Kareena, Diljit and Kiara at regular intervals. Good Newzz also works because the script is believable and the journey from Scene A to Z is well structured.

Also, one needs to applaud the endeavour because hi-concept films take the unconventional route, yet enlighten and entertain, both. Sure, masala movies are great fun, but a film like Good Newwz breaks the monotony, shatters the unwritten rules of the game and scores brownie points. Cinema is rapidly changing and one can connect with viewers across the globe even without making the usual mainstream Hindi movie. Good Newwz proves it! It's Raj Mehta who stands out with a near-perfect film in his very first attempt. The concept is oven-fresh and the handling of a number of dramatic moments is noteworthy. He not only merges funny situations and emotional moments with aplomb but also makes a compelling, wholesome film. Good Newwz is thought-provoking at the same time. The message the movie conveys comes across loud and clear and that's one of the prime reasons why Good Newwz becomes a deserving watch.

Every person behind the camera gives his/her best to the film. Jyoti Kapoor and Rishabh Sharma's screenplay is the mainstay of the film. Vishnu Rao's cinematography is awesome. The DoP does a magnificent job. Dialogues (Jyoti Kapoor, Rishabh Sharma and Raj Mehta) are sure to make your jaws ache. A couple of the inadvertent funny scenes are howlarious. The background score (John Stewart Eduri) is perfect. Musically, it's a hit score with a mix of peppy and melodious numbers. Sohel Sanwari's sound design is utterly believable. Casting (Shruti Mahajan), filtering, blending of characters together and depicting them in a film like this, without outlasting any one character's limit and to give off a cosmopolitan effect, is a lesson indeed and how! The editing (Manish More) is feverish, which is the best part of the enterprise.

Good Newwz belongs to everyone. Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Diljit Dosanjh and Kiara Advani deliver an equally sterling performance. The film would be incomplete without any of these characters. Note another aspect where director Raj Mehta makes all the difference: All these actors have been a part of comic capers in the past, but after having watched them in Good Newwz, not once do you feel that they're repeating themselves. Akshay Kumar is in terrific form. This role offers him ample scope to go beyond the comic roles he specializes in. One performance that should find a prominent place in his impressive repertoire. Diljit Dosanjh is dependable yet again. He is so comfortable in light roles that even if he sleepwalks, he'd make you giggle. He's outstanding from start to end. Kareena Kapoor Khan leaves an indelible impression. The glam looks combined with that rare confidence takes this performance to dizzy heights. Clearly, Kareena is miles ahead of her contemporaries as far as talent goes and this film proves it yet again. Kiara Advani is a complete natural, has all the trappings of a fine actress and delivers a super confident performance. She adds enormous value to the movie by her act, screen presence and striking looks. She's truly admirable. Another actor to watch out for is Adil Hussain. He's natural to the core, addressing a role without going overboard. Tisca Chopra is splendid. She enacts her part with amazing ease.

On the whole, Good Newwz promises entertainment unlimited and delivers it with aplomb. Do carry your kerchief along. It makes you laugh, it makes you moist-eyed. The makers have had the courage to bring a diverse issue out in the open, narrating a daringly different story without getting preachy. Witty, funny and also emotional, Good Newwz is forward-thinking, progressive commercial cinema which vastly enlightens and hugely entertains! At the box-office, it has the potential to rock big time. No Hindi movie buff should deprive himself/herself of watching this crackerjack affair, which ends the decade on a high. Grab a ticket today!

Dabangg 3
(2019)

Unadulterated crowd-pleaser!
#FinalVerdict

The pre-Christmas week has at last shown up. The best is always reserved for the last and it has been a custom to have at least one biggie unfurl in the Christmas week before the curtains fall on the on-going year. Salman Khan teams up with the Hit machine - director Prabhudheva -- yet again. In addition, several enviable names, on and off-screen, lend muscle to the enterprise. The canvas is gigantic as well. It can't get bigger than Dabangg 3, honestly.

Prabhudheva is synonymous with audience-friendly movies. Most critics may abhor his work, however, the paying public - the ones who matter ultimately - adores his film. His films may not offer ground-breaking stuff, nor do they get exemplary honours, yet he whips up a storm at the box-office each time he attempts a high-on-entertainment fare.

This is for fans and adversaries of Salman Khan... Fans, cheer, Salman is back furiously with Dabangg 3. This is his deadliest performance to date. Indeed, you read it right! Adversaries, sorry, you won't have the option to lash out at him or dispatch a horrendous tirade this time. Well, without mincing my words, I must avow that Dabangg 3 is aimed exclusively at the hoi polloi. It rides on Salman Khan's star power. In a film like Dabangg 3, in a role that appears to be an expansion of his character, you can't even consider any other actor portraying this role with flourish.

Recollect the successful potboilers of yore. Recall how the hero would diminish 10 goons to mash in a fraction of seconds. Recall how heroism won at last, regardless of how unfriendly the conditions were. Recall those films wherein rationale assumed a lower priority since the attention was on entertainment... You relive those moments as Dabangg 3 unfolds. It may/may not make sense to you, but screenplay writers - Salman Khan, Prabhudheva and Aloke Upadhyaya - ensure that you are entertained.

With Dabangg 3, one is well prepared about what's in store. The sole factor that director Prabhudheva needs to stress over is whether Dabangg 3 would meet the towering and monumental expectations. More so, because Salman Khan is contending with himself. Salman Khan has redefined superstardom with mass entertainers. He's box-office's favourite actor and seems invincible and insurmountable at the moment! Hardcore masala films are relished with glee by the audience and Dabangg 3 takes this genre one step ahead. Sure, it's an old wine packed in a brand new bottle but the result is sheer magic. Most importantly, Dabangg 3 has Salman Khan like never before. In fact, breathing fire and venom, Chulbul Pandey aka Robinhood Pandey taps Salman's star power like no film has. Dabangg 3 stands on three pillars - Salman Khan's star power, smashing stunts and super music.

In a nutshell, Dabangg 3 delivers what it promises: Entertainment in enormous doses. Prabhudheva's latest offering speaks the language that the masses comprehend. It's one formula that can never go out of fashion if handled smartly. Actually, Chulbul Pandey has come to represent the common man and that's yet another reason why you root for him, feel overjoyed and ecstatic when he triumphs in the finale. For anyone who needs to comprehend what is the on-screen meaning of Bollywood, Dabangg 3 is absolutely textbook fare.

Let's face it, Dabangg 3 has nothing ground-breaking to offer as far as the story (Salman Khan) is concerned. But what makes Dabangg 3 shine, and shine brightly, is Salman Khan's star power, which camouflages the aberrations wonderfully. The film is special for two more reasons: Anl Arasu's stunts and Sajid-Wajid's music. Talking of action scenes, Salman's introduction at the start and the fight-to-finish in the climax, when Salman's shirt tears apart and the rippling muscles and the bare-chest fight ensues, will send the masses in frenzy. To state that the action scenes are outstanding, especially the fight in the finale would be an understatement. Mark my words, the action scenes will lead to chaos at mass-dominated centres, especially at single screens. It won't be erroneous to state that the climax is worth the price of the ticket, samosa, sandwich, popcorn, nachos and cola put together.

Sajid-Wajid's music is of a mixed variety and gels wonderfully with the genre of the film. Munna Badnaam Hua track will send the viewers into raptures. The background score (Sandeep Shirodkar) is electrifying and in sync with the on-screen situations. Dialogue (Dilip Shukla and Aloke Upadhyaya) are excellent. The lines are written with equivalent flamboyance and will be greeted with claps and whistles. Mahesh Limaye's cinematography is top-notch and he makes every frame appear larger-than-life.

But Dabangg 3 is not without its share of flaws. The film stands on a thin storyline and the viewer can guess what's in store next. Besides, the film could've done without a song or two, thereby keeping its length in check (editor: Ritesh Soni). However, these are minor aberrations. For, the plusses easily outweigh and outnumber the minuses here.

The principal cast provides the much-needed sheen to Prabhudheva's vision. Salman Khan uses his fists, spews venom and threats, bullies the villain, flirts and romances, does the pelvic thrusts... in fact, he does everything that one expects from Chulbul Pandey. Honestly speaking, Dabangg 3 is a Salman Khan vehicle and the actor is the Big Boss here. You cannot imagine anyone else doing what he does. And every time he plays to the gallery, many in the audience (especially at single screens) are sure to fling the loose change on screen as a mark of appreciation for his on-screen antics. He defies logic and gets away with it! He is like a ferocious lion who roars with all his might. The show belongs to the actor, who scorches the screen every time he displays the manic anger. From a statutory warning against cigarette and gutka, mouthed by Khan, to his anti-dowry stance and a message on water conservation and a dig at demonetization at the very end, there is also ample messaging to be found in the movie.

Sonakshi Sinha's pairing with Salman looks wonderful. She is her usual chirpy and feisty self as Rajjo. She delivers the right expressions. The newcomer Saiee Manjrekar has an infectious charm and radiates confidence all through the enterprise. The character she portrays has tremendous mass appeal. Also, the desi girl image suits her impeccably. She is camera-friendly and confident to the T. Arbaaz Khan is okay. Dimple Kapadia is truly wonderful. Pramod Khanna (brother of late Vinod Khanna) is excellent. Kichcha Sudeep has a good screen presence. He is superb as the antagonist. He's venomous to the hilt! Yet another sterling act that doesn't miss a beat! He takes giant strides as an actor & gives the film the much-needed support.

On the whole, Dabangg 3 is the emblematic formula movie with distinct essentials that Indian masses yearn for. The film is for those who seek unabashed entertainment and relish masala films. Damn the indomitable critics, pseudo-intellectuals and connoisseurs of parallel cinema, this one's not for them. Dabangg 3 is for the aam junta. Entertainment guaranteed. Dabangg 3 is your ticket this festive season. Dhamaal entertainer!

The Body
(2019)

THRILLING
#FinalVerdict

The Body is a thrilling thriller that plays artfully with horror elements. It knows how to entertain and for the most part, it keeps you hooked with quick twists, good looking flashbacks and exciting intrigues.

First things first! Although The Body is an official remake of the Spanish mystery thriller El Cuerpo, it's not a blatant rip-off. A lot of modifications are done to provide enough thrills which the audience have not experienced on the Hindi screen. Ever. For those who want some 'hatke' stuff, The Body offers enough twists and turns to keep their interest alive. The screenplay gives you no time to ponder since it unfolds at a feverish pace. Also, the assorted characters and their tracks keep you on tenterhooks all through.

The sequence of events and the pace at which the drama unfolds comes as a bolt from the blue. At times, the impact is truly spellbinding. The Body is full of astonishments. The snake-and-ladder game between Rishi Kapoor and Emraan Hashmi subsequently is equally captivating. The sequence of events that lead to a truly nail-biting culmination, the razor-sharp dialogue and of course, the overall suspense... The Body takes the suspense angle to a new altitude altogether, emerging into an exceptionally constructed mystery. Director Jeethu Joseph has a strong control of the material and he executes it with aplomb and composure. Multiple flashbacks notwithstanding, The Body unfolds over a single night, creating the intensely compelling feeling that events are playing out in real-time.

To build an intricate story, story writer Oriol Paulo relies on a game of perspectives that start from the most classic of the narrative axioms of any self-respecting thriller: nothing is really what it seems, and the interplay of the various points of observation feed this mechanism on which The Body constructs its layered structure. The roles of victims and perpetrators tend to continually overturn thanks to the numerous joints that are hidden during the scarce two-hour film, always moving the lens one step further. With a clever play of flashbacks embedded in the story, often almost without interruption, related to the past of the characters that help to understand them much better, director Jeethu Joseph lets us discover the events that constitute the connective fabric of the story, but above all it succeeds in the not easy operation to maintain tension at high levels with urgent rhythms, basing oneself at first on tones of ghost story and horror and then turning sharply to those of the more typical thriller.

Building a tale steeped in growing tension, using not only the claustrophobic and anything but reassuring morgue spaces but also a fine play of dim and tremulous lights and shadows and sounds, director Jeethu Joseph builds an old-fashioned Hitchcock-style thriller, in which the scattered pieces (an eye to every detail, even the most insignificant) look like crazy chips that only towards the culmination, thanks to the classic twist, magically end up in their place.

The Body succeeds in creating a classic-looking, straightforward crime film that does not need any specific parapsychological allusions or supernatural events but still conveys the "mystery" character. From its very first minutes, The Body shows what kind of thriller it is. It is clearly based on the creation of a claustrophobic atmosphere and is constantly preparing for its overthrow. These two focal points succeed in doing the above, as the viewer feels that none of the possible explanations offered to him in the mystery is sufficient and at the same time the final solution is relatively unpredictable without being ridiculous. Having already conquered these, it is a given that the film works well. However, its scope is limited from the outset, with director Jeethu Joseph seems to have invested the least in this film to achieve the essentials. Thus, he ignores some script holes and allows his film, though for the most part tight and measured, to relax rhythmically just before the end. The main problem with The Body is that the resolution feels just too incredible and too constructed. The story stagnates slightly towards the beginning of the second hour.

Having said that, there's a remote possibility that you may solve the mystery before the protagonist gets to it in the finale. You can't help but stay hooked and wrapped to the twisted characters and disturbing situations that The Body offers. The finale, sure enough, is all-important in a film of this genre. In this case, it's astonishing, powerful and also heartrending. The film delves into deep, dark secrets and that makes the conclusion one of the most satisfying wrap-ups one has witnessed in a movie of this variety.

On the technical side, the production design (Prem Navas) and the detailing attached to the movie couldn't be more authentic and adds incredible value to the project. Visually too, the frames capture the nervousness and uneasiness of the characters and also the setting with aplomb (DoP: Satheesh Kurup). The music (Arko and Shameer Tandon) is situational. The songs may not feature on your fav list, but a couple of numbers are fascinating nonetheless. In fact, the songs are well integrated into the narrative, driving the story forward every time they appear. The dialogue are taut and transfixing.

The history of the film revolves mainly around the characters played on screen by Rishi Kapoor, Emraan Hashmi, Vedhika and Sobhita Dhulipala. Rishi Kapoor gives life to his character of the inspector in charge of solving the case. Behind him, he has a sad past from which he usually gets a certain bad temper that his teammates try to restrain. The earnestness and authenticity with which he enacts his character cannot be expressed in a few sentences. That would be doing gross injustice to the actor's abilities, frankly. Emraan Hashmi plays the sad young husband who has just become a widower, and now (and to top it off) sees how his wife's body disappears from the morgue without a trace. To say that his interpretation seemed irregular to me, offered everything: good, great and other bad moments. Being fair and, making a general balance, I will say that the cotton test finally passed with solvency. Sobhita Dhulipala is one of those actresses that endow her characters with great charisma and screen presence. She is one of those actresses who sell you alone the price of admission. And in this film, she performs another great performance with a character that "marked the whole movie". Vedhika looks gorgeous and delivers an admirable performance. A talent to watch out for. She's first-rate. Every other actor in the film -- in a brief role or otherwise -- stays fresh in your memory after the screening has concluded.

Irrespective of how it performs at the box-office, The Body deserves to be watched for director Jeethu Joseph's attention to detail, his watchmaking precision and Machiavellian story. The director takes up an attention-grabbing premise and spins a tale that makes the viewer a participant of sorts. While the cop tries hard to solve the jigsaw puzzle, the spectator, with his mind wide alert, gets intrigued by what he observes and perceives and is keen to get to the bottom of the mystery himself/herself. That, in my opinion, is why this suspense drama works.

Mardaani 2
(2019)

BRAVURA
#FinalVerdict

To endure Mardaani 2, the viewers need to have a strong appetite. Unlike the female cops portrayed in Bollywood thus far, the cop in Mardaani 2 is as real as real can be. Mardaani 2 is relevant, powerful and inspiring, with a top-notch performance by Rani Mukerji and brilliant execution by Gopi Puthran. It is surely not-to-be-missed!

In art, there are no paradigms that cannot be broken, and when we least expect it, we are surprised by ruptures. Director Gopi Puthran's Mardaani 2 is one of those rewarding surprises that break established standards without tripping or succumbing to feminist appeals and clichés. The film escapes stereotypes. It is a film for all audiences, appeals to everyone with an intricate and stimulating plot, stunning action scenes and competent cast.

In a world where - fortunately - women have more and more space, what until a few decades ago would have been unthinkable has been happening: we do have action films with strong female protagonists. This is the case of Mardaani 2 as well, which, even with occasional slips, consolidates itself as a work of good technical action - as well as fun and full of energy. it is commendable that the script (Gopi Puthran) establishes Rani Mukerji as a strong character - physically and psychologically - featuring in a variety of memorable action scenes and a series of keen moments, as she is not only good at fighting but also smart and shrewd.

Mardaani 2 grabs your attention from the commencement itself and never relents. Gopi Puthran's screenplay is replete with several intense episodes, which eventually make Mardaani 2 a good versus evil battle as the protagonist makes her way to the baddie behind the baddies. The stewing wrath of the protagonist is delineated convincingly while the director also incorporates ample emotional baggage that would cause you to associate with the on-screen characters. Seen in the present setting of the brutality against ladies in society in general and India in particular, a motion picture like Mardaani 2 couldn't have released at a superior time. While it may appear to glorify the brutality here and there, a hard-hitting motion picture like is the need of the hour. Mardaani 2 raises awareness of issues like the safety of women and the gender inequality that exists in society. It also motivates ladies to look within to trigger their very own bold soul.

The very well-executed culmination is realistic to the core, like the rest of the film. In fact, director Gopi Puthran manages to keep you hooked for most parts, without ever getting formulaic. Also, his stance to sidetrack the soundtrack is indeed courageous and commendable. The customary audience, so used to the mandatory songs each 15/20 minutes, may whimper at first, but let's be honest, similar individuals likewise protest if songs wreck the story when the dramatization escalates. Also, director Puthran resorts to realistic brutality to enhance the overall impact. The background score (John Stewart Eduri) is perfect and never goes overboard. The DoP (Jishnu Bhattacharjee) depicts the gritty environs with striking visuals, closing in tight on the protagonist in dramatic moments.

Rani Mukerji is evidently the best thing in the film. She is on a nailing spree. One cannot imagine this role without her. Portraying a true to life, forceful, aggressive and abusive cop with much-needed intensity, strength and dignity is no cakewalk but she slips into the skin of Shivani Shivaji Roy with elan. A virtuoso act, indeed! In a lesser entertainer's hands, the written material would not have been so ably conveyed.

The film's antagonist Vishal Jethwa is a revelation. He's absolutely intimidating and menacing all through. In spite of being hollowed against a powerhouse entertainer like Rani, Vishal ensures he leaves an ineradicable impression, playing a cold-blooded criminal. Also, his rustic Rajasthani accent is bang on, just enough to add more menace.

With a run time of just under 2 hours, Mardaani 2 is a barnstorming, shocking and outstanding film all in all. It might be a bit over the top at times but director Gopi Puthran keeps the scenes tight and tense through his terrific screenplay. The film acts like a sledgehammer. Book your tickets, pronto!

Panipat
(2019)

EPIC
#FinalVerdict

Everything about Panipat is colossal - the scale on which it has been mounted, the passion which director Ashutosh Gowariker has poured into every frame, the startling beauty of its leads and the daunting run time of almost 3 hours.

Director Ashutosh Gowariker was determined to make a film on the lives of Sadashivrao Bhau, Parvati Bai and Ahmad Shah Abdali for quite some time. He waited for the opportune time to commence Panipat and the outcome is not just body beautiful, but there's soul as well.

Panipat is director Ashutosh Gowariker's most ambitious project to date. It requires firm belief in the subject, prowess, courage, aptitude, patience, passion, knowledge and budget to attempt a movie like this to satiate the appetite of millions of moviegoers. He is not a timid director. He finds no satisfaction in creating the generic instantly disposable Hindi film. He dreams big and goes where other filmmakers fear to tread. He recreates the bygone era in Panipat convincingly, besides extensive detailing.

To suit the tastes of the present-day spectators and make Panipat more palatable, Ashutosh Gowariker successfully makes the characters come alive to the present-day generation. What comes across on screen is enthralling, truly informative and exceptionally inspiring.

Ashutosh Gowariker and his team of writers introduce the on-screen characters & the sequence of events with utmost simplicity so that the spectator is able to get the grip of the goings-on with ease. Also, the dialogue (Ashok Chakradhar) is easy to decipher.

The love story, the conflict, the dramatic altercations, the battle sequences and of course, the ostentatious setting... Panipat is an enthralling period film, made with a genuinely honest effort, that deserves applause and encouragement from cineastes. Kudos!

Arjun Kapoor and Kriti Sanon have enough electricity to light up the vast sets & eye-filling production design that Nitin Chandrakant Desai has so painstakingly created in Panipat. The battle sequences (Abbas Ali Moghul) are awe-inspiring & have been executed with magnificence.

When you think of the gigantic scale of Panipat, clearly, director Ashutosh Gowariker has left no stone unturned in depicting an epic tale that does absolute justice to the event. The apparel (Neeta Lulla), as well as the styling of the characters, is truly majestic.

Ajay-Atul's music and background score seamlessly weave in the narration. The songs are mesmeric and well-choreographed. Panipat is gorgeously lensed, with cinematographer (Muraleedharan C.K.) capturing the colours, setting and emotions meticulously.

Lengthy run time (2.54 hours) and lethargic pacing are two major hiccups of Panipat, besides patchy first half with so many characters the film touches upon. The editor (Steven Bernard) could've easily trimmed a few plot points to make the goings-on crisper.

Panipat also works because of Rohan Mapuskar's perfect casting. Arjun Kapoor embodies the great emperor without ever becoming theatrical. The rebelliousness & boisterousness are depicted to perfection. Watch out for him in the final goosebumps-inducing war sequence.

Kriti Sanon looks more beautiful in Panipat than she has in any of her recent films. Her eyes flash fire. A flawless performance indeed! Sanjay Dutt's towering presence adds a lot of weight to his character. He could just become the new face of menace.

Panipat has a host of characters, but the ones you carry home, besides Arjun and Sanjay Dutt, are Mohnish Bahl (excellent), Padmini Kolhapure (fantastic), Sahil Salathia (electrifying), Mantra (perfect), Zeenat Aman (graceful) and Suhasini Mulay (effective).

Final words: Fit Panipat into your agenda of films to watch this weekend. Witness the unshakeable bravery, courage and the strong principles of the Marathas that will leave you spellbound, enthralled, entranced and awestruck. Very strongly recommended!

Pati Patni Aur Woh
(2019)

Joyride
#FinalVerdict

Pati Patni Aur Woh is a progressive joyride. At the box office, the film has all it takes to prove a success story on account of an impressive star cast, popular music and dollops of comedy.

Director Mudassar Aziz's Pati Patni Aur Woh is a recipe for a paisa vasool entertainer. The film is a humorous farce on the subject of sex. It's not the most original or charming comedy, but it does most things well and provides value for money in those two hours. In the spirit, Pati Patni Aur Woh is akin to David Dhawan movies. Mudassar Aziz attempts a comic caper that drives you nuts. His mantra is very clear: Garnish the enterprise with witty one-liners, hip-swinging music and throw logic to the winds. Comedy is a difficult emotion to capture on celluloid and to pull it off and make the moviegoer laugh non-stop for 2+ hours is even more difficult. And Pati Patni Aur Woh works mainly because the gags and punches in the enterprise are truly funny and relatable.

The film has several things going in its favour but the camaraderie the three actors share is, undoubtedly, one of the USPs of the enterprise. In a nutshell, it is a chill pill every entertainment-hungry moviegoer would like to relish. The sole idea is to entertain and the film delivers what it promises. When you saunter into the cinema hall, just don't wear your thinking caps and you'd enjoy the film from start to end.

Jasmeet K Reen's adaptation of the original script is not a copy-paste job. A lot of modifications are done keeping in mind the contemporary taste of the viewers. Although the film has its share of funny and entertaining moments, the pace is erratic. There's no denying the fact that Pati Patni Aur Woh could've been better. It suffers from a slow build-up, the pace dips at places and emotions might be a huge turn-off as they ambush the comical sequences. Also, John Stewart Eduri's background score is plain ordinary. Chirantan Das' cinematography is limited to the touristy locales of Kanpur and Lucknow. He could've captured so much more. The songs are better stand-alone, but they lose their charm in the film. Also, the placement of the songs seems forced.

Director Mudassar Aziz isn't in complete form. If only he would've picked up a riveting story to make a stronger impression. Also, the twist in the climax is badly executed. But the key asset of Pati Patni Aur Woh is Mudassar Aziz's witty dialogues. Also, the film is visually exciting. The usage of bright colours makes it look glamorous.

If the film belongs to anyone, it's Kartik Aaryan and Aparshakti Khurana. They are absolutely remarkable, proving that their timing for comic sequences is just perfect. Kartik Aaryan endears to the viewers completely. He's sure to walk away with all the glory with this performance. Aparshakti Khurana is just brilliant, bringing the house down with his performance. Bhumi Pednekar excels in a role that seems tailormade. WOW!

Ananya Panday looks the part she has been asked to portray and she looks convincing. She is sure to be noticed. Manu Rishi Chaddha and Neeraj Sood are superb as always. Sunny Singh looks dashing in a special appearance. Kriti Sanon adds to the oomph with her cameo.

All said and done, Pati Patni Aur Woh focuses on wit and humour rather than logic. With crisp editing (Ninad Khanolkar), the film is sure to regale viewers and also strike gold at the box-office. You may call it cliched or formulaic, but it works big time. Go have fun!

Yeh Saali Aashiqui
(2019)

Deliciously twisted!
#FinalVerdict

The sheer thrill of watching a film and not knowing what will happen next is one of the great pleasures offered by producer Dr. Jayantilal Gada's Pen India Ltd. and debutant director Cherag Ruparel's Yeh Saali Aashiqui.

A compelling plot (Cherag Ruparel and Vardhan Puri) that has the potential to keep the viewer captivated, Yeh Saali Aashiqui tantalizes and teases the spectator but is quite unpersuasive at certain junctures as well. You're on the edge of your seat virtually for sure. Movies with such an audacious theme generally ignite debates and this film is sure to meet with severe reactions. The makers ought to be prepared for some bouquets & brickbats. What makes the movie watchable is the raging ambition and commitment.

Yeh Saali Aashiqui is nonconforming. It rebels against the set-patterns, norms and formulas of Bollywood masala flicks. The story (Cherag Ruparel and Vardhan Puri), situations and the treatment of the narrative cannot be compared to any Hindi film witnessed so far. Well crafted with some great moments, Yeh Saali Aashiqui is not just style, but substance as well. There's no stopping this adroit storyteller, Cherag Ruparel. He continues to shock and startle you till the last frame. No one can predict what's in store next.

The casting (Manoj Lila Bhatt) also adds to the experience. Under normal circumstances, the inclusion of characters only results in things getting messier and chaotic. Not here in Yeh Saali Aashiqui! This film is more psychological thriller than bloody blast. As aforementioned, Yeh Saali Aashiqui gleefully shatters clichés and rejects conventional plot turns to surprise you at every available opportunity. The turn of events continues to keep you engrossed, immersed and takes the film to an all-time high. The film has some outstandingly executed sequences. The transformation of a simple boy to a hardened man is amongst the most convincing aspects. The film's nail-biting crescendo is completely justified in the end.

Any roadblocks? Yeh Saali Aashiqui could've been shorter. Also, the slow pacing acts as a deterrent. There is a misogynistic streak that pops up in the second half which was totally unnecessary. If trimmed slightly, it should only prove advantageous.

Debutant Cherag Ruparel is a director to watch! The expertise with which he has handled the tense-filled moments should win him all-round praise. He strikes the right balance between realism and commercialism, between form and content. The background music (Hitesh Modak) is fantastic, enhancing the impact of sequences considerably. Cinematography (Pratik Shah) is amongst the assets of Yeh Saali Aashiqui. The editing (Anirban Dutta) could have been tighter. The dialogues (Cherag Ruparel and Vardhan Puri) are flawless.

Besides a racy screenplay, Yeh Saali Aashiqui rests on two solid performances, that of debutant Vardhan Puri and debutante Shivaleeka Oberoi. Vardhan Puri handles the part like a pro. This film is sure to multiply his fan following tremendously. Shivaleeka Oberoi delivers a knock-out performance. A tricky role that demands histrionics and she takes to her part like a fish takes to water. Jesse Lever is a talent to watch out for, portraying his part with gusto.

All said and done, Yeh Saali Aashiqui is a bold step forward and has some fresh things to say about love, passion and deceit. For the most part, this unusual & gripping thriller keeps you on your toes, curious to see where its twists and turns will lead. Surprise shocker of the year!

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