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Kahaani 2

Deeply Disturbing, Oddly Satisfying
Kaahani 2 is a thriller-drama with a strong message, and a story that is in no way connected to Kahaani. Starring Vidya Balan as Vidya Sinha / Durga Rani Singh - a mother in search of her kidnapped daughter Mini / a wanted fugitive, this 'who'dunnit decides to go the 'why' way by focusing on motives and identities (most of them at least), early on, and in detail.

Like its predecessor, here too the places - Chandannagar, Kalimpong, and Kolkata, end up having identities of their own and almost seem like protagonists in their own right, thanks to sound designer Anirban Sengupta and cinematographer Tapan Basu, who are superb when in comes to turning places cold, menacing, maddening, and authentic, all at the same time, and in succession. Clinton Cerejo's background score is dauntless in its effectiveness and acts as a catalyst to the duo's efforts.

This isn't a story where one gets to predict or ponder, because for a large part of the film we know who the antagonists are, and what drives them. This thus stops one from experiencing the thrill of guessing and / or deducing, and instead makes us take sides and hope for an ending that justifies that action. Hence, even though it is predictable to an extent, it is also real and grounded at all times, largely due to some excellent production design by Subrata Barik and Kaushik Das.

Yet, it is the relentless journey that glues the various elements of the story by Sujoy Ghosh and Suresh Nair together. Because, even though we know that not everything is what it seems, we are also inwardly hoping for things to go the way we expect them to.

Ignoring the convenient consequences of characters interrelated in this slice of 'scary' life tale, it is safe to say that the motives of each and every character, including the minor ones, are superbly drawn out. In the process we see actors once again become characters, who are restrained as well as resplendent.

The directorial prowess of Sujoy Ghosh is displayed effectively yet again, while an effortless Vidya Balan proves why she will continue to remain an actor to watch out for, always.

Jugal Hansraj (uncle), Tota Roy Chaudhury (lover), Amba Sanyal (grandmother) and Kharaj Mukherjee (inspector) shine in not so large but highly effective / important roles. Arjun Rampal manages to be easy on the eye and under control as far as his acting is concerned, thanks to a screenplay that ensures he is one of the most balanced characters. The child actresses playing 'Minu' are both equally effective, with the younger Naisha Khanna having a slight edge over Tunisha Sharma.

Overall, this '2' is a good 'Kaahani' and a great film that falls somewhat short of its predecessor, despite a brilliant first half, because it decides to both show as well as tell, leading to a somewhat underwhelming climax. Yet, it does enough to be guaranteed a place on any worthwhile list about the best Hindi films of 2016, and is undoubtedly, a must watch. Go for it!

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Size Doesn't Matter - Grey Matter Does
Dumb Laga Ke Haisha is a movie that celebrates the unfounding of size and space, and juxtaposes it against the flight of ambitions in a detailed, layered, yet breezy romance that acts as both a social commentary, as well as a mainstream romantic comedy.

A narrow by-lane in Haridwar leads to a narrow minded class ten failed simpleton Prem (Ayushman Khurana in a refreshingly natural role) of the 1990s who dreams of Juhi Chawla but is instead married off to a portly and much more educated Sandhya (Bhumi Pednekar in a supremely brilliant and dauntless debut).

While she dreams of a government job as a school teacher and a husband who respects her, he has nightmares about everything she stands for - be it her intellect or weight. What follows is a refreshingly original and daring film that overcomes stereotypes while bringing a smile on our faces, even as it tugs at our heartstrings.

Here the 90s is captured in stunningly nuanced detail by writer-director Sharat Katariya several times, as is the language of Uttar Pradesh (mostly), and the life of a small town (perfectly).

Be it a dash of Limca to get over retching, the unspiralling of cassettes using pens, watching of movies in VCPs and VCRs, using landline phones, giving missed calls, the fascination with Kumar Sanu, or a fight using songs being played by a warring couple, the makers get the 90s spot on. What also makes the majority of the scenes worth the 'wait' is Bhoomi Pednekar who 'weighs' her emotions while adding ample 'weight' to her character through a gamut of emotions that are sure to resonate with your heart.

Adding 'weight' to the plot is a series of sub plots involving a separated elderly aunt, parents and in-laws struggling with their values, ethics, and modernity, a young brother preparing for his board exams, a 'sankha' with its moralistic lessons, jealous friends, and a contest 'Dum Laga Ke Heisha' aimed to test the ultimate bonding between a married couple. There is humor, action, emotion, shame, romance, and triumph in equal measure that help the film measure up to the 'weighty' expectations of any discerning viewer gasping for a breath of fresh air. What helps is an able supporting cast that makes you want to 'wait' and watch the proceedings.

This small film involving small town people is sure to occupy a not so small space in your hearts and minds. All you need to do is give it a chance - just like the leads of this film are told time and again, and love will surely follow.

Watch it for an era gone by, for an unconventional heroine, for relationships that survive against the test of time, and for that sense of nostalgia that is impossible to ignore. And last, but not the least, for Kumar Sanu - who is back (along with Sadhana Sargam and Annu Malik no less). This 'Ishq' is 'Kararaa' indeed... and definitely worth its 'weight' in terms of originality, story, and execution. What are you 'waiting' for? Watch it in your nearest theater and do your bit to support good mainstream cinema with a refreshing storyline... Take a bow Yashraj Films!

Happy New Year

Not Crappy, Will Make You Feel Happy!
Happy New Year is a 'fultoo masala entertainer' that does not pretend to be anything else. The story is essentially about Charlie, played by Shah Rukh Khan and his 'angels' who plan to pull off the worlds biggest heist. But here's a catch - by participating in the world's biggest Dance Competition.

What makes the movie tick is Farah Khan and her constant references/ode to Bollywood films. Be it Shah Rukh repeating (albeit with a twist) dialogues of his blockbuster films, or Abhishek's vomit inducing yet rib tickling performance (a dauntless double role), she hits the nail on the head. Deepika Padukone as the Dance Instructor Mohini, whose heart beats for the English speaking Khan is splendid as is her dancing! Boman Irani as a middle aged Parsi chick magnet is funny, Sonu Sood as a slightly deaf bomb specialist lights up the screen with his style of muscular action, and Vivaan Shah as the Hacker shows promise. Jackie Shroff as the master villain and Anupam Kher in an emotional appearance bring in the seriousness that is required.

There are a host of special appearances that light up the screen as does the spectacular cinematography. My favorites being Prabhu Deva, Sajid Khan, Anurag Kashyap-Vishal, and the hilarious Kiku Sharda doing a Saroj Khan and the lookalike of Narendra Modi. Malaika Arora Khan, Dino Morea, and Geeta Kapoor playing themselves add to the recall value.

That the movie is thankfully not a copy paste and merely references other films, in the process charting its own unpredictable course, is sure to light up your face as it does the screen. This being a dance film, the choreography by Farah and Geeta is actually damn good! Especially the sequences that bring out the terrible dancing of the actors. The heist portions are in comparison slick and stylized, and thankfully explained in minute detail.

What transpires is more due to luck than planning, and sometimes highly improbable. But the lack of logic and reason is mostly overshadowed by the antics of the stars who try to utilize the situation to the fullest, and turn it to their advantage! At almost three hours, the movie could have been shorter, the music more melodious (save for 'Manwa Lage' - a soothing ditty and the hilarious 'Nonsense Ki Night'), and the explanations not as repetitive at times. But then no one said this movie was perfect! However what it is indeed, is a perfect entertainer for those seeking to have a good time and their money's worth at the theaters.

Recommended for the Manmohan Desai fans who like the zany Farah Khan brand of Bollywood that's more for the masses than the classes. It has stars oozing appeal (read SRK, Deepika, and Abhishek) and can truly turn a dull boring weekend into a fun theater experience.

In short - a movie that could have been crappy, but instead manages to make the viewers happy! A must watch for those who like their movies dished Bollywood style and of course for fans of Shah Rukh who with an 8 pack really does reinvent himself physically at this age while doing everything else as only he can.

P.S: Viewer discretion required. Be prepared to omit (some scenes) if you don't want to vomit (your popcorn).


A Hauntingly Adept Cinematic Masterpiece
HAIDER to me is an acronym that means the following:

H. Haunting. Be it in its background score, music, lyrics, playback (especially Rekha Bharadwaj, Sukhwinder Singh, and Arijit Singh), cinematography, or backdrop of Kashmir in 1995, Haider is Haunting, and how! The film will stay with you long after you have left the theater.

A. Astounding. Haider is an astoundingly adept adaptation of a classic written almost 415 years ago that can be enjoyed irrespective of your knowledge about the Shakespearean Tragedy - Hamlet. If you don't know Hamlet, great! You do? Even better!

I. Incredible. Haider is incredible - in terms of its performances. Be it that of Shahid Kapoor (Haider/Hamlet) who performs a complex role with the kind of award worthy chutzpah that should silence all his detractors once and for all. Or for that matter the the triumvirate of Tabu (Halala/Gertrude) - ethereal, dauntless, and supreme, Kay Kay Menon (Khurram/Claudius) - terrific, resolute, and subtle or Irfan Khan (Rooh/The Ghost of Hamlet's father) - rudimentary and underplayed. Not to be forgotten is Shraddha Kapoor (Aarshi/Ophelia) who pitches in a performance that is 'picture'esque perfect and so full of finesse. And of course the two Salman Khan's who are fans of the superstar and who will surely gain some fans of their own post this film. In fact, every single member of the cast pitches in a perfect performance here, irrespective of the role and duration.

D. Daring. Haider is daring in talking about issues that many wouldn't touch with a bargepole and for the way it has juxtaposed a Shakespearean tragedy with a human tragedy - Kashmir. The valley is a character here that finally finds a voice of its own. The interpretations of that voice are truly brilliant.

E. Effective. Sometimes experimentation and reinterpretations fail. Not here. With layer upon layer waiting for the audience to be interpreted (for example the touch of Oedipal complex between a mother and son, the growing of guilt of a well meaning lover, the song of the gravediggers, the examples of 'Chutzpah' and its comparison with AFSPA etc). Haider is effective on multiple levels and truly faultless in its execution.

R. Rooh (Spirit/Soul). This is a film with an indomitable spirit that filmmakers would die to include in their body of work, and which Vishal Bharadwaj effectively manages to in this lifetime. This film has that which many a masterpiece may sometimes lack - a soul. A terrific triumph encompassing its soulful music, soul stirring performances, and soul warming message.

In short - watch Haider - in a theater. For Vishal Bharadwaj, the Director/Composer/Writer. For Shahid, the rising prince. For Tabu the eternal Queen. For Gulzar, the lyricist. For the cinematography by Pankaj Kapoor and the editing by Aarif Sheikh. And finally for Kashmir, the unforgettable voice of humanity.

Bang Bang

Bang Bang Thank you Man!
Bang Bang is a part Espionage Thriller, part Bollywood Revenge Drama, part Musical, part Romantic Comedy, and full Global Action Adventure that not just excels in its parts, but is also riveting as a whole. An official remake of 'Knight and Day' - this is a movie that will surely seem like a knight in shining armor for the adrenaline junkie awaiting a prince charming.

Hrithik Roshan excels as the suave and sexy international thief on a mysterious mission of his own. With muscles of steel, eyes burning with a fire of passion, a body as fluid as water, and feet that seem to fly with the wind, Hrithik Roshak is truly in his elements here.

Giving company to his Greek God looks is the demure damsel in distress - Katrina Kaif - who for a change is less of a seductress and more of a girl next door. She manages to somehow keep pace with the brilliant Mr Roshan and hold her own. The supporting cast - be it Jimmy Shergill, Danny Donzongpa, Jaaved Jaffrey, Kanwaljeet Singh, Deepti Naval, Pawan Malhotra, or the delicious Dadi spice up proceedings with measured performances that meet the need of the hour aptly.

The action is truly stupendous and honestly much better than anything of "Spiderman 2" Andy Armstrong that I have seen so far. The cinematography, sets, locations, and costume design effectively add to the allure of breezy, hip, and yet picturesque scenes. Multiple international locations (Prague, London, Abu Dhabi, Phuket, and parts of Greece amongst others) and our very own India (Shimla, Kashmir, Manali, Mumbai, Delhi, etc) are captured in stunning visuals that will leave you gasping for that dream holiday you couldn't even dream of, and which Katrina as 'Harleen Kaur' gets to live.

To be honest, the story isn't the most gripping of tales, and the screenplay wouldn't 'script' history even though Sujoy Ghosh of the taut "Kahaani" fame and the prolific Abbas Tyrewaala seem to have had a hand in this. But the action, faced paced screenplay, and taut direction by Siddharth Anand, who redeems himself after a forgettable "Anjaana Anjaani" more than makes up for it. The hit maker of Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste, and Bachna Ae Haseeno is back to business in dishing out an entertaining dish with a dash of superstar allure in the form of Hrithik and Katrina.

Without giving too much away, I would like to summarize this as an apt action adventure film with tremendous production values, some foot tapping music (Vishal Shekhar), and outstanding choreography by Bosco-Cesar (especially Tu Meri and the title song - Bang Bang that pops up during the credits). Low on emotions, high on action, and about average on originality and recall value - this is a movie that starts and ends with a Bang and when it does, you might just say to Hrithik "Thank you Man!"

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

Old Wine in a Styrofoam Cup
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania has a "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (DDLJ) Hangover. Well no this isn't the Bradley Cooper infused - "Now I am gonna enjoy this for the next two hours" kind of Hangover. But rather the kind that causes headaches and makes you hate yourself for throwing up - not just your money, but also time, that you could have surely spent elsewhere.

The story goes like this - wait - there was a story? Well yes there was one you see! Someone watched DDLJ. Convinced Karan Johar that now is the time to milk DDLJ, and irrespective of the daring "Neil and Nikki" vanishing off without a trace, Karan actually agreed to fund this! The film, to give credit where its due, has totally done away with logic - thus saving us some more pain in trying to link the sequences happening purposelessly in scene after scene. Sample this - a drunk girl decides to stay back with 3 drunk men she hardly knows in a commercial establishment, claiming that its late at night and risky outside. Now that's what I call logic empowerment! Wait! There is more! Amateurs shoot videos of lovers having sex, blackmail them for money (after all, one is an unhappily married MILF and the other young enough to be her son), and actually end up committing the perfect crime! If that isn't innovation at its best, I don't know what is!

Wait - wondering where DDLJ comes into play? Here it goes - This film you see is essentially about the heroine - Alia Bhatt falling for a random stranger even after having her marriage fixed with someone she regularly interacts with on Skype. Of course all men she Skypes with look hot, can you blame her for not being sure about this one? And yes, she needs to buy a Designer Ghagra, and save a dear friend from getting blackmailed, and earn some fast money, and evaluate some exam papers, and be a good Samaritan to a man who always dreamed of buying a car, and look fresh, and dance at weddings, and pout, and effortlessly say some dialogs that were surely written with least effort, and basically do a lot of unnecessary running around in between.

Still wondering how it is inspired by DDLJ? Don't worry! There is of course an interval, post which the hero - Varun Dhawan tries winning the heroine DDLJ style even as a 'gabru jawaan' - Siddharth Shukla - the only character who actually stays in character and has a semblance of logic - plays a spoilsport by being perfect in every way possible.

The only thing that works for the film is possibly the song "Saturday Saturday" - which has the power of actually eclipsing the impact of the William Pharrell Song "Happy", for the moment it comes on screen, you realize that the film is at last over and believe me! Nothing will make you happier!

P.S: There is a scene in the film where Varun breaks down inconsolably upon reading a message on his phone; and the audience breaks down in an attempt at controlling their laughter. I am not sure whether Varun had managed to glimpse the fate of this film while shooting that scene. 3 out of 10 stars from me, for the technicians who added the required sheen, for the song 'Samjhawan' and for Siddharth Shukla who did not let go of an opportunity of showcasing his skills. But I so wish Alia had chosen better...

Ek Villain

Heartwarming, Heartthrobbing, Heartbreaking
"Ek Villain" is a film that made me squirm, smile, as well as cry. Most Bollywood films, to borrow a line from the film, have a hero, a heroine, and a villain. This film however is an exception since the love story is of the villain himself.

When a girl with a bucket list is on the threshold of fulfilling her last wish - of saving the life of a man, ergo, a villain, and turning him into a hero, a vicious villain's psychotic attempts at becoming a hero to the one he loves, forever changes their shared destinies.

This is not a film for the faint of heart. The violence is often stomach churning, while the cold blooded actions of a merciless mercenary will send shivers down your spine. However, at the same time, the bubbly effervescence and undiluted romance of the lead pair will surely bring a smile to your face, as will the innocence of a child caught between hope and expectation.

Finally, the extremely nuanced performances by Ritesh Deshmukh (a revelation, and brilliant), Shradhaa Kapoor (fantastic, and effortlessly heartwarming), Siddharth Malhotra (excellent, and very different from his earlier outings), and Aamna Sharif (just what the psychiatrist ordered!) will make you go through a gamut of emotions in steady succession, finally culminating in an unprovoked opening of the floodgates.

The real hero of this film filled with villains (almost everyone has gray shades - including the nefarious Kamaal R Khan - playing as irritating a character as he appears to be in real life) is actually its Music courtesy Mithoon and Ankit Tiwari (especially the two versions of the song - Teri Galiyaan), who do not disappoint after the hugely successful Ashiqui 2. The biggest villain in this film is fate and its cruel twists and turns which, like tentacles of an omnipotent hunter, slowly binds it's prey to a future you cannot escape from, come what may, and irrespective of how many times you pray (again, a recurring theme in this film).

I loved the director Mohit Suri's 'I saw the Devil' but don't care approach as far as storytelling was concerned, and director of photography's brilliant execution of wishful thinking, especially during the songs and panoramic shots of the city. I would have enjoyed even more if the writers had chosen more thrills over violence, but then the mush more than makes up for these shortfalls.

Overall, "Ek Villain" is a movie which if missed will definitely make you repent, and feel like a villain. Just go with the flow and catch the nearest show. And need I add? Ritesh - take a bow!

2 States

Predictable Conclusion, Effervescent Journey
2 States had me in two states of mind. While it's mostly simple and light hearted first half made me look forward to the rest of the movie, the darker and grittier, though somewhat predictable 2nd half made me sit up and take notice of the proceedings.

This tale is essentially that of two much in love IIM Graduates from two corners of India wishing to have their culturally clashing and hard to woo families completely accept their alluring alliance. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Chetan Bhagat, the film for me gets full marks in the screenplay adaptation department. Alas, sometimes the editing, tying up of lose ends from a storytelling perspective (what happens to the psychiatry sessions? When does it end), and staple Bollywood melodrama (or the lack thereof in the tame ending) makes for wishful film viewing.

What worked for me was the terrific chemistry and naturally effortless performances of the lead actors. Alia gets full marks for her terrific portrayal of Tamilian Ananya (despite her being a thorough North Indian girl - this being her third film, this is one girl to watch out for over and over again). Arjun inches close for his gritty and multi layered portrayal of Krish (I wish there was a bit more body language/voice modulation/effort to portray the 7 years younger character, or the slightly older father of two kids).

The supporting cast is tremendous too! Be it Ronit Roy in the stupendous special appearance as the father fighting his inner demons, or Amrita Singh with her loud mouthed yet large hearted portrayal of Krish's mother. Revathi and Shivkumar as Ananya's parents are subtle and nuanced and add the required pathos to the story at just the right time. I especially loved Revathi's rendition of 'Kaho Na Pyaar Hai' and Shiv's almost childlike reactions to the same. The direction is naturally delightful (a great debut by Abhishek Varman), the screenplay superb, the music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy hummable (especially the excellently filmed 'Locha E Ulfat'), and the cinematography by Binod Pradhan just right, making this perfect as far as the technical requirements are concerned. Some loose ends could have been tied better, had the editor - Namrata Rao been allowed some more screen time (was it the over expectations from her post Kahaani?). But this is a glitch that can be safely ignored in an otherwise effective film.

Though some scenes of intimacy could have been done without, this is indeed a great family watch that strangely will teach you a thing or two about why, how, and when family matters. Watch it for a fluffy slice of life. Don't expect the stars, and you might just moon over this not so typical Bollywood Romance. Go for it!

Chander Pahar

A visual treat that epitomizes an iconic adventure tale
Chander Pahar was a movie that made me repent about the following:

1. Why did I not read the book as a kid?

2. Why did I underestimate Dev the actor?

3. Why did I assume Kamaleshwar Mukherjee Movies will be too artsy for comfort?

4. Why did I think a Bengali film made on a budget of 15 crores can never match a Hollywood movie, forget getting close to even a Bollywood one?

I was wrong on all counts and how!

Ever since the movie opened with an eagle soaring through the skies and swooping down on Africa, I was stunned into submission and since then, the first cinematic adaptation of the iconic Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay's 'Mountain of the Moon' / 'Chander Pahar' managed to catch my attention over and over again... with me actually wishing the movie was not over!

Several sequences stood out for their cinematic execution – The desolate station and its nature loving station master Shankar captured against the various hues of the African skies, the roaring lion about to intimidate its prey, the Black Mamba slithering into existence, Shankar crossing over a devilishly deep chasm in a attempt to rescue Alvarez (played aptly by Gerard Rudolph) from a pack of Hyenas and cheetahs, the perilous hikes across the mountains, the desolate desert where you could no longer distinguish between hunter and prey, the excavation of caves of desire and what it was about to yield, and last but not the least the final farewell of a trusted friend. Every single sequence seamlessly added to the overall narrative while managing to retain its individualism.

Be it Dev the actor who grew by leaps and bounds (literally!) as he sprinted into the film with a heart firmly in place, or the director and his brilliantly astounding team – Cinematographer & DOP Soumik Halder, editor Raviranjan Maitra, or for that matter the Art Director, Set Designer, Costume Designer, and Action Director – all of them effectively brought to life the effective and engaging script and screenplay, aided by some haunting background score by Indradeep Dasgupta.

To be honest, the movie was not as perfect as Mackennas Gold, Indiana Jones, or The Life of Pi - far from it! But just as the protagonist Shankar wished to lead a life as adventurous as that of David Livingstone, Mungo Park, and Marko Polo, Shree Venkatesh Films helped ensure that this movie could be counted as an extraordinary successor to the movies listed above for its sheer audacity in bringing to life an extraordinary tale of action adventure from early 19th century Bengal.

In hindsight, the protagonists weren't the best of actors around. But what they lacked in skill, was compensated by a tremendous self belief and determination that showed, and had me rooting for the roles they portrayed.

To borrow a line from the movie itself, 'its better to travel well than to arrive' which is why I can say with pride and certainty that that this is not just the best ever action / adventure / fantasy movie to have come out of Bengal, but also one of the best of its kind to ever be made in India. After a long time, it's time again to say, and hope, that what Bengal things today, India shall think tomorrow. I would rate it an 8 as a film that warrants a repeat viewing and give it an extra star for being the best ever example of its genre from India to close it as a 9/10.

P.S: You will, like me, enjoy the film irrespective of whether or not you have read the book. But then, I am anyway going to after watching the film... What about you?

Shuddh Desi Romance

Confused Hollow Romance
This is a movie that unwittingly exemplifies Shakespeare's quote "What's in a Name?". For the movie has nothing to do with it's name which means "Pure Traditional Romance".

The length and breadth of small town Indian cities are beautifully captured by the cinematographer and Director of Photography, yes but the path traversed by the central characters is anything but pure - but more of that later. Neither is this a romantic film, unless of course you think of hardcore lust and hormonal desires as romance. I don't. Period. And finally, the only thing traditional about the characters are their names "Raghupati Rajaram", "Gayatri", "Tara" etc.

Talking of tradition, films are either a reflection of society, or a mirror to society. The mostly one dimensional and shallow characters ensures the mirror is cracked from side to side, and even if for a moment, you think of the things being shown in the movie about small towns, to be a reflection of society, let me request you to get in touch with an ophthalmologist.

In this film Sushant Singh Rajput (and many others around him) at numerous places refer to Parineeti Chopra as a sister/elder sister, etc and yet indulges in a no holds barred live in relationship with her. Characters run away from their own marriage multiple times - in fact repeating their same actions over and over again. Even minor characters are unnecessarily shown to indulge in confused sexual flings with random strangers and that too in their wedding trousseau! All this to try and showcase "Live In Relationships" to be the future alternative to marriages in India. Even children are not spared and hinted at being just as confused about marriage!

A girl left high and dry at her own wedding surprisingly once again enters the life of her once husband to be (after a calculated absence of course!) and then gets into a sexual relationship with him, for the flimsiest of reasons! All the while, his heart - sorry - libido - still beats for the girl he once left at their wedding, oops! sorry! I mean the girl who left him at their wedding! No wait! the girl who he thought was someone else, but realizes is like the girl who he thought she was never like who he met at what was to be his wedding! Trust me - even I am confused! Equally confused it appears to be are the girls themselves. They are strangely never jealous of each other, often behaving like a much in love mother and daughter, or even soul sisters for reasons impossible to fathom while indulging in bane banter and sipping Coca Colas!

At a time when it looks like we are about to finally witness a Bollywood film showing a 'menage-a-troys', one of the heroines walk out of the twisted relationship making way for the rest to decide to get married, only to once again, run away from each other. The film ends with two of the three characters using closed doors as a metaphor for marriage and deciding to stay happily ever after with the doors carelessly open. An open relationship anyone? Go figure!

This is a story that could have unfolded with passion playing out like a roost of chickens to some well placed grain. Yet, strangely, in spite of numerous kisses (27-35, I really stopped counting every time someone was near a filthy toilet), this film has hardly done justice to what could have otherwise been a blockbuster script. Trust me - if this script finds its way to a maker of x-rated films, "Deep Throat" would no longer be able to hold its sway as the greatest x-rated movie of all time.

Talking of which, time and again the reasons provided for the characters to exhibit their odd idiosyncrasies are mostly pathetic and defies logic causing some really good performances by Sushant (good, though often confusing), Parineeti (excellent and uninhibited), Rishi Kapoor (superb and sane), and Vaani (a debut that shows glimpses of talent despite a paper thin characterization) to be as wasted as its beautiful musical score and realistic witty dialogs. A classic case of rhyme without reason leading to the viewer in me screaming treason.

In short this is an extraordinary film, because ordinarily, the director and writer have exhibited much better talent earlier (writer - Chak De India, Director - Band Baaja Baraat). If you think of this film as a perfect romantic film to watch with your special someone, prepare to have your senses assaulted. If you are planing to watch this film with your family, prepare to get embarrassed beyond relief. If you wish to watch this film with a group of friends or colleagues, prepare to get set for some unnecessary debates.

This is the perfect example of what overconfidence can do to a bundle of talent and the lack of a cohesive script. Please do yourselves a favor and watch a Sunny Leone film instead.

The Cabin in the Woods

Better left unwatched
Cabin in the Woods is a movie that defies many things, starting off with its genre, and then quickly moving on to any semblance of logic. I found it to be neither thrilling, nor horrifying. And definitely not mysterious. Sure, I couldn't get what was happening, but mysterious? No way! Taking almost every single monster that has ever been witnessed in books and or films and making them elicit mostly laughs from the audience to me felt like a pathetic waste of time.

There are many who laugh at horror movies. But that is not really the point. We are meant to be scared by watching them and that doesn't happen here. Key plot points are revealed quite early on in the movie, one of which is extremely similar to that of the Hunger Games and takes the edge of the seat suspense totally and unnecessarily away.

The acting however was good, the dialogs nice, the makeup and special effects cool. But in totality, this was truly an epic disaster with way too many references to innumerable books, films, and even TV shows of the same genre. So much for the 'Ancient ones'. Bah! Humbug I say!

Student of the Year

Rollicking Ride of the Year
Move over Hogwarts, because our very own St. Teresa's High School, Dehradun is here! A school as glamorous as the iconic castles of the Harry Potter universe, with one twist though. Here the underage Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley have been replaced by three dashing debutantes – Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, and Varun Dhawan.

Just like the magic flowing in the veins of the protagonists in the books of JK Rowling, never let down the readers, here too Karan Johar the director is for the most part aptly justified in working with these rank newcomers with royal filmy blood flowing through their veins, and boy do they keep up to their reputation! Siddharth plays Abhimanyu - the relatively poor sports quota entrant into the prestigious institution with big dreams and bigger ambitions. Likewise, Alia's portrayal of Shanaya - the spoilt rich yet lonely only daughter of her twice married mother with 4 step sisters, and Varun's portrayal of Rohan - the dreaming to be a Rockstar son of the top industrialist trying to cope with parental pressure - would surely make their respective dads Mahesh Bhatt and David Dhawan proud.

As the terrific trio compete in Karan Johar's version of the Triwizard Tournament – here referred to as 'Student of the Year' everything between them changes. Lovers part, friends become sworn enemies, and children forever separate from their parents. In between of course, there is ample display of well sculpted bodies (Siddharth and Varun) in the shortest of swimming trunks rising above the water, err competition, and Alia in a range of super glamorous designer labels and a scarf enhanced Bikini seducing the boys, (or was it the audience?) into gasps of desire.

For anyone who has ever worn a designer label, or wishes to buy one, this film is like an encyclopedia of fashion that they can immediately relate with. If college dynamics between warring sections of students attracts you, you would love the one upmanship banter between the students. If you love to see fast cars, bikes, and action, you are likely to love the portions involving the 'Tatas' and the 'Batas' or in other words the unbelievably rich and the more than upper middle class rich. If you love old Hindi songs, you are likely to cheer the innovative incorporation of their remixes to introduce key characters be it 'Papa Kehte Hain', 'Gulaabi Aankhen', 'Dafli wale', or the icing on the cake – 'Disco Deewane'. If you loved the happy and gay portions of Karan Johar's Kal Ho Na ho and Dostana, you are likely to fall in love with the dean Rishi Kapoor's wet and wild ways of trying to attract the attention of the brand new coach Ronit Roy – the one who makes him sing 'Coach Coach Hota Hai'.

But if the above things do not interest you, well then this film might already be a humbug you would need an aspirin to get over with. This is like a soufflé that you need to already acquire a taste for. If you are expecting a cup of no nonsense filter coffee, Indian style, you are likely to hate Karan's version of Choco Frappe with a spoonful of whipped cream. To be honest, not everything is perfect, and certain supposed key actions are not well justified. But these are mostly super seeded by the thorough conviction of the director, his vision, and the actors who support it through and through.

Watch it for the rising stars, their thrilling ride, their motley group of extremely well etched friends - Kayozee Irani (the son of actor Boman Irani) as the daring Dikra - Sodo who questions the very foundation of a brazenly biased triathlon towards the finale while managing to curb his intelligence that clearly isn't enough to keep him in the rat race, Shanaya's once helpful but now manipulative tomboy friend Shruti's (Mansi Rach) manipulative mind, the bimbette head cheerleader Tanya (Sana Saeed, who played the young Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) trying to pocket the heart of the uber rich Rohan, his erring errand friend Jeet (Sahil Anand of Roadies 4 fame), or the lanky Manjot Singh (of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye fame) as the 'Bata' Dimpy. Or for that matter the superb supporting cast of Rishi Kapoor (superb), Ronit Roy (just right), Ram Kapoor (extremely effective), or for that matter that of Manini De, Boman Irani, and Farida Jalal in brief yet extremely effective cameos. This is a ride that won't disappoint. Go for it for some escapist entertainment at it's glossy best!


Smells great, but makes you unnecessarily wait
'Aiyyaa' is a film that redefines zany, whacky, and crazy, or should I instead say 'Wakra'? It's leading lady – a librarian in an Art College in real, and a Bollywood Diva in her fantasies - Meenakshi (played uninhibitedly by Rani Mukherjee) and her acute sense of smell and by connection, unfathomable attraction to the tall, dark, and handsome art student Surya (a delightful Bollywood debut by Malyalam star Prithviraj Sukumaran) and maddeningly Bollywood fantasies drive not only her, but also those around oscillating between sanity and the puerile.

Be it her motor mouth mother who keeps laughing and telling all and sundry about how perfect a bride her daughter will be, her father, surrounded by innumerable mostly dysfunctional telephones who has the quirky habit of smoking 4 cigarettes at the same time, her jobless class 10 failed brother 'Nanu' who loves dogs and is dogged in his hate for humanity, or last but not the least, her blind grandmother with her golden dentures who keeps zipping around the house in a motorized wheelchair and passes expert comments on everything.

Add to that a crazy co-worker 'Mayna' who is a cross between Lady Gaga and Bugs Bunny. Be it her crazy Lady Gaga inspired dressing, bad Bollywood dancing, maddening fondness for John Abraham, or overall behavior with those around her. She really is as whacky, if not more than Meenakshi's family.

The only sane person in her life is her forced fiancé – Madhav Rajadhyaksha (played aptly by Marathi actor Subodh Bhave) whose logicality almost threatens to overpower the smelly attraction Meenakshi has for Surya. And therein lies a terrible tale.

This is a classic example of too many ingredients confusing the cook. For, while several sequences stand out for their whacky quotient, the overall picture is one of incoherence. The story and plot are as weak as Meenakshi's knees every time she spots Surya. The funny lines, superb acting, excellent choreography, and beautiful music are somehow thrust at the background every time you desperately hope and wish to hear the mostly silent Surya speak. His body however speaks, rather screams, every time he enters a fantastical dream of Meenakshi and ends up displaying some groovy dancing, a chiseled body complimented by a shaved chest, and six pack abs that stand out in stark contrast to his unkempt chest hair ravaged painter avatar in the real portions.

But for the most part your heart might actually go out to the more earthy suitor of Meenakshi with his love for the kind of romance exemplified by Farroukh Sheikh and Deepti Naval.

If you shirk your nose every time you catch a rerun of MTV Fully Faltoo, this film might be the smelliest thing to have entered your nostrils. If a great story and plot are those that drive you, this film is likely to be a huge let down. But if you are one of those who are ready for some zany humor, this indeed might be the film to catch. Though a better script/story/plot rounded with some crisp editing would have done this film a world of good, it stills holds its ground for several reasons. Watch it for its characters, presentation, dialogues and crazy sense of humor (thanks to National Award winning director Sachin Kundalkar), whacky lyrics (Amitabh Bhattacharya), fantastic music (Amit Trivedi), exuberant choreography (Vaibhavi Merchant) and last but not the least, for Rani Mukherjee.

Be it her enacting of iconic songs and dialogues of Sridevi, Madhuri, or Juhi, her attempts at learning Tamil, her overpowering melodrama about everything happening to her, and for her trio of terrific dance performances - a luscious Lavani, a Silk Smitha inspired 'Dreamup Wakeupum', or her fantastic Kamasutra inspired Belly Dancing in 'Aaga Bai'. Rani is fantastic or should be say 'Wakra'? Go decide for yourself.

English Vinglish

Serene Sri back with glee
English Vinglish, just like the Laddoos, it's lead protagonist Shashi so craftily supplies throughout the movie, is as simple, sweet and tasty.

This is essentially a story of a simple housewife who craves respect, and instead, is mostly subjected to ridicule by her family for not speaking or understanding English. A chance visit to Manhattan to attend the wedding of a niece somehow opens up a world of opportunities in the form of an English Language Speaking Class of four weeks duration from where there is no turning back. Or is there? That my friends is what this film is about.

And yet, like the delicate 'bondees' that stick together to form that Laddoo, English Vinglish is a film that is held together by a fantastic performance by an erstwhile superstar who makes it impossible to even imagine that she took a sabbatical of - hold your breath - 16 years before returning to the screen, and deftly once again in our hearts with this film.

Sridevi, as 'Shashi' is in superb form, and gives us a performance unlike any you might have seen her before. She is like the glue that helps add everything together - be it the subtle messages, beautiful performances, or serene screenplay.

Gauri Shinde, the débutante director and scriptwriter reminds us how your family can never let you feel down, how if you love yourself, you can once again gain equality in a relationship, how the heart craves respect and not love, when it really boils down to a choice between the two, and how it isn't anything to be ashamed of if you don't know English, but it might just break your heart when those closest to you might be judgmental of you due to that fact.)The motley cast and crew ably supports Sridevi in this journey, be it Adil Hussain as her husband Satish who loves his wife, but maybe takes too many things for granted, Mehdi Nebbou as the French cook who in spite of being a student, is also a teacher to Shashi, Priya Anand as Radha, the younger niece who comes at just the right places and helps bring back the spring to Shashi's steps yet again, and last but not the least, Amitabh Bacchan in an excellent cameo who manages to cajole Shashi to take that important leap of faith and spread her wings.

Set in mostly Pune, and Manhattan (the city as well as the suburbs), this is a film that is light, simple, and yet effective. Making you feel for the protagonist at numerous places without resorting to dramatic background scores, or an overt display of emotion. The humor is subtle, the racial discrimination portrayed in a practical hue, the pain natural, and the end credits making you feel that it should have run for a bit more.

In hindsight, maybe a few more subtitles (especially when the French gentleman speaks), and further character development would have added further essence like a 'kishmish' might to a Laddoo, but then again, its how the cook, in this case the director Gauri Shinde, decides to serve the laddo, to ensure its good for both the diabetic as well as the gourmet, and we will leave her to serve it the way she deems it best.

Having said that, let me remind you once again, to go for the film. You will surely enjoy it, especially for Sridevi, if not for the subtle messages, and perfect performances. This Laddoo, at least that day, will surely keep negativity at bay. Enjoy, especially with the women in your family.


A perfect example of art that can forever stay in your heart
India's official entry to the Oscars - Barfi! might as well have been an acronym for: Breathtaking (cinematography), Astounding (acting), Ruthless (breaking of stereotypes about the disabled), Fantastic (music), and Invigorating (feeling in your heart as you leave the theater).

This is essentially a love triangle between Barfi (played endearingly by Ranbir Kapoor), a hearing and speech impaired son of a poor chauffeur, Jhilmil (played brilliantly by Priyanka Chopra), an autistic girl almost abandoned by her rich parents, and Shruti the narrator of the tale of love (played convincingly by debutante Illeana De Cruz), the soon to be married tourist visiting Darjeeling along with her parents.

The writer and director - Anurag Basu uses non linear storytelling to traverse between 1972, 1978, and 2012 Darjeeling, Calcutta, and little known places of Bengal as they three protagonists try and grapple with Love and its various heart rendering implications to their lives. For a film with hardly any dialogs, 'Barfi!' amazingly manages to say a lot, using a combination of sign language, facial expressions, first person narration, and sometimes simply stunning silences to convey a gamut of emotions.

Several sequences stand out for their sheer brilliance, be it Barfi's reaction at Shruti's choice of her fiancé (Jishu Sengupta in a small but significant role), Shruti and her mother's (played beautifully by the veteran Roopa Ganguly) exchanges on certain choices in Love, Barfi and Jhilmil's night in the forest illuminated by fireflies, Barfi's cutting off of the lamp posts to test the loyalty of his friends, Jhilmil's fantasy about getting married as she watches a 'Chau Dance' in a village, Daju's (Haradhan in a superb supporting role) tear stricken face as he finally accepts Jhilmil's fate and let's her go, the unfolding of the photograph's at Shruti's house to finally reveal the truth about her entire life, and lastly, the finale. All these, and many more, are sure to be etched as a memory, not in your mind, but rather in your heart.

This film shows how one can find happiness in the small things in life, and how disabilities, be in financial, mental, or physical can never really appear as a handicap to an otherwise soaring spirit that does not know how to give up on life. This film reminds us that falling in Love is natural, while staying in Love a decision that must be taken with the heart, rather than the mind. And finally, this is a film that tries, without trying too hard, to help you understand that the language of Love does not necessarily require the wisdom of words.

One might argue that certain portions of the film are 'inspired' from other films. For example, certain dialogs between Shruti and her mother might remind you of the Notebook, certain mannerisms of Barfi as he tries his best to escape the bungling cop (played aptly by Saurabh Shukla) cause you to recollect sequences from the films of Charlie Chaplin, while the way Barfi tries to entertain Jhilmil & Shruti remind you of Singing in The Rain and Mr Bean. Yet, Barfi manages to stand on its own for the way it interprets these classic scenes and the logicality of their inclusion in the proceedings.

The Hair and Makeup department, however, especially when it tries to show the same actors playing aged characters, is the only one that takes a slight dent. Yet almost everything else manages to come together in unison to more than compensate for this slight glitch. And it does so, at numerous places managing to make you think, smile, cry, and sigh, sometimes all at the same time, and in quick succession.

Watch it for the performances (especially that of Ranbir and Priyanka), the vision of the director Anurag Basu and cinematographer Ravi Varman, the terrific score of the music director Pritam Chakravarty, and last but not the least for the innumerable ways in which Love has been expressed between the characters. Trust me - this is the perfect example of art that can forever stay in your heart.


A rare combination of performance, script, direction, and aesthetics that will leave you stunned
Leave your bag of popcorn outside the theater. You would honestly not have the time to crunch it as you watch this fantastic film with bated breath. For Kahaani is a ride so thrilling, your mind would be tripping with a million possibilities, even as your tongue invariably ends up either tied, or hanging in the air with anticipation.

Kahaani is essentially the story of a heavily pregnant London based Tamil woman's search for her missing Bengali husband in Kolkata, underplayed exuberantly by Vidya Balan. The supporting cast comprises a helpful cop Parambrata, a selfish detective - Siddiqui, an eccentric life insurance agent - Saswata, and a bhadralok Police officer - Khwaraj, and last but not the least, of a 300+ year old city - Kolkata seeped in the throes of celebrating the mother of all festivals - Durga Puja.

The film unfolds like the pages of a gripping novel by Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes and is shot like that of an Alfred Hitchcock or a Satyajit Ray. Using real people, places, and situations to underline the nuances of the story is a task that's handled brilliantly by director Sujoy Ghosh (also the co writer) whose recent claim to shame - an abysmal Aladdin, or a horrendous Home Delivery shall soon be forgotten just as Madhur Bhandarkar's debut dud was.

In addition to the sterling performances and the plot is the terrific technical support. Be it Amitabh Bacchan's rendition of Tagore's 'Ekla Chalo Re', the background songs (mostly of RD Burman), playing innocently as the characters travel the length and breadth of the city, the costumes by Sabyasachi, the 'just right and yet dramatic' background score, the non-condescending cinematography that captures the city as if it were a character, and the supreme screenplay with a spattering of real Bengali, act as just the right spices to turn this into a delicious dish, that's both exotic as well as commonplace.

Watch this film to experience something so satiating, you would surely ask for more (a rare for a thriller!). I give this a 10/10 not just because this is one of the best thrillers ever made in India, but definitely one of the best films to have ever come out of Bollywood. Kudos to the whole team! Trust me! Ami Sotthi Bolcchi!

P.S: Please do not discuss the story with anyone else, unless they have watched this film.

Being Cyrus

A brilliant Indian English Film
First things first...This film is directed by a débutante director: Homi Adajania who also doubles up as a screenplay writer (his 1st attempt at that). Homi, an Ex model has acted (more of a special appearance) in just one more movie and hasn't made any other movie since this movie was released. Now why am I saying this? Well, simply because I feel this is a fabulous piece of work and the directer/script writer better get down to working on a film soon for man... is he a genius or what?!!! This film is brilliant, not only as an Indian English film, but simply because its a riveting piece of work that can and should be enjoyed by audiences anywhere in the world. The story begins with the entry of Cyrus, a fan, into the lives of a forgotten maestro sculptor living a life of obscurity in Panchgani with his buxom wife and soon turns into a forbidden tale of intrigue, passion and greed, interpreted mostly in first person by Cyrus. Every single member of a stellar cast pitches in with a great performance...Be it Naseeruddin Shah as the eldest son of a dysfunctional Parsi family, Dimple Kapadia, his glamor hungry wife, Boman Irani, the younger son living in Mumbai with his much younger wife - Simone Singh, or Saif Ali Khan as Cyrus, the teller of a tale that is most likely to send a shiver down your spine, every actor is in character and have put in brilliant performances. As Cyrus himself says at the end of the film 'the king and pawn do end up in the same box after a game of chess' Well they do and how! Saif Ali Khan is fantastic as Cyrus pitching in a performance that would undoubtedly rank amongst his finest. The screenplay is taut, the editing crisp, the dialogs extremely real, the cinematography fantastic and last but not the least, a brilliant score by Salim Sulaiman. This film has all it takes to be watched irrespective of whether you are an Indian/Parsi. Go for it!!!!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Strangely enough, one of the most poetic Westerns to ever be made
The Assassination Of Jesse James is possibly not only one of the finest films to have come out in 2007, but also one of the best westerns ever made. Yes, I agree with some of the views in here that you don't necessarily expect a western to quite turn out to be the way this one does and thats something I found myself immensely attracted to. This film has layers westerns have rarely achieved (the exception being Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven) and you could almost find yourself falling in love with the pain that some of the characters are hoping to come away from, in an almost poetic sort of way.

Be it in the characterization (an excellent adaptation I must say) or the way the music, dialogues, and the cinematography have been used to bring to life a book onto the big screen, every single thing falls into place and How! Couldn't quite have been possible without the stellar cast lead by the two protagonists Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck). An exuberant portrayal of Jesse by Brad would surely count as one of his best so far (Along with Snatch and Babel) and a brilliantly effortless debut by the younger brother of an almost spent force (almost, if it wasn't for Gone Baby Gone) - Casey Affleck are without a doubt the greatest highlights of this film. Together as well as individually their's is a performance that has the power of almost bringing tears to your eyes and a heaviness into your heart you may have seldom felt before. Kudos to the director Andrew Dominik for bringing onto the cinematic world a brilliant gentlemen for whom the word 'sink' could only be in reference to a role, with his teeth thrown in.

Do yourselves a favour folks, watch the Assassination of Jesse James today, and wait even after 'the moment' is over for another 20-30 odd minutes of drama so riveting, you could hardly blame yourselves for believing that the title was a dead giveaway.

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