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Stardom without starriness - amazing
The 1980s were known to be a bad decade for mainstream Hindi cinema, with many filmmakers producing cheap potboilers with nothing substantial to offer. The substance was preserved among independent and art cinema directors, but then even some directors from commercial cinema attempted to break the mold within these limits. Joining the ranks of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee, such names as Shekhar Kapur and Mahesh Bhatt were associated with middle-of-the-road cinema, having dealt with real topics and real people. One name which is often if not completely missing in these lists is Vinod Pande, a talented and sensitive director who tried to enhance the beauty of mainstream Hindi cinema without ever giving up the credibility of his films, the gritty topics and the in-depth, fair representation of his characters.

Indeed, Star is one such film. Yes, the film is about an aspiring singer who dreams to make it big in the music scene. But no, you will see none of the corny plot elements that decorate so many movies of this sort. This isn't the Disco Dancer or one of the many types of films Mithun Chakraborty did in those years (which, I admit to like a well). Moreover, the main protagonist does not conquer the entire country becoming an overnight sensation - the proportions in this film are much more modest and down-to-earth. Above all, Star presents a most realistic portrayal of the urban India of those years, of middle-class families, and the struggle of parents therein to raise their children into good, educated citizens who are expected to get graduated and improve the family status down the generations. They are neither slum dwellers nor inhabitants of big mansions - they are real people who live in real houses, work regular jobs, and speak real dialogues just like most people do. A brilliant setting and a wonderful photography of the city streets are some of the assets contributing to this successful depiction.

The acting, as part of this wonderful premise, is excellent. Kumar Gaurav is highly competent as the main lead, doing a wonderful job which far outranks his debut performance in Love Story. Rati Agnihotri is wonderful and impossibly beautiful as the warm, sensitive singer and love interest. Raj Kiran is easily the best of the lot as the loving brother and son who works non-stop to keep the family together. A.K. Hangal and Dina Pathak are amazing as the elderly, worried parents who wish for their children to lead a normal life by settling down, getting graduation and a stable livelihood, and ultimately enjoying a healthy routine. Saeed Jaffrey, a great actor, was actually the weak link in this film, not because of his acting which is always up to the mark, but the villainous character he played. This character was probably the main stereotypical pitfall the writers could not afford to avoid and inevitably employed to meet the standards required in mainstream cinema, which is a shame. Padmini Kolhapure, in a miniscule part, is amazingly pretty, and with almost no lines, does enough with her presence alone.

Having mentioned the many assets of this wonderful little film, it goes without saying that it is the music that remains the film's triumph, which makes it memorable even today, so much that today the film is known for the great soundtrack rather than the story itself. The late Nazia Hassan and her brother Zoheb Hassan were the talented duo assigned to Biddu's exceptional compositions, with songs like "Boom Boom", "Yeh Dil Tere Liye Hai", the title song "Star", just to name a few, giving life to the film and making it an altogether fantastic movie experience. Star is a rare film which holds great nostalgic value, but is sadly very underrated in of itself, as was its capable director, who made other good films during the decade and contributed a great deal to the better part of the Hindi commercial fare.


In fond memory of Sridevi, a powerhouse actress in her screen farewell
Words could not express the shock and disbelief that I felt upon hearing the sad news of Sridevi's sudden and untimely demise. It's still hard to believe that this beautiful woman, who was only 54, looked so much younger, and whose graceful presence and impeccable talent have been an integral part in the lives of so many lovers of Indian cinema, is no more. That's what made me watch this movie right away. We had planned to see the film before; little did we imagine that it would inevitably become her last film which would be watched after her passing.

Mom is a very nice thriller, very well thought of, written and directed. It's a little too dramatic at some points, but everything is within context and is not overblown. There's no need to give away any sort of details about the story and the proceedings, but one thing, as expected, remains its central force, and it is of course Sridevi herself, and her astounding performance. Sridevi had a vast career graph, with films in many languages, among which sadly not many were great masterworks. Her extraordinary, intense acting talent had always transcended the quality of any film she was in, however, and Mom, while a very good film in and of itself, is no exception in this regard. Her Devki is an amazing portrait of quiet determination and exhilarating strength. Just see the scene when Devki is notified of her daughter having been raped. This act brings back, just for one moment, the uninhibited, trademark Sridevi style that people love to see and probably not expected in an otherwise restrained portrayal. Her full-outburst reaction shows, for the umpteenth time in the career of this gifted actress, her ability to perform the most difficult scenes with ease, full authenticity, and the most alarmingly intense levels of expression. The great thing about this performance, however, is that it is not just a performance of great moments - her overall character development is the great moment itself, and her presence alone speaks volumes. She is real, genuine, and plays the most basic and casual bits with amazing depth and conviction, which never take away from her cinematic appeal. She was a true master of her craft in terms of commanding the attention of her audience at any point.

Twenty years ago, Sridevi, who had by then long been arguably one of the most hard-working and prolific actresses in India, retired from films to devote herself to her family and to being a mom. It's so ironic that her last, full-fledged film appearance ended up being this film, simply titled Mom. It's a little comforting that her screen farewell is such a nice film. This, along with her previous venture, English Vinglish, are the two ultimate, memorable goodbye presents Sridevi gifted her fans with before leaving, just to seal the illustrious list of films in her impressive career. Long live Sridevi, may her remarkable legacy in cinematic history live on forever in the hearts of anyone who loves films and appreciates true acting talent.


An epic extravaganza with gloss and substance
Mughul-E-Azam boasts of some of the highest production values employed in filmmaking in India up to that point, and the result is astounding, to say the least. The film is a true cinematic experience in terms of aesthetics, and be it the black-and-white or the colour version, it is an unforgettable visual treat. The sets, the costumes, are stunningly lavish, almost to the point of casting a gloom over the story itself. And then we have the story, an epic, poetic one, which involves a most subtle love story. The dialogue is stupendous, with many lines having a memorable, larger-than-life quality which enhances the narrative beyond imagination. The music is similarly fantastic, with spectacularly performed dance numbers. Needless to say, "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya" is the high-point of the film and the story it tells. Prithviraj Kapoor is excellent in a wonderfully dramatic and appropriately theatrical performance as Emperor Akbar. Dilip Kumar seems to enjoy his own, mere presence, while underplaying his role to great effect. It is Madhubala, however, who walks away with the most fully-realised part of Anarkali, a slave girl whose dignity cannot be taken away at any cost. I found the film a greatly entertaining watch, and while I had a problem with its overlong running time, as well as some faulty sequences, such as the less convincing battle between the father and son, Mughul-E-Azam remains a meticulous piece of art, and a rightly-touted all-time classic of Indian cinema.


Excellent performances by one and all
Vidhaata is a very enjoyable Hindi movie of its time. Subhash Ghai gathers some of the greatest talents of those times, including Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, and Amrish Puri. The story is quite an interesting one, and the development is very well brought out. The film does veer into formulaic caricature from time to time. Much of the action borders on the fantasy, but then it is well made up for by some intriguing twists. One scene between Amrish Puri and Dilip Kumar, which involves the explosion of a car, is greatly entertaining. Unfortunately the second half is marred by proceedings which are uncalled for. Similarly, the love story involved is not very convincing and contributed little to the story.

The main high-point of this picture is unquestionably the acting. No one can ever doubt Dilip Kumar's extraordinary acting prowess, and in this film he turns in what I consider his best work of the decade (along with Shakti). He is tremendous as Shamsher, a simple working man who turns into a mafia don. This is one of the few Hindi movies where such a transformation is credible and, without question, due credit for this should go to the actor himself for his renowned ability to portray complex characters with rare, natural ease and realism. As his character adopts a new name and identity, he appears greatly stylish and sophisticated, but his immense love for his grandson and the pain over the loss of his son are utterly convincing. This is just another understated performance, which never fails to leave a lasting impact on the audience.

The rest of the cast are there to support the screen legend in his author-backed role, and all do well. Sanjeev Kumar is unsurprisingly dependable in a small supporting role, and Amrish Puri is excellent in a villainous part which is slightly better than his usual parts of this sort. Sanjay Dutt makes a confident debut, and he is well paired with the beautiful Padmini Kolhapure, even if the two are the least impressive here. The one who almost, if not totally, manages to steal the show, however, is the wonderful Shammi Kapoor, whose well-etched comic part provides the main glimmer of relief in an otherwise heavy story. He is simply brilliant as Shamsher's age-long and loyal friend, soulfully portraying the wholesome, admirable kindness of the character and exuding warmth at all levels.

Vidhaata is like many films of its kind but at the same time it is a cut above the usual fare presented at the time. In this sense, it is a very good film well worth seeing. Ultimately it is the acting, particularly by Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor, which elevates it to an altogether different level and more than makes up for its flaws.

15 Park Avenue

Magnificent Konkona
Aparna Sen casts some great actors for this wonderful fantastical story of perception which conveys the many ambiguous faces of the human cognitive mind and imagination. 15 Park Avenue is an appreciable effort, but not fully realised, with several aspects seeking to be explored a little more. The fact that it was shot entirely in English is also quite a mystery, because it automatically makes much of it look unnatural. That said, the film is very entertaining, very slick in terms of cinematography and production, and brilliantly acted. Needless to say, it is Konkona Sen Sharma who steals the thunder. Sharma dazzles as Meethie, erasing everything she is and disappearing into the role to deliver a disturbingly convincing performance which is one of the most impressive of our times. She is just mind-blowing, dominating her scenes with amazing intensity and wavering between comic and entertaining, and moving and unsettling. It's sad that such a brilliant act was hardly noticed. Waheeda Rehman is as good as one would imagine her be, but Shabana Azmi, and I can't believe I'm saying this, is probably the weakest link. This is one of her least impressive performances, and much of it might be due to the English dialogue, which took its toll on one of the greatest actresses of Indian cinema. She often seems to be too cerebral, too thoughtful, and as a result, not very relatable. Rahul Bose and Shefali Shah provide good support. 15 Park Avenue is an interesting and well made picture which could have been better, but the performance of Sen Sharma makes up for many of its flaws.

Bandit Queen

Excellent, appreciable, and by no means entertaining
Bandit Queen is a difficult film to go through. In the famous world of Bollywood's song and dance, this biographical feature is certainly a breath of fresh air in terms of storytelling and honest filmmaking. Shakhar Kapur handles the subject with great sensitivity and visible empathy towards the main character of Phoolan Devi, whose life story is impossible to even listen to. What this woman had to endure is beyond imagination and is harrowing to watch, but her survival is an inspiring triumph. Bandit Queen is disturbingly realistic, and I can totally understand those who don't like it, because we do not watch films to see reality, but rather to escape it. The movie is by no means entertaining, the story is bitter and excruciating, but there are many lessons one can learn from watching it and, at the very least, realise how privileged most of us are. The film is excellently acted, with Seema Biswas proving her mettle as an actor of extraordinary talent and compassion. Her portrayal is a world-class act on a level of its own, and she totally immerses herself in this most difficult role and life story. May no person ever have to go through what this woman went through to justify the making of a notable biopic of this sort. Kudos to Kapur for an impressive effort. Watch it if you can, expect zero entertainment and just treat it the way you treat documentaries. You might be impressed, if not rewarded.

Karan Arjun

Pretty frivolous but still a nice watch throughout
Reincarnation is the one word which can be used to describe Karan Arjun, a film which can easily be a fun watch for the entire family. It is about two brothers who are killed and their mother who expects to see them again for some reason and desperately prays for the day they come back. And her prayers get paid off when her children are reborn in different parts of the country and grow up looking the same as her dead kids. The film has some heartbreaking feel about it, but as a film, it is a bit overdone, melodramatic and cheesy. Yet, it never takes itself too seriously, so it somehow works despite being blown out of proportions. The film may particularly appeal to children - heroes and villains, fights and races, dialogue which does not have much sense, very caricaturish characters. Despite that, there are some emotions that somehow work for others, so I would call it a children's film which may appeal to the rest of the family. Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan work very well together and give the film a certain appeal not warranted by the script. Salman is restrained as never before and Shahrukh is carefree and positive. Raakhee does well as the suffering mom and the moment of unity is such a familiar tear-causing scene that nothing else matters. Mamta and Kajol are hardly there, particularly Kajol, who is invisible. Rajesh Roshan's music is as always amazing, with "Yeh Bandhan" leading the list. All in all, go and try this wholesome Bollywood entertainment.


Interestingly developed, superbly acted
Anjaam starts out as a possible, traditional love story between Vijay and Shivani, which, quite unexpectedly turns into a story of unrequited love followed by intense obsession, ego, sadism and revenge. The story develops at quite a fast pace, with one story twist preceding another, killing every possible trace of romance, much to the complete shock of an unprepared, awestruck audience. This is one of the several formula-defying films a young newcomer named Shahrukh Khan appeared in earlier on in his career, risking future career prospects as a leading actor in a film industry which very often resorts to typecasting and marking slots of villains and comedians.

But it wasn't the case this time around, and it only contributed to the image of this young, highly courageous and talented actor, whose efforts in films like Baazigar, Darr, and this time Anjaam, were applauded all over and only enhanced his stature as a credible star-actor. And one can see why. Khan is tremendous in this role. His Vijay is the nice romantic fool on the surface, but underneath lies the soul of a true monster. And the trick is that this time it's not a caricature, it's a real psycho - an eccentric, capricious brat, whose passion and ego drive him to pull out all the stops to have things done his way. The weird mannerisms, the body language, the delivery and the overall creation of this character are done brilliantly by Khan. No matter how real or unreal it could be, it is immensely entertaining and impressive.

The cynosure, the love interest, the victim, the avenger, and ultimately the leading lady of the film is Madhuri Dixit, a beautiful, principled young woman, whose honesty is but the thing that drives the obsessive antagonist nuts. Roles of avenging angels had by then already become almost a standard in Hindi films, with Rekha setting the bar with her unforgettable daredevil act in Khoon Bhari Maang. The character of Shivani is different in story and execution, and it is not as heroic. That said, Dixit is excellent in a performance that easily ranks amongst the best of her career. The transformation from a charming young lass to a woman hardened by what she had to endure is utterly convincing. One wishes she had accepted more roles like this one in better films.

Which brings me to the next point, and it is the film itself. Sadly Anjaam doesn't completely live up to the quality set by the acting. While the film is greatly entertaining, the execution is often faulty. The prison portions, though gripping at times, are for the most part embarrassingly exaggerated. There is a familiar portrayal of the corrupt law and juridical system, against which no man could ever resist if no money was found at their disposal. Anjaam is directed by Rahul Rawail, a famous director. It is his most eclectic work, and is an unusual Hindi film for its time. For the story it tried to tell, it did very well. A strong story development, a stronger second half (which is a good thing), and an ending which is totally overblown and unbelievable. But it's a good watch in spite of the flaws, and the two central performance make up for many of them anyway.

Ek Nai Paheli

Beautiful if not fully realised
K. Balachander's Ek Nai Paheli is a beautiful film, both visually and story-wise. As you would expect from a Balachander film, it is visually a great picture to look at - the cinematography, the sets, the costume design, all demonstrate the high production values employed in the making of this film. The script, however, and the later development of the story, are not fully realised. The film narrates the love story of a young man with a woman who is a decade or two his senior, and sadly, the story is never really brave enough to dig into the complexity of this relationship, and everything stays quite on the surface. There is some nice dialogue and there's depth as well in the portrayal of the human relationship, but never to the extent of daring to be less polished and a little more real and matter-of-fact.

Hema Malini is beautiful, very retrained and impressively so, and Kamaal Hasaan is competent as an idealistic and stubborn young man, though at times over-expressive. The two seem to have a good working chemistry, but something is missing there as there is very little intimacy between the two; it's like a very good friendship which lacks, and perhaps is even mistaken as, real romance. Good support is provided by Raaj Kumar and the stunning Padmini Kolhapure. Ek Nai Paheli is a beautiful film in many ways, it is reminiscent of the old classics in its general feel and energy, in its music and culturally rich, elegant setting, but it could have been better if more effort had been made to depict the love story itself. An aesthetic delight, indeed, and well directed by K. Balachander, who could and should have pushed the envelope a little more.


Sonam Kapoor is excellent in an inspiring thriller
Neerja Bhanot, a young purser, gave her life in her attempt to save the lives of many dozens of passengers on board Pan Am Flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists in September 1986. In so doing, she became a national symbol of bravery and heroism. Her story is well documented in this taut, inspiring and heart-touching thriller, which keeps its viewers on the edge of their seats as they witness this female hero fight for the lives of all those passengers who were forced to sit still and watch the atrocity of the four terrorists. Sonam Kapoor is the main lead here, and she makes the best of what many actresses would consider a dream role. This is clearly her best part, and she is very strong in her portrayal of Neerja's selfless bravery on board, as well as her steadfast determination not to succumb to societal mores in her personal life.

The story develops at a fast pace, and is spite of its proceedings being well-known to all, the audience still wishes for a different outcome. Due credit for this would go to the direction, which combines elements of a suspenseful thriller and a strong human drama. It is the ending, however, which is a little too sentimental, but there it's Shabana Azmi's turn to shine and she does as usual. One cannot but feel for this woman and her daughter, but it's always inspiring to see how the sacrifice of Neerja, just as noted in the film, manages to immortalize her, so much that thirty years later a film is produced in her memory, and audiences are running to watch it. In the long run kindness is never left unnoticed. Long live Neerja Bhanot, may her selfless bravery and heroic sacrifice will never be left unrecorded in the pages of history.

2 States

An unconvincing love story, but the parents steal the show
Based on a novel by Chetan Bhagat, 2 States aims to present a young love story marred by cultural differences, and the film is just about how two young students struggle to convince their clashing families to accept their relationship. The film is modern, pleasant and fun, and the premise could not be more interesting, but it's never genuine enough to be really taken notice of, mainly because everything is handled with a constant touch of corny sentimentality and an evident lack of conviction. Having said that, the film is quite enjoyable in spite of many of its flaws and despite the fact that one of its primary false notes is the relationship between the two main leads, which is totally unconvincing and lacking in depth. Then again, I think the film hardly manages to ever break away from what is essentially a stereotypical and outdated story, and not because of the story as much as the weak portrayal of the families. Something is missing there, everything is just very banal and superficial, and very rarely throughout the film do you really experience the beauty of the Punjabi or Tamil cultures, as conservative as they may be.

That said, it is there actually where the film is saved, simply because the supporting cast of senior actors gives great experience to their parts and does the most of what they are given. Well it goes without saying that Amrita Singh is the film's biggest asset since hers is both the funniest and most moving performance. She is the typical Punjabi mom at some instances, and the compassionate, dedicated person at others, doing everything with her strong screen presence. Ronit Roy is good albeit this is practically the same role he played in Udaan, which is not a good thing not only because of typecasting but also because this is not a very good film and here his character is lacking in development and has a change of heart which is too good to be true. Revathi delivers a fine, understated performance, and so does Shiv Kumar Subramaniam. Then we have the main lead, and they are just lost with so-so roles and have zero chemistry. Arjun Kapoor is expressionless, and while this might be the character, it just doesn't work and he comes across far too wooden for his own good. Alia Bhatt is bubbly and cute but is nothing to write home about.

2 States is not a very good film, but it is good entertainment. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is not too memorable for me this time, but it is very pleasant to the ears and nicely carries the narrative forward. While I expected more from the young leads, the supporting cast more than makes up for that. All of them are let down by the predictably sugarcoated end, but let it be. This is just for fun, and it does provide it here and there and is a good watch for the family.


A high cinematic experience
I used to consider Imtiaz Ali to be quite overrated, but with Highway, my opinion of him has changed dramatically. Highway is one of the most beautiful films of recent times in Hindi cinema, in terms of both photography and storytelling. Telling the story of a young girl kidnapped in an act she herself would eventually consider pure bliss, Highway starts as a road movie and what could have become a suspenseful thriller of sorts, turns into a deeply involving love story between two aching souls. The captive girl finds a true saviour in her captor and eventually falls for him, showing little interest in coming back home. The movie is not without its clichés, and the sub-story of child abuse the young woman had been through as a child tends to be a little corny, but then everything is handled with great delicacy. It is emotional but totally controlled and sensible, all thanks to Ali, who deals with the complex subject with impressive understanding and

Aided by brilliant cinematography, the movie is beautifully shot across some of North India's most breathtaking locations, but not only does it capture the beauty of India's exotic mountains and the magic of its simplicity, it consistently stands as a celebration of the human spirit and conveys a meaning of freedom is spite of the potentially troubling proceedings. The film is slow paced, but totally engaging and absorbing, and that's because the story is expertly developed, with the ensuing portions of romance working quite effectively. Everything grows naturally, and what starts with a quietly serene narrative style is gradually filled with music up to a point where the narrative is nothing but music and high spirit. And for that you have to thank the master himself, A. R. Rahman, whose stupendous soundtrack and score enhance the film and its story. The songs are in sync with the proceedings and always reflect the characters' state.

The acting is excellent even by actors appearing in minor parts. The lead pair is played by Randeep Hooda and Alia Bhatt, and the two have fantastic chemistry. The romantic tension between the two is built up with great conviction - it never looks peculiar in spite of the nature of their parts, and never looks missing in spite of the lack of too much physical interaction. Hooda is tremendous as Mahabir, brilliantly underplaying the essence of a man who may look cruel and fearless, but beneath this tough exterior there's a poor, compassionate and quietly tormented soul. But the movie belongs to young Bhatt, who's pretty and bubbly but just totally immersed in the spirited character of Veera, so much that even she herself might not have expected from herself. She seems to really get the resilient nature of her part, but rather than playing it, she lives it, presenting an exhilarating portrait of strength, determination and positivity.

Highway ends on a poignant but realistic note, and the ending is extremely cathartic and satisfying. It ends up being a greatly affecting love story which surely is inspiring to watch, and besides that it is a true visual treat worth watching more than once. A rewarding cinematic experience, highly recommended.

Garv: Pride and Honour

A very weak film only partially elevated by Khan's presence
Back in those days, Salman Khan was a highly popular star, and to his credit he had hardly been part of those big-budget films made by Chopra, Ghai and the likes. Khan is a good entertainer, and a great strength of his is that he never seemed to consider himself a particularly good actor, neither did he really pretend to take the acting part of acting too close to heart. It was all about a good presence and a likably honest persona. In this film he actually does seem to try to show the opposite, but sadly he never manages to turn it into something particularly special since the film is not very good in the first place. Khan apparently just doesn't have the right flair for choosing the right movies. This is the same age old story of pride and honour, love and sacrifice, principles and values, rape and revenge, and they hardly ever ring true. They could have, had they been tackled by a more competent and imaginative writer or director. But the result is a stale, highly outdated film which doesn't work in spite of Khan's presence. The story lacks any possible depth and conviction. Then we have the usual heroine, played by Shilpa Shetty, whose appearance is basically restricted to the lavish songs. Speaking of songs, there's a nice number called "Hum Tumko Nigahon Mein". The action scenes are not that bad, relatively speaking, but they are typically exaggerated and all stretched out, just like the film itself.


Not that bad, actually
Yeh, this film repeats the done-to-death nonsense of reincarnation, and is sort of a Karan Arjun makeover, but it's not as bad as people perceive it to be (not that anyone remembers or cares for it in the first place). The script is one hell of cliché, with the same old timeless love stuff, but at the same time it is also a decent watch for lovers of Hindi films. First of all, technically it's quite rare - the camera work is really very good with fantastic cinematography, and the sound design is also not bad at all. The songs are also quite nice and while it's hard to relate to the concept, the film does manage to hold interest and is quite engaging as a thriller. Three of the film's three main leads do well in their parts, with Aditya Pancholi doing the Shahrukh Khan kind of man-obsessed-with-one-girl role. His aging transformation is also done well. Saif Ali Khan was at this point yet to come into his own, but Kajol was more than good as she almost always is. The film's first half is actually stronger than the second, while the second has more tension and suspense. It never really works as a film, and it's far from being memorable, but as a one-time watch, it can be given a try.


A nostalgic action flick with wonderful music.
I watched this film many times as a kid, and it always kept me on the edge of me seat. This of course is not an example of great filmmaking or storytelling, but it still works as a masala flick, and is actually quite slick for a movie of its sort. The action scenes are typical for the times but are quite fun to watch. There are three heroes in this film, and all three are very good: Jackie Shroff doing the nonchalant guy in search of himself, Sunny Deol playing the angry-young-man, while obviously Naseeruddhin Shah steals the show in a ceaselessly amusing role, which he plays with a great deal of humour and seems to have no qualms about ridiculing himself. Then there are the three hot ladies - the pretty Sonam, the impossibly stunning Madhuri Dixit, while actually it is the beautiful Sangeeta Bijlani who gets the meatiest part in what is possibly her best role, and does the most of it in addition to having a very nice chemistry with Shroff. And there's the music, and what an amazing soundtrack it is. Each song is a gem and holds such great nostalgic value for me. "Tirchi Topiwale" and "Main Teri Mohabbat Main" are great numbers, but it is "Gali Gali" which is one of my all-time favourite songs. A true gem of a song - soulful, melodious, and wonderfully written, composed and arranged with a rare touch of psychedelia. This number was one of the first that shot the phenomenal Alka Yagnik to fame, and her rendition is flawless. Other than that, Tridev works as a nice thriller which should not be taken too seriously but enjoyed, and there's plenty to enjoy here.


You better watch Seeta Aur Geeta, but then give it a try for Sridevi
There are so many things that I like in Chaalbaaz, and then, there are so many things because of which I would never want to see it again. I like its craziness but I hate its stupidity. Chaalbaaz is a mere copy of the 1972 classic Seeta Aur Geeta. Clearly, this one is not a patch on Ramesh Sippy's timeless comedy of errors, and well, frankly, the fact that these two films are compared is an insult to Seeta Aur Geeta. Chalbaaz just lacks the latter's excellent script, great humour, music, light comic mood, and of course the performances. Hema Malini's performance is unmatched, and here the director actually turns the twin sisters into some hysteric and mentally unstable damsels in distress. Then there's the element which many people disliked the film for. While the film aims to be a comedy, there's one really disturbing part in it, and it is the way Anju is abused by her uncle and his wife - it is hugely exaggerated, but very often far from funny because not once does it appear downright sadistic. The action sequences are poorly handled and actually there's too much of them.

Sridevi is an excellent actress, but just like with the film, I like and dislike her performance in equal parts. I liked the fact that she evidently highly enjoyed playing her part, I liked her spontaneity, and her neurotic dance numbers were truly outstanding. It is her portrayal of the scared and frightened Anju that I liked more, as she was so intensely involved with the character. The role of Manju, the street smart lost sister, is totally over-the-top. She is not just brave and defensive, but a violent idiot. And it's not Sridevi's fault, she is just let down by the script and forced to ham it up. The leading actors are very average, while the two who actually understand the film's mindless mood and act accordingly are Anupam Kher and Rohini Hattangadi, who are very good and easy to hate. It's of course a masala flick and one should never take it too seriously but then it's not a very good film even as mindless entertainment, and sadly so, because this is the kind of story which could churn out a terrific comedy of errors, a goal this film unfortunately never manages to achieve.


A so-so spectacle with little to offer other than its leading lady
Fanaa was a commercial success upon its release a little less than a decade ago. It was Kajol's well-awaited comeback to movies after a five-year hiatus, and that's how it was mainly promoted. It was the first movie in which Kajol and Aamir Khan where pitted against each other, and sadly nothing between the two of them really works. There's little chemistry, little understanding, and the relationship is left to the big songs. In the end we are left with a story so feeble and uninteresting that one would wonder why the hack an actress of her caliber chose it. Fanaa is one of those pretentious potboilers which want to be seen as poetic but then they have so little to offer on their own. The story is melodramatic and unconvincing, and all the tough job is given to Kajol, of whom naturally so much was expected. And thankfully, she doesn't disappoint. Even within the limits of a weak script (and a badly written role), Kajol rises above it to deliver a heartfelt, fully complete performance. There's something about this lady - she comes across extremely real and does so little to convey big emotions. She is always relatable, and never a star. This movie really shows why this natural actress is one of the most popular in the country and appeals so much to the masses. And then we have Mr. Khan, who suddenly looks overly jaded and old, and the terrorist part of his character was so amusingly amateurish and poorly done that no one would take this nonsense character seriously anyway. Fanaa has nice music and no story, it also wastes the talent of Tabu, Rishi Kapoor and Kirron Kher. In the end, Kunal Kohli, who was responsible for the wonderful Hum Tum, disappoints big time with this silly, silly film.


Watch the first chapter, and then turn it off
Heroes does have a good premise, but as a whole it is a waste of a good story. This is because Samir Karnik insists making it the old way, with lots of drama, exaggeration and highly unconvincing action scenes. To think of two guys travelling huge distances to meet three different families of slain soldiers and surprise them with letters written by the soldiers before their death during the Kargil war, sounds very promising, but the way the subject is handled is just so amateur old fashioned. This relates in particular to the two last chapters of the three, with Sunny Deol and Mithun Chakraborty, who lost a brother and a son, respectively. As moving as it was, this just didn't work because of flawed direction. The first chapter, however, is a true redeeming quality, which at times even seems to have been made or written by someone else, not that it's perfect in or by itself. Salman Khan and Preity Zinta have brilliant chemistry together, and the part is handled quite sensitively, in addition to having one beautiful song called "Mannata". This, sadly, turns out to be the only truly moving part of the movie, and sadly so, because the concept is most novel, and it's got many famous stars who could have made something out of it. Unfortunately, Karnik cannot really save the film from being uninspiring (though, as said, in parts it is), which is sad because this is clearly its main goal.

Speaking of stars and inspiration, there's one saving grace in Heroes, and it's a huge one because acting-wise, none comes close to Preity Zinta. As Kuljeet Kaur, the young and lonely widow, Zinta utterly steals the show with an amazing performance which is not only the best in the film, but one of the finest of that year in Hindi movies. Her Punjabi dialect is brilliant, but more than that, it is her subtle, understated and authentic portrayal of Kuljeet's anguish, resilience and strength, which stays with you after the show is over (in spite of the fact that, naturally, she does not have a lot of screen time). Her presence alone speaks volumes. It's sad that this inspiring act is wasted in such an average film, but happily, her episode on its own is very good to be worthy of a second watch. Salman Khan is also very effective and natural and fits the role well enough. Mithun Chakraborty is always good, but Sunny Deol is a disappointment. Bobby Deol and Dino Morea are quite okay. Vatsal Sheth and Sohail Khan are not important characters and they do not really word well together, but they are lively enough even though Sohail is sadly but expectedly just not convincing enough. Anyway, Heroes is an average movie with some good moments, namely the first episode and Preity Zinta's performance. Watch only the first one, you may want to proceed, at your own cost.

Dil To Pagal Hai

A bright musical gem
Dil To Pagal Hai is a wonderfully made movie - entertaining, impressive and romantic. I appreciate the fact that Chopra kept updating his style with every new film. This is one film in which the songs are mostly a part of the storyline and the movie can be rightly described as a romantic musical, and not just because it's Bollywood. Where the music goes, Uttam's soundtrack is totally excellent, but more than anything the way in which the songs are presented is exemplary. This film actually bears the stamp of Hindi cinema's immense talent in making musicals. No one can do it better, and that's not about the choreography or the technical brilliance, it's more about the soul. The numbers are evidently very well invested (the foremost example being the very first song, "Le Gayee", which is a part of the show and a great opening), spectacularly danced and are really fun to watch, but there's something else in there, a kind of charm that is hard to explain in words.

Dil To Pagal Hai indulges in its romanticism but what I found great about it is its totally realistic portrayal of young artists. Chopra strikes an amazing balance between contemporary culture and poetic romanticism. While some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy, most of it is actually very real and has some sense of everyday reality. Chopra portrays the troupe of Shahrukh as a totally modern one, while the character of Madhuri and her soft romantic nature is actually deprecated even by some of the characters in the film itself. But the whole theory of the film, which tries to convey a message that somewhere someone is made for you, is quite interesting and inspiring despite its cheesiness. The film is never overly melodramatic or gushing in its emotional quotient. It tries to present itself as a simple love story, which does not work with a larger-than-life story but rather an episode in which true romance comes in the middle of happy-go-lucky, hardly-romantic people.

The story itself may actually be one of the film's weakest links, but the script and the execution, along with the technical brilliance and the soul which the director injects it with, elevate the picture to an altogether different level. Yash Chopra should be remembered for his ability to make a film with a stale story and yet infuse it with new-found energy. He, in a way, proved at that time that one need not make a sobby melodrama in order to make a good film. Dil To Pagal Hai is high on production values - the art direction is fantastic, and the cinematography is very good. As mentioned above, the songs actually work well with the film's story because it is about dancers. My favourite dance performance which is also one of my favourite moments in the film is the "Dance of Envy" between Madhuri and Karisma, which is astonishingly gripping and reminiscent of Sridevi's amazing "Moments of Rage" number from Chopra's Lamhe, and here too there's a certain psychological tension which is very well handled.

Where acting goes, Madhuri Dixit is the perfect Hindi film heroine - beautiful, gentle, charming and a stupendous dancer. Here she is wonderful as Pooja, proving you don't have to cry buckets and scream ceaselessly to deliver a completely good performance. She's dreamy and innocent, and there's something genuinely sincere about the way she delivers many of her clichéd dialogues, which could have easily made any other actress look cheesy and embarrassing. Shahrukh Khan is excellent and typically energetic. Yes, this is not a Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa or a Dil Se in which he had rich, complex roles, but his character is very good within the parameters of this film, and he is thoroughly convincing. Akshay Kumar in what, sadly, is one of his best roles at that time, is very efficient and suitably restrained. Yet, without a doubt, the show is totally stolen by Karisma Kapoor in a brilliantly self-assured performance full of passion and emotional commitment. She is totally there, expressive, heartfelt, and extremely impressive in her dance numbers.

I know many disagree with me on this one (for all I care), but I think it deserves great praise for handling a cheesy subject with sophistication and style. Dil To Pagal Hai is classic Bollywood entertainment - lighthearted, positive, and with a slight touch of a new India which must have been very refreshing for those times. Personally I may be a little biased since it does hold some nostalgic value for me, but even watching it today I loved the spectacular numbers, the melodious songs (long live Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, and the whole team of wonderful playback singers assigned to the brilliant soundtrack), the modern characters and even the love story which is efficiently incorporated into the stage shows, showing how art imitates life and vice versa within the film.

Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na

A memorably refreshing film
Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' has bits of many films, most notably 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' in the main idea of two friends who are in love with each other without being aware of their own feelings. But despite that, there was something extremely awakening and refreshing in this film. Today's generation's youth was brilliantly portrayed, and the film's biggest strength was its striking simplicity and everyday reality. The simple characters, the simple dialogue, along with the natural acting, the brilliant soundtrack by A.R Rahman, and the depiction of modern-day India made for a very fine and enjoyable movie.

The film does not only work because of its romantic nature, but also its striking portrayal of relationships, whether it's the one between Jai and Aditi, between Aditi and her brother, and particularly between Jai and his mother. Tyrewala skillfully captures the camaraderie of the group of friends, who are always there for each other. A.R.R brilliantly composes a soundtrack that effectively suits the film's youthful and rather melancholic mood. The songs are totally in sync with the situations and among the many good numbers, my favourite would be the title track, "Kabhi Kabhi Aditi". The background score is also quite good, with some nice tunes enhancing the narrative and the partly joyful, partly melancholic atmosphere of the film.

Imran Khan makes a very good debut. The guy is simple and acts quite naturally. Genelia just has the right amount of spunk and vivacity to suit the part, and although in some portions she is a bit unnatural, she grows on you as the film goes by. It might well be because the film itself catches your interest so much that at some point nothing else matters. Ratna Pathak is excellent as the caring and loving mother. Prateik Babbar does very well, and Manjari Fadnis does her part exceedingly well. Naseeruddin Shah does a fantastic cameo, as always never fearing the possibility of ridiculing himself. Paresh Rawal is as witty and funny as always.

Abbas Tyrewala's direction is fantastic and there is an impressive sensibility in the way he chooses to carry the narrative forward. The film is fast paced. Jaane Tu is not devoid of clichés. Towards the end it's far more evident because it gets dramatised, but then, Tyrewala gives it a nice touch of humour, effectively summing up this feature. JTYJN is a refreshing youthful film and it's really fun to watch. The story is nothing new, but it's injected with energy, realism and humour to create an entertaining picture that is worth revisiting.

Khuda Gawah

High on drama, low on imagination
Yes, Khuda Gawah is, lamentably, low on imagination. What it does have is loads of drama, melodrama, melo-melodrama. It is hugely unconvincing as a story, even though as a fairytale it might be a good watch for lovers of Hindi cinema. No one should be giving it too much attention, let alone take the story too seriously. The portrayal of Afghan people and culture is terribly lacking and even as an epic the emotions are so gushing and exaggerated that few people with normal patience would be able to go through it all. Ditto for the typical action scenes. What it does have is relatively good production values, nice locales and impressive costumes. The idea is interesting, since few filmmakers would be willing to step out of their comfort zone and do something like this, as flawed as the result was. Amitabh Bachchan is too old for his part, and therefore one cannot take his performance very seriously anyway. Danny Denzongpa is efficient as the loyal friend. Sridevi has sure got great histrionics, and it is sad that she was probably not good in choosing the right films. She rises above a poor script, but who does it really benefit when the quality of a film is not up to the mark and the role is so missing in depth? She is wasted even though she is responsible for some of the film's brightest moments and does well in both her roles. Khuda Gawah sure was special, but sadly, not good enough, and for me, it was just a one-time watch. Watch at your own risk.


A yawny tale
Well, this is typical Madhur Bhandarkar stuff, which pretends to be of superior quality but in actual fact is just another junk. A predictable film which aims to explore the world of life in a jail through the story of a good guy wrongly accused and jailed for no fault of his own, and well it cannot get more boring thanks to the poorly written script, and the stereotypical characters. Bhandarkar likes to explore, and devote each new project to another field, but his research for this film is marred by his own, erroneous and highly immature interpretation of what he had probably studied. The proceedings just do not ring true, and not once do you get reminded of those old Hindi films which portray the judicial system as totally corrupt. Neil Nitin Mukesh is just not convincing enough. He was a nice new find back in Johnny Gaddaar and the only film in which he managed to leave a mark for me was Saat Khoon Maaf. Otherwise in this film he's left struggling with what seems to be a great lack of acting chops. He often looks wooden, awkward, even though he does have his moments which sadly are few and far between. Mugdha Godse is just there in the role of a girl who is frankly too good to be true. Manoj Bajpai is wasted as the self-righteous prisoner. Jail just doesn't word, better avoided.

Ghar Ho To Aisa

An unintentionally funny spectacle
One of the many terrible films made during its times - Ghar Ho To Aisa is quite a joke of a film, and one which would have its viewers rightly embarrassed. Melodramatic, badly written, over-the-top and so lacking in production and artistic values that I'm pretty sure any of those involved in it would be quite willing to forget it. That said, the film, like many of its genre would be great as an unintentional comedy. The film has many famous stars including repeating their usual stuff. Anil Kapoor plays his done-to-death happy-go-lucky character, Meenakshi Sheshadree is pretty but obviously wasted, Bindu is, what else, the loud and abusive mother-in-law, Raj Kiran cast in what he used to do so often, while Deepti Naval is wasted as the submissive wife. Kader Khan is the only one who seems to have fun with his part. A silly, silly movie with no redeeming qualities.


A treat of a film and a bomb of a Vidya.
Kahaani is a wonderful, taut thriller which will keep the viewers on the edge of their seat. It is filmed rather professionally, with fantastic cinematography and great sound and score. The portrayal of Kolkatta may not be the most accurate and of the most positive, but the city is beautifully shot and is efficiently used to present the story. Sujoy Ghosh directs this feature with great mastery - Kahaani is a thrilling movie experience, thanks to his skillful direction and the impressive writing. The characters are very well presented and characterised, and the suspense is only heightened as the proceedings unfold. The film is of course a good example of a complete package, and this package wouldn't have been complete without the presence of a terrific Vidya Balan. This lady's career seems to be reaching impossible heights as she does not tire of delivering one great performance after the other. Her brilliantly understated performance here is another astonishing portrait of strength and maturity. She is well supported by several actors, all of whom give credible performances and make the film work. Kahaani is overall a superior piece of storytelling and an altogether worthy effort. Not to be missed.


A wonderfully bizarre comedy and a delightful Mukherjee
Aiyyaa was a major critical and financial failure, but having seen the nice trailer and liked it, and considering the fact that Rani Mukherjee is in it, I most willingly decided to watch it. I personally found Aiyya to be thoroughly enjoyable. It is a slightly mad but totally relatable comic ride which is well written and acted and which has plenty of great moments. The humour is indeed very different from what we are used to watching in the usual Bollywood fare, and the basic concept of a woman just going 'aiyyaa' over a stranger whose mysterious fragrance attracts her the most may be quite weird at points. But, it is this very premise which makes this little film ever more unique and funny. The film is portrayed rather realistically, with the sets, costumes and dialogue giving it an engaging sense of everyday simplicity, while being consistently humorous. The portrayal of Meenakshi's Marathi family is very amusing, and the songs are quite fun to watch. Aiyyaa's biggest strength, however, is the portrayal of its main character; Meenakshi finds a way to deal with her everyday troubles through the power of the imagination. She creates her own perfect, spiritual world, using her dreams without really losing herself. In this regard, Aiyyaa works as a mini-celebration of the human spirit.

All of this, however, wouldn't have been the same without the wonderful presence of Rani Mukherjee. Mukherjee is a true delight in this film. Her last great performance was in a minuscule part in Saawariya, and it's been ages since we've seen her really immerse herself into a character, as she does here. As Meenakshi, she is hilarious and at times just borderline self-deprecatory. It is this uninhibited, fearless quality that makes this comic performance work so well. Her dance numbers, needless to say, are brilliant and she looks a million bucks in each one of them. South Indian actor Prithviraj is for the most part a mere presence on-screen, but he does pretty well and is good foil for Mukherjee. The other members of the cast are all very good and turn in nice and funny acts. Towards the end the film provides us with some of its most beautiful sequences. The climactic scenes are very surprising and the ending is unexpected and rewarding. This is also the opportunity to note the excellent cinematography, and the amazing background score, which enhance the narrative. Aiyyaa is an absolute laugh riot which has been misunderstood and rejected by critics and audiences just for the wrong reasons. I liked it, and would definitely recommend it to Hindi film buffs.

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