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Reviews

OK Jaanu
(2017)

OK Jaanu
Directed by : Shaad Ali Star cast : Aditya Roy Kapur,Shraddha Kapoor, Naseerudding Shah, Leela Samson Music : AR Rahman

While we are recovering from the torment that Aditya Chopra inflicted on us with his take on modern-day live-in relationships Befikre that released almost a month back, Shaad Ali's OK Jaanu, a scene-by-scene rehash of Maniratnam's Tamil superhit - O Kadhal Kanmani,has ensured that we stick to the inertia. The millennial romance which stars the love-struck couple, Adi(Aditya Roy Kapur) a Techie who devises computer games and is headed for Silicon Valley and Tara( Shraddha Kapoor)who wants to pursue Architecture as a career in Paris, doesn't offer anything new but brings back memories of Saathiya, Shaad's first foray into Bollywood as director.

Adi and Tara meet at a friend's wedding and sparks fly instantly. They start dating each other and eventually live-in.Both are sure about their relationship clause - they don't to string in any form of commitment into it.Both have different ambitions and want to pursue their dreams independently. Until love gets in the way .Shaad offers us with a been there-seen that premise, without any interesting moments spicing up the plot. Rather it's interesting to see the elderly couple who are Adi's landlord, played by the versatile Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson.Unlike Adi and Tara, their love has endured misfortune and defied time. This couple makes the younger ones realize the deeper meaning of love.

Both Kapur and Kapoor are sincere in their respective parts and they share an effortlessly easy chemistry with each other, but they are not magnetic enough to distract us from the film's flaws - its juvenile writing and the hollow plot. Bereft of emotional depth, rarely does it try to induce a sense of urgency. In fact, AR Rahman's infectious soundtracks (employed from the original) is a major mercy, which glosses over the film's flat narrative.

A word of praise for DOP, Ravi K Chandran who immaculately captures the essence of the Mumbai city - its crowd, the buses , the locals. Its vibrant and colorful.I was awestruck with the nuances of the Begum Akhtar paintings and the vignettes of the monuments (in Ahmedabad) brought on the celluloid, and also the artistically- curated rooms .And mind you, there is too much of it which jars your head..like the frequent montages of Adi and Tara pubbing at night clubs and driving endlessly on the Mumbai streets.

On the whole, OK Jaanu is a strictly OK, feel-good movie which hardly shows much potential. Its like a soufflé that will sink like a stone at the box office.

Dear Zindagi
(2016)

Dear Zindagi
Four years back, English Vinglish, directed by Gauri Shinde, attempted to instill a great degree of self-respect and liberated attitude in the housewives through her cinematic vision which also mirrored the stigmas and narrow-mindedness of our society. Her second directorial venture, Dear Zindagi ,too tries to snuff out the rooted prejudices against mental illness and seeking therapy for its remedy.It is a slice-of- life drama set in an urban milieu which gives sweet little but insightful messages about life while employing the interactions between the protagonist and her life coach as the agent.

Alia Bhatt plays Kaira,a young, independent and budding cinematographer working in Mumbai ,whose life is in a mess.Volatile and commitment phobic,she is grappling to come over the bitter break-up with her boyfriend and her major problems arise out of her insecurities in life.She returns to Goa, her native,to stay for some time with her parents with whom she also has some unsettled issues - something that our youth would so strongly identify with.It is where she finds her shrink in Dr. Jahangir Khan( Shah Rukh Khan), a mental therapist, who helps her overcome her inner demons by giving a whole new perspective of life.

With a spanking new and refreshing approach, Gauri Shinde makes the right noise with utter sensitivity and sensibility. The film has got its heart at the right place but the major drawback lies in its languid pace and meandering plot.You really wouldn't mind grabbing a popcorn in between and even step out second time for a beverage, thanks to its lazy momentum. To give credit where it's due, some of the sequences sparkle with the way they are depicted. Kaira's sessions with Jugs(Jahangir)are deeply engrossing and specially her moment of emotional breakdown, while narrating her tumultuous childhood backstory brought a lump in my throat. The narrative sees their interaction unravel against the scenic landscape of Goa with Amit Trivedi's soulful scores injected at the right junctures. However, you can't discount the contrivances in terms of the short- lived romantic flings of Kaira with her suitors.

The prime reason to stay invested with this fare is the intuitive performance of Alia and the level of genuineness she brings on the board.She works on her instincts,without a hint of affectation and that's what makes her character so relatable. Its a treat to watch Shah Rukh khan come back to his restrained self where the power of performance triumphs over his megastar image.With a dash of natural charm and empathetic lines, Shah Rukh complements Alia in the 'therapy' sequences toweringly. The film's preachy tones get subdued with their sheer dynamics which inflict us with genuine warmth and awe.The supporting ensemble appear in flashes - Kunal Roy Kapoor, Ali Zafar,Angad Bedi and Ira Dubey are sincere in their respective parts, but the script doesn't give them much of opportunity to make an impact. Yashaswini Dayama who plays Alia' best buddy is a revelation!

I go with 2 and half out of 5 for Dear Zindagi, an extra half for Alia's knock-out performance.

Rock On 2
(2016)

Rock On 2
Directed by Shujaat Saudagar, Rock On 2 chronicles the journey of the estranged music band Magik after 5 years where the prequel had left it.Here , the friends – Adi,Joe and KD( respectively played by Farhan,Arjun Rampal and Purab Kohli) who are busy with their individual lives, unite for a purpose and with the inclusion of new talents – Jia(Shraddha Kapoor) and Uday(Shashank Arora).

Unlike Rock On,which blended music so seamlessly into the film's emotional fabric , the sequel doesn't quite recreate the 'magik' of its original.Saudagar's approach appears labored and the narrative is saddled with plot contrivances that you can guess from a mile.The film's bright spots lie with the assuring camaraderie with the Magik men, even though they have transformed into more mature,sullen and mellowed versions from their impulsive selves' with the lapse of time.The visuals of the Meghalayan landscape is stunning and juxtaposing Shillong as the rock capital is a righteous endeavor.

The films tracks have nothing great to rave about and the emotional core seldom connects with our hearts.But to give the credits where its due,its the earnest performances of the actors – Farhan,Arjun and Purab that makes you stay invested with it.

Rating 2.5/5

Befikre
(2016)

Befikre : Paratha wins over Peanut-butter sandwich!
The conspicuous promos of Aditya Chopra's Befikre which showed its leading stars,Ranvir Singh and Vaani Kapoor,doing some crazy and bizarre things and kissing endlessly on the streets of Paris,did give a clear indication that it is Chopra's tryst with Rom-com, a genre that still has to evolve more in the Hindi cinema space.Here, he follows the same template - the couple instantly are attracted to each other, they go in for a relationship and they have bitter conflicts and that precipitates towards the end.But the relieving part here is that,he makes the message clear - this is not a movie to be taken seriously.

Delhi-bred Dharam(Ranvir Singh)arrives in Paris to perform as a stand-up comedian in an Indian Bar.He meets the spunky tour- guide,Shyra(Vaani Kapoor),an Indian girl born and brought up in Paris and identifying herself as French. Dharam is a cauldron of unbridled energy and wild mojo, a kind of guy who hits on every woman he sees and Shyra is volatile ,vulnerable,unapologetic and temperamental,who is getting over a break-up with an ex.The two instantly hook up, engage in carnal pleasures and soon go in for a live-in and all of these happen in a jiffy , much to the astonishment of Shyra's parents and even ours! Their bonding comes with a disclaimer - there is no space for long-term commitment or marriage.Gradually,the cracks begin to show and it calls for an end.She mocks at his attitude calling it as a typical 'Delhi-waala' , He calls her a slut ! And slowly as time passes by..they realize that the essence of their relationship lies in 'Friendship'.

The first half of the narrative is fast-paced and breezy and provides ample avenues for laughter .Soaked with the quintessential tropes of the banner - gorgeous locales,handsome men and ravishing ladies, standout songs( Vishal Shekhar foot-tapping music) with a strong influence of European-flavored melody, it puts Paris in the same league that Yash Chopra did for Switzerland.The city of light is given a perpetual carnival feel amidst all the singing, dancing, kissing and beer-guzzling.

At one point, the two protagonists,moderately drunk,admit during their dissectional conversation that they were driven by lust and perhaps love never permeated into their relationship.Befikre becomes an exhausting journey thereafter.The couple stays friends post their break-up, start dating other people and even get engaged to them while feeling the pinch of insecurity and jealousy, making it predictably routine and you can guess from a mile that it will end up the Love Aaj Kal way.You feel deceived when Chopra settles in for a facile climax, which is so unabashedly borrowed from Priyadarshan's fares.

With Befikre, Aditya Chopra tries to reinvent the wheel of modern- day romance, something which has already been dabbled umpteen times in the flicks from Yash-raj stable.For sure, its a radical shift for Chopra ,whose directorial ventures(DDLJ,Mohabbatein,Rab Ne) have always resonated with conservative Indian sensibilities, to have forayed into the Tinder generation where

its casual for youngsters to slip into the bed-sheets only some moments after they hook up. But still, he can't restrict himself from self-referencing and bunging into our deep-rooted Indian values.A candid 'paratha vs sandwich' exchange of words between Shyra and her mom where the latter gives a wise insight into Shyra's predicament is a clear throwback to the nostalgic mother-daughter scene of DDLJ.

Crucially,the film rests on Ranvir Singh's shoulders and the wild frenzy he exudes on the screen.With a tailor-made role, Ranvir deep- dives into the skin of Dharam and does everything to escalate the bland script.He infuses a raunchy charm in each of the scenes with some real witty( and wicked)and funny dialogues.Vaani Kapoor stands up commendably against her leading man and displays ample confidence, considering the fact that its only her second Bollywood film.The duo is remarkably at ease in portraying their testosterone- charged passion for each other.

The basic problem with Befikre is its inane writing and manicured treatment.Though the sexually-driven leads engage in 'I Dare You' and lip-locks multiple times during the course of the movie,there is a dearth of genuine emotion and seldom do they inflict their mental turmoil on us.

Well, Chopra's Befikre is not entirely satisfying and consummating . I go with 2 and half stars out of 5 for Befikre. An additional half only for Ranvir Singh.

Kahaani 2
(2016)

Kahaani 2 Review
Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh swiftly camouflages into a murky thriller when its protagonist,Vidya Sinha(played by Vidya Balan),an inhabitant of Chandan Nagar in West Bengal and working in a low-key government office,gets an abrupt phone call from the abductor soon after her daughter is kidnapped.She meets with an accident while on her hurried pursuit and slips into coma.When the hit-n-run case gets into investigation by the newly transferred sub- inspector,Inderjit Sinha(Arjun Rampal),he chances upon a diary which forms the voice of the narration

revealing some scathing secrets and thorny past.We are told she is a wanted criminal, accused of murder and kidnapping. Ghosh, this time, gives a textured feel to the small town and Balan fits into the milieu effortlessly.The first half is solid ,instantly gripping and exquisitely intriguing.It unravels through flashbacks like an unsolved puzzle.Dealing with a sensitive subject here,he and co- writer Suresh Nair pump in sufficient mystery and creepiness with its characters - 'The Dewans' comprising of the finicky grandmother(Amba Sanyal),the uncle(Jugal Hansraj) and the kid, Minni.Alternating between Chandan Nagar, a hill station-like place called Kalimpong and Kolkata, the moderately-paced narrative hinges itself on the conveniently written diary , with Tapan Basu's nuanced cinematography revealing a sense of moody atmospherics and Darshan Jalan's costumes staying faithful to the characters.

Post intermission, the film collapses like a house of words,after getting into a loop of predictability and plot contrivances.The biggest flaw with Kahaani 2 is that it doesn't develop a sense of urgency, and when you are waiting for a jolting climax, it just shies away from it so disappointingly.The motivations of the villains are treated quite flimsily and the relationship between the cop and the wanted criminal is never explored.

But even when the film stumbles, its leading lady provides the buoyancy,Vidya Balan stays firmly committed and sinks her teeth into to her character and powers this inconsistent film with her gritty portrayal.She evokes an authentic feeling by embracing a de-glam look.Vulnerable, hysterical and yet with a streak of defiance, she is most of the meat on this skeleton. Arjun Rampal, who delivered a meaty performance three weeks back in Rock On-2, brings in a lot of calibration on board and assimilates the part of the laconic cop well,displaying sharp wits when required.You wouldn't chuckle but find the conversations between Rampal and his ignoramus senior cop Haldar( played by Kharaj Mukherjee) quite interesting. Mukherjee is impressive, exuding the vibes of the quintessential Bengali who is impulsively bossy.

I left the theater mourning that it could have been a much better film.Even the femme fatale who shows up in a couple of scenes doesn't equate to the chilling assassin,Bob Biswas from the prequel. Yet it would be heartening to see Kahaani take the shape of a franchise.

My Rating : 2.5/5

Force 2
(2016)

FORCE 2 Review
FORCE, the sleeper hit of 2011, gave us a super-tough and unbreakable Dwayne Johnson-type hero in the form of ACP Yashvardhan( John Abraham) and gritty action in the form of raw fists. Carrying the legacy forward and building it into a franchise, Force 2, produced by Vipul Shah and directed by Abhinay Deo( of Delly Belly, 24 fame) is an orgy of relentless action and visceral chases which delivers breathless thrills but falls short of a compelling story- telling.

Mixing facts and fiction, Deo centers his plot on a larger issue with international elements where Yash must collaborate with a RAW official, Kamaljeet Kaur, aka KK( Sonakshi Sinha) to nab the mastermind, Shiv Sharma(Tahir Raj Bhasin) behind the grisly killing of three RAW agents in the south-east Asian geography, one of them being a close friend of him. What ensues is a deadly cat and mouse game, with the rampage spilling over the streets, apartments and every possible lanes of Budapest. Trying hard to strike a balance between realism and style, the film grapples with offering some smart and slick moves in execution. The first half boasts of some terrific and amazingly choreographed action and foot chases to a rousing crescendo and a twist at the intermission, but doesn't live up to the expectations as it gets too repetitive and predictable, with a climax that is no less than a 3D video-game extravaganza. The prequel had immense grit and gave us a menacing antagonist whose schemes made us curl up in our seats; here the cunning Shiv outsmarts the team ( Yash, KK) and ridicules them as losers, while the two are still settling on their differences in working styles which unintentionally induces some humor.

At the helm of affairs is John Abraham who is blazingly convincing as he breaks bones and walls and can even lift cars, restricting them to propel forward even though his shoulder is stabbed with a nail. With a beefed-up musculature, he is genuine and fits seamlessly into the action arena while reprising his character who still longs for his dead wife from the prequel. But his character is sadly single-note and John doesn't stretch his histrionics beyond flaring up his nostrils. After Akira this year, Sonakshi takes another shot at action but she is saddled with an under-etched characterization. Unlike ACP Yash, the plot doesn't familiarize us with her.Tahir Bhasin ,is a show-stealer when it comes to acting and this immensely talented guy can make us loathe him for his depiction of sheer wickedness. It's a character that immediately resonates with that he played in Mardaani, but the backstory to show his vulnerable side lacks depth and doesn't strike a chord with us. It's a shame on the writing that a talented actor like Narendra Jha is wasted and relegated to the background and Adil Hussain gets a forgettable cameo.

As a film which positions itself as a tribute to the unsung heroes who die on duty serving covert intelligence operations and face the brunt of apathy their families face when our government disowns them, Force 2 has a diluted impact and doesn't nail the idea. Nevertheless, it is a decent entertainer that offers popcorn potboiler thrills even though failing to conjure up some urgency- inducing moments.

Rating 2.5/5

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
(2016)

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil is Johar's alchemy on the complicacies of relationships which walk on the blurred borderline of romance and platonic love.It can be simply put as - old wine in new bottle, significantly echoing the pathos (we saw and grew up with) in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and the later released IMtiaz Ali's Rockstar.

Johar sledgehammers us with his monumental principle of love - 'Love is Friendship' and 'you must face heartbreak to be a great musician' in a plot that is barely serviceable and dwells on his comfortable cinematic space - Rich and overtly beautiful NRI characters in exotic places, residing in plush studio rooms, frequenting to night clubs at the drop of a hat, brimming with exquisite costumes and in seemingly extraordinary circumstances.

The landscape belongs to London here. A budding singer, Ayan(Ranbir Kapoor) and a spunky Alizeh(Anushka Sharma) hit-off instantly at a pub and become the thickest of friends,despite a bad date.Though Ayan is romantically attracted to Alizeh, she doesn't feel the same way and still nurtures feelings for her old flame,Ali(Fawaad Khan).He has to cure his heartbreak when his love goes unrequited, and finds solace under the seduction of a poetess,Saba( Aishwarya Rai Bachchan).

Starting off well with youthful vibes and funny jibes at the cheesy Bollywood songs of 1980s, the narrative takes an awful downward spiral post intermission when Johar throws his protagonists into an emotional whirlwind culminating with a heavily contrived twist in the tale. But that doesn't entirely undermine some of the sensitive scenes handled with great emotional depth and maturity - Johar stamps his indelible marks there. It also gets a boost from Pritam's compelling music and Amitabh Bhattacharya's thought-provoking lyrics, crooned with all empathy by Arijit Singh.

Despite an unpardonably meandering and aimless plot, the film finds its sheer strength in the boundless and effortless energy exuded by Ranbir and Anushka. With such great camaraderie and smooth dynamics without a hint of affectation, they are a treat to watch. Ranbir depicts the pain of a jilted lover with lot of intrinsic philosophy. His character has a gradual transformation graph – from a shaky man- child to an embittered subdued, and the actor makes the ache palpable. Anushka portrays the complexity of Alizeh with conviction, loading her character with practicality. Aishwarya Rai dazzles in her short- lived, extended cameo and speaks only in poetic verses, while Fawad has minimal screen footage, much against the speculation prior to the controversy that hovered over the film's release. Lisa Haydon is a real hoot and aces her opportunity while Imran Abbas comes across awfully stiff.

Johar, in the attempt to establish his point, takes us through a slog but gives a modern , relatable and realistic dope on love. I wish it was made in a smarter way.

Shivaay
(2016)

Shivaay Movie Review
It takes a special kind of talent to make a film like Shivaay - Ajay Devgan steps into Director's shoes, plays the heavily 'tattoo ed' titular protagonist of the much ambitious adventure..err...misadventure which fails miserably in terms of its placement - a thriller ? an action-adventure ? an emotional saga of father and daughter? Whipping up a cocktail of a harebrained plot , some jaw-dropping action scenes against the terrific and exotic foreign locales and an uninspiring narrative , Devgan leaves no stone unturned in jarring our heads. A common man turning into an unstoppable and lethal force when it comes to save his family or loved ones - is a premise that has been witnessed zillion times in the annals of Bollywood.

Playing a mountaineer in the Himalayas and a single father whose mute daughter gets kidnapped by human traffickers in Bulgaria, he unleashes hell on all the wrong-doers and it quite literally becomes a one-man fight against the network of the baddies and those in the garb of cops.

Devgan is virtually in every frame and other accomplished actors like Girish Karnad , Saurabh Shukla hardly have a character sketch.At certain situations, his suffering due to his missing daughter is palpable but the short-lived romantic interlude comes across as laughably cringy.The foreign actors - Erika Kaar and Abigail Eames are mere marionettes and don't seize even a moment to provide the much-needed emotional wallop.Little respite comes from Mithoon's melodious scores and the British Band The Vamps who have devised the absorbing title track.

Its disappointing to see such a lavishly mounted film on a hefty budget derailing off its tracks , without any grip to hold your attention.

'A helluva excruciating film further weighed down by a sloppy script, only occasionally uplifted with awe-inspiring stunts" I am going with a generous 1.5 stars

Sultan
(2016)

SULTAN movie review : "Yet another underdog story from Bollywood, with Salman delivering performance of a lifetime!"
Riding on the super stardom of Salman Khan, director Ali Abbas Zafar's Sultan is a sports drama which mixes elements of love, loss,success,pride, sacrifice and ultimately the triumph of the 'never-give-up' spirit. It chronicles the journey of a small town wrestler from the hinterlands of Haryana, Sultan Ali Khan(played by Salman Khan) - his rise, fall and his comeback to the ring and above all, his struggle with what lies within.

A small time cable-TV guy, Sultan is smitten by the beautiful, Aarfa(Anushka Sharma), a lady wrestler and in order to win her love,joins the 'akhaada' run by her father,who coaches the wannabe wrestlers.The happy-go-lucky guy finds a purpose in life when he is humiliated by her girl who sees him no lesser than a clown.In order to prove himself, Sultan embarks on a rigorous journey of self- transformation and goes on to win the state level championship.And then there is no stopping, he becomes an icon and wins laurels at International level as well.Sultan and Aarfa get married and start a family.All is hunky dory till a major setback brings fissure in their relationship and impel him to relinquish the ring.Its only after a hiatus, that the owner of a mixed martial art franchise coaxes him to come back to the ring and reclaim his glory and conquer his guilt.

Zafar weaves a plot that has all the trappings of a commercial potboiler but the spotlight here is the dedication and earnestness that Salman brings to his character and the brawny masculinity that a wrestler exhibits.The ring-fights are pulsating and your adrenaline gushes fast when Sultan thrashes his opponents with his deadly 'dhobi' slams, with the 'sultan anthem' running on high decibels.His emotional moments with his girlfriend-turned-wife ,Aarfa( played by Anushka Sharma) soar high, complemented by an admirable performance by the actress who also plays a feisty lady wrestler.Though the complexities in their conjugal relationship are well-touched, keeping in mind our Indian sensibilities,I wish the writers had developed more layers to Anuska's character.With Salman doing the heavy-lifting,she is almost cornered in the film's post interval portions.The actor, however, is in complete form - delivering a mature performance with remarkable credibility.He is the quintessential man-child,and exudes that facade with flourish.Turning guilt and redemption into a fine art, Salman makes Sultan tread the thin line between arrogance and pride.

The film gets a positive fillip from the impressive performances of the supporting cast - Sultan's chaddi buddy, played by Anant Sharma is specially terrific, Randeep Hooda as the cynical coach, Kumud Mishra as the inherently supportive father-in-law and the entrepreneur with a heart,played by Amit Sadh.The training regimes will leave you in awe,which transform the forty something paunchy and grizzly Sultan back to shape,vigor and a fiery temperament.Vishal Shekhar's Music is groovy and pitched at right intervals.Powered with great detailing, the sets are extravagant and the ring fights are truly brutal and authentic.

With a butt-numbing running time of 2 hours and 50 minutes, Sultan feels dragged with a swelled-up second half and falls into the typical Bollywood clichés.Its only Salman's charisma that propels the plot forward.

This is a perfect 'Eid' Gift from Bollywood's infant terrible,Sallu Bhaijaan. One deserves every bit of this wholesome entertainer.

Fitoor
(2016)

FITOOR : Too much of obsession
A tale of star-crossed lovers who come under the strictures of societal class divide, Fitoor is director Abhishek Kapoor's cinematic interpretation of Charles Dicken's novel 'The Great Expectations' that is artistically splendid but falls below expectations from a holistic perspective.

Chronicling the story of Noor( Aditya Roy Kapoor) and his obsession for Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) who is the daughter of a rich Kashmiri heiress, Begum Hazrat(Tabu), Fitoor unfolds lazily against the ethereal backdrop of snow-clad Kashmir.With a mood reminiscent of the acclaimed hit of 2014,Haider, the narrative never catches the momentum because of its frivolous juxtaposition of the tension that lurks in every corner of the militant-infested place.A thirteen-year old Noor is smitten by the charming Firdaus, who introduces him to the aristocracy and affluence surrounding their mansion and Begum takes an instant liking at his creative paintings, appointing him as a caretaker of their stable.While the teenagers develop friendship,Noor is constantly alerted by the vengeful Begum about his vainness of being in love with Firdaus.And as part of an orchestrated retribution,one fine day she sends off Firdaus to London leaving the heartbroken Noor with her memories.

But as luck would have it, they meet again after a gap of fifteen years in Delhi where Noor has landed through an anonymous benefactor to pursue a promising career in arts and Firdaus has blossomed into a haughty and ravishing beauty, but engaged to a Pakistani Politician, which is more like an elitist alliance.What follows is a tumultuous saga of love that faces friction, hardships and volatility of emotions.

With a compelling camera-work(Anay Goswami) and poetic musical scores(Amit Trivedi) that provides awe-inspiring vignettes, Kapoor tries to emulate a complex plot but the inconsistencies are glaring for its snail pace.No doubt,he has envisioned a historical masterpiece and mounts it lavishly in a contemporary milieu and deserves all credit for shaping this ambitious project.The first half of the film is engaging,it draws us into the characters soaked with sorrow and anguish.Its only the second hour that disappoints where the film derails off the track and digresses into unintentional moodiness.Kapoor's screenplay takes too long to establish the central conflict, and the romantic chemistry between Noor and Firdaus keeps losing the fizz with every passing minute.

Yet for most of the parts, it keeps us invested mostly because of the strong performances from the central cast.Tabu, delivering a master stroke portraying the multi-layered Begum, Aditya articulating Noor's vulnerability and passion with spunk and Katrina imbuing the impenetrable Firdaus with grace.Rahul Bhat impresses as the hard- nosed fiancée, Lara Dutta is cut-short and Aditi Rao Hydari who portrays the younger version of Begum exudes immense charm, and depicts the hollowness of life after being wronged in love.

Fitoor, indubitably, brims with aesthetic delight in all respects.Crucially, the visual extravaganza doesn't warrant a completely satisfying movie-watching experience.

Rating 2.5/5

The Walk
(2015)

THE WALK : Absolutely enthralling
A word of caution : People with vertigo or acrophobia should really think twice before watching this movie.

For the rest, let me tell you that this is of the most thrilling and satiating movie-watching experiences of this year! Based on the real story of the French high-wire walker Philippe Petit who walked between the twin towers of the World Trade Center on 7 August 1974 , at an incredible height of over 400 meters,The Walk directed by Robert Zemeckis ( of Forrest Gump,Cast Away fame)starts off with a predictable element when we see that the protagonist deftly played by Joseph Gordon Levitt narrates his experience of the rare feat achieved.We know that he accomplished the act successfully, but its the beauty of the narrative and the sheer magical energy which keeps us invested for two hours.

Through the nicely crafted sets, it transports us to the early 70s and the French milieu where we wee the the young Phillippe performing jugglery on the streets , and yet holding a passion to do something extraordinary.He doesn't want to get cornered as a mere circus clown but aspires to be a revered artist.Phillipe is driven by a rare streak of insanity , and when he discloses the idea of walking between the twin towers without life support to his mentor,circus man Papa Rudy(Ben Kingsley), it is met with a strong disapproval.The initial portions of the film focuses on his journey from Paris to New York , his romantic indulgence with Annie(Charlotte Le Bon)and how he gathers his accomplices for the coup. Zemeckis instills some subtle dopes of humor into the proceedings while all the planning before the D-Day almost shape

up like a heist movie.

It provides an amazing IMAX experience which works because of the immersive cinematography and the lucid execution by Zemeckis.There is a superlative interplay of technical wizardry and visual ecstasy as Zemeckis infuses a soul into the void space between the twin towers.Watching the last twenty minutes when the real act is performed , with the clouds playing razzmatazz over the sunrise is deeply compelling.

Joseph Gordon Levitt does a phenomenal job playing Philipppe and exudes unbridled enthusiasm,irresistible charm and innate bashfulness inherent to the character.He

does complete justice enacting the man who became a living epitome of strong will,determination and triumph of human spirit.He is ably supported by the talented Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon and his group of accomplices.

Kudos to Zemeckis for prudently balancing the breath-taking visuals and the fact-based drama and creating an absolute masterpiece.

Rating : 4.5/5

Singh Is Bliing
(2015)

Singh is Bliing review
If I am asked to evaluate Prabhudeva's credentials as a director, I would say the box office outcomes of two of his last outings - Rowdy Rathore and Action Jackson has made him smart.One was an uproarious hit and the latter was excruciatingly disastrous. Singh is Bliing which marks the second collaboration of Akshay Kumar and Prabhudeva, has the right recipe for raking the moolah with smart placement of mindless humor, silly jokes, exotic locales, NRI heroine and of course the hero, playing a Sardar, with immense crowd-pull.

And he certainly knows how to maneuver Akshay in his comfortable space.Give him a hollow script and challenge him a bit.Your job is mostly done! So Singh is Bliing sees him playing Raftaar Singh, a slacker who spends all his time either dancing to the tunes of 'Tung Tung' or performing stunts or wrestling for fun.In a sequence involving a lion in the cage , Prabhudeva brings out the disarming goofiness of the good-natured simpleton,who has such extreme reverence for his Bauji(Yograj Singh) that whenever he appears, Raftaar squats. Fed up with his good-for-nothing son, he sends him off to Goa to work for his friend, Kripal(Pradeep Rawat)who runs a casino. The plot switches to Romania where we see two dons at loggerheads,Kunal Shashi Kapoor who has a beautiful daughter Sara(Amy Jackson) and Marc(Kay Kay).Marc has a roving eye for Sara and therefore her dad sends her to Goa, Kripal's den. Upon her arrival, Raftaar is asked to provide her 24X7 security but the problem arises when he learns that Sara doesn't know Hindi and Raftaar can neither understand nor speak English.He appoints a translator,Emily(Lara Dutta)to make the job easy but on the contrary, there ensues a comedy of errors with Raftaar's bumbling buddy duo(Arfi Lamba and Anil Mange) and some hilarious situations.

The first half of the film is breezy and Prabhudeva whips up the wafer-thin plot with 'Punjabi' tadka and generous dose of humor which include some wacky pieces of comedy and sexist jokes.However, they don't appear vulgar and are not meant to be.He employs a myriad stereotypes but presents the colorful vignettes of the hinterland which captures the various flavors and fervor of the Punjabis.We see Raftar's gang of 'balle-balle' friends appearing from nowhere and dancing in revelry whenever he gets down from train, a stern father who is soft from within , and a mother sharing warmth and eye-ticks with his son.The lush greeneries,wide-angle shots of the mustard fields of Punjab, the exquisite landscape of Goa and Romania play to the film's cinematic benefits.Its the amateurish writing that plagues the second half.This is further jeopardized by some unnecessary songs acting as speed bumps.Amy's search for her long- lost mom doesn't evoke any sentiments because it is so flimsy and I was shocked with disbelief when Akshay survives Kay Kay's bullet below his chest in the climax.No logic provided!

Prabhu has utilized the star cast prudently, concealing their limitations. Example,Amy who plays Akshay's love interest, is shown as a martial-art champ decimating the goons to pulp, much more proficiently than Akshay does.Lara Dutta's comic timing is exploited judiciously. The supporting cast comprising of Yograj Singh,Rati Agnihotri and Kunal Shashi Kapoor( seen after a hiatus) does a decent job who are relatively understated among the crowd of actors who perform over-the-top.Kay Kay Menon is completely miscast in the role of the mafioso, and it's a shame to watch the actor in such a cardboard caricature uttering the seemingly cool punchlines repeatedly ,"I am too good na" or "Easy is boring!". He certainly deserves better as per his acting prowess. Yet the film is not unwatchable because of the sheer energy that Akshay Kumar projects on the screen. His tomfoolery is infectious,his antics are endearing and he is the cool Punjab-da- puttar donning the turban and the vibrant costumes.

It's agreeably a film with very low IQ, but strong EQ. Definitely , not boring.

Brothers
(2015)

BROTHERS Review
Official remake of the 2011 Hollywood drama, WARRIOR , BROTHERS which is helmed by Dharma Productions is the story of two estranged half-siblings who vent out their hatred for each other in the fight arena. David(Akshay Kumar) and Monty(Siddharth Malhotra)come face to face in the ultimate fight in a one-of-its-kind championship.

A businessman, Peter Braganza ( Kiran Kumar, brimming with sartorial elegance)sees tremendous avenue in legalizing street-fighting and proposes to bring the Mixed Martial Art to India, in the form of an IPL-Style competition, R2F(Right to Fight).While the elder brother ,David, who is suspended from his teacher-ship job sees this as an opportunity to earn quick bucks for his ailing daughter, the younger one, Monty, seeks this as a medium to combat his inner demons and boost up his self-esteem. Both the brothers have street-fighting running in their blood, and a sea of pent-up anger and resentment owing to an incident which had turned them against one another. While the prison-returned father, Gary(Jackkie Shroff) who was once a martial- art trainer , stays with Monty, his attempts of reconciliation with the embittered David turn futile.

Weighed down by a clichéd screenplay and an old-school treatment which shadow the excruciatingly slow first-half, Brothers is somewhat salvaged by the skillfully staged ring fights which build the momentum in the second half. The sets are flashy , the duels are gruesome, detailed and boast of international standards. While staying faithful to the original template, Karan Malhotra makes some manipulations to amp up the emotional content which appear heavily superficial and gives us an 80's feel. That's where Brothers go wrong; He misses out in emulating the tumultuous relationships in the dysfunctional family and thereby we don't invest much in their emotional conflicts. Neither do the cheesy running commentary during the fights(Raj Zutshi hams it up) entice us nor the monstrous opponents qualify for an intimidating impact. They however evoke deja vu with names like Luka( Remember Apne?),Gamma and Hammer. Adding on to the exasperation, is the regressive item number by Kareena Kapoor Khan which by no standards match up to Chikni Chameli.

Sincere and genuine performances by Akshay Kumar and Siddharth Malhotra who also look convincing with their beefed-up musculature, adds to film's strengths. Karan also employs the montages of the training and physical regimes to its benefits. Akshay is terrific in his understated self, who beats his opponents in calculative precision. He makes David's grief and anxiety for his suffering daughter palpable.On the other hand, Siddharth is impulsive and spews a volcanic rage in each of the sequences, thereby giving a sharp and vulnerable edge to Monty's character. When one brother punches the other in a fracas, the pain is actually inflicted on the father. This sentiment surfaces naturally with the competent portrayal of Gary by Jackkie Shroff. Initially as the alcoholic husband and then as the repenting father, he is first-rate. But in some of the scenes, he goes over-the-top with the paroxysms of hallucinations of his dead wife.

Blame it on the subject or the script, the female brigade doesn't get much scope here. But Shefali Shah does forge a strong impression in a cameo with her expressive eyes. Jaqueline is sullen most of the time in a de-glam avatar which doesn't go quite well with her persona, except for that scene where she jumps in a fit of excitement on getting the SMS. The supporting ensemble sees the likes of Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Kiran Kumar and Asutosh Rana and it's sad that none of their potentials are exploited fully.

There is a certain drawback associated with every Desi sports drama flick when the predictability factor looms large, and it's a triumph for the makers when the audience doesn't want either opponent to lose in the fight. This is one aspect, albeit borrowed, which Karan Malhotra nails completely. Brothers, with all its share of punches and kicks, is a good watch for the action lovers.

Masaan
(2015)

MASAAN : Fly Away Solo
For years,Hindi cinema has projected Banaras as the quintessential town in our semi-urban milieu symbolizing purity, divinity and sacredness.Director Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan,however, is a strikingly radical departure which examines four different lives - bruised and battered with setbacks, against the backdrop of the holy ghats of Ganges.

Masaan becomes a metaphor for the emotional loss and upliftment, as it witnesses these ordinary people getting sucked into the vortex of tragedy and its implications.Devi(Richa Chaddha) gets caught red- handed with her boyfriend in a shady hotel room by the police which eventually leads to a mishap.His father(Sanjay Mishra), an ex- Sanksrit teacher, is blackmailed by a corrupt policeman who demands hefty bribe.Another parallel narrative follows a bright young diploma student , Deepak(Vicky Kaushal) from a low-caste corpse burners family who falls in love with an upper caste girl and sees a new lease of life until the unfortunate bereavement strikes him.

Ghaywan gives us a shock right at the outset and allows that to be absorbed gradually with a gripping tale that's heart-breaking, sometimes disturbing and yet spiritually uplifting.Raising an elusive diatribe against the parochial mindset of our society and the fading morality of a father who resorts to cheap means to acquire funds for the bribe,he crafts a deeply believable world with authentic characters whom we would love to invest on.The story- telling adds grit and gumption to the plot and has a lyrical quality to it.Avinash Dhaware's astounding cinematography captures the myriad moods of the city and even the ashes and flames of the funeral pyre to convey the deep- rooted meanings of life and death.

Powered with brilliant performances from Richa Chaddha,Sanjay Mishra and new find Vicky Kaushal, Masaan makes a lasting impression with its soul-stirring musical scores and more importantly Varun Grover's competent screenplay which so intricately weaves holy Ganga into the poignant narrative.Cast in relatively smaller roles, Pankaj Tripathi and Sweta Tripathy are immensely likable.

Ironically, with a title that alludes to death , this film is a resurgence of new wave of meaningful cinema.Hats off to Phantom Productions for co-investing in it and bringing it on to the celluloid.A deep cerebral experience..

Rating : 4/5

Bombay Velvet
(2015)

Bombay Velvet
Taking cues from historian Gyanchand's bestseller 'Mumbai Fables', director Anurag Kashyap sinks into the tuxedo of Hollywood's acclaimed filmmaker De Palma.His ambitious venture, Bombay Velvet is loosely an indianized re-telling of the classic Scarface.His protagonist is an ordinary man who goes against all odds and forges his destiny to become a power in himself.

Kashyap has a seismic propensity towards dark and gritty cinema.Here,the darkness is interpreted with ambition, greed, love and deception.With a nostalgia-soaked retro age of 1960 as the backdrop, Kashyap pays an affectionate ode to the city of dreams - Mumbai.At the heart of it, it is the love story of a petty thief, Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) and Rosie(Anushka Sharma), both damaged by abusive childhood , both harboring big aspirations, but there are other forces playing their parts in the tangled web - a mentor and protégé story that goes awry, prohibition, tabloid war and events that transpired before the creation of Nariman Point,sans the historical authenticity.He carves an intriguing trajectory for Johnny's relentless pursuit to become the 'big shot' under the tutelage of Kaizaad Khambatta(Karan Johar) amidst twists,turns and double-crossings.

Bombay Velvet(BV) plays out as a sepia-tinted rewind to the era gone by.The plot majorly inhabits in the dim-lit milieu, nightclubs, opium dens with a 'no-smoking' footer appearing perennially throughout the movie and Amit Trivedi's retro-soaked soundtracks amplifying the noir mood. But the film is let down by an in-cohesive execution with an overtly sluggish first half and consequentially , an overdose of happenings pumped into its post interval portions. Kashyap invests humongously in the technical parameters.The set designs are spectacular,costumes immaculate, the visuals are superbly sumptuous but at the same time,the chemistry between Johnny and Rosie falls short of an emotional catapult.The poetic climactic sequence further cements the fact that Bombay Velvet lacks a soul.

While Bombay emerges as a character in itself, the brute force behind BV is Ranbir Kapoor.As the volatile and desperate dynamite Johnny,Ranbir infuses an infectious charm to the character.Kashyap has a knack of pulling off histrionics from other directors but Karan Johar certainly doesn't come at par with Tigmanshu Dhulia. As the scheming,lusting and stylishly nasty middleman, he gives a sullen dimension to the manipulative Khambatta who doesn't exude the loathsome aura of Ramadhir Singh(of GOW).Anushka imbues Rosie Norohna with lot of genuineness and justifies Kashyap's tribute to Lorna Cordeiro, the yesteryear Goan jazz singer on whom her character is based.The talented ensemble - Kay Kay Menon, Satyadeep Mishra,Siddharth Basu and Manish Chaudhry is somewhat bulldozed as the narrative moves so abruptly that none of their characters get time to evolve.

A bit of prudence and precision with the editing scissors and dramatic poignancy in the script could have salvaged Kashyap's misstep.Bombay Velvet sinks itself conveniently in the lost glory of the Maximum City.

Gabbar Is Back
(2015)

Gabbar is Back
Akshay Kumar is indubitably the undisputed king of 'zimbly' south remakes which have been raking in the dough in Bollywood.And producer like Sanjay Leela Bhansali who tasted a giant dash of success with Rowdy Rathore,leaves no stone unturned to make his venture a money spinner with the action star in the lead.With a title that alludes to Bollywood's most remembered antagonist, this film stages the dashing Kumar as an undercover vigilante, punishing the corrupt officials in our society.

A remake of the 2002 Tamil super-hit film Ramanna, Gabbar is back's premise feels a bit outdated mostly because of its semblance with films like Ungli and Kick.Here is a common man with a death wish, who is remorselessly wronged by the establishment. Akshay is professor Aditya in the daylight who teaches his student the five forces (and applies them on the goons too!) and the elusive Gabbar in the dark who punishes the bribe seekers to death.As he tag-lines his name himself " Naam Villain Ka, Kaam hero ka",Gabbar has an efficient underground army who kidnap the corrupt guys from every department , causing a predictable unrest among the policemen.In his long drawn modus to reform the system, Gabbar locks horns with a very powerful industrialist,Digvijay(Suman Talwar) who apparently has a notion that he is a big brand and can manipulate anybody and anything.

Director Krish forays into Hindi cinema and crafts 'Gabbar' with all the solid ingredients of a commercial potboiler, but everything about the movie feels a lot exaggerated.The back-story which involves the gorgeous looking Kareena with only a song sequence lacks the emotional punch and the constant bullying of Sunil Grover, who does a sincere job, by his seniors is overwhelming.Equally disappointing is the way in which the leading lady, Shruti Haasan is positioned a dim-wit lawyer who spends half of her time rattling off google trivia.Yet, its a decent fare constantly watchable because of its leading hero,Akshay, and his inimitable energy and persona.Though he looks bit exhausted with that salt-n-pepper beard, the clap-trap one-liners(Rajat Arora) do the trick.Each dialogue is a punchline, paying homage to the cult character of Sholay.Another shortcoming is the strong counterpoint that Gabbar's nemesis , played by Suman Talwar , fails to offer.Challenged by the script, he doesn't exude the menacing vibe that Akshay needed to combat.

The treatment obviously resonates a highly outrageous and impragmatic solution, and the message that it disseminates is risky to fathom.It is okay if you don't take them very seriously and enjoy it as a classy masala flick.

Fans of Akki - this one is for you !

Rating : 3/5

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
(2015)

Detective Bakshy - Desi Sherlock Holmes
Bollywood has given us very few detective stories.Director Dibakar Banerjee's interpretation of Saratindu Bandopadhyaya's novel, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is the indigenous version of Sherlock Holmes which has the potential of becoming a strong franchise.Evoking nostalgia with respect to the Doordarshan serial in the same name, this flick ticks off with the Byomkesh(Sushant Rajput) fresh out of college , being approached by a classmate(Anand Tiwari) for finding his missing father.

This leads him to a lodge managed by Dr Guha(Neeraj Kabi) where he encounters an array of interesting yet suspicious characters.As the case progresses, Byomkesh discovers that it is not a mere murder case, but something more deadly in gigantic proportions - a nexus of drug lords running the opium trade, undercover cops and diabolic freedom fighters who want to free Calcutta from the British rule.

Dibakar Banerjee effectively builds mystery and intrigue against the backdrop of war-torn Calcutta(Kolkata) in the pre-independence era,somewhere in the 1940's,with the protagonist solving a murder case where each character turns out to be a suspect.Brimming with artistic delight, Byomkesh Bakshy! is flourished in a milieu that is both intriguing and fearsome. Each corner has a detail, thanks to the awesome set designs(Vandana Kataria) and Banerjee's expertise is marked by the nuances of the lifestyle of the bygone era which makes for an easy slip into the elegance of the quaint Calcutta.His execution is sinusoidal, there are stray moments of excitement,contrived conversations and joyful escapades.And yes, it is not easy to gulp.With blood-soaked bodies, decayed corpses, Banerjee makes it awkward and believable.A moody background score with heavy influence of rock music(Alwyn Rego) sets the pitch for this delicious thriller.

With a lazy pace, the mystery unfolds in the dark and smoky lanes of Calcutta interestingly and Sushant Singh Rajput does a brilliant job in fleshing out the titular character.The dhoti-clad sleuth is vulnerable, has a fragile ego and yet very sharp and analytical.Its a challenging role to play, and Sushant makes the character evolve as the tangled case progresses almost in a slow-motion manner.The only drawback I could detect was in its overdone climax and unnecessary bloodshed,the hint for a sequel notwithstanding. He is ably supported by accomplished actors like Anand Tiwari who plays his sidekick Ajit and Neeraj Kabi,playing Dr Guha with a menacing streak.Blending the likes of the sullen characters depicted by Meena Kumari and seductress Nadira of yesteryear,Swastika Mukherjee handles her part of playing Angoori Devi competently and with élan.Chang is likable in his short role.

Overall, it is a kind of thriller that grows on you and wraps around like a snake.Go and embrace it! Rating : 3.5/5

Roy
(2015)

ROY : Misfire!
A philandering film maker suffering from a writer's block uses his flings with a gorgeous lady to devise his next movie script - Roy's premise , which borrows amply from the recently released "Happy Ending" and the 2005 dud "Shabd", is as terribly misplaced as director Vikram Jeet Singh's positioning of it into mainstream cinema.

An overdose of pre-release hype, the presence of Ranbir Kapoor and peppy music chart-busters did generate a lot of euphoria but all those things go for a toss after you invest a few minutes into Roy.So we have Kabir(Arjun Rampal),a play-boyish director who gets smitten by the ravishing arty filmmaker, Ayesha(Jacqueline)and romance blossoms in the exotic locales of Malaysia. Kabir is deeply fascinated by an international art thief famous for his robberies, Roy(Ranbir Kapoor) and writes scripts basing on his thefts. As Roy heads to Malaysia for his next exploit , there is a deep entwine of reality with fiction, which gets more confusing with the entry of Ayesha's look alike, Tia(Jacqueline, Oh no - not again!)

As the film progresses with an insufferable pace,Roy loses the steam to sustain the interest.Except offering some delight to our visual senses,it doesn't hit any other positive notes.Vikram Jeet's idea appears to be too abstract , beyond the assimilating capacity of the Indian audience.Even Ranbir, with a perennial sullen face,who is supposedly cast in a 'dynamic role' cant salvage the film from getting derailed. It is a tedious drama which has only style and not an iota of substance.And,that style unwraps itself so lazily that it turns out to be a plodding bore. Arjun Rampal,with his brooding looks, mutters deep-rooted philosophical dialogues with the Fedora 'thinking' cap ON - "You discover the real silences in the noises of life"! … even sample this - " I don't drink alone, that might make me feel as an alcoholic".Jacqueline who dons two avatars in the film looks sensuous but both her characters were half-baked. Anupam Kher is wasted in a cameo, and it really baffled me what made him do that part.Shernaz Patel and Rajit Kapoor do adequate justice to their roles.

Roy could have been an interesting film if it had moments of intrigue. A lesser amount of the director's self-indulgence and the much needed steroid of suspenseful execution could have catapulted the film to good heights. But it fails miserably.

Badlapur
(2015)

BADLAPUR : Dark and Stark!
Revenge is a dish that works best when served bold! - Director Sriram Raghavan's no-holds-barred approach successfully accomplishes to arrest the viewer's psyche, offering thrills which pushes the envelope of noir genre in Bollywood.Each time I watched a Raghavan movie, I was moved by his quirky style of interpreting crime or revenge. Badlapur, which is apparently based on true events, is the director's buyback of fame after the debacle of the damp squib, Agent Vinod.

Quote vocal in its tag-line, "Dont Miss the beginning", the first 10 minutes of Badlapur just blows off your mind.In no time,the world before Raghu(Varun Dhawan) shockingly comes to an end when his wife(played by Yami Gautam) and kid are killed in a bank robbery gone kaput. The prime accused,Laik(Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who convinces the jury that his partner was the actual killer,is sentenced for 15 years while his partner ,Harman(Vinay Pathak) absconds with the hefty sum of robbed money , but is within Laik's radar.

In a typical nod to the African proverb,"The Axe forgets, but the Tree remembers", Raghu uses all possible means to reach out to to the killer and seek revenge , not in one shot, but in phase by phase. Raghavan employs some interesting twists and turns to keep the heat on, without bringing the cushion of morality into the game.The narration is crisp, the atmos perfectly gels with the gloomy tone of the film and you have some vignettes from the life of the jail inmates that ring a deja vu with respect to his ace thriller, Ek Haseena Thi.No doubt, Badlapur has its elements of gore in plenty but it is counter- balanced by emotional touch points and the palpable loss owing to bereavement Raghavan maneuvers the drama with razor-sharp dialogues and a terrific background score , but somehow the story degenerates into a tale of redemption with an unsettling climax that echoes the futility of revenge-fueled violence.

As a man whose is consumed and nurtured by vendetta, Varun Dhawan immaculately conveys the simmering rage and intensity while his character undergoes a chronological transformation from being a cool guy to a middle-aged man. Not only does he camouflage the looks , he very well manages to shift his demeanor.His nemesis,Laik ,played by the superbly talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a freak to watch out for.Shifting his traits from being conniving,loathsome to vulnerability, Nawaz pitches in with a nicely calibrated performance.

In the complex trapezoid of the vengeance game,Raghavan assembles the four femme fatales who spring in genuine and compelling performances.Of the lot,Huma Qureshi is first-rate as the bar dancer,Jhimli, who happens to Laik's love interest.The character has a certain mystery that adds to the allure.In one of the deliciously striking moments, Laik requests Jhimli to say something lewd and naughty for a 'turn- on' and its evident from the chemistry of these characters how much you root for them! Radhika Apte comes as a surprise pack as she gets her big moment to shine in a wildly salacious sequence.Divya Dutta and Yami Gautam don't get much of scope,while Vinay Pathak,Murli Sharma and Zakir Hussain sparkle in their respective cameos. A word of praise for the immensely capable Kumud Mishra ,playing the greedy pot-bellied cop, who verbally boasts of 3 by-pass surgeries and 2 promotions to his credit.

Dark,edgy and brutally violent, Badlapur works for its twisted characters, wry humor and tight editing. This one deserves a full swallow, but yes ,u are certain to get hiccups!

Shamitabh
(2015)

Shamitabh : too indulgent
We have an hefty number of fans from the film industry who idolize and are fascinated with the living legend - Mr Bachchan and I am sure R Balki is one among them!In his previous outings(Cheeni Kum,Paa),he experimented with Bachchan's potential by etching out unusual characters for him.Shamitabh,which unabashedly marks the director's tribute to his rich baritone, pits the superstar with the talented star of south - Dhanush, also in unusual avatars.

Balki fleshes out a refreshingly original idea against the backdrop of our very own film industry which shows how bloated egos between two talented personalities can lead to wrath.A deaf and mute guy,Danish (Dhanush) who wants to make his name in the filmdom is spotted by a young and energetic AD, Akshara (Akshara Haasan)who puts in all her effort to achieve his dream.A reasonably unbelievable piece of technology makes him overcome his handicap and now they need a voice for the talented actor.Quite predictably,Amitabh Sinha(Amitabh Bachchan) a grumpy,eccentric and alcoholic 'loser' who inhabits in a cemetery comes to Danish's rescue after being sufficiently lured and also for his own vested interests.

Their synergy works! Danish is launched as 'Shamitabh' ( with an obvious nomenclature)and becomes the new big thing in Bollywood garnering fame, name and hefty pay-cheques. But soon, ego creeps in and in a constant bid to prove their superiority and importance, the two individuals start fracturing their relationship and public image.

Shamitabh moves briskly in the first half and the characters are interestingly nurtured.Employing subtle techniques and references to the dynamics of whiskey and water, Balki effectively carves out metaphors for the enmity between Amitabh and Danish.Powered with PC Sreeram's astute cinematography and Illayaraja's impactful musical score, it is a well-orchestrated narrative which only hits a low in the second half.Blame it on the writing, it gets too indulgent and seems like a drag contouring with Big B's long monologues in drunken stupor and Dhanush's muted agitations.

Yet it works for the electric performances by its star-cast.Dhanush brings out the varied emotions of the physically challenged Danish and communicates most effectively with his superb body language.Making her debut in a film with Big B and Dhanush is no mean task,and Akshara proves to be a revelation.The actress gets solid two-liners and rattles them competently.Forming the backbone of the film, Amitabh conveys the deep-rooted angst and agony of the once-rejected talent with unsurpassed sincerity,even in his sarcasms and digs.

At a running time of around 2 hour and 40 minutes, Shamitabh could have worked wonders if editing scissors were used with precision and the writing was not made way too convenient, except for its shattering climax.For the Bachchan fans, its worth a watch !

Rating : 3/5

Baby
(2015)

BABY Review
There is something positive about Akshay Kumar.After a series of flops, he always gets a stupendous film to mouth-shut his detractors.Post the debacle of ENTERTAINMENT and a dud like SHAUKEENS, he bounces back with Neeraj Pandey's BABY,a fast-paced thriller based on a covert operation to thwart the international terrorists.Acclaimed for his previous ventures (Special 26, A Wednesday), Pandey mounts BABY on a grand scale and the results are tremendous!

Akshay plays Ajay Rajput, an elite member of an undercover task force led by Firoz(Danny Denzongpa), who gets on a mission 'BABY' to nab the masterminds who plan deadly serial terror attacks in our nation.So we have a Fazlur Rahman like figure , known as Maulana Rehman(Abdul Rasheed Naaz) a fanatical leader whose devious and controversial speeches can boil the blood of any Indian and few of his tentacles anchored by the menacing Bilal Khan(Kay Kay).

Amply borrowing the plot from the Hollywood drama, Zero Dark Thirty and a finale akin to Argo, Pandey keeps us riveted through the deadly chases and some nail-biting moments, while the narrative refreshingly switches its lanes from Kathmandu to Istanbul to Saudi Arabia.It takes him long to establish the slickness, but he compensates with some sharply written dialogues and subtle humor. His astute technical acumen comes to the fore with the splendid aerial shots and some of the rare stunt sequences choreographed by Hollywood action director Cyril Raffaeli breathe authenticity.

Devoid of songs, Baby camouflages into an espionage thriller post interval, and the last minutes do ring a bell of nostalgia with Pandey's earlier film Special 26, where there is an underlying palpable tension and 'what-happens-next' suspense running in your mind.Akshay Kumar is super-terrific and perfectly looks the part of an unpredictable yet committed officer , who remains unfazed with the moral dilemmas as well as phone calls from his doting wife(Madhurima Tuli).Cast in a cameo,Taapsee Pannu startles us with her 'kung-fu' chops, while Rana Daggubati complements as the 'Hulk' to the 'Tarzan' Akshay.Veterans like Danny and Anupam Kher perform splendidly and I was particular swayed by Danny's restrained act and his two-liners with genuine insights, which lent gravitas to his role.

With a pertinently relevant release timing(post the terror attacks in Peshawar), BABY's subject celebrates the unsung heroes of our country who not only care less about dying for the country, but as pointed out by Danny's character, they thrive in the adamancy to live for the country with full passion. At the same time, the solution insinuates subversiveness towards the system or going the 'Mossad' way. Nevertheless, I had my gala share of popcorn-coke thrills!

Alone
(2015)

ALONE Movie review
When it is about the horror genre in Bollywood of late,Bhushan Patel emerges as one of the potential directors after the success of Raagini MMS and 1920 Evil Returns. And with the propensity towards horror films,Bipasha Basu can be safely christened as the horror queen ! ALONE marks the association of these two personalities, which is centered on the story of conjoint twins, one of them being killed under mysterious circumstances and subsequently returning as an evil spirit to avenge her death. Apparently inspired from a Thai horror film with the same title, this one is a pretty dud with a feigning concoction of horror and sex.

Sanjana and Anjana ( both played by Bipasha Basu) are conjoint siblings who vow to be always together until the arrival of Kabeer(Karan singh Grover) who loves Sanjana and this creates a rift between the sisters.Sanjana is forced to separate herself from Anjana( the surgery results in Anjana's death), marries Kabeer and moves to Mumbai.A twist in fate brings her back to her home where she encounters strange paranormal happenings and senses the presence of a spirit , much to the disbelief of her husband. Kabeer, who looks baffled most of the times, seeks the help of a psychic healer (Zakir Hussain) who extracts some of the unknown facts after counseling Sanjana.

The premise is interesting but the palette offers you the humdrum sequences , although the panoramic shots of backwaters of Kerala form a suitable backdrop to the interplay of horror and erotica. Bipasha's unexplained transformation from an insecure, unhappy wife to a frisky kitten and the unnerving camouflage of her eyeballs are some redeeming moments.

The director skillfully applies the beaten-to-death thrills and tactics to scare us and does succeed to a fair extent. Ghastly faces appearing sudden on the mirror, screeches, long silences followed by an abnormally high-decibel thunderous sound, creaking doors and dark rooms are deliberately fitted in to create an eerie atmosphere. The narrative is awfully dragging, punctuated by some regressive romantic numbers. If only, the steamy sequences between Bipasha and Karan Grover act as a saving grace! Bipasha looks gorgeous in her skimpy outfits which are purposely employed to showcase her svelte figure but we are genuinely tired of her routine expressions in the dalliances with horror stable - Aatma,Raaz 3 and Creature. Karan Singh Grover displays his well-chiseled abs but fails miserably in the acting department with stoical emotions. The only plausible entities in this twisted tale of twins are Zakir Hussain and Sulva Arya, while Neena Gupta hardly has a word to speak.

Alone could have been a much better film , if it had a smarter screenplay and a more tactful script.It doesn't click.

Rating : 2/5

PK
(2014)

PK Review
In a span of 10 years , Raj Kumar Hirani has indeed mastered the art of story-telling. His brand of cinema,ripe with humanism and compassion, always catches the pulse of the audience evoking the right degree of sentiments.If Lage Raho Munna bhai introduced us to Gandhigiri, 3 Idiots challenged the conventional educational system.His latest offering, PK is no different. Here,Hirani launches a crusade against our age-old religious practices, dogmas that have engulfed the humanity and superstitions inflicted upon us by the God-men through the eyes of an outsider who doesn't hail from this planet.

Aamir plays an alien whose transmitter-like device gets stolen on his arrival to earth.Unable to contact his own fraternity, the mute oddball learns bhojpuri, chews countless paans, and wears outlandish clothes, thanks to the dancing cars and a series of hilarious (mis)adventures.In the process of his desperate search for the device, when he is told that only God can help him to find that,he sets to find God with all sincerity and discovers the prejudices and religious stigmas that have eclipsed our society.He also gets to be- friend the sprightly Jaggu(Anushka Sharma), a TV news reporter who initially dismisses his dispositions but later helps him after learning his full story.

A bold and courageous endeavor by Raju Hirani which resonates with the rebellious overtones of his earlier ventures ,PK questions our religious strictures but with overtly humorous strokes.Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi craft intelligent episodes with a cynical eye,without being preachy or judgmental about any particular religion or its associated customary practices.It comes in as a triumph for the writers who cultivate the irony in each of our routine nuances in the lightest vein.

Through a breezy first half with ample doses of laughter, the narrative does hit a speed-bump during the later reels and of course an overdone climactic showdown with regressive melodrama.But the plot eventually emerges as the winner with genuine moments of love, laughter and heartbreak coupled with soulful music of Shantanu Moitra and witty dialogues.

A noble story told with innate warmth and an engaging screenplay,PK revels with the endearing performance by its lead man,Aamir Khan who becomes the rationalist voice of the film.His inadvertent antics,the innocent questions that he poses, the protruding ears and all his weird mannerisms make PK a compelling character.Suitably supported by Anushka who complements him in each frame ,Sanjay Dutt as the Samaritan friend,Saurabh Shukla as the unctuous god-man and Boman Irani as the spirited boss, Aamir delivers a performance of his lifetime. Sushant Singh Rajput's character appears a slight misfit to the film's overarching theme but he shines in the cameo.cameo. Parikshit Sahni does an impressive job as the authoritarian father of Anushka, evoking a sense of deja-vu (father to Madhavan in 3 idiots!).

Thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking, PK is a mirror to the ostentatious secular stand of our countrymen.It deserves to be seen.

Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain
(2014)

Bhopal : Breathing through the gas
"BHOPAL : A Prayer for Rain" is a heart-rending revisit to the most horrific industrial catastrophe in our country that claimed over 10000 lives in December 1984.It forms a precursor to the massive tragedy in the form of connected events that transpired around the infamous Union Carbide plant which spew the lethal MIC gas wiping off almost an entire civilization. Such was the impact that even today, people are born with deformities.

Unfolding like a docu-drama providing glimpses of the social milieu,the narrative breathes life with the insertion of certain fictitious and dramatic elements, in the form of a rickshaw puller , Deepak ( Rajpal Yadav)who forms the lifeline of the film.An illiterate who can hardly afford a square meal to his family with an unmarried sister, he finds the new ray of hope in the Carbide plant when he substitutes his friend, a worker out there , after he falls prey into an accidental factory mishap. The plant is a dormant volcano waiting to erupt, a hibernating monster because of the highly risky pesticide production under loose and overlooked safety conditions.Yet many of the workers fail to raise their voice as they have to feed their families at the end of the day.There is a wave of crusade through vigilant journalism by a hard-nosed news reporter, Motwani(Kal Penn) who even seeks the help of another American journo(Mischa Barton) to expose the diplomatic CEO of Carbide,Warren Anderson(Martin Sheen) but all in vain.

Ravi Kumar tries to portray the corporate chicanery adopted by Anderson who looked at India as a cheaper proposition, with utmost sincerity.The unflinching look at the bureaucracy and the callousness of our political leaders also flashes at the level of corruption that was rotting our society three decades back.There is a deafening silence towards the finale in the screams of the dying people and the haplessness in the eyes of the local doctor(Manoj Joshi).There are moments of poignancy that leave you numb, but had there been a more solid and polished execution , it would have lingered in our psyche.The film falters with a hurried approach in the ending reels by juxtaposing the tragedy with a wedding proceeding and also for some over- dramatic treatment like the one between Barton and Anderson inside his car.

All said and done, Bhopal is a praise-worthy attempt by director Ravi Kumar,also credited fir the film's story, for bringing this tragic incident onto celluloid after almost 5 years of research.The narrative forges a strong emotional connect with its rooted characters,specially Rajpal Yadav and Tannistha Chatterjee who render genuinely moving performances.Yadav blends his innocence, warmth and talent uniformly to bring out the predicament of the impoverished Deepak.Kal Penn, with his outlandish attire,is a character with an arc but doesn't do complete justice to his mixed accent.It is Marteen Sheen who fits into the role of Anderson perfectly,and bringing out the humanistic nuances effectively.

Films like Bhopal are a rarity in today's age of massy entertainers.They are highly insightful but do not hold a strong commercial proposition.It is as ironical as the fact that Carbide is not proved fully guilty of the causing this disaster.This one is highly recommended for those with inclination to real-life, meaningful cinema.

Rating 3/5

Ungli
(2014)

UNGLI : Too far-fetched
In Ungli, four friends,instigated by a tragic incident and invigorated with the denial of justice,take law into their hands by turning into vigilantes.This theme might have germinated from Rang De Basanti whose screenplay was co-written by director Rensil Desilva who sensitized us with his recalcitrance in that 2006 runaway hit.The idea might seem interesting, but Rensil offers quite a implausible solution to the mammoth-shaped problem that has plagued our society - corruption.

A crime reporter working for a hotshot TV Channel(Randeep Hooda), a medical intern(Kangana), a techie(Neil Bhoopalan) and a garage mechanic(Angad Bedi)join hands to dispense justice to the common man by taking into tasks the corrupt entities in our system.Together, they form the 'Ungli' gang, a metaphor for 'balls to the inefficient system and law' who punish the corrupt bureaucrats, local politicians, arrogant auto-rickshaw wallas in innovative ways,without being violent.Their masked-vigilantism goes viral with each of their accomplishments being video-taped by themselves and sent to media and grabs everyone's eyeballs causing agony to the police department.Enter ACP Kale(Sanjay Dutt)to nab these 'criminals' before they are idolized like Batman of Gotham city!And soon he realizes that to track them , you gotta think like them.Kale appoints the cop with a notorious streak, Nikhil(Emraan Hashmi) who infiltrates the gang, but later finds himself struggling with the predicament of dutifulness and conscientious action.

Without delving into the details of the protagonists, Rensil who has also scripted the story, takes the narrative at a break-neck speed providing the piping-hot vignettes of the Ungli gang's operations.Though it appears too smooth and simplistic, its the fun and quirk quotient that keeps us hooked.Equally entertaining are the corny dialogues (Milap Zaveri) and witty one-liners which are written only to garner whistles and they are pun-intended when you see them uttered by Hashmi and Dutt. Sample this - When Hashmi's character says to Dutt, "I want you to be back in the business",he retaliates sarcastically "Meri Billi mujhi se miwaaon!" Some of the portions are ignored conveniently, like the budding romance between Hashmi and Kangana and some subplots, like Hooda pursuing the sexy news reporter played by Neha Dhupia,are given too much of importance,ultimately diluting the impact.What goes against the film is the climax which is too convenient for a finale and devoid of an anticipated hard- hitting tone.

The entire cast does a good job here, specially Randeep Hooda who emotes according to the pulse of any sequence.Kangana Ranaut is sadly relegated to the background, and I wished she had a more meaty role.Emraan Hashmi appears too tired and uninterested to be in the familiar character space while Dutt exudes commendable screen presence even with a salt-n-pepper hairdo and drooling eyes.The camaraderie's in the gang is spot-on which adds to the film's strengths.

On the whole, Ungli is a feel-good entertainer which doesn't make you leave the theater with a heavy heart but you will certainly retrospect - wasn't it too far-fetched an idea ! It has got its heart at the right place but finger on the wrong pulse. Rating : 2.5/5

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