Monthly Archives

January 2019

Movie Review: Why Cheat India (Day 1511)

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Film: Why Cheat India

Date: 18.01.2019

Writer/ Director: Soumik Sen

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary


For some weeks now the film has been surrounded by controversies related to its title and also to the release date of the film. Finally, it is all sorted out and the movie has made it to the cinema halls. Originally titled Cheat India is about the corruption prevailing in our education system. About middle-class families who pressurize their children with their dreams of grand degrees and grander pay packets. A film about big scams where engineering and medical certificates are bought sold for a price – all in the open!

All those issues that we have read in the newspapers or watched on television about collective cheating in examination halls, about supervisors demanding bribes, university scam, coaching class scam, fake identities, question paper leakage and the biggest tragedy of all, student suicide  are reflected in the film, the unfortunate bit is that it leaves you untouched!

It is because the screenplay is ineffective and the treatment monotonous. The film drags in the first half without any twists or turns. There are no sub-plot and almost no supporting cast for distraction, as a result, the camera single-mindedly follows the protagonist for 2 hours 20 minutes which is a rather long time to only focus on Emraan Hashmi.

Post interval, there are new students, new degrees and new scams but they fail to engage you despite good music and decent dialogues. Certain moments in the film disturb you:

1. It is understandable that students are getting lured by money and losing focus but does it always have to be about women and drugs?

2. Is it logical that an outside trespasses the examination center and standing in the middle of the ground threatens to burn all the answer sheets of the students?

  1. Is it possible that after the police have raided and arrested the hero for stacking a room full of currency he can be casually taken home by a minister? Don’t politicians have to sign any documents?
  2. Hero Rocky/ Emraan Hashmi books a party hall in a 7 Star Hotel and to a room full of students and parents announces answers to the question paper on microphone and no case is registered against him by the hotel or anyone.
  3. The ease with which Emraan Hashmi walks in and out of police stations and the arrogance he displays during the court proceeding is both embarrassing and humiliating to our judicial system.

One last bit, Emraan Hashmi does not kiss his leading lady/ Shreya Dhanwanthary in this film. Shreya bends to drop a soft and suggestive kiss to her hero.

For cheating us audience I rate Why Cheat India with 1 star.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: The Lift Man (Day 1510)

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Simple and sensitive


Film: The Lift Boy

Date: 18.01.2019

Director: Jonathan Augustine

Cast: Moin Khan, Blessy Chettiar, Nyla Masood


On a sunny afternoon Galaxy Apartment’s old and faithful liftman Krishna Tawade/ Saagar Kale suffers a heart attack and is admitted in the hospital. Tawade requests his son Raju to substitute him on duty and Raju who is clearing his engineering exams agrees half-heartedly. Terribly embarrassed initially Raju slowly begins to love his job and understands why his father is so proud of his uniform.

What works about the film is the simplicity of the story and the way it is narrated. What makes it special are the refreshing characters and their interpersonal relationships. The owner of the building Maureen Dsouza/ Nyla Maasood is an artist who lives alone. Then there is the 18-year-old Princess/ Aneesha Shah struggling in films at the behest of her ambitious mother.

Then there is Raju Tawade/ Moin Khan’s own life comprising his parents and his close buddy Shawn/ Damain Dsouza.

Considering it is the story of a liftman a number of scenes are shot inside the cubicle (with a lollipop poster) which is a big challenge for the director because how different can a lift look eventually. He uses the lift as both a character and a metaphor in the film. Just as we press buttons of a lift and find our destination, our choices determine our ascent and descend in life.

Director Jonathan makes the right choice in sets/ costume/cinematography/dialogues except for a few exaggerations which can be overlooked. Mrs. Dsouza has to be a superwoman to learn to engineer overnight and impart knowledge to her student. She is an artist but we never see her work in progress, never see any sign or spot of color on her clothes or on her fingers.

She is the owner of the building but she has no car and travels by auto rickshaws. She has no friends, no family and no distant relative which is unusual. She is concerned about the liftman but never visits him in the hospital.

All the performances are praiseworthy. Saagar Kamle as Krishna is effective. Moin Khan makes a refreshing debut as Raju Tawade and Nyla Masood so far working behind the scenes as costume designer faces the camera for the first time and steals our hearts.

The Lift Boy is about the dignity of labor, about dreams, about humanity. It has the pride of literacy, the glow of hard work and the fragrance of compassion. It is very rare that you come out of a film smiling.

For lighting up our week with this sensitive offering I rate debut director Jonathan Augustin’s The Lift Boy with 3 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya



Arshad Warsi -Saurabh Shukla again (Day 1509)

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We have seen Arshad Warsi and Saurabh Shukla deliver terrific performances whenever they have come on the big screen. Be it their comic timing, undeniable chemistry and screen presence in movies like Lage Raho Munnabhai and Jolly LLB. Now, the duo is all set to take you on a laughter riot in their next, Fraud Saiyaan.

This time Arshad plays the role of a conman and Saurabh makes his perfect partner in crime. Saurabh Shukla joins Arshad in his journey to con women. Arshad says he is fortunate to get to play Bhola Prasad Tripathi and working with Saurabh is a delight. Producer Prakash Jha endorses that work is exciting when actors share chemistry and you can sense they are having fun together. 


Bhramara Festival of Dance (Day 1508)

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Just in the way there is a season for the Literature Festivals there is a season for the music and the dance festivals and the season has started.

Bhramara is curated to share the power and beauty of our classical dances with the youth. Artists from across India and abroad will perform to the theme Enchanting Epics. Some of the unique features of the festival are short animation films to introduce and explain the performances and the stories being told through dance, and an outdoor section for martial and folk performances.

Well-known artists such as Arushi Mudgal will be premiering her new Odissi production ‘Leela‘ at the festival. Also premiering in India is ‘Son of the Wind’, Kathak dance drama on the heroics of Hanuman by the Leela Dance Collective, USA. 


Surmaee Shaam (Day 1507)

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Shubha Mudgal has sung a melodious song ‘Surmaae Shaam’ for Evening Shadows released recently. A heartwarming story about a son coming out to his mother in a small town in India and her difficulty in accepting him has touched chords across the world at more than 50 international film festivals it has screened in, winning 13 jury & audience awards. Says Mudgal “I have very little experience of working for films, but I am happy to contribute to a film that addresses the social stigma surrounding same-sex love. I hope that my composition and voice are able to convey at least some of the pain and sense of tragic isolation that the protagonists must feel.”

The song’s lyrics are written by Saagar Gupta who has also written the dialogues for the film. Says Gupta “The director told me that my lyrics must be worthy of Shubha ji’s singing and that was a big challenge to me. Apart from being in sync with the different situations where it appears in the film, the song is an ode to all mothers, reiterating the beautiful bond a mother shares with her child. Call it irony but I had lost my mother a few months ago and writing this song was cathartic for me.”

The film is a sensitive portrayal of the divide between two generations within families who have different points of view. Shot in beautiful locales in South India, this family drama will appeal to everyone who will watch it as director Sridhar Rangayan says “Come to theaters and show us your love”.

Song link on Saavn:


Movie Review: The Accidental Prime Minister (Day 1506)

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Pride & Pressure

 Film: The Accidental Prime Minister

Date: 11.01.2019

Director: Vijay Ratnakar Gutte

Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna, Suzanne Bernert, Divya Seth


A few years ago when author Sanjay Baru released his memoirs of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in a book titled The Accidental Prime Minister there was outrage from the opposition but after a few court cases nothing came out of the protests.

Something similar happened with the film adapted from the book. There were a few court cases but the censor board has cleared the film with a few cuts.

For those who have read the book, the film is a faithful adaptation of it. For those who haven’t but followed the headlines; the film is a recap of what happened during that time from an insider’s perspective.

What works about the film is the concept. This is the first time that the Prime Minister of our country is the subject of a feature film and what makes it interesting is that the narrator was his former media advisor.

The film touches upon all the controversies of that time – the sting operations exposing the 2G/3G scams, the UPA government’s nuclear deal, Congress party President Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh’s public persona.

In my opinion what is more interesting than the political ongoing is the anatomy of a relationship between a celebrity/ Dr Manmohan Singh essayed by Anupam Kher and his media advisor/ Sanjay Baru played by Akshaye Khanna. Their reasons of attraction, reasons cementing a foundation of trust, their areas of conflicts, their collective challenges and the sudden and unarticulated withdrawal of the celebrity from his confidante.

It is a film about the pressures a Prime Minister goes through, about the pride of a journalist, about unequal relationships and unethical decisions, a story about the country no doubt but also about conscience!

While the camera most of the time focuses on the ministry chambers and what conspires within locked doors, one misses the outer and the real world of the writer, his family and his sounding board.

Akshaye Khanna is forever globetrotting, sipping champagne and smoking cigars and one wonders if he ever nurses any self-doubt or ever feels even remotely vulnerable?

The advisor is forever flamboyantly dressed but the costume budget gets embarrassingly constrained when it comes to women both Suzane Bernert playing Sonia Gandhi and Aahana Kumra playing Priyanka Gandhi attired in fabrics unworthy of their stature.

The Prime Minister’s chamber and the PMO office is overemphasized like a palace but when he addresses a press conference the flower decoration on the dais is fake and plastic.

What is missing in the film is some humor and pathos. There is a lack of energy because everything unfolds on an even keel but then that is politics, everything simmers never really explodes!!

It is a superbly cast film where all the actors comfortably fit into the character’s shoes. Special mention must be made of Vipin Sharma who plays Sonia Gandhi’s advisor Ahmed Patel and Divya Sheth who comfortably passes as Gurshuran Kaur.

Akshaye Khanna projects the author/ advisor with amazing conviction. He is arrogant, aloof, compassionate, and controversial all at the same time. He makes a colorful narrator and often winks into the camera too.

Anupam Kher internalizes Dr Manmohan Singh in not just his physical appearance/ voice/ walk and body language but also his reflexes and expressions. The eyes reveal too little and yet say a lot. The last scene when Akshaye calls out to the Prime Minister and he stops to look back – stays with you for a long time.

So must you watch you watch The Accidental Prime Minister?  If you are a political animal, most certainly, if not, let me warn you that it is a film devoid of entertainment. But it is a film about our Prime Minister, our country so the choice is yours.

I rate The Accidental Prime Minister with 3 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya


Patient No 302 turned to Rakkhosh Day 1505

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Rakkhosh, India’s first POV film – a film where the camera is the hero for the first time in Indian cinema, has been chosen for the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF), the Rajasthan International Film Festival (RIFF) and the Orange City International Film Festival (OCIFF) to be held between January and February.

Rakkhosh is based on a Marathi Language short story Patient No. 302 by late Narayan Dharap, a well-known writer in Marathi Literature popular in the horror genre, and on whose story critically acclaimed Tumbbad was based.

Directed by Srivinay Salian it tells the story of a schizophrenic patient/ Sanjay Mishr and is the first time a cinema camera (Red Dragon 6K) to shoot the POV. This is the first time in India and probably the second time in the world.

The idea promises to be scintillating and going by the team involved it is a film  to watch out for.


Raag Shayri and more (Day 1504)

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I had the opportunity to interact with all the performing artistes at the rehearsal and this is what they had to say about the forthcoming event. “We were toying with many ideas about what to do and finally came up with this classic idea that everyone seemed to agree. It was difficult but then nothing precious has ever been easy” starts Shabana Azmi. She elaborates that will be an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan will sing a selection of her father Kaifi Azmi’s poems. “Javed Akhtar will recite the poems in Urdu and I will recite the English translations. There is more, Ustad Zakir Hussain will interpret the same on the tabla so the idea is quite unique.


Javed Akhtar adds that the idea is to celebrate Kaifi sahab’s poetry and its essence and to showcase that Kaifi sahab’s writing transcends boundaries of language and medium.” Director Feroz Abbas Khan who has directed Azmi on stage for Tumhari Amrita says this was a new experience and a new challenge for me as a director.  Usually, it is either poetry or music presentation but this includes words – melody, and rhythm that too with acclaimed names. The challenge was in interpreting that single thought in the entire performance. The show celebrates the universality and timeless quality of Kaifi Saheb‘s poetry”.

There is nervous energy, an excitement in the atmosphere as the artistes take a break to relish tea. The countdown has begun and all of them are visibly anxious. Ustad Zakir Hussain says, “This is I think one of the first times something like this is going to happen. Through words and rhythm, we are paying tribute to not just a great artist but also a human being.” Shankar Mahadevan joins Zakir Hussain and adds, “Kaifi Azmi was not just a poet and lyricist but also an activist – he was a multifaceted and therefore the multifaceted presentation.’’

Kaifi Azmi centenary will be celebrated with mushairas, plays, seminars, a pen festival, and three book releases. It all sounds very special because children pay tribute to parents they make it all the more special.




Celebrating Kaifi Azmi (Day 1503)

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subcontinent has borne witness to an entire era of social change. Born in Mijwan, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Kaifi Azmi formerly known as Athar Hussain Rizvi wrote his first ghazalItna toh zindagi mein kisi ki khalal padey’ at the age of eleven.

A pioneer of the Progressive Writers’ Movement, his inspiring poems include ‘Aurat’, ‘Taj and ‘Makaan’. In cinema, his most celebrated film songs include ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, ‘Shola aur Shabnam’, ‘Hanste Zakhm’, ‘Haqeeqat’ and ‘Arth’ while his best screenplays/dialogues include ‘Heer Ranjha’ and M.S. Sathyu’s masterpiece, ‘Garm Hawa’. Azmi has also received the greatest number of literary and poetry awards including the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, Sahitya Akademi Award and more,

As a tribute to their father Shabana Azmi and her cinematographer brother Baba Azmi have planned yearlong celebrations in honor of their erstwhile father whom they lovingly addressed as Aaba.

Starting with Raag Shayari on January 13, 2019, the eve of Kaifi Azmi’s 100 th birth anniversary at TATA Theater, NCPA the concert will be a coming together of internationally celebrated artists coming together. Tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, singer, and composer Shankar Mahadevan, lyricist Javed Akhtar, actor Shabana Azmi, and filmmaker Feroz Abbas Khan. The same show will be presented as a fundraiser on 14 January by Mijwan Welfare Society at St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra and three days later on January 17th, the same show will be presented at Nazrul Manch in Kolkata.

To be continued



Mary Poppins Returns (Day 1502)

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Emily Blunt who stars in the upcoming Disney movie Mary Poppins Returns joked at a recent talk show that Meryl Streep is her stalker as they keep making films together but admits that she secretly loves it.


The Devil Wears Prada co-stars were working together again on Mary Poppins Returns, a sequel to the original 1964 film where Meryl plays the role of Emily’s cousin Topsy Turvy. Emily says she loves Streep and is delighted that she breathes the same air that Meryl breathes. On a serious note she adds that she was both shocked and terrified to know that she was the first choice of the director for Mary Poppins Returns.

In Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” releasing on 4th January 2019, an all-new original musical, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss.

Directed by Rob Marshall from a screenplay by David Magee and a screen story by Magee & Marshall & John DeLuca based upon the Mary Poppins Stories by PL Travers, the film stars: Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins; Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack; Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks; Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks; Julie Walters as Ellen; Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson as the Banks children; with Colin Firth as William Weather all Wilkins; and Meryl Streep as Cousin Topsy.