Monthly Archives

October 2019

Movie Review: Housefull 4 Day 1678

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Film: Housefull 4

Release: 25.10.2019

Director: Farhad Samji

Writers:  Sajid Nadiadwala/ story, Fahad Samji/ dilogues

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bobby Deol, Reitesh Deshmukh, Kriti Sanon, Pooja Heghde, Kriti Kharbanda


Pehle panchi tha, ab Twitter hai…

Pehle book thi, ab Facebook hai…

Pehle telegram tha, ab Instagram hai…

This is not information this is lyrics of Housefull 4…There’s more…

The hero stands in the middle of the street and asks the heroine what comes after number 20. The heroine trifle flustered responds ‘ekees’. The hero smiles and says ‘Ek kiss please’.

Bad joke, well that’s the level of dialogues in the film.

Three important characters in the film are the three pigeons and who are named believe it or not – Neil Nitin and Mukesh.  Another bad joke, and there are several more coming up soon.

Producer Sajid Nadiadwala is credited for the story of reincarnation in a comedy set up and you don’t know whether to cry or laugh when the heroes go into a flashback mode of what happened 6000 years ago…

When Akshay Kumar was the crown prince of Sitamghadh, Bobby Deol the bodyguard of a princess and Ritesh Deshmukh a court dancer and the three heroines – Kriti Sanon, Pooja Hegde aur Kriti Kharbanda were princesses of a neighboring kingdom.

Cut to present times, the heroes work in a salon in London and are hounded by a slum lord. The girls are daughters of an affluent father and spend their time roaming aimlessly or just singing and romancing.

Call it a coincidence but all the six characters – rather the entire cast is reborn at the same time in the same place and wonder of wonders remember what happened to them 600 births ago, absolutely amazing!.

While the heroes on the screen travel into 1419 I sit in the auditorium and recall what we have been subjected to in the last nine years…

Housefull / 2010 served us song and dance, beach and bikins, also chimpanzee and tiger.

Housefull 2 / 2012 served us brides – grooms –big mansions and fancy cars.

Houseful 3 / 2016 served more slapstick humour with superstars’and super remixes.

The fourth presentation of the Housefull franchise is apparently the biggest budget comedy genre has ever produced and packages more glamour- grandeur – also more madness combined with pigeons, horses, snakes and scorpions.

There cannot be a serious review or rating of a film like this, so take a chill pill and stay at home to celebrate your Diwali.


Bhawana Somaaya.



Movie Review – Saand Ki Aankh Day 1677

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Celebrates female gaze and female bonding

Film: Saand Ki Aankh

Release: 25.10.2019 

Director: Tushar Hiranandani

Writers:  Balwinder Singh Janjua/ screenplay, Jagdeep Siddhu/ dialogues

Cast: Bhumi Pednekar, Tapasee Pannu, Prakash Jha

Ratings: 3.5 stars

Biographies rule Bollywood at the moment and this week’s release Saand Ki Aankh/ Bulls Eye is based on the lives of sharpshooters Chandro and Prakashi Tomar. The film opens into a sleepy village Baghpat on the border of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh where a large family comprising several men, women and children co-exist in a sprawling home.

The morning begins with the women of the house in long veils serving tea and hookahs to the men in the verandah and that’s where they are parked all day while the women toil in the fields.  The children leave for school but while the boys have no responsibilities the girls have to assist their mothers in domestic chores before they can pick up their school bags.

The men sleep on cots in the courtyard and the women on thin mattresses in one large room together. When the husband is in a mood the wife is summoned to an isolated room and so that the men don’t get confused about who is behind the veil the women have cleverly worked out colour codes so it is red for the eldest jiji blue for the middle one Chandro/ Bhumi Pednekar and yellow for the youngest Prakashi/ Taapasee Pannu.

They are divided by colors, defined by the number of children they bear the men are oblivious of their dreams or desires. When Prakashi expresses to begin tailoring at home, her sewing machine is flung and broken into pieces only because she erred to stitch trousers for the girl child. The younger girls dream of higher education, government jobs but is anybody listening??

Their daadis are, they enroll their young ones into training for sharpshooting with an expert who they address as ‘doctor’. On the expert’s advice, all four of them undertake training and while the younger ones need practice the daadis we discover are naturals. Encouraged by the tutor the daadis start participating in tournaments all over India. They tell the men they are on a pilgrimage but the women of the house know the truth and are all united in the secret.

Years pass by and one day the pot filled with gold and silver medals are flung out of the trunk and trampled on the floor as fear, outrage, tears, and outburst follow. In a heart-rending scene Chandro Daadi compares their plight to animals that slog all day but never get a penny in hand.

They’ve heard that the Taj Mahal is beautiful but they’ve never seen it, they’ve been told that the ocean makes a lot of sounds but they’ve never visited it, they’ve have seen that the aircraft flies high but never experienced it. There’s something called nail polish that paints the nails but the only color and odor they know is the bricks and the cow dung and the bricks. The scene breaks your heart!

Nearing climax when the men fall from grace the women say to hell with dignity. It is the first time we see the eldest jiji lift her veil to spit venom at her chauvinistic husband, applause-worthy scene.

The downside of the film is the chalky makeup and the inconsistent grey strands. The pace fluctuates and the message gets overemphasized. Sometimes the Khadiboli dialect becomes overbearing and one has to concentrate too hard to comprehend the dialogues but the merits outweigh the demerits. This is a remarkable story about India living in multiple centuries simultaneously detailed insets, location, costume, writing, music, lyrics and convincing performances from Nikhat Khan as the maharani and lead actors Bhumi Pednekar, Tapasee Pannu and Praksh Jha as the antagonist.

Saand ki Aankh is about empowering women and also senior citizens, it celebrates female gaze, female bonding.

After one of their victories, a reporter asks the daadis how old they are. Prakashi takes a while to respond so the reporter jokes that they are as coy about age as other women. The hesitation, clarifies Chandro Tommar was in calculating how many out of these long 60 years did they live for themselves.


Bhawana Somaaya





Remembering Homeland – Day 1676

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The main purpose of this section is to focus on films that look back on homeland, as well as films by international directors that connect with India, either in theme, locale, or by featuring the country’s film talent.

Sun is directed by Jonathan Desoindre and Ella Kowalska, both graduates from Sorbonne, Paris, the directorial pair has been collaborating for over a decade and follow the eponymous Mr Sun/ French actor Tewfik Jallab, a delivery boy in his 30s, who lives a frantic yet unrestrained life in modern Paris. This precarious but pleasant balance is jeopardized when his Indian cousin, Ash, suddenly arrives in Paris to fulfill his dream of playing the sitar at the Olympia.

Sun is the tumultuous journey of the two brothers as they navigate daily struggles. Ash is played by Indian stand-up comedian, singer, and actor Aadar Malik.



Of Immigrants and Superstitions – Day 1675

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The Illegal directed by Danish Renzu is a gritty, realistic portrayal of the social underclass of immigrants in the US, The Illegal follows a middle-class Indian student who comes to America to join a film school and fulfill his dream of becoming a filmmaker. An unfortunate turn of events forces him to choose between his family and his ambition. Renzu’s deft handling of the story is bolstered by a cast that includes Suraj Sharma, Adil Hussain, Iqbal Theba, and Shweta Tripathi.


Aadhaar is set in a part of Bharat that can only aspire to be part of the new India but has no idea how to go about it. A social satire revolving around a Jharkhand resident who becomes the first in the state to issue an Aadhaar card, while everyone else is reluctant, grants him instant stardom but when a local priest predicts that his unique 12-digit ID number will prove ominous, it spells despair in his life. The impoverished man now struggles to change his id number against bureaucratic red tape and religious superstitions.


Starring Vineet Kumar Singh, Saurabh Shukla, Raghuvir Yadav, and Sanjay Mishra and directed by Suman Ghosh of national award winning films like Nobel Chor and Podokkhep this marks Ghosh’s debut in the Hindi language. Backed by the powerhouse Drishyam Films known for international award-winning titles Masaan, Newton Umrika, the film shows promise of similar acclaim following its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival.


To be continued


Changing Landscapes – Day 1674

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The festival opened at different venues across the city hosting screenings and master-classes.  This year has 190 films from 54 countries across 49 languages including features, documentaries and short films. This year the highlight was Netflix combining force with MAMI to celebrate the evolving role of women in Indian story-telling. Commenting on the success of women helping other women in film, producer Guneet Monga shared poet, Meena Kandaswamy thought when she won the Oscar for ‘Period. End of Sentence’ – “When you shine, I shine.”


There were some spectacular films and sparkling master classes this festival and mention must be made of five unique films at Discovering India at MAMI. This year’s festival spotlights Indian Cinema’s universal reach in globalized, changing landscapes. This section showcases international films made by resident Indians like Tanishtha Chatterjee’s Roam Rome Mein marks her debut as director. Celebrated for her performances in films like Parched and Angry Indian Goddesses, Chatterjee stars in the film with Nawazzudin Siddique. Rome Rome Mein is a story about a brother’s search for his missing sister, which in turn paves the path to his self-discovery. The film challenges the patriarchal psyche.


This included films made by directors of Indian origin living elsewhere like The Last Color made by Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna. Having mastered the culinary world, Khanna has made a breezy entry into filmmaking with his debut feature, a heart-wrenching tale of boundless friendship between a nine-year-old tight-rope walker and flower seller, Chhoti and Noor/Neena Gupta, a widow whose austere white saree symbolizes a life of total abstinence and social proscription from festivities, especially Holi, the festival of colours.


The film chronicles their spiritual bond over the years as they contest archaic social systems. Following its world premiere at the 2019 Palm Springs International Film Festival, the film has already travelled to over a dozen festivals and recently won the Audience Award and the Director’s Vision Award at the Indian Film Festival Stuttgart.


To be continued


It is MAMI time – Day 1673

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Come October and Mumbai city is all set for a galaxy of festivals. It always begins with MAMI where film buffs rub shoulders with cine fans and celebrate international cinema. Over the years Mumbai Film Festival has proved itself to be one of the most immersive and comprehensive festival to celebrate diverse cinematic voices of our country and instills pride in audiences.

Founded by a group of film industry stalwarts in 1997 and conceived, created with an aim to engage film lovers from all walks of life, and to foster an ideal climate of good cinema across the country, the idea was to present the best of global and Indian cinema.

The academy’s vision was to celebrate cinema and over the decades the dreams have multiplied and so have our expectations from MAMI. It has always lived up to our expectations and barring a few glitches like the screenings and the tedious bookings, there’s lot to applaud.

The opening ceremony this year was held at Mumbai’s Bal Gandharva Rangmandir and Deepika Padukone took the stage to deliver the keynote address as Festival Chairperson. Board of Trustees, MAMI, and Director, Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail Isha Ambani welcomed the audience while also announcing new initiatives.

With many international and Indian film personalities in attendance, the academy celebrated talent who continue to define and shape the filmmaking community today. Deepti Naval who is an actor/ director/ painter/ photographer was presented the Excellence in Cinema Award by Vishal Bhardwaj and Deepika Padukone for her exemplary contribution to the Indian film industry.

More about them in the coming days….


To be continued


Movie Review – Laal Kaptaan – Day 1672

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Slow and repetitive

Film: Laal Kaptaan

Date: 18.10.2019

Director: Navdeep Singh

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Manav Vij, Deepak Dobriyal, Zoya Hussain, Simone Singh


For some strange reason Eros and Color Yellow, producers of Laal Kaptan have decided to release the film without any promotions. Unfortunately, the only news that made headlines about the film is that Saif Khan’s styling is borrowed from Pirates of the Caribbean and which provoked Saif to clarify that the Naga Sadhu, the dreadlocks, the bandana, and his ash face, even the red jacket comes from the East India Company.

And there is a reference to the jacket in a scene where the British soldier while beating him up wants to know where he robbed the uniform from. There are many intriguing moments…

The begum/ Simone Singh desires the blessings of Laal Pari for her newborn and even though her husband/ Manav Vij is not a follower of such faith, he escorts his family to the faraway location where the mystic meditates in an isolated cave. We discover that Laal Pari is wrapped in Black fabric and rolls her eyes upwards before communicating with her devotees.  She sticks out her tongue to reveal that she has a black tongue before she makes any predictions and everything she says comes true!

Laal Kaptaan is the story of what happened in the 18 century in Bundelkhand. There are many ways to describe this epic drama. You can say it is the aftermath of Buxar battle, the story of a unique and multi-cultured nation, a story of a family or just a story of passion and revenge. What is disappointing is that all these tracks put together combined with backstories don’t serve an engaging narrative!

There are some films that grab your attention from the very beginning, some get you involved in the narrative slowly but gradually and there are some that merely build your expectations and don’t deliver till the end. Laal Kaptaan falls in the last category where characters wander aimlessly from one desert to another, one ruin to another seeking revenge and creating mayhem!

After every stomach-churning action sequence that usually ends in a line of dead bodies you expect some revelation but the mysteries take ages to resolve and you are drained before the interval. The main culprit is the uninvolving screenplay. The characters though interesting cannot hold your attention because the pace is exceedingly slow and the information imparted painfully repetitive.

It is never easy to make a period film and shooting in the ravines calls for different challenges. There is no doubting the intent and courage of director Navdeep Singh and his creative team shooting in such difficult circumstances. The technical team is first-rate specially the cinematography, the production design, and the action. It is a well-cast film introducing refreshing faces.

Zoya Hussain is photogenic and effective so what if she wears kohl in her eyes even in the ravines. Deepak Dobriyal in his cowboy hat and homemade shoes has the best role in the film and it does not matter that his hat never gets torn or blown away in the wind despite many travels and battles.

Saif Ali Khan has always ventured out of his comfort zone to experiment with new characters and he does it this time as well.  There is a character graph in his portrayal of Naga Sadhu and it is consistent and detailed.

So must you watch Laal Kaptaan, well only if you like horses, guns, dust, soldiers, ruins and Western movies,  if not then save your time and money for Diwali cleaning and shopping.

I rate Laal Kaptaan with 2 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Obsessed with Keshava – Day 1671

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The first, Krishna: The God who lived as Man about the deity and the women in his life is a translation from Gujarati to English. The book focuses on Radha, Rukmini and Draupadi but I got fascinated with Krishna’s youngest wife Satyabhma and unknowingly became partial to the character. This can and does happen and it is okay as long as the writer is conscious about it.


For Keshava: A Magnificent Obsession I  conceived  the concept and all the eight wonders – peacock, flute, the Kadamba tree, lotus, Tulsi plant, Kamadhenu, conch and the Peepal tree instinctively began to  read about them till I could consume them  no longer. All of them are obsessed with Lord Krishna and believe that he loves them the most. I remained obsessed with each of them till the book was complete and even now, I can never pass by a Peepal tree on the road without wondering if Krishna resides within the branches…I cannot pluck on a Tulsi leaf without wondering about her fate and if justice was done to her by her lord….


The lotus, the conch,   the Kadamb tree stay within me even as I write this…. There is a possibility that the characters get as attached to the writer’s mind and don’t leave until the writer consciously bids them farewell to make space for newer characters….







Only two out of the 15 books are fiction – Day 1670

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Unlike a fiction writer, a journalist does not choose her subjects/characters; she is the lieutenant sent on the operation and does her best within the circumstances. There is a possibility however that doing the same kind of interviews makes her an expert on the subject. This happened to me.

I wrote exclusively and extensively on cinema and therefore my debut book and others that followed focused on cinema, a trilogy on Amitabh Bachchan, the authorized biography of Hema Malini, essays on the magic of movies and chronicling the history of cinema.

Only two out of the 15 books I have authored between the years1999 to 2019 only two are fiction and feature Lord Krishna. More about that tomorrow….

To be continued


I write because I feel cleansed, because I feel happy… – Day 1669

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I am often asked if I like what  I do,  some ask me how do I write and others why do I write…? I have no answers. I write because it comes to me naturally, I write because I feel happy, I feel cleansed or maybe simply because I am accustomed to writing. It is like breathing and when I don’t it is like something is missing in my day.


As children we wrote with pencils, as we grew up we learnt to write with fountain pen on lined notebooks. When I started working, we were given ball points and writing pads. I learnt to correct what I had written with red ball point pens. I learnt to edit my writing using a felt pen marking paragraphs and punctuations. Then after a good night’s rest I would scrutinize every line and write a final draft out of the messy multi coloured manuscript in long hand.


In the 80s we learnt to befriend the typewriter keys even though there was just one typewriter in the office. In the 90s it was time to look at the screen and think and in 2000 the lap top wire became the umbilical cord that was never disconnected.

To be continued