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Movie review – Panga

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More than worth taking Panga

Film: Panga

Release: 24.01.2020 

Director: Ashwini Iyer

Writers: Nikhil Mehrotra/ story, Nitish Tiwari/ screenplay, dialogues

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Jassi GillRicha Chadda and YagyaBhasin

The film opens to a guard taking rounds around a building striking the stick loudly on the ground. Inside a middle class home; anenergetic wife kicks her husband every time she turns sides on the double bed. In the morning we are introduced to the Shrivastavfamily, husband Prashant Shrivastav/Jassi Gill is an engineer, his wife Jaya Nigam/Kangana Ranaut, a former sports star now employed with the railways.

Their eight year-old son Aditya/ Yagya Bhasin is accustomed to surviving a few hours on his own and Adi  relishes his me time in the company of telephone/ television always lovingly watched over by a maternal neighbor until the parents get back from work. Their home comprises all the facilities essential for quality living likewashing machine, music system, mobile phone and hearts filled with love.

The Shrivastavs are happy, well almost except for a broken dream here and there! Panga is the story of that incomplete dream whenJaya Nigam was Kabaddi National Champion and decided to give it all up for the sake of her family. Now a decade later, at the age of 32Jaya dreams of a comeback because her son wants her to.

Rooted in the subculture of societal traditions Panga includes you into the world of Shrivastavas, their highs and lows, when they are together and separated. What makes the film special is the first ratewriting specially the dialogues and adding to the narrative are JavedAkhtar’s lyrics and Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music.

The first half travels between Delhi and Bhopal and focuses on the family, their insights and attitudes, their daily routine all minutely captured by the filmmaker. The second half when the story shifts from Bhopal to Kolkatta unfortunately is not as engaging. Jaya’s preparation for the match is not as excruciating and therefore the excitement associated with the game does not rise to a crescendo.

We are expecting the family to encounter a crisis but that does not happen and post interval the pace slows down. Some details are not underlined  for instance we are unable gage the separation timebetween Jaya and her family and the frenzy during the final match is sorely missed but one is ready to bypass these shortcomings because the film has its heart in place.

Panga raises its voice for kabaddi, for dormant dreams, for womenseeking identity and most important salutes the mother who pouts endless hours to keep a family together. It is never too late to follow a dream, to express and be heard and to support a family.

Before the interval in a deeply moving scene, Jaya tells her husband that every time she looks at him and their son she feels good, but does not feel the same when she looks at herself. The confession is an alarm bell for us, our society that has oppressed women for too long in the guise of moral and social responsibilities. 

Not a single character is out of place or over stated. Curly haired Neena Gupta makes an appropriate mother to Kangana Ranaut and Richa Chadda as Jaya’s friend Meenu is as candid as it gets, she is the scene stealer. Jassi Gill and little Yagya Bhasin are the surprise packets and Kangana Ranaut once again delivers a fabulous performance. The last time we encountered Ranaut she played aqueen, this time she wins our hearts as an endearing homemaker.

Director Ashwini Iyer and writer Nitish Tiwari take a bow for this delightful film and make sure you watch it with your entire family. I rate the simple, sensitive and effective Panga with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review – Street Dancer 3

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Film: Street Dancer 3

Release: 24.01.2020

Director: Remo D’Souza

Cast: Varun DhawanShraddha KapoorPrabhu DevaNora Fatehi 

In 2013 director Remo D’Souza made ABCD  that told the story of  Vishnu/ Prabhu Deva who mentors and trains street dancers to win a competition. Made on a modest budget ABCD earned100 crore at the box-office only because it managed to touch so many hearts.

In 2015 Remo D’Souza made ABCD2 featuring Varun Dhawan and Shradha Kapoor who combined force to win a dance competition in Las Vegas. Made on a budget of more than 150 crore ABCD 2 though successful at the box-office failed to connect an emotional with the audience the way ABCD did. 

And now five years later, Remo D’Souza brings the same pair to tell yet another story of dance called Street Dancer 3D. This time the scale is even bigger as a result all the characters reside in sprawling mansions and do nothing for a living except of course dance! So all we get to watch in the 2.5 hour film is laboured gymnastics, done to death dance rehearsals and irrelevant discussions/ debates on dance. 

All the dance movements, expressions are mechanical and without any emotional connect and nothing about the choreography is remotely appealing with the sole exception of Prabhu Deva’s ‘Muqabla’ and climax number ‘Mile sur jo mera tumhara’. The problem is that the film wants to combine too many messages – team spirit, patriotism and the issue of illegalimmigrants. The demerits are too many because everything is unconvincing, exaggerated, unrealistic and over the top.

Some sequences are blatantly plagiarized like Varuun Dhawan’s outburst with Shradha’s father in the climax is a takeoff from Shah Rukh Khan’s conversation with Amrish Puri in DDLJ.Some lyrics offensive/ ‘Garmi’, some camera angles appalling and some dialogues bizarre like Prabhu Deva lecturing on physics/ history/ geography and Moral Science! Street Dancer 3D is devoid of any surprises/emotion or entertainment and I would warn you to watch the film at your own risk. 

I rate Street Dancer 3D with 2 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Junoon Salons – Day 1714

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The aim of #Junoon Salons is to reach out to business and cultural leaders and to connect to the world of the performing arts.  Come Tuesday 4 February 2020 #G5A will showcase #Adishakti’s Bali, a retelling of the various events that led up to the battle between Bali, ruler of Kishkindha, and Ram, King of Ayodhya. In signature Adishakti style, the play asks fundamental philosophical questions that trigger introspection. 

Through a delightful narrative that travels diverse viewpoints of multiple characters, Bali explores notions of right and wrong, ethics, ideologies and identities, with  minimal text and powerful visuals and breathtaking design, the play offers theatre at its best – thoughtful, playful and utterly moving.

Junoon says it is proud to present Adishakti’s Bali which delivers a tour de force that sets the benchmarks for contemporary Indian theatre.


A film a month – Day 1713

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Pen Marudhar Cine Entertainment (A Division of Pen Studios) has a packed calendar for 2020. In January it is Jawaani Jaaneman starring Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Alaya, directed by Nitin Kakkar. In February it is Love Aaj Kal 2 featuring Kartik Aaryan, Sarah Ali Khan, directed by Imtiaz Ali. In March it will be Angrezi Medium with Irrfan Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, directed by Homi Adajania.

In April it is Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare starring Konkana Sen Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar, directed by Alankrita Srivastava. In May it is Coolie #1 featuringVarun Dhawan and Sarah Ali Khan, directed by David Dhawan. After a three month gap in August is Attack and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi starring Alia Bhatt and this is enough to make anybody breathless.


Shabana Azmi is stable – Day 1712

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After a four day celebration of Javed Akhtar’s 75th birthday Shabana Azmi’s car met with an accident on 18 January on Mumbai- Pune Express Highway but she was moved to Kokilaben Ambani Hospital and is on her way to recovery. This post is to inform all her fans and well-wishers that she is under the supervision of the best doctors and will be fine soon.


Footprints – Day 1711

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Artiste Mahesh Karambele’s latest painting is titled Footprints and there’s a story behind the making of the picture. Before he embarked on this painting Karambele first uncluttered his mind and later his studio. He discarded everything he did not need and was happy to be in open space in his tiny 10ft x 8ft studio. He noticed that the sky was pink and his new painting needed to reflect that and more.

Karambele says that even before he lifted the brush he knew something special was about to happen, he could sense it and followed his instinct. He was going through troubled times and wanted to heal himself and he did expressing himself on the canvass through varied colors. “For the first time, I stepped on to the canvass and recreated my own footprints, it was a strange feeling as I dabbled in vibrant colours expressing my joy and anger, anxiety and passion, smiling and crying all at the same time


DocuBay – Day 1710

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We are living in a world of technology and it is growing every day. DocuBay is the global membership video-on-demand streaming service by IN10 Media Network, announces a partnership with the International Film Festival of Shimla (IFFS) that will bring IFFS documentaries featured in last year’s film festival.

Select titles will be featured under their own category or “Bay” called IFFSBay and is now available for global streaming on the platform. DocuBay was also the official streaming partner of the IFFS, which took place in the historic and scenic town of Shimla in the Himalayan foothills.

Notable titles to be featured on DocuBay include Authenticity, about how Ayurvedic treatments might be the key to great health and lasting wellness. No Woman’s Land, about women in a Himalayan village defying the laws that keep them from inheriting property; Behind The Bars, about how learning homemaking skills like stitching and baking help to rehabilitate prisoners; and Dan the Himalayan Ibex, about a community of women determined to fight threats to the Ibex and help keep them alive despite hunters, poachers, and a declining habitat.

Akul Tripathi (CEO, DocuBay) stated: “Working with independent filmmakers and film festivals like the IFFS reinforces our commitment to providing a platform for storytellers to showcase their work worldwide. We’re very proud to highlight these features on DocuBay and look forward to further building relationships with independent filmmakers and other international film festivals to become a global voice for the factual film community.”


Speaking Tiger – Day 1709

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For over three decades, Upamanyu Chatterjee has been an utterly distinctive and daring literary voice, with few equals among contemporary writers of fiction. In the twelve long stories that comprise this volume, he investigates, as only he can, the absurd comedy and the grand horrors of the human condition. The book opens with his most recent story, written in 2018, which follows Thomas Roe, the much-feted English Ambassador to the court of Jahangir, as he bumbles through a subcontinent far larger than his imagination can accommodate; and it concludes with the title story, written in 1985, in which a young Sikh sequestered in his parents’ home in Mussoorie, and debilitated by jaundice and ennui, listens disinterestedly to news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi.

A magisterial collection of stories—each as rich as a novel—The Assassination of Indira Gandhi is destined to become a classic of Indian literature has been shortlisted for The Hindu Prize 2019 – Fiction category.

The acclaimed author of the novels English, August: An Indian Story (1988), The Last Burden (1993), The Mammaries of the Welfare State (2000), which won the Sahitya Akademi Award for writing in English, Weight Loss (2006), Way to Go (2011), which was shortlisted for the Hindu Best Fiction Award, and Fairy Tales at Fifty (2014); and the novella The Revenge of the Non-vegetarian (2018), which was shortlisted for the Crossword Jury Award.

In 2008, he was awarded the Order of Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government for his contribution to literature.


Remembering Akbar Padamse – Day 1709

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This exhibition talks about the landmark 1954 court case, a seminal moment in the life of Akbar Padamsee, in which he was acquitted, in the Lower Court and once again in the Higher Court. 

On his older brother Nicky’s advice, Akbar returned from Paris for his debut solo show. Akbar, then 25, was charged under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for two paintings – Lovers 1 and Lovers 2 – that were exhibited at the Jehangir Art Gallery. Both paintings – currently in the possession of two established art collectors – showed a man’s hand on a woman’s breast. The instinctive expression of love on canvas was labeled obscene and seized by the police. 

But a defiant Akbar wouldn’t take this lying down and was keen to fight the battle for artistic freedom. This story is retold by arts journalist Reema Gehi Desai using a meticulously handcrafted scrapbook of newspaper clippings by Akbar’s sister-in-law, Shahbibi Padamsee.

One of the highlights of the show is a short theatrical performance – directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee – told through the voice of Shahbibi, sharing important vignettes of the year-long trial. Diary notes, court judgments, police correspondence, letters and additional newspaper clippings from the archives of Bhanu Padamsee, this is an exhibition you cannot miss!


Movie Review: Tanhaji

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Value for money

Film: Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior

Date: 10.01.20120

Director: Om Raut

Cast: Ajay DevgnSaif Ali KhanKajolJagapathi Babu and Sharad Kelkar 

In the 17th century Mughal emperor Auurangzeb decided to conquer the Southern state of India, Kondhana. When King Chattrapati Shivaji/ Sharad Kelkar learned of Aurngzeb’s devious plans he sent his faithful Subedar Tanaji Malusare/ Ajay Devgn to prepare for war in Kondhana while Aurangzeb dispatched his best commander Uday Bhan/ Saif Ali Khan to conquer the Marathas.

Tanhaji like Panipat is a story about the preparation of a battle and the mind games involved in the attack of an enemy. The difference being that while director Ashutosh Gowariker borrowed from history, director Om Raut portrays it as fiction a la Baahubali. The film excels in all the technical departments that include a variety of amazing action sequences, skillful VFX, ace cinematography and sharp editing all comprised within 134 minutes which is commendable.

Prakash Kapadia who wrote Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas once again serves us dramatic dialogues aided by a haunting score from the extremely popular composers Ajay-Atul.

The demerits are that the action sequences are too long and too many and the women characters hardly get any screen time even then Padmavati Rao as Shivaji’s mother Jijabai makes an impact in two scenes and Kajol looks radiant as the proud Savitribai. It is while watching her you realize that you have missed her on the screen. Sharad Kelkar makes an impressive Chattrapati Shivaji and is a delight to watch him even though he does not fight the battle.

It is amazing how Saif Ali Khan always manages to lend that something special to his characters and this time he sparkles as the dangerously obsessive Uday Bhan. A leaner and fitter Ajay Devgn makes a courageous Tanhaji jumping from mountains performing spine chilling action and this time the macho actor spares time to smile, dance and romance as well.

Made on a budget of 150 crores Tanhaji releases in two languages/ Hindi, Marathi in both 2D and3D over 3800 screens in India alone. If you don’t look for authenticity and just enjoy the scale and the opulence the experience is more than value for money.

I rate Tanhaji: The Unsung Hero with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanaasomaaya