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Movie Review: Photograph

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Film: Photograph

Date: 15-3-2019

Writer-Director: Ritesh Batra

Cast:  Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar


After the award-winning Lunch Box one was looking forward to Ritesh Batra’s next and disappointed that it does not live up to our expectations even though like Lunch Box, Photograph is a love story of two lonely strangers in a metropolis.

Rafiq/ Nawazudin Siddiqui is a photographer at the Gateway of India and has a way of tempting tourists to click pictures for memory and convinces Miloni/ Sanya Malhotra, a student returning from a holiday with her family to do the same and she agrees.

He hands over the picture to her but she flees without paying and they lose each other in the crowd. Now both are on the lookout for each other but for different reasons…

Photograph is unlike any other love story where lovers are either rejoicing together or facing opposition together.  Here the hero is always worried and weighed down because he has to struggle for survival, has too many debts to clear and lives in a small room shared with five other friends in a slum colony.

The heroine is forever depressed and there is no apparent reason for this because she lives a comfortable life with her family and is a topper in her class now preparing for her Charter Account exams.

There is no meeting ground between Rafiq and Miloni who come from different backgrounds except the fact that they are both withdrawn and introverted. They meet frequently over tea/ coffee/ cola/sometimes ice candy on the beach. She even agrees to visit his home in the narrow congested lanes and share a hot snack from the same plate. They drive around the city in a taxi, watch a film in a local theatre and get soaked in the rain, they appear happy, well almost.

Two hours pass by with great difficulty…

Director Ritesh Batra says his film is a love letter to the city of Mumbai. I’m certain his actors Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra and grandmother, Farrukh Jaffar have grasped that which is why they have delivered sparkling performances.

I failed in grasping the plot, characters or the intention of the love story and therefore rate Photograph with 1.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Mere Pyaare Prime Minister

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Film: Mere Pyaare Prime Minister

Date: 15.03.2019

Producer-Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Writers: Manoj Mairta, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Hussain Dalal

Cast:  Anjali Patil,Om Kanojiya, Atul Kulkarni, Makrand Deshpande


Four little children visit the BMC with a request to build a toilet in their slums. The official tells them that the land occupied by them is illegal and so in the eyes of law they don’t exist. ‘But we do’ shouts back Nirala and his friends.

The official shoos them away, says that if they want to build a toilet they have to write a letter to the Prime Minister, so Kanhaiya (Kannu) writes a letter to the Prime Minister explaining what happened to his mother when she went out in the open to defecate, ‘How would you feel if this had happened to your mother?’ he asks the Prime Minister.


Kannu and his friends make an adventurous trip to Delhi to hand over the letter to the Prime Minister’s Office portrayed by Atul Kulkarni in a superb cameo. Kulkarni is indulgent of the kids and accepts the letter from them. ‘Will our work be done’ asks Kannu. ‘My job is to hand over the letter the rest is left to the system’. ‘And where do we find the system?’ asks Nirala. The PMO has no answer.


The film is full of such surprises. To perceive a film from a child’s perspective is never easy but filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra expertly combines the adult and the child world to present a sensitive story of the slum dwellers and  even though there have been many films  recently both on the toilet and the slums, Mere Pyaare Prime Minister stands apart for its message.


There are many touching moments in the film, for instance, Kannu does not understand what has happened to his mother but he understands that this would not have happened if they had a toilet in their surrounding! The sequence where he struggles to build a toilet made out of sari, stones, and bamboos, blown away by fierce wind and torrential rain brings a lump into your throat.


Another long sequence of how files move in bureaucratic offices explains why sometimes justice is delayed but never denied.


Unfortunately, there are some exaggerations too. After an outburst when Sargam asks her son to apologize to the deity Kannu insists that the deity apologizes to his mother for what happened followed by a close-up of Lord Hanuman shedding a tear!

It is a bit far-fetched that three little kids, who have never stepped out of their locality, have no money, embark on a journey to the capital without assistance or guidance. They boldly walk toward the Rashtrapati Bhavan without security or permissions and even take Selfies with the darban there.

They locate the Prime Minister’s correct address and create chaos at the gates till they are allowed inside and present the letter to the PMO to return home, safe and sound without any hurdles or hardships.

If you can overlook these exaggerations Mere Pyaare Prime Minister is worth it for the innocence and simplicity, the film brings back your childhood and delivers a strong, social message.

I rate Mere Pyaare Prime Minister with 3 stars.




Article 15 (Day 1545)

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When you follow your heart and are appreciated for it you kind of get hooked on to the adrenaline. That is what is happening to filmmaker Anubhav Sinha. After receiving rave reviews for his last film Mulk the director is geared up for his next titled Article 15 starring Ayushmann Khurrana and a stellar support cast.

Sinha reveals that the film is an investigative drama where the audience is an accused party.  It is the first of its kind of a plot that will challenge the team and the filmmaker. Ayushman is super excited by the role, says he is always intrigued by the socio-political situation of our country and it his privilege that the director of Mulk thought of him for this role.

Produced by Benaras Media Works the film has been on floors since the 1March 2019 in Lucknow and is based on true-life events that is bound to move the audience.

Neena Gupta on reel & real marriage (Day 1544)

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I thought improvisations add to creativity?

They most certainly do, we improvise on theatre all the time but we do it during rehearsals till we have mastered the nuances. Pushan engaged Rajit and me in multiple workshops that involved us to share our experiences of marriage and life. He wanted funny, intimate moments that would make the characters believable, so I told him of a time I visited the bathroom but could not relieve myself because the salwar knot was entangled and he has retained this in the film. Pushan has acknowledged our contribution by including Ranjit and me in the writing credits along with our dialogue writer Nihaarika.


How similar/different is this marriage story to your own life?

All marriages have many things in common and yet all marriages are different. The Threshold is not about borrowing from my or Rajit’s marriage, it is a culmination of what happens in a relationship over the years, it is about perspectives, about how women feel and men think, it is about a journey together and quest for personal space.


Was it easy to inhabit a character like Rinku as a character?

I have known many Rinkus and they exist in our wide circle of distant relatives. When I was growing up I have heard my mother, maasis and chachis discuss domestic issues in hushed whispers. Maybe they are all Rinkus in different degrees in different states and homes. I was familiar with her emotional fabric. The difficult part was to shed vanity both in posture and expression. I’ve worn extra sweaters to look plump and walk with a limp. There were times I pleaded with the director to let me wear some lipstick but the director wanted me to look dull and sad.


Has your husband seen the film, what was his reaction?

Yes, I had prepared him for my character and yet he was jolted to see his beautiful wife transform into a haggard Rinku. Later, when he had adjusted to the film he was able to appreciate my performance but his disappointment over my appearance lingered till we reached home. Next time I’m not going to play an unattractive character.


That’s being a woman?

Yes and there’s nothing wrong with that

Neena Gupta: Scenes from a marriage (Day 1543)

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Neena Gupta has been on a roll ever since her film Badhai Ho has rocked at the box-office. She has picked up the Best Actress trophy at all the award events this year and what’s more, she has two more films lined up for release this year interestingly both on marriage.

After a screening of The Threshold, I chat with the actor on life in her second innings.

Nice to see you so active on the big screen after a long break

Yes, an actor is never out of work if he/she is active in all the mediums. I have relished my experience on television, theatre and cinema but over the decades, roles on celluloid decreased and then Badhai Ho happened and life became promising again.

You have not done television for a while?

I started on TV as a vamp in Khandaan and graduated to playing mother to adolescent kids in the popular serial Saans, then suddenly I was only being offered grandmother roles which I promptly refused.

What made you say yes to The Threshold the story of an ageing couple?

The plot was interesting and that there are just two characters so that was challenging for me as an actor. That my director Pushan Kirpalani thought of casting me over other actors and that he promised me a bound script was an added incentive. This is unusual because most of the time, small budget films write scripts while shooting on location which can be nerve-wracking for an actor.

 To be continued

Movie Review: Badla

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Film: Badla
Release: 08.03.2019
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Writer: Oriol Paulo/ Story, Sujoy Ghosh/ Screenplay,Raj Vasant/ Dialogue
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Tapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh
Music: Amaal Mallik, Anupam Roy, Clinton Cerejo

On a winter morning a senior man carrying a brief case walks down the street. He checks his wristwatch before reaching his destination and is welcomed by Naina Sethi/ Tapsee Pannu who is just finishing her breakfast. They are meeting for the first time but they look strangely comfortable seated on the dining table next to the window overlooking the street.
Director Sujoy Ghosh is a master of thrillers (Kahani or Kahani 2) and this time Badla is a story of revenge and redemption, rather it is a story of truth and lies or better still half-truths and selective lies.

Like all crime movies there is a murder, some dark secrets and many speculations. Tapsee Pannu discovered in the spot of the murder is the victim and helping her through the dark tunnel is her Jimmy/Manav Kaul, Naina’s college friend and lawyer but as the case turns more complicated a Jimmy feels the need to hire an expert/ Badal Gupta/ Amitabh Bachchan to help his friend. Badal Gupta has never lost a single case in his 40-year-old practice; he can fight the biggest challenges provided his client tells him nothing but the truth. It is a story of legalities but the entire narrative unfolds in a domestic surrounding – very casually without emotional drama! The downside of the film is that it concentrates on just two characters and two locations so after
a point it becomes a strenuous watch. There are frequent flashbacks and flash-forwards and if you are not paying attention you can easily lose the plot.

The merits however outweigh the demerits. Slickly shot and tautly written with believable dialogues, Badla is sharply edited with haunting music and engaging story-telling. It is a story of contemporary India but borrowing from our epic – Mahabharata. To forgive is divine but sometimes it is important to seek revenge and Badla has its version of Kaurav king Dhritrashtra, his companion Sanjay, the reason behind Kurukshetra, Draupadi and the justice giver, Lord Krishna.

All the performances are effective -Manav Kaul in a cameo, Tapsee Pannu who is both volatile and vulnerable, Amrita Singh as always dependable but the film finally belongs to Amitabh Bachchan.

In his interrogation with his client Badal Gupta time and again emphasizes the importance of truth, detailing and homework and all three are apparent in his performance. The actor delivers a character study of minutes detailing in costume, body language/ attitude and props that include files/notepad/ pen and jottings on paper.

This is not a film you can watch casually munching popcorn, it calls for focused concentration or you are going to miss the plot for sure.

I rate Badla with 3 stars.
Bhawana Somaaya


Alia Bhatt- Student to the Gully (Day 1542)

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It is a few days Gully Boy is released and Alia Bhatt has not had any respite. Earlier it was the promotions of the film and post the release, there are more promotions and parties. First Zoya Akhtar had a party at home and then Ranveer Singh. This is the new generation who works hard and parties hard. They are friends with their directors and friends with their co-stars. They deliver what is expected in the film without reservation and without baggage. There are two intimate scenes in the film where Ranveer Singh and Alia exchange passionate kisses but there is no big deal about it. Not on the sets, nor off it and what’s wonderful is that even the media doesn’t make any fuss about it.

There are two reasons for this, one and more important, is that cinema has changed over the decades and consequently actors have changed. The second is about persona, it is all about how an actor gets himself accepted by his audience and Alia Bhatt has from the very beginning got accepted for what she is and probably which is why, she has in such a short span of her career done so many different films and got appreciated.

Beginning with Student of the Year, a romantic Two States, a heartbreaking Highway, a family drama Kapoor & Sons/ 2016 Alia Bhatt stunned us in Uddta Pujab and later Raazi. Gully Boy is Ranveer Singh’s story but the story would not be the same without Safeena/ Alia Bhatt

I am trying to recall when the acting bug first hit Alia or rather when was the first time I heard about Alia Bhatt…

Pooja Bhatt had once narrated me an incident where Alia played Pooja’s childhood for her film, cannot remember if it was Tamanna or Sangharsh but the year was 1998-99. Pooja said Alia arrived on her sets directly from her school wearing her uniform and was ushered into Pooja’s makeup room.

After cooling her heels for a while there, Alia got up and asked Pooja to lead her to her own make-up room. A flustered Pooja explained to her that there was no exclusive room for her and they would have to share the space. Alia was clearly disapproving and made it clear that another person in this case Pooja) will interrupt her preparation process. Pooja was so amused by her baby sister that she decided to leave her room for her baby sister Alia and got ready in another room. “I told my father that day that this child is going to be a superstar”.

To be continued


Shiva & sons (Day 1541)

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Mahadev’s older son Kartike is heavy-hearted because he has killed the fondest devotee of his father and cannot be at peace till he has done penance. Lord Vasudev tells Kartike that the only way to conquer his karma is to create Shivling and lay the foundation of a new shrine with his own hands.

Ganesha decides to accompany Kartike on his mission and promises his mother that he will only return to Kailash with his brother. The duo walk miles tired and hungry before they find the ideal rock that can be sculpted into a Shivling but their struggle is far from over because Mahadev tests all his devotees and makes no concession for his son. He encounters Kartike in the disguise of an old man, longing to possess a Shivling but incapable of making one himself. Kartike feels sorry for him and hands over his Shivling to the stranger.

Ganesha is supportive of his brother’s decision and keeps up his spirit as they go hunting for another rock. They are challenged by the emperor of a mountain who will not allow Kartike to touch the stone until he proves himself a warrior. Kartike explains that violence is not his goal so the emperor has another option for Kartike. He must answer all his questions and if he fails he will be cursed to transform into a rock. Kartike agrees.

Mahadev in the avtaar of emperor asks: Who is your best companion in journey of life? Kartike: Patience. If I’m patient I’m able to endure everything. Mahadev: What is that color that cannot be robbed but can be lost? Kartike: Knowledge, nobody can rob my wisdom but if I’m not careful then arrogance can cloud it. Mahadev: What is that you sacrifice and feel peaceful? Kartike: Pride, dropping it makes me lighter. Mahadev: What is in your possession that you lose and rejoice? Kartike: Anger is a destructive emotion and we are better without it. Mahadev: What defines you as a superior existence – genes or genius? Kartike: Compassion because without empathy all is futile. Mahadev: Final question, of all the virtues which is the most superior? Kartike: For me it is my bonding with my family.

The emperor is impressed and Kartike is allowed to borrow a rock from the mountain.

Understanding Shiva (Day 1540)

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Mythology and entertainment media have a close connection but while many films have been made on Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva has not been explored on the big screen. On the small screen, however, Lord Shiva has been a national obsession.  I caught some old episodes of Devon Ka Dev on television late night and was unable to switch the channel. The serial is rich in content and engaging in storytelling with extraordinary writing. The first episode concentrated on Mahadev’s biggest devotee Parshuram.

One day, before Mahadev went in for his meditation, he requested his sons Kartike and Ganesha to guard his gate so nobody disturbed him and so when Parshuram walked in unannounced, younger son Ganesha politely turned him down. Parshuram was offended at being denied to meet his lord and in a rage attacked Ganesha with his weapon that broke his tusk.

Sometime later when Mahadev emerged from his meditation, an angry Parvati urged her consort to punish Parshuram for attacking their son but Ganesha pacified his mother that he can protect himself but didn’t because defying Parshuram’s weapon blessed by Mahadev would be defying his own father and he wouldn’t want that. Parshuram was spellbound by little Ganesha’s wisdom and blessed him. He said, “What is done cannot be undone but this broken tusk in time to come will write the biggest epic”.

In another episode, I was riveted by the interrogation between father Mahadev and his firstborn Kartike but I’ll leave that story for tomorrow. Till then Happy Maha Shivratri to all.

To be continued


Movie Review: Sonchiriya (Day 1539)

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Film; Sonchiriya

Date: 01.03.2019

 Producer: Ronnie Screwala

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Writers: Abhishek Chaubey SudeepSharma/ story Sudeep Sharma/ screenplay, dialogues

Cast: Manoj Bajpayee/ Dadda, Sushant Singh/ Lakhan, Bhumi Pednekar, Ranvir Shorey, Ashutosh Rana.


In Ishqiyaan/ 2010 and sequel Dedh Ishqiyaan/ 2014 Abhishek Chaubey was a revelation, in Uddta Punjab/2016 the filmmaker had you in a daze and in Sonchiriya/ 2019 he has you addicted to his cinema.

Set in the ravines of 1970’s Chambal, the film is about a gang of dacoits led by Maan Singh / Manoj Bajpayee fondly addressed as Dadda by his boys as they battle with the cops, each other and their own conscience.

The reason Sonchiriya is not a regular dacoit film is because it’s focus is not just on crime but the aftermath of it. The story travels into the mind of the perpetrators of crime rather than their action.  They are unhappy living the life they do and in moments of quietude dream of a peaceful, normal life.

Abhishek Chaubey’s outlaws are a principled bunch with a strong sense of right and wrong. They will not fire at women and children and if they do by mistake, they will do penance. They will not hurt animals intentionally and if that happens, they seek forgiveness, visit the shrine to seek blessings of mother goddess.

Shot across the barren valleys of Madhya Pradesh, the director travels you through the heartland of India using Sonchiriya as a metaphor – the bird everyone longs to own but nobody can – happiness!

It is a film about criminals but the presentation is poetic and seeks answers in the laws of nature… Snakes prey upon mice and the vultures prey on the snakes.

All the characters are inward looking and the dialogues sensitive. ‘We can wear the best medals but all of us die in our natural uniform, naked’ comments a cop while Sushant Singh in a poignant asks that he can run away from people but how does he escape his conscience?

There is a haunting feeling of remorse throughout the film highlighted by the background score that pierce your heart. The film addresses multiple issues – caste, class, gender, superstition, poetic justice that if you have harmed others you will be doomed too!

Superbly shot and delicately written Sonchiriya is a triumph of combined efforts – editing, music, production design, costume and stellar performances from ensemble cast -Manoj Bajpayee, Sushant Singh, Bhoomi Pednekar, Ranvir Shorey and Ashutosh Rana including the little girl who does not speak a single word.

If you are looking for escapist entertainer Sonchiriya is not for you. Chaubey’s cinema is about ravines and redemption; dark secrets and debts. His characters walk miles, sleep on rocks and survive in one costume. Sonchiriya is an emotional catharsis

I rate Sonchiriya with 3.5 stars.