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A Critical Mind Part 1 (Day 1489)

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I have often been asked what goes on in a critic’s mind when he/she watches a film she has to review. Is it different when you are watching a film you are not going to write about? Is it always possible to be fair and neutral or do you soften when it comes to films of people who are your friends? How do you determine the rating of a film?

Some of these questions were raised in a wed chat show during the promotion of the Critics’ Choice Short Film Awards hosted by the newly launched The Film Critics Guild next week.

Over the next few days I will be sharing excerpts of the conversation:

  1. Do you remember the first film you ever reviewed and how long ago that was? No, because in the olden days that I did not do reviews of films but I shared my opinion on films I liked/ disliked in my editorial for the Screen weekly. Some of the films were reserved for a special mention in the Editor’s Choice. I started reviewing films officially in 2009 when 92.7BigFM asked me to do radio reviews of films and that too in Hindi. The first film I reviewed on the radio was Amitabh Bachchan’s Paa in 2009.


What is that one thing you cannot watch a film without?

There’s no such thing, I can watch a film anytime, anywhere.  I don’t need money because my ticket is usually an invite. I don’t need my phone because I disconnect it when the film commences, I don’t need glasses and I don’t need paper/pen because I never take notes. I am always worried that if I look down to write points I will something on the screen!


To be continued


Movie Review: Kedarnath

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Film: Kedarnath
Release: 07 December 2018
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan
Writer :Abhishek Kapoor- Kanika Dhillon

For pilgrims who come to Uttarakhand to visit the Kedarnath Temple and cannot climb the mountain there are pithus to carry them on donkeys and when the donkeys tire, the pithus strap the pilgrims on their backs and reach them to the temple.

Mansoor Ali/ Sushant Singh Rajput, has grown up in the mountains and carries pilgrims for a living but more for the joy he brings to their faces.

Mandakini/Sara Ali Khan is the Pandit’s daughter. Her family runs an in-house lodge and Mandakini and her sister assist their parents in the hospitality of the pilgrims.

Inspired from the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand writer Kanika Dhilllon and director Abhishek Kapoor weave a story of inter faith romance, of devotion and devastation.

The merits of the film are the beauteous locations, for two and half hours you are surrounded by the misty mountains and deported in a wondrous, fragrant land.

The film is clearly more than a love story, Kapoor addresses caste/class/ religion but also gender/ family and most important, saving of the planet!

There is an old belief that if you mess with nature then nature is going to mess with you and Kedarnath showcases nature’s fury!!

Kapoor layers his characters in complexities and adds undercurrents in all relationships so there is angst between the girls and the parents, conflict between the siblings and reservations from orthodox pilgrims towards their guides.

The demerits are the liberties we take in the excuse of commercial cinema so Sara Ali Khan is the only one in Uttarakhand who dons designer clothes and has a new outfit for a friend’s wedding and another opulent ghaghara for her own wedding.

The writing is not always coherent. There is no convincing reason why Mandakini is attracted to Mansoor Ali, no reason why she treks the mountain every day strapped on his back? Is she shopping grocery or plain dating and how come nobody in the region reacts to them even after the duo sing and dance at a friend’s wedding? Why does the village wait for the rainy night to talk about family honour?

Some dialogues are unclear, the climax elaborating on the floods and the rescue operation unnecessarily prolonged and the end scene ambiguous.

Nitish Bharadwaj and Gautami as Mandakini’s parents are well cast. Sushant Singh Rajput as Mansoor carrying pilgrims on his back in the biting cold to the top of the mountain is underplayed and effective.

Sara Ali Khan is the spice of Kedarnath; she has the poise of father/ Saif Ali and the spontaneity of mother/ Amrita Singh. Here is a complete natural, and what a relief to have a newcomer well versed with language and diction.

Watch Kedarnath for the beauteous Uttarakhand and for the courage and physical hardships endured while shooting this film.

I rate Kedarnath with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Marriage and forever (Day 1488)

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I saw the grown up side of her during the promotion of Bajirao Mastani when her co-star Ranveer Singh was being uncooperative and she was trying to trying to indulge him, trying to cover it up for him. She was proud of Bajirao Mastani but as excited about Tamasha and continued to own the film even though it was rejected by the box-office. I love Tamasha too and rate it among Deepika Padukone’s most complex performances.

In her wedding pictures Deepika appears radiant and her smile reaches her eyes…

Prasad Biddappa was right. There is something special about Deepika Padukone and you sense her radiance before she enters the room…

Sunita Gowariker is right too, she conquered show business faster than anyone had anticipated.

And Ranveer Singh is right too, the princess of Bollywood was meant to be his bride.


Finding Deepika (Day 1487)

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In a morning daily Deepika spoke about going through severe depression, about seeking a counselor. Everyone was astounded.  Her rivals called it a publicity stunt, and some said she was the face to advocate Mental Health issues. I don’t think it was a publicity stunt and even if she was paid to create awareness for Mental Health it is a courageous gesture that needs to be applauded.

Success numbs all perceptions and Deepika was at a point in her career when she could do no wrong. In 2014 came Finding Fanny and in 2015 another path-breaking film Pikku.

Suddenly, it was not just her fans and the media but the entire film fraternity who was reacting to Deepika Padukone. I remember meeting Rakesh Roshan at a party and he could not stop talking about her in Pikku. The overwhelming reactions from all over had kind of numbed her and a breakdown was inevitable.


To be continued…


Cocktail and more (Day 1486)

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Praksh Jha signed her for Aarakshan as Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter, her first with the mega star. I would say that Cocktail in the year 2012 was a turning point in Deepika’s career followed by Ayan Mukherjee’s Ye Jawani Hai Deewani and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela/ 2013.


This was the first time she was discussed as a sex symbol, the first time critics got up and made note of her and the first time she was on the list for The Best Actress in all the award events of the season. She looked radiant at all the public events and was the first choice of all her directors. She had everything that a young girl desired:  love, money, movies but clearly something was missing that nobody had noticed and discovered one morning…


To be continued…


Deepika: Highs & Lows (Day 1485)

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A few months later I bumped into Deepika again for Ashutosh Gowariker’s shooting of Khele Hum Jee Jaan Se in Goa. During lunch break and later I searched for tell-tale clues of a heart break up but Deepika appeared unusually composed! Clad in a Bengali sari and riding a bicycle for a scene she was the character without baggage!

There was a small difference though; now Deepika did not smile that often. The only time I spotted that famous dimple was when Ashutosh dragged her for an impromptu badminton game. Ashutosh joked that that he had signed Deepika so that he could play badminton with her. Deepika was amused and for the time that, she day laughed heartily!

Producer Sunita Gowariker told me that day that Deepika Padukone will emerge as the new Aishwarya Rai in a few years. “I can sense the same reserve and the steely determination. She is so focused and professional that there is nothing to stop her.”

The year 2010 was Deepika’s performance at the box-office  was far from promising – a crazy House Full, an insipid Lafangey Parinde, a dismissive Break Ke Baad and a disappointing Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se but yes, Deepika made sure she was noticed.

 To be continued…


Deepika Padukone : long, long ago (Day 1484)

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The first time I heard about Deepika Padukone was from fashion designer Prasad Biddappa,  this was sometime in the year 2006 when Padukone was signed by Shah Rukh Khan to play the lead in Om Shanti Om and Biddappa could not stop raving about her.

In the initial years Deepika kind of skip hopped success/ Bachna E Haseena and failures/ Chandni Chowk to China and was not exactly popular with the media. The glossies were only interested in her love angle/ Ranbir Kapoor and the critics not willing to indulge her till she did something significant. They appreciated her in Love Aaaj Kal and encouraged her for experimenting with Kartik Calling Kartik but Deepika still had a long way to go to earn their respect.

I met Deepika for the first time at Rishi Kapoor’s home when Rajee Singh, Neetu Kapoor’s mother passed away. We were all assembled in the living room waiting for the pandit to complete the formalities and in the adjoining room were Deepika and Ranbir’s other friends.

To be continued…


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Film: 2.0

Date: 29.11.2018

Director: S.Shankar

Writers: Abbas Tyrewala (Hindi dialogue)

Cast: Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson

Music: A.R.Rahman

There can be nothing regular about a Rajnikanth film. Not the promotion, not the release, not the press show either.

So critics watched the film in cinema halls and let me admit it was an experience.

From the liftman escorting me to the screen to the student sitting beside me in the auditorium the energy was contagious.

My review this week also will not be the regular format and therefore the important props – cell phone and dark glasses in the frame.

The story in a Rajnikanth film has never been important because the audience come to watch the superstar.

They clap before he makes an entry, clap while he makes an entry and clap as long as he is on screen.

This time however there is a story and the story is surprisingly convincing. The film discusses how over use of technology is gradually destroying our environment.

It deliberates our over dependence on the cell phone and the damage caused by the radiation frequency.

Also, this time there is not one but three Rajnikanths. The spectacled scientist vaseegharan, his creation  who turned a monster and had to be killed Chitti, dark glasses Rajnikanth and Chottu, a micro robot who flies on a bird.

What works about the film is primarily the message – Love birds and save environment and the concept.  Writer director tells you an amazing story of imagination where mobile phones transform into all kinds of shapes and forms.

It bursts into the sky like a cyclone, becomes a wave and engulfs buildings, structures, nature and human beings.

The VFX are first rate and the cinematography seductive. ARRehman’s music is engaging and so are the characters.

As the ageing bird lover, Pakshi Rajan, Akshay Kumar is a surprise and as the evil bird he is sinister!!

As the scientist Rajnikanth is restrained, as Chitti, Rajnikant is adventurous and as Chottu, Rajnikant is a riot!

Must you watch 2.0 absolutely!

Watch it for the scale, for the visuals, for the message and for the actors -3 Rajnikant in one film. It can’t get better than this for Rajni fans.

The demerits are the length and the climax that never ends. The special effects become meaningless beyond a point and the film could have been shorter by 20 minutes.

I rate 2.0 with 3.0 stars and a vanakam from amma to Chottu.

Bhawana Somaaaya

Dilwala and dulhaniya (Day 1483)

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For a long time, nobody was sure how serious Deepika and Ranveer were about their relationship. Probably they were not sure themselves but as they say, time plays a big role in our life and Deepika and Ranveer decided that they will not let time run out of their hands.

They got their families together and the respective families did what they ought to, cornered them into taking a decision. Finally, the actors were ready and a date was put in place. It would be a destination wedding out of the country followed by a number of receptions in different cities.

Ranveer Singh may have planned weddings on the screen with Anushka Sharma/ Band Baaja Baraat but his own wedding was planned with his princess partly on the films they worked together and partly when the parents got together.


Searching, finding love (Day 1482)

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The media loved Ranveer’s madness and his co-stars confessed his enthusiasm was infectious. He did Gunday/ 2014 with Priyanka Chopra, his third film with Yash Raj banner and floored us with his portrayal of Kabir Mehra in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. Filmmakers now sought him for powerful roles and destiny favoured him at the box-office.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali repeated Deepika and him in Bajirao Mastani adding Priyanka Chopra as Peshwibai Kashi. The audience loved Bajirao to an extent that they were willing to forgive Ranveer Singh’s senseless Befikre. When Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced his third Padmavat with the lead pair everybody said ‘not again’ and Bhansali soon clarified that Shahid Kapoor and not Ranveer Singh will play Deepika’s love interest in the film. Ranveer played Sultan Allaudin Khilji and stole the thunder from all.

There were stories of how he locked himself up in a room for days to feel Khilji’s pain and work out his character and simultaneously there were stories of Ranveer- Deepika’s romance off screen and other complex stories too.  Some said his cheerfulness was a defence and he was in fact in clinical depression and therefore behaved oddly like landing at a party in his pyjamas. There’s a possibility that all these are just stories because eventually, matters is that his filmmakers vouch for his talent. In the coming year, he has Gully Boys, Simmba and Kapil Dev and of course his wedding.

To be continued