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Movie Review: Hindi Medium

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Film Review: Hindi Medium

Date: 19 May 2017

Director: Saket Chaudhary

Writers: Zeenat Lakhani, Saket Chaudhary 

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal

 Rating: 3.5 stars

 

First thing first, after a long time comes a film where the title, the poster, and the content are in sync. It reminds you of Basu Chatterjee cinema where the message was paramount and the filmmaker unfolded a simple story that touched your heart.

Writer-director Saket Chaudhary has done this successfully in Pyaar Ke Side Effects/ 2006 and later in Shaadi Ke Side Effects/ 2014 but this time he surpasses all expectations as he chronicles the  pathos of Hindi speaking parents Raj/ Irrfan Khan and Mithu/ Saba Qamar struggling to find admission for daughter Piya/ Dishita Sehgal into an English medium school.

The admission is the single focus of their lives and to obtain it the couple is willing to go to any limits which include / long queues/ bribe/donation/ coaching class/ extracurricular activity and even a makeover of the image.

In the first half on the wife’s insistence, the couple shifts out of their ancestral home in Chandni Chowk to the elite Vasnat Vihar and live a branded life where they eat/speak/ dance in English and Mithu becomes Honey but the plan fails miserably.

Post interval, the desperate parents seek to final resort ‘Reservation Quota’ and move into a lowly neighborhood Bharat Nagar striving for daily wages/water and ration. It is in the slums in the company of Deepak Dobrial and family that Raj and Mithu learn lessons of life!

What works is the refreshing screenplay and novel characters. The hero is a flourishing businessman who sells original copies of acclaimed designers; his wife is a wannabe. Director Chaudhary with writer Zeenat Lakhani serves you an engaging narrative, packed with emotions and laced with delicious details right up to the ring tone of your hero.

Adding spice is Amitosh Nagpal’s dialogues and super timing of the actors and Sachin-Jigar’s music.

Irrfan Khan is adorable when entertaining his client at the shop, entertaining when addressing a call from wife as Mata ka bulawa and admirable as his indulgence alters to exasperation. As his dramatic/ambitious wife Saba Qamar is extraordinary but the one who breaks your heart and moves you to tears is the ever dependable Deepak Dobrrial!

So is there nothing wrong with the film, of course there is, the first half is stretched and the second half is predictable, particularly the long speech in the climax but the merits and the message outnumber the flaws. After a long time comes a film that is wholesome entertainment and addresses a conscience in crisis…!

A must watch for all parents/ teachers/ students so that we stop discriminating people by language.

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Movie Review: Half Girl friend or Half audience?

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Film Review: Half Girlfriend

Date: 19 May 2017

Director: Mohit Suri

Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor

Rating: 1.5 stars

 Madhav Jha/Arjun Kapoor has a problem communicating in English and convinces the faculty interviewing him for a college admission in Delhi to allow him to express in Hindi, they do and Arjun explains that that he wants to study sociology because he wants to change his village and India.

In the next scene, he is on the basketball ground trying to make friends with Riya Somani/Shraddha Kapoor.

The love story moves from the playground to canteen/ night outs and film shows and while he often tells Riya about his discomfort in English, we never see him encounter any problems during classroom/exams perhaps because it is not important to the plot.

Over to the hero and heroine, Riya thinks of Madhav as a buddy but Madhav thinks of Riya as a beloved and to avoid further misunderstandings, Riya has a solution: She tells Madhav that he can think of her as his Half Girlfriend whatever that means!

The biggest problem with the film is that it cannot determine whose story it is.

Is this the story of Madhav and Riya, then why complicate it with subplots of their parents? Is it is the story of Hindi v/s English or the small town/v/s big city divide, then why distract it with other issues like domestic violence/divorce/ girl child and yes even shauchalay??

The story travels from Delhi to Patna and Varanasi to New York and in every city there are two new songs, never mind that we don’t remember the city or the lyrics. Despite good compositions, good locations, successful stars and best efforts from all, the film make no impact!

Half Girlfriend is half baked, illogical and unconvincing…

Some years ago writer Chetan Bhagat wrote a book called Five Point, It is now time to address the same points to him:

Point 1: What is a Half Girlfriend and is it logical to define any relationship within boundaries? Point 2: Is a subject like this relevant in present times when youngsters are more buddies than lovers?

Point3: So what if a girl visits a boy’s Hostel and takes a nap in his room? Is it as dramatic as made out to be in your film? Does anybody in reality really care what happens with whom?

Point 4: Why is Riya judged as an escapist when she is the only character in the story who consciously concludes every relationship before terminating it?

Point 5: Is this really a love story because it seems more like Hide n Seek plot combined with Tracking Signs!

I rate Half Girl Friend with 1.5 stars and leave it to you if you wish to be the Half Audience of this film!

 

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Signature Move (Day 1096)

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American film “Signature Move”, starring Indian actor Shabana Azmi will open the 8th edition of KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film festival – South Asia’s biggest and India’s only mainstream LGBTQ film festival. Signature Move directed by Jennifer Reed also stars Fawzia Mirza and Sari Sanchez (from the hit TV series Empire). The opening night film will be screened at Mumbai’s iconic art deco theatre Liberty Cinema on May 24, 2017. The five-day film festival that will screen 147 films from 45 countries will be held in South Mumbai at two venues – Liberty Cinema and Alliance Francaise.

blog thursday image 2“This is a deeply important story about love and families. One of these families is South Asian – such a beautiful culture. I am so honored to be a part of this film and to bring it now back to South Asia,” said Jennifer Reed the director of the film.

Shabana Azmi, plays a “sweet and TV-obsessed mother in Chicago” whose daughter (played by Fawzia Mirza) falls in love with a Mexican woman (played by Sari Sanchez). Shabana Azmi is acting in an LGBTQ film 21 years after the acclaimed film Fire (1996). According to Jennifer Reed, “the film is a lesbian love story between a desi American Muslim immigration lawyer and Mexican‐American bookstore owner in a peaceful diverse Chicago.”

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Movie Review: Watch Sarkar 3 for the magnificence of Bachchan

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Film Review: Sarkar 3

Date: 12 May 2017

Director: Ram Gopal Verma

Writer: Nilesh Girkar/ story P Jayakumar/Ramkumar Singh/ Dialogues

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpayee, Jackie Shroff, Amit Sadh

Rating: 3 stars.

He meets everyone only at his home and amidst his security and speaks more through his eyes and gesticulations than words.

The visitor seat is placed at a distance and from the manner in which they stroll into his abode, their body language, and tone, Subhash Nagre gages the purpose of their visit.

In 2005 Verma released Sarkar that introduced us to the power and charisma of Subhash Nagre. In 2008 he made Sarkar Raj that shed light on his family and complex relationships.

In 2017 Verma brings Sarkar 3 that gives insight into his wisdom and mindset.

In the decade gone by, a lot has changed in the life of Sarkar/ Amitabh Bachchan. He now lives in a new and a bigger home with his ailing wife Pushpa/ Supriya Pathak and has a new set of enemies Despande/ Manoj Bajpayee, Vallya/ Jackie Shroff and new body guards as well Gokul/ Ronit Roy.

A lot, however, remains unchanged…

His aura and power over the public… His passionate, motivating speeches…The stream of visitors at home and some old habits…Subhash Nagre still peppers his meals with a dash of pickle and audibly relishes his tea in a saucer.

The minus of the film is that it is too dark and without a serious plot. Most of the film is one location and one kind of lighting. The background is cacophonic!

The plus is that the story dares to focus on characters, not common in Hindi films. The dialogues are dramatic and all the performances first rate: Amit Saad is the surprise packet and Amitabh Bachchan – the backbone of the film.

There’s a favorite dialogue of Subhash Nagre in the film and he repeats it often: “I do what I think is right” he says and this conviction underlines his performance.

Watch Sarkar 3 for the magnificent presence of Bachchan. I rate Sarkar 3 with 3 stars out of which 1 star is exclusively for Subhash Nagre.

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Farewell Friend (Day 1084)

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It was a regular morning and I was writing my column for The Quint on Feroze Khan for his death anniversary when came the news of Vinod Khanna passing away. Suddenly my mind was crowded with images from his previous films Mere Apne, Achanak, Meera, Amar Akbar Anthony, Parvarish, Haath Ki Safai , Shaque and I wondered which out of all these characters was the real Vinod Khanna. Probably none and probably a part of him were inhabited by all of them on the screen.

As a budding journalist, I have met him so many different occasions on so many different sets and we have chatted over various topics. He was always spiritual and talked about his journey as a soul. Then one day, he gave up everything – his stardom, films, money, family and followed Osho to America to become a gardner and spent a couple of peaceful years with his guru.

Then one day he came back to live life normally, he signed films, became an actor again. Stardom gave him another chance, and Vinod gave life another chance when he proposed to Kavita and got married to a woman years his junior. They had two children and Vinod was ready for bigger challenges. He joined BJP and fought elections from Gurdaspur, his hometown and won the constituency again and again.

The last time I bumped into Vinod Khanna was at a music concert a few years ago, he looked peaceful and told me he was enjoying his retired life and added that everybody must so that there are no regrets. That is how I would like to remember Vinod Khanna. Healthy, happy and without regrets.

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Labour Day (Day 1083)

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There is excitement in the office because we are celebrating both Labour and Maharashtra Day. The office is done up in marigold flowers team has invited Nagraj Manjule, director of Sairrat to be felicitated as the Icon of Maharashtra. When he enters the studio, the band goes hysterical and starts playing the celebratory music. Manjule is both embarrassed and flattered. He shares that despite all the accolades the film has been receiving he wonders if the credit is for him or somebody else. “Life in Sholapur was simple but there was no dearth of adventure.  We friends would get together and play films – that is enact hits of Amitabh Bachchan stories and dialogues. At that time I did not know that my passion will lead me to the film studios one day. My friends tell me I was forever recounting stories, sometimes retelling films I had watched, sometimes, my own stories but they loved to hear me and sat in rapt attention. I thank them all, they were my first audience and I hope they will be with me even after Sairrat.”

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Movie Review: Baahubali 2

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Film Review: Baahubali 2

Date: 28 April 2017

Director: SS Rajamouli

Writer: Vijayendra Prasad/ story Rajamouli/ screenplay

Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubatti, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishnan

Rating: 4 stars.

Baahubali ended post the flashback when a tearful Kattappa reveals that he is responsible for his master Mahendra Baahubali’s death.

The sequel Baahubali 2 begins with the backstory when queen mother Sivagami/ Ramya Krishnan sends foster son prince Mahendra/ Prabhas to travel the kingdom and get acquainted with his subjects so he is able to fulfill his duties when coronated as the king.

Mahendra meets princess Devsena/ Anushka Shetty and loses his heart to her and Devsena accompanies her beloved to his empire Mahishmati reassured that all will be well.

But a lot has changed in the interim and a misled Sivagami is affronted when Mahendra challenges her decision and orders the newlyweds out of the palace. What follows is the regular palace politics when blood kills blood and the mayhem continues till good vanquishes evil and justice is restored!

The positive of the film is the scale and the magnitude of the production, the extraordinary sets, the costumes and the casting. Seductively shot by Senthil Kumar, the film excels in every department, particularly the imaginative action and creative design.

Very often, films made on a mammoth scale are very detailed but lose on an important ingredient, storytelling. Not this time. Prasad and Rajamouli make sure to punch all the right buttons to keep you glued to the narrative and at times, even make you emotional.

Baahubali 2 is better than Baahubali. It is large, lavish and dramatic. There are magnificent palaces, galloping horses, screeching elephants and a sea of people engaged in either sword fights or just cheering their leader.

Baahubali 2 is a visual experience you cannot miss! If you like stories of kings and queens if you like stories of valor and courage, fairy tale romances where butterflies flutter across swan-like boats and white stallion chase the clouds, then this one is surely for you!

All the performances are competent particularly Prabhas Daggubati but the two that stay with you are the women, Ramya Krishnan as the powerful queen mother Sivagmi and Anushka Shetty as the fiery Devsena.

So is there nothing wrong with the film, of course, there is, it is too long and the background score is cacophonic but the positives outweigh the negative.

I rate Baahubali 2 with 4 stars.

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Movie Review: Maatr

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Film Review: Maatr

Date: 14 April 2017

Director: Ashtar Sayed

Writer: Michael Pellico

Cast: Raveena Tandon, Madhur Mittal, Divya Jagdale, Saheem Khan

Rating: 3. 5 stars.

After the school annual day, Vidya Chauhan/ Raveena Tandon, a school teacher and her daughter Tia/ Alisha Khan are stuck in a bad traffic jam and Vidya takes an alternate route that lands them in a ditch. Mother and daughter are pulled out of the ditch by a car following them and taken not to the hospital but an empty apartment.

 What follows is a nightmare that exposes Delhi’s high class society comprising power brokers, corrupt police and a flawed judiciary.

Maatr is yet another story of yet another rape victim pronounced guilty for the tragedy and ostracized by the immediate family post the ravage.

Many things go in favor of the film. First, the screenplay, writer Michael Pellico briefly but precisely establishes equations in relationships, for instance you get to know early in the narrative that all is not well between Vidya and her husband/ Apurva Malik and her support comes from her artist friend Ritu/ Divya Jagdale.

 You learn that Inspector Shroff/ Anurag Arora is a pawn in the system and there is relief in his voice when he watches the flames go in air in the climax and exclaims ‘It is finally over’.

The film excels in all the technical departments. Hari Vedantam’s seductive cinematography combined with Manoj Magarr’s razor sharp editing and Utkarsh Umesh Dhotekar’s haunting music, grips you to the engaging narrative from the start to the finish.

Director Ashtar Sayeed repackages the old revenge formula into a chilling, stomach churning story of contemporary India that will leave you wounded and inspired at the same time!

What is disappointing is that the plot overlooks some relevant details: The characters live in sprawling apartments without any domestic help or any indication of neighborhood. For an accident that was breaking news, it is surprising that Vidya goes back to her job without any corridor gossip or paparazzi both at home, school.

Diyya Jagdale as Raveena’s friend and Anurag Arora as Inspector Shroff make an impact but the film finally belongs to Raveena Tandon who internalizes her anger to deliver a consistent and understated performance.

It is difficult to believe that the actor has been away for 14 years, we last her in Satta/ 2003. There’s one problem though, Vidya Chouhan is distractingly attractive to be missed in a crowd or to be passed off as a school teacher.

Maatr is not an easy watch but make the effort because it is about changing ourselves. I rate Maatr with 3.5 stars.

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Movie Review: Begum Jaan

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Film Review: Begum Jaan

Date: 14 April 2017

Producer: Vishesh Films

Director: Srijit Mukherji

Cast: Vidya Balan, Ila Arun, Naseeruddin Shah

Rating: 2.5 stars

 

In 2015 Srijit Mukherji made Raj Kahani in Bengali starring Rituparna Sengupta which told the story of independence when Sir Cyril Radcliffe divided India-Pakistan into equal halves. What the administration was not prepared for was that the dividing line would run through the middle of Begum Jaan/ Vidya Balan’s brothel situated away from the town on the border.

Now two years later, filmmaker Srijit Mukherji has remade his Bengali film in Hindi as Begum Jaan with a few changes. While Raj Kahani started in British India and ended in 1947 Begum Jaan opens in present times and goes into a flashback.

In 70 years of independence, we have watched many stories of freedom struggle, some from a religion perspective, some from social perspective, some political and some human stories! This is the first story to present a female gaze.

Begum Jaan is warned about the decision by INC and the Muslim League, but she pays no heed because she has the king/ Naseeruddin Shah by her side, however as the climate changes and the kings and leaders are reduced to pawns, Jaan knows that she has nobody to depend upon except herself and prepares for the fight.

 

What work in favor of the film is the unusual plot, the music, and the ambiance! What doesn’t is the gimmicky frames and the recurrent flashbacks. If only the writer had sketched other characters as passionately as his protagonist. There are eleven attractive girls in the brothel and half a dozen interesting men outside but at the end of two and half hours, you know very little about anybody except the brothel madam.

Also considering that it is a vulnerable time for the country and the brothel, the narrative should have gripped you emotionally engaging instead you remain cold and unaffected by the consequences.

Director Mukherji is visibly influenced by Shyam Benegal’s Mandi but while the 1983 release was both entertaining and path breaking, Begum Jaan is one tracked narrative devoid of real drama or emotion!Even the climax where the women collectively fight their oppressors from within the fortress is a pale protest compared to the fight put up by the spice girls in Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala.

Watch Begum Jaan only if you are an ardent fan of Vidya Balan. I rate Begum Jaan with 2.5 stars out of which half star is for Vidya Balan.

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Sonata – Female Bonding (Day 1059)

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Sonata is the psychological exploration of three unmarried women facing a mid-life crisis Aruna Chaturvedi, a banker Dolon Sen, a professor and Subhadra Parekh, a journalist. It is a film about these three friends, their bonding and their gaze in a male dominated society
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Director of the film Aparna Sen says, “I have attempted to explore the various aspects of being feminine and to make the story relevant I introduced two characters (a maid, thereby cutting across class borders, and a transgender woman) apart from the single women protagonists. This was a major decision because these characters don’t exist in the original play.”

That is not the only change Sen has incorporated in the film, she has changed the climax to include a tragedy culminating in an event of global magnitude, confronted with which there is a shift in the personal anxieties and their everyday joys and sorrows pale into insignificance, but also strengthens the bond of friendship.

A HK Studios Film Sonata 103 minute film is based on Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play by the same name. Adapted and directed by Aparna Sen and starring three remarkable actresses Aparna Sen, Shabana Azmi and Lilette Dubey, the music is rendered by Neel Dutt.

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