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Movie Review: Kalank

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Watch it for Varun and Alia

Film: Kalank

Date: 17 April 2019

Director: Abhishek Varman

Writers: Abhishek Verman, Shibani Bathija

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Kunal Khemu

Ratings: 3 stars

The heroine while offering her hand to the hero before getting on to the boat says, “I am married” to which the hero responds “So when did I say I was proposing to you. The communicationis provocative for a love story set in 1940 in a buzzing town called Husnabad, near Lahore, a few years before the Partition of India and Pakistan, 

Through lotus filled ponds and much fun and frolic on the streets, director Abhishek Varman introduces us to the Muslim working class and the affluent Hindu family on the other side of the stream. The Chaudhrys – Balraj/ Sanjay Dutt and his son Dev/ Aditya Roy Kapoor are publishers of a liberal newspaper called The Daily News. 

Dev’s wife, Satya Choudhary/ Sonakshi Sinha is diagnosed with a fatal illness so looks for a bride who will adequately fit into the mansion and her husband’s life after she is gone. Satya optsfor the spunky and educated Roop / Alia Bhatt who agrees to the contract but sets her conditions. Roop is relieved when Devgrants her space and uses her freedom to explore the city.

She is attracted to music emanating from Bahar Begum/ Madhuri Dixi’s palace every night and expresses desire to learnfrom the courtesan. The family is alarmed but she is adamant and frequently visits the tainted address where she meets a volatile and bitter Zafar/ Varun Dhawan whose only mission in life is revenge.

There are some films you remember for the story, some for thetreatment and some only for the characters. Kalank falls into the last category that elaborates on interpersonal relationships, their misgivings, pressures and unfulfilled dreams.

The problem with the film is it is too long (2 hours 48 minutes)and not of everybody’s temperament. It fails miserably in trying to create a period drama. The production design is faulty and the opulent sets and flowing costumes embarrassingly unauthentic. The biggest letdown is the choreography, a pity that the combined efforts of four ace choreographers cannot come up with a single dance that touches our heart.

What works for the film are dialogues, music, lyrics, casting, cinematography and some social issues. The little colour that creeps into the characters comes from the majestic star presencebe it Sanjay Dutt in a special appearance, a quiet Aditya Roy Kapoor and a subdued Sonkshi Sinha. 

Madhuri Dixit is always dependable but this time she is deprived of an opportunity to shine in a scene or a song and that’s a bigbig letdown.

 Varun Dhawan yet again proves that he can juggle action/ romance/ dance/ drama, his chemistry with Alia Bhatt lights up the screen when they are together.

Alia Bhatt is sparkling yet again and lends her innocence and simplicity to Roop in a manner that is touching. Roop is educated and makes her own decisions. She is married, not a captive and exercises her freedom of choice in career and love.

Kalank ventures into a surreal world and views love in a poeticmartyred way, it is up to you if you approve of this tainted poetry or get impatient with it but it is worth a dekho for Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan for sure.

Bhawana Somaaya

 

Finding Fanny and more (Day 1561)

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Arjun Kapoor is never at a loss with words, give him any topic, throw him any question he is far feom intimidated. He is as comfortable before the camera as he is behind it. In that sense he is his father’s son.

You have paired with all the top heroines, is it a a heady feeling

Well I did Gunday with the beautiful Priyanka Chopra and all of us – PC, Ranveer Singh and I had so much fun on the sets. 2 States was challenging because nobody conceived me as a romantic hero until then. I had not read the book and didn’t want to because I wanted to discover my character as we shot the film and being with Alia Bhatt was such a joy.

What about Finding Fanny with Deepika Padukone?

Not just Deepika but glorious actors like Dimple Kapadia, Naseerudin Shah and Pankaj Kapoor. I was very nervous doing a film in English because speaking dialogues in English is a different challenge. The experience of doing this film was an enriching experience.

What did your father’s home production Tevar teach you?

That you must work within a budget and no matter what the creative temptations you must know where to draw a line. Dad doesn’t, but because by temperament he is not just a producer but a passionate filmmaker. I’m not like that, I will not invest my hard earned money into production but I will most certainly direct a film soon.

There are rumors that you will be getting married soon?

Sab upar waale ki marzi se hota hai khaas taur par shaadi toh dekhte hai mera number kab aayega.

When you do, will your relationship with your partner be like your film Ki & Ka?

Why not, I have been surrounded by empowered women in the family and it is time we look at our relationships in a different perspective. I was always conscious about this but after the film I’m all the more sensitized.

@bhawanasomaaya

 

Arjun Kapoor: Direction is my ultimate goal (Day 1560)

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I have known of Arjun Kapoor literally from the time he was in his mother’s womb. Over the years as one watched him grow from an awkward adolescent to an overweight adult and gradually transform into a lean, hardworking actor, one was surprised by his success and popularity.

In his personal life Arjun has proved wiser than his age and sometime ago, when his father’s second wife Sridevi passed away he and his sister Anshula stood by their half-sisters Jhanvi and Khushi Kapoor like a rock.

There are strong rumor that Arjun will soon be getting married soon but that is not the topic of my conversation with him today.

Had you ever envisioned that you would travel so far and fast?

Honestly no, mine has been a fairy tale of sorts. In the very beginning when anybody asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up, I always said I will become a filmmaker, which was natural coming from a film family. Then suddenly, I met Salman Khan who sensed I wanted to become an actor but was to shy to admit it. He broke my inhibition; put me on an exercise regime. I was lucky to be signed my YRF banner, lucky to get a break like Ishaqzaade.

You played a bad boy in your debut film, did you fear getting typecast?

I wasn’t thinking so far, I was happy to be launched and trusted my producer and director. I was further lucky to get a double role in Aurangzeb and be pitched against Rishi Kapoor who I have admired all my life.

To be continued

@bhawanasomaaya

Movie Review: Tashkent Files

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 Revisiting History

Film: Tashkent Files

Date: 12.04.2019

Writer/Director: Vivek Agnihotri

Cast: Shweta Basu Prasad, Naseerudin Shah, Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi, Pankaj Tripathi

There are many ways to describe Vivek Agnihotri written directed Taskent Files, you can call it a political drama, a reflection of current journalism where everything boils down to either breaking news or fake news, or you can describe it as revisiting history rather reinvestigating a closed chapter.

What really happened 53 years ago when our ex-Prime Minister Laal Bahadur Shastri visited Tashkent to sign the Indo Pak treaty after the 1965 war? What transpired on that fateful night that a robust leader who was strolling in his room a few minutes ago suddenly dropped dead?  Why has history forgotten the tragedy of a leader who returned to his motherland as a corpse? Why is the year 1966 in Indian politics shrouded in so much mystery?

What works about Tashkent Files is the extensive research comprising exclusive archived video interviews of important players of that time, journalists/ politicians/ Shastri’s well-wishers and family. The film attempts to answer every query/ doubt that arises in your mind. There is a reference to Dr Bhabha and his pet project, to the disappearance and disguise of Subhash Chandra Bose, to secret documents unearthed by spies and to meddling with the wording of the Indian Constitution, so there is enough drama to make an engaging narrative but that does not happen!

The problem is primarily the structure, an 8 member committee comprising historian/ activist/politician/judge/bureaucrat/other leader and a journalist is set up to investigate the mysterious demise of ex-Prime Minister Laal Bahadur Shastri. The members are locked inside a room for hours at a stretch to debate the issue and arrive at a collective closure and predictably there are outbursts/ accusations/ confessions inspired from 12 Angry Men but not as volatile or effective.

Taskent Files presents eight different narratives via strong opinions/ disagreements/ theories/ suspects and alarming proofs but the screenplay fails to do justice to the characters who are embarrassingly devoid of any detailing or subtext except Mithun Chakraborty, Pallavi Joshi and Pankaj Tripthi. Naseerudin Shah as politician Natarajan is portrayed chatting with his dog while wife Archit Kaur stares at Naseer blankly. One assumes Archit will spring a surprise in the climax but she is wasted too. As the protagonist Ragini Phule, Anuradha Basu Prasad is sparkling as long as she is not screeching.

The most confusing for me is the message of the film. I am confused if what was preserved as a secret all these decades is the truth or what is unraveled via the film, the truth? Is the apparent propaganda based on selective memory or is there merit in the documents disclosed in the end credits?  The lines have blurred between informers and the investigators/ the politicians and the media house and most important between what is official and what is unofficial and it is time for us to make that decision.

The 144-minute political drama is long, often hysterical but worth a watch to revisit history and decipher fact from fiction. For introducing a bright new actor/ Shweta Basu Prasad and for turning the pages of history I rate Tashkent Files with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya

 

Narendra Modi film v/s web series Day (1558)

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While Omang Kumar’s film on the Prime Minister is stuck for the Supreme Court decision, the web series Modi: Journey of a Common Man from Eros Now has begun streaming. Director Umesh Shukla is doing all he can to make this a memorable experience for all Narendra Modi fans.

 

Umesh Shukla, director of the 10-part original series, has sought permission from the PMO to use 10 of his written poems in the biopic. Sonu Nigam has recorded ‘Shyam Ke Rogan Rele’ composed by popular Bollywood music composer duo Salim-Sulaiman.

Interestingly, 10 poems written by Narendra Modi will be featured in the series in the end credit of each episode.

It is interesting how political readers come into focus as poets and artistes when their party is ruling the roost. Atal Bihari Vajpayee released his poems and Shah Rukh Khan featured in the video of the songs.

Interesting…

@bhawanasomaaya

 

Movie Review: Romeo Akbar Walter

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Neither patriotic nor emotional

 Film: RAW

Date: 06.04.2019

Director: Robbie Grewal

Producer: Viacom18 Motion Pictures

Writers: Robbie – Shraq -Shreyansh

Cast: John Abraham, Mouni Roy, Jackie Shroff, Sikandar Kher

 

The film opens with a spine chilling torture scene where Pakistan Army officer/ Sikander Kher cuts the fingernail out of a battered, bleeding John Abraham and lets out an anguished cry that tears through your heart.

You fasten your seat belt and get ready for a spy thriller that will take your breath away but alas, there is nothing more to wait for.

Writer-director Robby Grewal tells the story of a bank employee, Romeo/ John Abrham who is hand-picked by the Indian Foreign Intelligence Agency, to be posted as an undercover spy in Pakistan. For this, he is given a vigorous training inclusive of shooting lessons/ Observation & Polygraph Tests and other skills required for a spy.

He is warned that all communications will be coded and decoding them will be his responsibility, ‘What if I am unable to interpret it the correct way’ asks Romeo. ‘Then you will rely on your instinct’ advises his chief/ Jackie Shroff.

Now Romeo has a new identity/ Akbar and a new posting / Kashmir where he works with a hotel group and wins the trust of the most lethal and powerful. He has told his mother that he is traveling on training for promotion and will soon return home.

Life is never easy for a spy and when Akbar senses he is going to be exposed he changes his identity yet again and plays the biggest game.

In case you are confused by the plot, well that is the intention of the filmmaker, his screenplay is deliberately misleading and many questions pop up in your mind while you are watching the film:

  1. A spy is selected on the basis of his capabilities so why does the Raw Chief make the art of disguises criteria for selection?
  2. Why does the chief fail to groom his candidate in the most important lesson – discretion?
  3. How come Akbar as a spy is so frequently emotional and in the process makes so many mistakes?
  4. Why should the most powerful man in Pakistan so easily include Akbar in his inner circle?
  5. Why should Akbar agree to deliver an invitation to a stranger’s room when the hotel could easily do that?
  6. It is fatal for a spy to meet a beloved on the street and Akbar dares to spend a night with her.

A spy thriller calls for a fast-paced storytelling/ haunting music and nail-biting suspense but unfortunately Raw arouses neither patriotism nor fear in you. This should not have happened because it is a true story inspired by the unsung heroes who sacrificed their lives during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

A story that celebrates motherland over mother should make you cry but poor execution, unconvincing characters and distorted message, leaves you cold and unmoved.

It takes ages for the first half to end and post the interval you are restless to get home.

There is a possibility that the script must have been interesting on paper and I have no doubts about the intentions of the director.  The actors do their best: Jackie Shroff as RAW chief/ Sikander Kher as Pakistan army and John Abraham as Romeo-Akbar-Walter. It is a pity that the beautiful Mouni Roy is completely wasted!

Must you watch RAW, well in an important scene in the film, Jackie Shroff tells John Abraham ‘When you are confused to follow your instinct’. My answer is: If you are confused about my review, follow my ratings…

I rate RAW with 1.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

 

Another film on ragging (Day 1557)

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Bejoy Nambiar has in a very short time carved a niche for himself in the Hindi entertainment industry. The audience loved his Shaitan, heaped praises on David and celebrated Wazir but not man know that he went through his share of struggle and hardships before he found his voice to make the kind of films he does.

A blast from the past reveals that when Nambiar was pursuing his engineering, he became a victim of a severe ragging incident that left a deep impact on his personality. Now so many years later, the filmmaker is showcasing that experience in the short movie titled, Bully, on Eros Now’s latest original series, Flip.

Bully is one of the short stories in the drama-thriller anthology that delivers a strong message and keeps the audiences engrossed. Ranvir Shorey plays the lead role in the short movie. Bejoy Nambiar amidst that the incident was traumatic and to avoid being haunted by negative thoughts, he started writing stories. Bully is a true story.

@bhawanasomaaya

Avengers: Endgame (Day 1556)

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We are living in the times of franchises and the more the merrier. Everyone is happy with a franchise because the brand is established and the ratio of success is high. So who is the king of the game, well not very difficult to guess?

The grave course of events set in motion by Thanos that wiped out half the universe and fractured the Avengers ranks compels the remaining Avengers to take one final stand in Marvel Studios’ grand conclusion to twenty-two films, Avengers: Endgame.

The movie releases in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, wow!

 @bhawanasomaaya

Artificial Intelligence (Day 1555)

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Population Foundation of India’s popular edutainment show Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon is the first Indian television show to use an Artificial Intelligence powered Chatbot as a means to reach out to young viewers.

The Dr. Sneha chatbot tells about a young doctor, who leaves behind her lucrative career in Mumbai to work in her village and work for the healthcare of women. Director Poonam Muttreja of Population First says, “Through Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon we find innovative ways of reaching out to larger audience segments. Though young people have greater access to information through digital media, many of them are not able to discuss their needs or queries about sexual and reproductive health. Our chatbot allows youngsters to talk about their concerns.”

Noted director Feroz Abbas Khan also involved with the making of the chatbot says it is about instant interactivity.

 

Dumbo or Junglee (Day 1554)

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In the olden days on the first of April tabloids carried breaking news and denied it the following day as an April fool joke. I have never been a sucker for such stories and prefer to treat the date as a normal day, so this column is devoted to how elephants are the flavor of the season. Junglee Pictures distributed Save Elephant T-shirts before the release of Junglee and now Walt Disney is looking at ways to get our eyeballs.

Disney’s Dumbo is releasing on 29th March and while everyone remembers the story where differences are celebrated, Disney thought of a novel way to present Dumbo the flying elephant.

They invited Varun Dhawan to meet the endearing baby elephant!

Nobody asked me but I had a better idea. They should have asked Viddyut Jamwal and his two elephants, Bhola and Didi to join the Dumbo party with Varun Dhawan. That would be the real story.

@bhawansomaaya