Movie Review – Kaagaz – Day 1932

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Truth is in the documents

Film: Kaagaz

Date: 07.01.2021

Producer: Salman Khan Films with Satish Kaushik Entertainment

Director: Satish Kaushik

Writers: Satish Kaushik, Imtiyaz Hussain, Ankur Suman, Shashank Khandelwal 

Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Monal Gajjar

That India lives in multiple centuries simultaneously is proved yet again in Kaagaz set far

beyond the cruising metro and blazing neon lights of cosmopolitan. A satirical comedy based in Azamgarh, UP, tells the story of a man declared dead on official papers and his journey to prove himself alive, a comment on the flawed system of land resources in India and the struggle of a common man for his self-respect. 

Can a living man be dead and the answer is yes, on paper everything is possible and once a document becomes official it is an uphill task to reverse facts. Bharat Lal/ Pankaj Tripathi is a musician who plays band at village weddings and is content in his ordinary life but his wife Rukhmini/ Monal Gajjar wants him to expand his business and so a reluctant Lal seeks a bank loan and in the process of obtaining guarantee discovers that his relatives have robbed his land declaring him dead on document.

From here on begins Bharat Lal’s struggle to prove himself alive. He provokes his relatives, cries to the villagers, pleads with the sarpanch and with the help of an able lawyer/ Satish Kaushik fights a never-ending battle against the system. He files affidavit after affidavit to Tahsildar- Talukdar- Corporator- Governor- Chief Minister including the Prime Minister of the country but there is no response.

When the legal route fails, Lal resorts to illegal plans, kidnaps the child of his oppressors, sits on a protest in the middle of a campaign trail, forms a union of the ‘dead alive’, fights election with a skeleton as the party symbol and in the climax resorts to contempt of the court but nobody arrests him because filing an FIR against a dead man will prove him alive and no authority – police or judge can risk that.

Years pass by, Bharat Lal has a second child now and even though his home is barren, his business shut and pockets empty, his fight for justice continues. The positives of the film are the writing, music, humour, casting and most important, the issue. The negatives are the inconsistencies, as the issue progresses the humour diminishes and so does the detailing. The powerful climax compensates for the lapses and so do the performances. Monal Gajjar is a natural and Pankaj Tripathi once gain makes a place in our hearts.

With more actors like Salman Khan endorsing issue -based films, we can transform our villages forever. Satish Kaushik, director of Roop ki Rani proves that he is a Kaagaz ka Raja.

Kaagaz is for everyone who is concerned about society and self-respect. You can catch the film on Zee5 Premium.

Bhawana Somaaya

Assisted Guillerman – Day 1933

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There is a possibility that Sanjay khan made up his mind to become an actor that early in his life but a s the elder brother who was forced to give up studies, Feroze Khan insisted that Sanjay complete their education and so Sanjay was prohibited of thinking of acting till he had completed his Cambridge School.

After coming to Bombay, Sanjay assisted John Guillerman, Hollywood film director for the MGM Production of Tarzan Goes to India and within a year he was spotted by director Chetan Anand casting India’s first war film. Haqeeqat. The year was 1964 and soon Sanjay was signed by Rajshri Productions for Dosti, another super hit film.

Sanjay Khan has always said that his career was shaped by the directors he worked with and in those days, actors were not as image conscious as long as they played lead parts and producers producer paid them money.  Dus LakhEk Phool Do Mali  were family dramas while Intaqam and Shart were thrillers of the sixties. In the seventies Khan did a variety of roles –Mela, Upaasna, Dhund and Nagin and soon Sanjay was restless to launch himself as a filmmaker. Sanjay Khan’s debut production Chandi Sona in 1977 was a failure and three years later Abdullah, a moderate success brought him into news for all the wrong reasons.

To be continued

Sanjay Khan: Forgotten Hero – Day 1932

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Last week wasSanjay Khan’s birthday and it baffles me that for an actor who has worked so many decades, Khan is seldom celebrated in public memory. He is the most successful of the Khan brothers but for the longest time, it was always elder brother Feroze Khan who made the headlines.  These are mysteries of showbusiness that are difficult to explain. A few months before Feroze Khan died, he told me the story of their family.

Their father Sadiq Ali Khan was a robust man and mother Bibi Fatima Begum showered them with love, they lived a comfortable life and the seven children -Feroze, Sanjay, Sameer, Shah Rukh and Akbar and their two sisters, Dilshad and Khurshi were happy. Life changed when suddenly Sadiq Ali Khan fell ill and died.  As the eldest son, Feroz Khan had to give up studies and start working, so he did odd jobs until he was advised by a well-wisher to go to Bombay and try his luck in films.

It was not a smooth sailing, he was offered brief roles in B grade films but with time, he had a roof above his head and called the rest of the family to live with him. There is a story that  Sanjay Khan was 12 years old when he watched Raj Kapoor‘s Awaara and was mesmerised by the film.

To be continued

Letters to Mother at Raj Bhavan Part 2 – Day 1931

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Saakshi Bhaav released in the year 2014 at a glittering event in Mumbai. At that moment Modi was Chief Minister, Gujrat and there was an excitement in the auditorium with his sheer presence. Sitting in the auditorium, listening to his passionate speech on stage, I had not in my wildest imagination dreamed that I would one day, translate his book into English but come 2018 and a writer friend called to ask what I was translating these days. He suggested I consider working on Narendra Modi’s writing and I reluctantly agreed to think about it. I began reading Saakshi Bhaav and slowly and gradually, I was overwhelmed by his intense outpouring.

The diary passages are not restricted to himself, in fact he reacts to everything around him – humanity, life, time, gadgets, technology, shibir, nature, universe and more. There is anxiety, there is meditation, there is optimism, there is sorrow, there are disappointments. There are challenges, turbulence and there is victory and gratitude. He admits he is not a professional writer, does not understand structures, formats, prose or poetry but he understands emotions and has a strong, unbroken, unflinching faith that the mother Goddess will lead him through the darkest tunnel and therefore expresses himself unafraid and uninhibited. These are pages he had written decades ago and could have withdrawn from making his expressions public but he isn’t worried about judgments, instead he writes, ‘I will express today, what I feel today and tomorrow what I feel tomorrow. I was not seeking endorsements then and I am not seeking validation now’.

Letters to Mother is not about the present Prime Minister, it is not about the once Chief Minister. It is about a common man who needs to communicate with the common man.


Letters to Mother launched at Raj Bhavan Part 1 – Day 1930

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 End of the year 2020 I was fortunate to launch my book Letters to Mother published by Harepr Collins at the hands of honourable Governor, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.

For many of the p guests present in the auditorium, it was a first time at the Raj Bhavan. For me it is a special moment because it was here, in the winter of 2018 that I met Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and confirmed the idea oftranslating his Gujarati book. The Prime Minister surprisingly had only one question, ‘Why this book?’  to which my answer was ‘Because it is emotional, unusually structured and connects with the mother Goddess. He smiled and elaborated on how the book was conceived.

In the 80s when Narendra Modi was just an ordinary party worker, feeling weighed down with the daily pressures, he got into the habit of writing a diary wherein he shared his innermost thoughts and feelings communicated with the mother Goddess whom he addressed as Jagat Janani. Every few months however, he would systematically tear up the pages and light a bon fire and he did this time and again for years.

One day, while he was in the process, a friend visited Modi and was surprised by what he witnessed. He snatched the remaining diary from his friend’s hand and admonished him for not revering his creativity. When he went home, the friend carried the remaining diary with him because he feared that Modi would destroy them at the first opportunity available. Somehow, the story of the surviving diary of 1986 reached Image Publishers, pioneer in printing business and the publisher persuaded Shri Modi to let them publish his writings into a book.

To be continued

Movie Review: Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi – Day 1929

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Film: Ram Prasad Ki Tehrvi

Release: 01.01.2021

Writer-Director: Seema Pahwa

Starring: Naseerudin Shah, Supriya Pathak, Konkana Sen, Manoj Pahwa, Vinay Pathak, Vikrant Massey.

Ratings: 5 stars

Writer- director Seema Pahwa began her career as a television actor and later she moved base from Delhi to Mumbai. She did innumerable films and was always acknowledged for her sparkling performances in all genre of films, be it the offbeat Aankhon Dekhi or the mainstream Bareilli Ki Barffi. Her first love remained theatre however where she continued to experiment with all kinds of roles and genres be it Aadhe Adhure or Aurat Aurt Aurat, one of her famous experiments on stage is about her cooking a meal as part of performance on her terrace and serving dinner to her audience.

A few years ago, when Seema sensed she was getting stereotyped by the mainstream makers, she diverted her creativity to stage and wrote/ directed/ performed a praiseworthy play called Peend Daan. She was keen to make the script into a film and asked many of her director friends to wield the megaphone but all of them refused, said she was the best woman for the job, and so reluctantly, Seema assumed the responsibility of her debut film, Ram Prasad Ki Teharvi.

This is a story of a funeral and what happens for thirteen consecutive days at a home that has lost a member. You will be surprised but it is not very different from a wedding preparation. Every time there is a wedding, the family members come together and participate in the celebrations. It is the same when there is a death in the family and nobody leaves until all formalities are completed.

Ram Prasad Ki Teharvi captures the arrival of various family members, their discussions and decisions relating to the last rites, intimation in newspapers, condolence protocol, allocation of rooms, beddings, blankets, duties in the kitchen, daily menus, and not to forget there are many shocks and surprises.

In my opinion, there are five good reasons to watch Ram Prasad Ki Teharvi. One, the plot: We have seen too many movies celebrating weddings, participated in the mehandis and the sangits, this is the first time that a director engages you in a tragedy that is entertaining. The film makes you happy, sad but most important, makes you look inward and introspect.

Two, the detailing in writing, set, costume, colours, design is remarkable. Ram Prasad/ Naseerudin Shah’s sprawling mansion, the courtyard, the multiple staircases, the corridors, the many rooms on many floors, the beddings, the quilts, the different paintings and the suitcases all have a story to tell.  The family is divided into groups where children play Ludo in the room, the women gossip in the kitchen and the men share a cigarette and drink on the terrace, so many layers, so many secrets.

Three, the characters: There are more than thirty characters and all of them are real. Ram Prasad and Savitri/ Supriya Pathak, their six children (four brothers two sisters) their spouses and children round up to about eighteen, add to it close relatives, close friends, some neighbors, some facilitators, some visitors and all of them have interesting back stories.

Four, performances: Supriya Pathak has the best tole in the film but every performance in the film is special. Featuring some of the best actors of theatre and of the big screen like Konkana Sen, Vikrant Massey, every character contributes to the narrative and more important, is presented with love and dignity.

Five, the message: It is important to show gratitude tant to our loved ones and say thank you and sorry. To assume responsibility, it is important to first delegate responsibility and it is important to appreciate music because if you understand symphony you understand life. Naseerudin Shah, who plays a musician says in a scene “Suron ko kabhi besura nahi chodna chahiye, iss se suron ka apman hota hai”.

Writer-director Seema Pahwa does not leave anything incomplete, does strike a single false not., It is very rare that critics are fully satisfied with a film and with my hand on my heart, I admit that Ram Prasad ki Teharvi  is an enriching experience. Thank you, Seema Pahwa, for this wonderful New Year gift.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review – Ak vs Ak – Day 1928

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Reality or fiction?

Film: Ak v/s AK

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane

Writer: Avinash Sampath

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap

Ratings: 2 stars

AK v/s AK as the title suggests is about a conflict between actor Anil Kapoor and director Anurag Kashyap. Kashyap provokes Anil Kapoor at a public event resulting in a bitterspat between the two, after which Kapoor blocks Kashyap on his phone. Still angry, a scorned Kashyap lands up at Kapoor’s shooting unannounced bad news for the actor that his daughter Sonam Kapoor is kidnapped and he has only 12 hours to find her.

The plan is that while Kapoor searches for his daughter, Kashyap follows the actor with a rolling camera, it is his opportunity to feature the actor in his home-made film. Sounds bizarre but well that’s the director’s idea of a black comedy thriller.

A few weeks before the release of the film, the Indian Airforce has accused Anil Kapoor of disrespecting the uniform in the trailer of the film and Kapoor had to apologize and make amends for Netflix but the controversy mysteriously settled down a few days before the release of the film and detractors allege that the defamation was a publicity stunt for the film.

There’s a possibility that the allegations are true, after all we are living in artificial times where artistes are willing to become part of marketing gimmicks. 

In times like these is relevant to revisit intimate story telling in its purest forms, for instance like bio-pics which is a life-scape of a celebrity and a format we are familiar with or even a docudrama which is a recap of real events taking some creative liberties. In AK v/s AK however, director Vikramaditya Motwane introduces us to a new format which dissolves the lines between reality and fiction.  He would like us to believe that everything that occurs on screen is spontaneous and impromptu while the fact is, everything that happens is scripted!

So, let me segregate what is real and what is fiction – the characters- both Anil and Anurag are obviously real, their respective families, their homes, their careers, their career histories, their association, interpersonal relationship also to an extent is real. What is fiction is the narrative, where Anurag blackmails Anil Kapoor and why Anil Kapoor allows himself to be manipulated is a mystery that will only resolve after you have watched the film.

The positives are the challenges of the new experiment and Anil Kapoor’s super natural performance. The negatives arethat the film is unconvincing, unengaging and terribly self-indulgent. There is no way you can watch this film with your family because every dialogue is laced with choiciest abuses in English and Hindi and the duo don’t let off an opportunity to break each other’s bones. So, must you watch AK v/s AKwell, only if you are a fan of either or both the AKs.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review – Coolie No. 1 / Day 1928

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No logic just masti

Film: Coolie No 1

Date: 25.12.2020

Producer: Vashu Bhagnani

Director: David Dhawan

Cast: Varun Dhawan, Saara Ali Khan, Paresh Rawal, Javed Jaffery, Johnny Lever

Ratings: 2.5 stars

David Dhawan directed Coolie No 1 is a remake of his 1995 film by the same title which was a remake of Tamil film Chinna Mapillai released in the year 1993. Usually, it is the younger directors who remake old hits of veterans, but this is a rare instance of a director venturing into a remake of his own film.

The film tells the story of Rozario/ Paresh Rawal, a well-known businessman in Goa who in his pursuit to find grooms for his daughters is high handed with Pt. Jai Kishen/ Javed Jaffery, who does not take the affront kindly and resolves to take revenge with Rozario. Jaikishen is mounting the station bridge, talking to Sara Ali Khan’s picture in hand when the picture falls on Raju Cooli/ Varun Dhawan sleeping on the railway platform and it is love on first sight for Raju.

So, Kishen and Raju make a plan to woo Rozario and Raju’s friend Deepak joins the plan. Within a few scenes, Raju is married to Saara and the story moves from Goa to Mumbai. The genre s you have gathered by now is sort of revenge and the treatment is super cool.  There are crazy twists and turns to the story because Raju is cooking up a new lie every day – about his father, his twin brother and more, while the director single-mindedly focused on showcasing one song after another irrespective of whether the situation demands it or not, until all six songs (two remixed and recreated) are out of the way.

Nothing makes sense and nothing is supposed to make sense because cars drive up on the railway platform here, a mechanic turns into a gynaecologist, a manager into a doctor and the uncle of the heroine transforms into a local waiter. The coolie bunks his railway duties as and when he is in a mood for song and dance and nobody complains. Raju’s colleagues share a unique telepathy with the hero collectively show up in his moment of crisis. The climax with all the acrobatics is hilarious.

We have been discussing the relevance of logic in cinema for decades but the fact is films are eventually made out of conviction and in this case, conviction of two people, director David Dhawan who has been convinced of his brand of cinema for 20 years and actor Varun Dhawan who adds life in every meaningless scene.

Supporting cast Paresh Rawal, Javed Jaffery, Johnny Lever do their best and Sara Ali Khan is natural as always. Must you watch Coolie No 1? Not if you are the kind who looks for logic in everything, then my advice is stay miles away but if you are the kind who wants to have s fun in festival, then get on to Prime Video with family and friends and chill out. It has been a long time you have been served to this kind of a movie, so enjoy and merry Christmas to all.

Bhawana Somaaya

Day 1926

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It is said that legendary music composer OP Nayyar, one day, walked out of his palatial home in Churchgate, promising to never come back and he didn’t. For the first five years, Nayyar lived in obscurity, shifting from one poor suburb of Mumbai to another. He had stopped composing music in films and the film fraternity had also forgotten him. Then one day, an ardent fan recognized him and took him to his home in Thane. He stayed there for a few weeks or months but slowly, the neighbours began recognizing him and he shifted to Virar.

Nayyar regularly visited a retail shop and made his phone calls from an adjoining phone booth and it was at this booth, that he met his future soul mate, Rani Nakhwa. The two got talking and Nayyar requested Rani to put an advertisement for him in the newspaper for a paying-guest accommodation. Rani obliged unaware that the distinguished stranger was a superstar.

Back home, Rani shared the encounter with the stranger to her mother. Her mother, asked the daughter to invite the stranger home for a meal and the classic Indian hospitality played a part in defining destiny because the guest who came for dinner, stayed back to become the Babuji of the Nakhwa family forever.

OP Nayyar kept his word and never returned to his biological family and the family kept its promise and never searched for him. Nayyar’s last rites, as per his will, were performed by the Nakhwa family.