Monthly Archives

March 2019

Movie Review: Notebook Day 1559

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Film: Notebook

Date: 30.03.2019

Director: Nitin Kakkar

Producer: Salman Khan, Murad Khetani, Ashwin Varde

Cast: Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl

Ratings: 2 stars


It is commendable that Salman Khan is willing to stake projects on newcomers and his latest Notebook an adaptation of foreign film 2014 Teacher’s Diary is an artistic choice clearly not targeted for the box-office. I appreciate that.


Teacher’s Diary was highly popular in the festival circuit and there is a possibility that Notebook will follow the same path but that is not the point. The point is that you choose to go against the tide and make a film that is not the flavor of the season.


So Notebook tells the story of a teacher, Kabir Sir/ Zaheer Iqbal, who has quit the army and his home in the metropolis to live on a lonely houseboat in the valley and teach small children. Early evening when the children return home, nobody drops by at the houseboat except the setting sun and the rising moon.

It is not easy to survive in the wilderness without electricity/gas/telephone connection and Kabir is delighted when he discover a diary left behind in the desk drawer by the school’s previous teacher, Firdaus.

He reads the diary every night and finds solace in her outpourings and identifies with her loneliness and unwittingly begins to jot his feelings in the same diary.

Kabir has fallen in love with a woman he has never met and probably never will but he has hope.

The merits of the film are the story, the beautiful valley; the bunch of energetic kids and the lead pair even though they don’t have many scenes together.

The demerits are the screenplay and the immensely slow pace. The beauteous ambiance and the interesting characters fail to progress the story. There is intrigue but no plot.

Lead pair Zaheer Iqbal aur Pranutan Bahl are sparkling and it doesn’t seem like it is their debut performance. Must you watch Notebook? Well if you are a sucker for old world romance and believe in hope then most certainly yes but please remember that this is not the laptop Notebook you are accustomed to.

This is the paper bound Notebook on which you write with a fountain pen so there are long pauses and longer reflections.

 I rate Notebook with 2 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Junglee 1558

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Film: Junglee

Date: 29.02.2019

Director:  Chuck Russell

Producer: Vineet Jain, Priti Shahani

Cast Vidyut Jammwal, Pooja Sawant, Asha Bhat, Atul Kulkarni, Akshay Oberoi

Ratings: 3.5 stars


Raj Nayar/ Viddyut Jamwal is a veterinary doctor who chats up parrots and other pets. His father runs an elephant sanctuary in Odisha but Raj has avoided going home for more than a decade, ever since his mother passed away.

This year, Raj makes an exception and visits home for his mother’s barsi unprepared for all that has to unfold.

The story has an interesting premise and what make it engaging are the characters and their interpersonal relationships. The father and son have a unique bonding but also many unresolved conflicts. They are both connected to nature but have a different way of submitting to it.

Forest officer Dev/Akshay Oberoi, is in love with the sanctuary assistant Shankara/ Pooja Sawant but never expresses it. Shankara is devoted to Raj but never displays it because she feels Raj is drawn to the city news reporter Meera/ Asha Bhat while Raj is only interested in the jungle and the animals. He chats with the elephants, understands their anguish, he plays with the snakes and comprehends their concerns.

The film focuses on environment conservation and has a direct message that if we stop purchasing ivory articles then cruelty to elephants will come to a natural end.

Before interval the film is both technically and visually spell binding. It has exotic locations, seductive cinematography; dare devil action and drama that blow your brains. The problem is the second half, when hero, Viddyut Jamwal is out to nab poacher/ Atul Kulkarni and in the process serves us four exceedingly long fight sequences that begin inside the jungle, proceeds to the temple, the police station ending in a desolate place in the climax.

The hero fights his oppressors with sticks/ swords, at times perched on top of an elephant and at times racing motorbike on slopes. After a point the stunts appear mechanical and meaningless but not Viddyut Jamwal. Viddyut gives his best in every scene and moment and it is an absolute delight to watch him display the Martial Arts with utmost skill and finesses.

It is not easy to shoot in the midst of the jungle with so many animals and the credit for this goes to the director. Mention also must be made of actors Makrand Deshpande and Atul Kulkarni who make effective supporting cast.

In 1961 we saw the release of Shammi Kapoor’s Junglee that had nothing to do with the wild life. In 1971 Rajesh Khanna did Haathi Mere Saathi that told a tale of friendship between man and animal and now in 2019 we have Junglee championing for the conservation of forests and animals, particularly elephants.

Junglee should be watched for the spectacular action, for American director Chuck Russel’s perspective on India and most important for Viddyut  Jamwal who is first rate.

 I rate Junglee with 3.5 stars out of which one is exclusively for Viddyut.

Bhawana Somaaya

High self -worth (Day 1557)

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There was a quiet dignity about Nishi; she was always low key, never keen to impress anyone, least of all strangers. If a business came to the club naturally fine but she was not willing to compromise on her convictions.

Her confidence came from high self-worth in who she was and this reflected in her work culture. Nobody in her staff is ever impolite or authoritative.  They are all always consistently courteous, friendly without being intrusive which is what being in the sales business is all about.

On a personal note, Nishi was shy of compliments, she never indulged in praise and if you praised her, she quickly changed the topic. She knew all the members by their first name and gave personal attention to her gatherings.

I will never forget the day I received the awful news, ‘Are you sure’ was my question to the caller. ‘Yes,’ she confirmed. Something snapped in my heart that day. Nishi Khanna was not my family, she was not my close friend, not my colleague who I interacted with on a daily basis and yet, I felt a shooting pain, went into a serious depression. That’s the power of her attraction rather her power of attachment!!

To be continued…


Worked on instinct (Day 1556)

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I remember when my friend Shabana Azmi was looking for a venue to host her her mother’s book release and was not happy with anything she saw. That’s when I suggested The Club and Nishi suggested the lawns at The Club because it was winter time and the effect was amazing. Nishi went out of her way to make it special for Shabana and all of us raved about the food and the fanfare for days.

A few years ago, when I was hosting my book release, she was curious about the topic of my book, the publishing world. She asked me questions about the process of writing a book and also the commerce of it. She had a sharp mind being a business woman herself and valued creativity. She meted out the same attention to me, she had to Shaba a few years ago without the slightest discrimination and the media was overwhelmed with the grandeur of the venue and her hospitality.

The Bhramakumaris were keen to host their star speaker Sister Shivani’s discourse at The Club and when the Mumbai head Yogini Ben came to meet Nishi she could not stop singing her praise.  I realized that time that Nishi worked on instinct and without preconceived notions. I felt she had not made up her mind on lending the venue for the discourse till she actually met Yoginin Ben. It was after talking to her that she offered the bigger room.


To be continued…


Tasting wines & music concerts (Day 1555)

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A week later, I had become an official member of The Club. A month later, I was taking my evening walks with Nishi and her friends. A year later, I was partying with the Khannas on the club lawns, tasting wines, applauding artistes at musical concerts.

I was privileged to be included in the celebrations of her grandchild, privileged to participate in different seminars on different subjects. There was always different crowds, different conversations in their environment and I took this as an opportunity to grow and learn different things.

The fact that Nishi was always around was a consolation because when the outside influences became overpowering, we settled in a corner and discussed mundane things and that was so therapeutic. I think that was precisely the reason Nishi held various impromptu luncheons at the club for her friends. She liked letting her hair down, liked getting to know people. She was a good listener and always made eye contact while speaking. Nishi was always busy but she always made time for everybody around her- her friends, family, staff or strangers. She was always preoccupied but she was always thoughtful towards everyone.


To be continued…



Remembering Nishi Khanna (Day 1554)

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The universe is made up of millions of people and who meets whom, when, where and why is determined by destiny.

I can’t remember when I first met Nishi Khanna but she was always around, at film parties, at film events, screenings, special lunches, exclusive exhibition and of course at the Hotel Holiday Inn, a favorite haunt of film folks.

Once I remember both of us pulling off the same suit off the shelf at a Lucknow exhibition in the hotel and she smiled at me and said, ‘All yours please carry on’.

Thirty years went by without us ever being formally introduced to each other and yet we always smiled, waved out at each other every time we crossed paths and which was rather frequently.

It was in the year 2014 I think we discovered that we were traveling to Goa by the same flight for different destination weddings and got down to discussing mundane topics like sangeet and mehendi and the number of clothes and accessories women need to carry for celebrations like these.

I had no intention of becoming a member of the club at that time but I asked her if membership to The Club was still available. Her husband Dinesh Khanna was quick to follow up on my request when we returned from the wedding and a few days later, I was invited at the club for coffee and conversation.

To be continued…


Movie Review: Kesari Day 1553

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Film: Kesari

Date: 22. 03. 2019

Director: Anurag Singh

Writer: Anurag Singh, Girish Kohli

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Parineeti Chopra

Stars: 2.5

War drama is the most difficult genre of cinema because you are revisiting history and calls for a special skill to execute what happened many years ago. In subjects like these, the filmmaker cannot take any creative liberties and therefore the challenge is daunting.

Over the years we have watched many war films but the ones we remember are the films that touched our hearts. Anurag Singh’s Kesari recounts the bravery of 21 Sikh soldiers who fought an army of 10,000 Afghans during the 1897 Battle of Saragarhi. Their plan was to get control of Saragarhi and go for other forts Gulistan and Lockhart in Northern India, then under the British rule. The Afghans were confident that they would capture Sargarhi in thirty minutes and unprepared for the tough battle that lasted an entire day. This battle is regarded as the second bravest battle ever in world history.

I don’t expect to be entertained by a war film but I expect to be engaged and Kesari fails to do that. The first half of the film is dreadfully slow, the pace picks up comparatively post interval but the narrative is still exceedingly dry and shines only towards the end in the climax when Akshay Kumar wears the orange turban.

The main problem with the film is the screenplay, writers Girish Kohli and Anurag Singh are so focused on not misinterpreting history and religious conflicts that they fail to adequately flesh out the characters or provide any new insights or humor to the story. The emotional moments are few and far too predictable and superficial.

The plus is the cinematography/ Anshul Chobey, the production design/ Subrata-Amit recreate the North West province now in Pakistan, the amazing action, some dialogues, and music.

Kesari could have been a celebration of ensemble performances from supporting cast but that does not happen.  Akshay Kumar’s Havildar Ishar Singh who has a habit of adjusting his turban every time he is about to do something special is convincing but it is the suntanned Parineeti Chopra in a cameo who brings a smile on Akshay’s and the audience’s face.

Watch Kesari to connect with your history and be prepared that it is soaked in blood.

For the intention and the message of the film, I rate Kesari with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya/ @bhawanasomaaya 


Holi Hai Part 1 (Day 1552)

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Hindi cinema has a legacy of romance woven through song-n-dance situations and the spell hasn’t broken in over a 100 years. The festival of spring has a special relevance in our films and it is because every director has given it a different interpretation. For the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram ‘‘Ari jaani natkhat, mat chuna mera ghunghat…’ featuring Gopi Krishna and Sandhya in Navrang is an expression of seduction and a moment of unusual choreography.


For Yash Chopra bhang becomes an excuse for the lovers to rekindle an old affair in Silsila. The brazenness appeals to our basic instinct, interestingly Chopra a few years later used colour to evoke fear in the Shah Rukh starrer Darr.  For Subhash Ghai, it was a moment of confrontation between Shammi Kapoor and Jackie Shroff in Hero and reconciliation between ageing warring friends Raaj Kumar and Dilip Kumar in Saudagar.

For Rajkumar Santoshi it was an excuse for mischief in Damini and for Ramesh Sippy, a celebration for Ramgarh residents in Sholay. The director very beautifully combines the sad with the happy moments, where we watch a younger Jaya Bhaduri chasing her to be father-in-law Sanjeev Kumar’s tonga challenging to colour his spotless kurta and juxtapose it with Jaya as a widow watching the gaiety from a temple perched on the top of a hill.

Mani Ratnam it is redemption in the Kunti –Karna story retold as Dal-Pati. A 13-year-old delivers her illegitimate baby in a shed and abondons him on a moving train as the villagers dance around the bonfire. For 30 years the ghosts of her morbid past haunt the guilty mother/ Srividya and the only way she can  find solace is if her neglected son/ Rajnikant forgives her.

In Phagun Waheeda’s father, a zamindar has presented his daughter an expensive sari for the spring festival which Dharmendra in a romantic moment soils it with colour. Waheeda is obliged to reprimand her husband in the presence of the invited guests to pacify her father. He feels insulted and walks out on his pregnant wife to return only 20 years later, after he has collected a shop full of saris for his wife.


My father is my hero –Sanjna Kapoor part 2 (day 1551)

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Can you recall some disagreements with him?

Yes, once we held a workshop titled’ Science Toys’ where we taught children how to make scientific toys from waste material. Papa was in the audience and looked disapproving. My heart skipped a beat. I was convinced of the idea but watching his expression made me suddenly nervous. I avoided looking in his direction till the kids were ready with their creativity and I noticed that papa was impressed. This was one of my greatest joys because both mom and he have always emphasized that innovation is the essence of theatre!


Very few know that side of Shashi Kapoor

Very few remember that he started his career in his father Prithviraj’s’s touring theatre company, Prithvi Theatres – as the 3rd Assistant Director putting up and packing the sets, setting out costumes of actors and making lights out of Dalda tins! In fact Papa used to tell me of how Rajji (Raj Kapoor), would make the stage come alive at the start of one of their production with the most beautiful light effect of jugnus (fireflies). The duo created lightening effect for a scene by placing two wires in a bucket of water! Look at their imagination and confidence of these young boys. Lack of resources did not diminish their passion!


It’s interesting that he has shared so many stories of his past with you.

I know a lot but I should have known more. I should have spent more time accumulating information about his struggle and memories of and theatre.  It was only a few years ago, in 2006 when we were celebrating Prithviraj Kapoor’s 100th birth anniversary at Prithvi Theatre (something that my father made sure we did not forget) that I got to know all these stories. I am so glad we created an exhibition on Papaji’s years in theatre.


What else do you know about their past?

Papaji and his entire troupe traveled everywhere in third class by train and all of them- from the director to the light boy, ate the same food and stayed put up in the same place. Every day they did rehearsals and later performed in the evening. He did theatre, shot for films and contributes as Rajya Sabha member in the parliament. He was elected on the Presidents nomination for two consecutive terms and it was his suggestion that government grant 75% Artistes Railways Concession, which is a boon for so many performing artists across the country today.


Are you proud of your legacy?

Absolutely, it is passion that feeds into all our efforts currently, Junoon – co-founded by my partner Sameera Iyengar and me. Our aim is to create multiple platforms for art/ artistes and audience. This would not have happened without the guidance of my father. I feel grateful to be a part of this great legacy both my parents and grandparents passed on to all of us children




My father is my hero- Sanjna Kapoor part 1 (Day 1550)

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In 2012 Sanjana Kapoor decided it was time to move on and launched Junoon Theatre with partner Sameera Iyengar. In 2019 Junoon Theatre completes seven long years.

It has been a year since Shashi Kapoor passed away and his only daughter Sanjna Kapoor turns emotional as she discusses the influence of father Shashi Kapoor in shaping her obsession for theatre.


How does your dad react to the many changes in your career?

My father remained an enormous pillar of strength to me over the last 22 odd years whilst I worked through my various dreams and ideas at Prithvi and elsewhere as well. He was always my most faithful and most critical audience.

He never failed to praise me when I deserved and guided me in everything I did be it working with School for the Blind or hosting The Amul India Show in the good old days. He pointed out that I needed to check my breathing when microphone is pinned on to me.  He always had constructive observations that helped our functioning at Prithvi Theatre.


Wasn’t it his idea to initiate summertime programs with children?

Yes, and it was a huge success and I continue with the idea even now under our new banner Junoon as Arts at Play Summertime. For years, he would make it a point to be present at the workshop there on the last day and hand out the certificates to all participants. Later in private, he would share his observations on their talent and guide me how to help them. The children looked forward to his advice and blessings. It was a special moment for all of us.


He was always present on 28 February for the annual celebrations.

Yes and that was the only time, he addressed the audience because it is my mother’s birthday. Long ago, we decided that we would celebrate Maa’s birthday with a performance of Ustad Zakir Hussain who my mother adored and Zakir saab has reserved this date in his calendar forever. It is a special date for the family and Prithvi Theatre lovers.


To be continued