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January 2020

Movie Review: Jaawani Jaaneman – Day 1741

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Watch it for Saif Khan and Alya

Film: Jawaani Jaaneman

Date: 31.01.2019

Director: Nitin Kakkar

Writer: Hussain Dalal/ story, screenplay. Abbas Dalal/ dialogues

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Alya Furniturewala

‘I want to discuss something personal with you’ says a young girl to Saif Ali Khan at the club. ‘Sure’ smiles Saif ‘should we go to my home?’ The young girl agrees. He organizes the lighting, pours some wine for both and is all geared up for action when she drops a bomb, says there are 33.3 percent chances that he is her father. The scene is hilarious and the film has quite a few of them.

 Jawani Janeman tells the story of a 40 plus London based Jasswinder Singh/ Jass/ Saif Ali Khan who celebrates his independence with a passion every night at the club while his mother worries if he is gay and therefore not inclined to marriage. Jasswinder’s older brother assures his mother/ Farida Jalal that her fears are unfounded and he is witness of his brother’s flirtations.

Jass is sensitive about ageing and visits the salon regularly to touch up his greying. He reserves one evening a month for a family dinner at his parents inclusive of his brother and sister-in-law. With such a packed schedule there is hardly any time for work but is shrewd to crack intelligent brokerage deals every time he finds a vulnerable client.

Jasswinder has no routine, no fixed income as a result he is often delayed in paying house rent and sometimes subjected to power failure because of electricity bill not being paid. Jass is not just irresponsible but seriously commitment phobic and incapable of adjustments. In his bohemian life arrives his young and sensitive daughter from the past Tiya/ Alya Furniturewala who is not just responsible but mature beyond her age.

Jawani Jaaneman is the story of a father-daughter but unlike other movies on the same subject becoming too intense, director Nitin Kakkar (Filmistan) addresses serious issues without melodrama or being judgmental. What works about the film primarily is the splendid humor and the fast pace. The film consciously omits out all the predictable moments making it an engaging watch till the end.  All relationships between all the characters are realistic and all conversations natural. The sets resemble lived in homes and costume reflect choices not just brand display.

The pace tentatively drops in the second half but the narrative adds excitement with sparkling performances. Kiku Sharda is fantastic in his one scene at the hospital and Kubra Sait as Jass’s friend has great presence. As the meditation queen Tabu is hilarious in a special appearance but the surprise packet is the utterly charming and natural Alya Furniturewala who debuts as Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Tiya.

What can I say about Saif Ali Khan, Khan breathes on screen which few artistes can do un-selfconsciously. This is not the first time he is playing the modern, urbane character and yet every time he brings that something special to his role. Jawani Jaaneman is a chilled out film for a chilled out audience. Do watch it with your beloved/ friend/ family even grandparents.

I rate the energetic, upbeat Jawani Jaaneman with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review: Happy Hardy and Heer – Day 1740

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Himesh Reshamiya seriously tries

Film: Happy Hary Heer

Release: 31.01.2020

Two characters with the same face, Happy/ Himesh Reshamiya who is settled in Punjab/ India and is a wastrel, his friends call him a loser. The other, Hardy/ Himesh Reshamiya is a top businessman in London and also a successful performing artiste. The consolation is that there is no connection between the two characters, no previous birth telepathy, no separation in childhood stories and no mysterious flashback of the mother.

The heroes meet only post interval and fortunately feel no sense of attachment, there is not the slightest curiosity about their identical appearance and no dialogues like ‘Tumhari shakal meri shakal se kyon milti hai’.

I was dreading to watch a Himesh Reshamiya film because indulging him as a singer/ composer is entirely different from watching Himesh Reshamiya as an actor and all experienced this over the years since Aap Ka Suroor /2007, Karz/ 2008, Xpose/ 201 and Tera Suroor/2016 so I was vastly relieved to discover that in 2020 Himesh Reshamiya has finally identified his USP and gone all out to projects it unapologetically.

The film is an extension of the actor – his brand of music, his style of dressing and dialogues, uninhibited and unpretentious. If you can accept this as part of Himesh Reshamiya person and let him weave his stories in his melodies, then Happy Hardy Heer is definitely entertaining with exotic locations and haunting music. As an actor Reshamiya has come a long way and seriously tries to give his best to his characters.

Some artistes are meant to fly solo and Himesh Reshamiya is certainly one of them, listing the demerits of the film will be taking the film too seriously and I don’t want to do that so I’ll him hum ‘Teri meri kahani’ and sign off  rating Happy Hardy Heer with 2.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Basant Panchami – Day 1739

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Lord Krishna says in the Bhagwad Gita that among the seasons he is Basant, the festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the Shukla Paksha and therefore called Basant Pnchami. The festival is called Saraswati Vandana because she is the Goddess of learning, aesthetics and creativity and offering prayers to Mata Saraswati on Basant Panchami is customary.

Goddess Saraswati is one of the five children of Lord Brahma who is the creative power of the universe. Brahma’s other four children include the vedas that include knowledge, principles that regulate the systems of the universe.  Goddess Saraswati represents vidya and the significance of panchmi implies elaboration- extension- manifestation.

This time of the year when the winter makes place for the spring is the perfect time for Upnayan Sanskar. Spring is the most appropriate time to reconnect with knowledge and all the virtues of Goddess Saraswati and it does not matter whether we offer our respect via pen and paper or via the laptops as long as we remember to sing our vandana.


Remembering Lal Ded – Day 1738

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It is always interesting to watch a solo performance of an actor on stage but this is worthwhile only when the actor is very good. This week versatile actress Mita Vasisht pays tribute to Lal Ded the most celebrated woman mystic and poet of 14th century Kashmir. The play is an ode to the iconic personality through a collage of poems, songs, thoughts and philosophies of the medieval poetess.

Mita Vasisht who has also made a documentary on the poetess says the film reflects her in her various avtaars. “I have mixed different mediums on a common platform and I think it works. The production is very close to me as I have travelled with the idea around the country since 2004 and co-written it”

Vasisht says the tri language (Hindi, English and Kashmiri) is a journey into the collective consciousness of the present times and introduces us to powerful poetry. “Lal Ded recited verses that touched the lives of people of Kashmi and the reason she chose this as her subject was to revive relationship with poetry from different cultures and empower ourselves.”

Born into Brahmin family Lal Ded is revered and loved after700 years and remains the archetype for all Kashmiris, both Muslims as well as the Pandits. Her poetry found a resonance amongst people from other parts of India and outside like France, Holland, Germany. The fiery artiste transgressed all boundaries by discarding her clothes at an early age and connected with people via her poems/ vaakhs resonating secular values that transcended the narrow confines of caste and religion.

Directed, conceptualized and performed by Meeta Vasisht the 60 minutes play, the screening of the film will be followed by a workshop is a master class where in the actress, writer, and co-director of the play deconstructs the process of her performance to an extent where the audience transforms into a participant.

@ bhawanasomaaya

Sundanda Mehta on Sunanda Puushkar Part 2 – Day 1737

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But when Sanjay reached the hotel around 5 pm, he was told by the staff that Sunanda was still asleep. He sat down in the suite’s ante-room, waiting. He called Nakkul again and updated him about the situation, saying he was feeling uncomfortable and would rather go down to the lobby, and did so soon after the phone conversation ended.

Meanwhile, at the Aaj Tak studio, Nalini avoided calls and conversation about Sunanda as conversations in a studio are easily picked up by the microphones. Around 3:30 p.m., when she was relatively free, she messaged Sagarika Ghose and told her that a mutual friend needed help and asked if she could help Sunanda out. Nalini also hinted that it could also make for a good story for Sagarika, as the information Sunanda was offering could be politically explosive. After that Nalini got back to her day, which was packed with high-profile news of Rahul Gandhi’s impactful speech, which had made even his detractors sit up and take notice. This news, however significant, was soon to be overshadowed by another wholly unexpected turn of events.

Back at The Leela, in suite 345, Narayan was worried that Sunanda had not yet woken up. She was not even responding to the knocks on her bedroom door. He had knocked once at 4:30 p.m., and then again at 5:30 p.m. He shared as much with Sanjay Dewan, who called up Sir Ganga Ram Hospital at around 6:55 p.m., asking for a doctor to come and check on Sunanda. Dr Rajat Mohan, a senior consultant cardiologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, was asked to go to The Leela to attend to Sunanda Pushkar. Dr Mohan told the hospital doctor who had called him about the visit that he would see Sunanda between 8:0 and 9 p.m., after finishing his OPD hours.

At 7:20 p.m., Sanjay Dewan made another call to the hospital as a doctor was yet to reach The Leela. He offered to send a car and even volunteered to personally go and pick up the doctor.

In the meantime, Tharoor who had gone to a hotel to deliver a talk after the AICC meeting, returned to The Leela around 8:15 pm and went up to the suite with Sanjay. Sanjay and Narayan told him about Sunanda not responding to knocks on her door. Tharoor opened the bedroom door with his key and went in. He emerged after a few minutes, looking troubled, and told Sanjay that Sunanda was not responding and something seemed very wrong.

Sanjay called Dr Mohan again. The car he had sent for the doctor had arrived at the hospital. Sanjay urged the doctor to come as soon as possible ‘as Sunanda was very sick or probably no more,’ Dr Mohan later told the police in his statement.

According to Dewan’s statement before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Alok Sharma, who had carried out inquest proceedings in the case, there were at the time four persons present at the suite other than Tharoor: Tharoor’s personal assistant Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Narayan Singh, Tharoor’s driver Bajrangi and Dewan himself.14

Sanjay also called the hotel to ask about the in-house doctor. A few minutes later, Dr Rajat Mohan arrived, followed by the hotel doctor. It was Dr Mohan who examined Sunanda. She was lying on the bed, wearing a lavender two-piece night suit, and her eyes were closed.

Within minutes he looked up and declared that she was dead. It was about 8:30 pm.

Tharoor’s face wore a look of utter disbelief. After a few numb minutes, he took out his cell phone and dialled a number. The call appeared to have been answered immediatley. ‘Ra,’ said Tharoor into the phone, ‘she has left us.’


Sundanda Mehta on Sunanda Puushkar Part I – Day 1736

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Just finished reading Sunanda Pushkar and reproducing excerpt of the book with author Sunanda Mehta’s permission.

AT AROUND 2:30 a.m., on the morning of 17 January 2014, an exhausted Sunanda seemed to calm down a little. She had chain-smoked through the night until that point.

At around 4:10 a.m. she sent a message to journalist Prema Sridevi, who was with Times Now at the time, asking her to come and meet Sunanda immediately. She had called Prema the previous day as well, saying she wanted to talk to the press and blow the lid off IPL. Prema, in fact, had spent the better part of the day at The Leela trying to get an interview with Sunanda, but could not get past Narayan.

At 4:15 a.m., Sunanda sent another message, this time to Barkha Dutt, saying she wanted to give her an interview that very day. She seemed to have her plan for the day chalked out. The next person she called was Shiv. When Shiv answered, Sunanda immediately picked up from where they had left off. Their arguments over his lifestyle and ‘lack of seriousness in life’ continued. Shiv, who had put aside his resentment by now, asked his mother to control her anger and stop the public show of her personal crisis with Tharoor. The argument went on till about 4:30 a.m.

Sunanda had relaxed for a bit after the call with her son, as no matter the subject of their conversation, his voice always brought her some emotional respite.

It was around 6:30 a.m. when Sunanda finally fell asleep, after asking Narayan to give her a foot massage. Tharoor left for the AICC meeting at around the same time. Just before falling asleep, though, she instructed Narayan to make sure he got one of her favourite dresses from the dry cleaners ready for her to wear. She told him it was for a meeting in the evening. Narayan then left the suite, and Bajrangi, the driver, took over the watch. Narayan returned only at around 4 p.m., with R. K. Sharma, Tharoor’s other personal secretary.

That morning, Rahul Kanwal, who was supposed to anchor from the Congress convention at the Talkatora stadium, where Rahul Gandhi was scheduled to make a big speech, woke up early to find a series of missed calls from Sunanda. The calls were made past 1 a.m., when his phone was on silent mode and he was fast asleep. Sunanda texted to say that she had watched the show at midnight and that she was very upset with what Mehr had said. She said Mehr had ruined her life and that Sunanda wouldn’t allow her to get away with it. And she wanted to do the interview they had spoken about.

The Rahul Gandhi speech was slated to be a decisive one for Congress, which was pressing for Gandhi to don the mantle of the party’s prime-ministerial candidate. Much was riding on the success of the meet and the speech. The Sunanda interview would have to wait, Kanwal thought.

Prema Sridevi too saw the message Sunanda had sent her only when she woke up at 7 a.m. on 17 January. She called Sunanda at around 9 a.m., but there was no reply, so she called Narayan and asked to be connected to Sunanda. He told her she was sleeping and that she had been awake all night without having eaten much either.

Another call that went unanswered on Sunanda’s phone, amongst many that morning was from Zarine Khan. She had been closely following the messy drama of the past two days, and had first called up Shashi around mid-morning on the 17th. Zarine could not be a silent bystander anymore. She had great regard for Shashi and was pained to think about what he must have been going through. Zarine was very friendly with Sunanda, but was not blind to her belligerent behaviour of the past few days. Sunanda was amongst the warmest and most loving persons she knew, but Zarine had perceived that there was another distinct side to her too. Sunanda could imagine the most bizzare of situations and say outrageous things that one knew could never be true, just to give the impression that she was very important. She would often talk about how one day she would be the prime minister of India. And while she was insanely possessive of Shashi, the last few days she had been bad-mouthing him in front of all her friends, about how he was a miser and she had to spend all her money to run the household. It was even more disturbing to Zarine because Shashi, through all this, remained the gentleman he was and never retaliated with any remarks that would show Sunanda down. She decided it was time she reached out to Shashi and offered some support. She decided to invite them both over to her place so that they could for a few hours escape the controversies brewing in the capital.

When Zarine put forward her invitation to Tharoor, he told her that he was with Rahul Gandhi at the moment at the AICC meet and it would be better if she called up Sunanda instead. So Zarine called Sunanda next, at around 11.30 a.m., only to have the call go unanswered. She hung up, thinking she would try another time.

Meanwhile, at the Talkatora stadium, Rahul Kanwal bumped into Tharoor, who was clearly upset and told him he should not have done his interview with Mehr. Tharoor revealed to Rahul how Sunanda had fought with him over it. Rahul in turn invited Tharoor to join him on Centre Stage that evening. They agreed to meet at 9.30 p.m before Tharoor went his way.

On the way back from Talkatora, Rahul thought he would stop over at The Leela where Sunanda was staying and record his interview with her. He called her a couple of times but got no answer. So he drove back to his studio in Noida.

Later that evening, Sunanda’s friend Sanjay Dewan reached the hotel. It was around 5 p.m. Sanjay was to leave for Mumbai later that day. A day earlier he had texted Tharoor – whom he had known well since 2006 – to ask how things were.

Tharoor had responded late in the night. The next day, when he again texted Tharoor on his way to the airport to enquire about Sunanda, Tharoor requested him to stay on in Delhi as he said their scraps were getting worse. He told Sanjay that he was at the very important AICC general session and asked him intervene with Sunanda on his behalf, to try and calm her down as she was not well and not eating properly. Sanjay cancelled his Mumbai trip and texted the Tharoors’ domestic help Narayan to ask about Sunanda’s health. Each time he called, Narayan told him that Sunanda was sleeping. Around 4:30 p.m., Narayan called back to say that Sunanda should be up soon and that he could come to the hotel if he wanted to.


Movie review – Panga – Day 1735

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More than worth taking Panga

Film: Panga

Release: 24.01.2020 

Director: Ashwini Iyer

Writers: Nikhil Mehrotra/ story, Nitish Tiwari/ screenplay, dialogues

Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Jassi GillRicha Chadda and YagyaBhasin

The film opens to a guard taking rounds around a building striking the stick loudly on the ground. Inside a middle class home; anenergetic wife kicks her husband every time she turns sides on the double bed. In the morning we are introduced to the Shrivastavfamily, husband Prashant Shrivastav/Jassi Gill is an engineer, his wife Jaya Nigam/Kangana Ranaut, a former sports star now employed with the railways.

Their eight year-old son Aditya/ Yagya Bhasin is accustomed to surviving a few hours on his own and Adi  relishes his me time in the company of telephone/ television always lovingly watched over by a maternal neighbor until the parents get back from work. Their home comprises all the facilities essential for quality living likewashing machine, music system, mobile phone and hearts filled with love.

The Shrivastavs are happy, well almost except for a broken dream here and there! Panga is the story of that incomplete dream whenJaya Nigam was Kabaddi National Champion and decided to give it all up for the sake of her family. Now a decade later, at the age of 32Jaya dreams of a comeback because her son wants her to.

Rooted in the subculture of societal traditions Panga includes you into the world of Shrivastavas, their highs and lows, when they are together and separated. What makes the film special is the first ratewriting specially the dialogues and adding to the narrative are JavedAkhtar’s lyrics and Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music.

The first half travels between Delhi and Bhopal and focuses on the family, their insights and attitudes, their daily routine all minutely captured by the filmmaker. The second half when the story shifts from Bhopal to Kolkatta unfortunately is not as engaging. Jaya’s preparation for the match is not as excruciating and therefore the excitement associated with the game does not rise to a crescendo.

We are expecting the family to encounter a crisis but that does not happen and post interval the pace slows down. Some details are not underlined  for instance we are unable gage the separation timebetween Jaya and her family and the frenzy during the final match is sorely missed but one is ready to bypass these shortcomings because the film has its heart in place.

Panga raises its voice for kabaddi, for dormant dreams, for womenseeking identity and most important salutes the mother who pouts endless hours to keep a family together. It is never too late to follow a dream, to express and be heard and to support a family.

Before the interval in a deeply moving scene, Jaya tells her husband that every time she looks at him and their son she feels good, but does not feel the same when she looks at herself. The confession is an alarm bell for us, our society that has oppressed women for too long in the guise of moral and social responsibilities. 

Not a single character is out of place or over stated. Curly haired Neena Gupta makes an appropriate mother to Kangana Ranaut and Richa Chadda as Jaya’s friend Meenu is as candid as it gets, she is the scene stealer. Jassi Gill and little Yagya Bhasin are the surprise packets and Kangana Ranaut once again delivers a fabulous performance. The last time we encountered Ranaut she played aqueen, this time she wins our hearts as an endearing homemaker.

Director Ashwini Iyer and writer Nitish Tiwari take a bow for this delightful film and make sure you watch it with your entire family. I rate the simple, sensitive and effective Panga with 3.5 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Movie Review – Street Dancer 3 – Day 1734

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Film: Street Dancer 3

Release: 24.01.2020

Director: Remo D’Souza

Cast: Varun DhawanShraddha KapoorPrabhu DevaNora Fatehi 

In 2013 director Remo D’Souza made ABCD  that told the story of  Vishnu/ Prabhu Deva who mentors and trains street dancers to win a competition. Made on a modest budget ABCD earned100 crore at the box-office only because it managed to touch so many hearts.

In 2015 Remo D’Souza made ABCD2 featuring Varun Dhawan and Shradha Kapoor who combined force to win a dance competition in Las Vegas. Made on a budget of more than 150 crore ABCD 2 though successful at the box-office failed to connect an emotional with the audience the way ABCD did. 

And now five years later, Remo D’Souza brings the same pair to tell yet another story of dance called Street Dancer 3D. This time the scale is even bigger as a result all the characters reside in sprawling mansions and do nothing for a living except of course dance! So all we get to watch in the 2.5 hour film is laboured gymnastics, done to death dance rehearsals and irrelevant discussions/ debates on dance. 

All the dance movements, expressions are mechanical and without any emotional connect and nothing about the choreography is remotely appealing with the sole exception of Prabhu Deva’s ‘Muqabla’ and climax number ‘Mile sur jo mera tumhara’. The problem is that the film wants to combine too many messages – team spirit, patriotism and the issue of illegalimmigrants. The demerits are too many because everything is unconvincing, exaggerated, unrealistic and over the top.

Some sequences are blatantly plagiarized like Varuun Dhawan’s outburst with Shradha’s father in the climax is a takeoff from Shah Rukh Khan’s conversation with Amrish Puri in DDLJ.Some lyrics offensive/ ‘Garmi’, some camera angles appalling and some dialogues bizarre like Prabhu Deva lecturing on physics/ history/ geography and Moral Science! Street Dancer 3D is devoid of any surprises/emotion or entertainment and I would warn you to watch the film at your own risk. 

I rate Street Dancer 3D with 2 stars.

Bhawana Somaaya

Junoon Salons – Day 1733

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The aim of #Junoon Salons is to reach out to business and cultural leaders and to connect to the world of the performing arts.  Come Tuesday 4 February 2020 #G5A will showcase #Adishakti’s Bali, a retelling of the various events that led up to the battle between Bali, ruler of Kishkindha, and Ram, King of Ayodhya. In signature Adishakti style, the play asks fundamental philosophical questions that trigger introspection. 

Through a delightful narrative that travels diverse viewpoints of multiple characters, Bali explores notions of right and wrong, ethics, ideologies and identities, with  minimal text and powerful visuals and breathtaking design, the play offers theatre at its best – thoughtful, playful and utterly moving.

Junoon says it is proud to present Adishakti’s Bali which delivers a tour de force that sets the benchmarks for contemporary Indian theatre.


A film a month – Day 1732

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Pen Marudhar Cine Entertainment (A Division of Pen Studios) has a packed calendar for 2020. In January it is Jawaani Jaaneman starring Saif Ali Khan, Tabu and Alaya, directed by Nitin Kakkar. In February it is Love Aaj Kal 2 featuring Kartik Aaryan, Sarah Ali Khan, directed by Imtiaz Ali. In March it will be Angrezi Medium with Irrfan Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, directed by Homi Adajania.

In April it is Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare starring Konkana Sen Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar, directed by Alankrita Srivastava. In May it is Coolie #1 featuringVarun Dhawan and Sarah Ali Khan, directed by David Dhawan. After a three month gap in August is Attack and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi starring Alia Bhatt and this is enough to make anybody breathless.