Movie Review: Judgementall Hai Kya

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Kangana Ranaut has been in the news for so many things in the recent past that any movie of hers is newsworthy mainly because of the gossip around the actor. Although, IMHO, she’s become typecast for her neuroses in the earlier movies; she still manages to deliver a believable performance as person who is psychotic and yet not entirely off her rocker.

Rajkummar Rao fits well into edgier characters as smoothly as he does the feel good ones. His turn in Stree vs ELKDTAL vs JHK are varied as they are well-etched and with their own distinctive feels. He is truly a good actor in every sense of the word. He belongs in each of the movies he does.

The disclaimer at the start of the movie is also something that’s commendable in a place like India where mental health issues are a huge taboo and a dirty secret that’s more liable to be swept under the rug than be tackled head on.

Onto the actual reviewing: The movie is engrossing but it’s no OFOTCN or Nobody’s Child. It is however, a thought provoking look at a life tinged by pain and feelings of not belonging anywhere and being heard by those who matter.

The direction is fairly taut with Kovelamudi dropping the ball only when Rao starts fessing up to all his crimes which were deemed as psychotic ramblings of a delusional woman. Kangana sometimes overdoes it with the wide-eyed stare of a person who lives in a parallel universe inside her own head. Sometimes the scariest people are the ones who remain calm on the surface but are churning with maladaptive thoughts and hallucinations inside; desperately hanging onto shreds of reality.

The ancillary characters mainly make up the comic element in the movie. Whether it’s a long-suffering, hoping-to-get-laid sort-of boyfriend, or the ineffectual, obese cop (Satish Kaushik) who perpetually keeps eating; adding to his weight and his inefficacy. Jimmy Shergill doesn’t add much to the movie; gravitas or otherwise. His cameo needed to be better fleshed out. And for God’s sake, why does Amyra Dastur get work? She makes very little impact. At least someone who could breathe some life into a role needs to be brought in. She fails to strike a chord with the audience at all. The opening sequence of the movie with the blood splatters, spills and the origami is actually more poignant than many things in the entire film.

In the end, Rajkummar Rao with his sociopathic turn and Kangana in her delusional avatar, carry the movie forward and take it a step in the right direction; making mental illness lose its stigma and helping people know that it’s *not* a dirty word.

Rating 3.5/5

Movie Review: Badla

The first thing that strikes you about this movie is that Indian film makers are more than capable of churning out good flicks without the whole song and dance routine that seems to encapsulate Bollywood movies as a genre. Badla (Revenge) is a prime example of that. An adaption of the Spanish movie The Invisible Guest, Badla is fairly well-tuned game of cat and mouse played between Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu. But who’s toying with whom is the question that gets answered all the way in the last scene of the movie. And it’s worth the wait.

Based in London and in and around green but grim parts of England, the locales lend themselves to building up the tension in the movie. For once AB doesn’t have bombastic dialogues and fiery rhetoric that dominates the scene. I for one, like this older avatar of AB. His stock-in-trade character of ‘Vijay’ seemed very hackneyed and cliched and without much depth. Not sure calling him fine wine would do justice to his craft, but it’s great to see an actor embrace so much variety at his age and not get typecast to being a grandfather or only an old guy in his movies.

Taapsee with the stubborn tilt of her chin and non-compromising stance comes across as a woman who’ll fight tooth and nail to prove her innocence. She’s another actor who soaks up the essence of every character she plays. She’s defiant, she’s brash and she’s selfish and yet you don’t end up hating her. She’s quite human.

What could have been better was the entire role Amrita Singh played along with Tanveer Ghani (her husband in the movie). They had zero chemistry and their banter was trite and banal with both they seeming to be reading their lines for an audition rather than doing their final takes. One remembers the fiery Amrita of Chameli ki Shaadi and Aaina and wonders where that spontaneity has gone. Her somber dialogues too, fall flat and her emoting is not what it used to be.

Tony Luke (Arjun) is fairly believable as a self-serving, adulterous husband who’s trying to make the best of a bad situation. But one wonders if someone like Vicky Kaushal might have brought more gravitas to the role or even been perfect for it.

But this is one movie that people should watch because the lapses are very few and they don’t impact the flow of the movie enough to break our attention away from what will happen next. You remain hooked, wondering who’s going to walk away as the winner and who gets to have their Badla in the end. Although truth be told, things begin to present themselves fairly quickly in terms of what’s what. It’s hardly The Mousetrap. The ost is subtle and has hummable songs with AB rapping on the opening song Aukaat.

What is evident is this- more directors like Sujoy Ghosh, Zoya Akhtar, Soojit Sircar, Aditya Dhar (Uri), Anurag Kashyap et al should be making as many movies as they can and travesties like Zero and reboots of Judwaa shouldn’t be allowed. Bad things happen in the world these days, let’s not add to more trauma for the unsuspecting people out there. Make good movies people, like this one!

Rating: 3/5

Movie Review: Luka Chuppi

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What happens when you don’t want to get married but test drive being married by living together? What happens when you get caught being ‘pretend-married’ and have to play out the pretense? What happens when you try to get married for real to make things legit but realize that life is conspiring against you? Luka Chuppi happens. But it doesn’t happen all that well, unfortunately.

Set against the backdrop of militant love jihadis who are hellbent on making sure that every relationship kowtows to societal norms and any deviations are dealt with harshly; Luka Chuppi takes on a rather contrived and elaborate path towards a happily ever after.

Kriti Sanon is a little too well put together to be convincing as a small town girl. Her body language, mannerisms always bring to mind airline attendants who wish you a pleasant flight or people in the hospitality business who smile as they give you your room key and wish you a very pleasant stay. Rather fakeish.

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Kartik Aaryan is a bit more believable but not much. He’s scruffy and has hair (along with Aparshakti Khurana) that’s reminiscent of the scene from There’s Something About Mary.

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Apart from a few genuine laughs sporadically sprinkled here and there, the movie goes from one choreographed mishap to another. The rest of the cast however, is pretty damn good. They’re convincing small towners and never deviate from being in character. Vinay Pathak, Aparshakti Khurana, Pankaj Tripathi, Alka Amin, Atul Shrivastav bring a strong, wholesome and realistic small town flavor to the movie and are the glue that holds things together. Guddu (Aaryan) and Rashmi (Sanon) are effectively the leads but they are far more accurately described as props.

The OST is nothing outstanding either with 2 songs repackaged from an earlier era.

This movie is worth waiting for…till it airs on Netflix on Amazon Prime. It’s no barrel of laughs but is entertaining in its own smallish way.

Rating: 1/5

 

Movie Review: Gully Boy

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For everyone who’s been told something’s impossible, unattainable and to get their head out of the clouds because reality bites; Gully Boy is the answer.

Zoya Akhtar’s latest offering takes us deep into Dharavi, without any of the gore and gristle but without adding any glitter either. Ranveer Singh (Murad) shows how deeply he can get under the skin of a character and make it his own. From Simmba to Gully Boy, he peels off layer after layer and shows us how well honed his craft truly is.

Synopsis: Murad, a college-going young man from Dharavi, makes space in his cramped tenement for his mother, younger brother, grandmother and father (Vijay Raaz) and his father’s new, younger wife along with his dreams, hopes and burning desire to be someone. Being a rapper is as alien a concept to the people of Dharavi as are aliens themselves. You either lie and cheat to get ahead or you keep your head down, work hard and join the rat race because money, food in the belly and a roof over your head cancels out having dreams and aspirations over everything else.

His childhood love, Safina (Alia Bhatt),is spirited, unapologetic and unabashedly in love with him and his dreams. Their chemistry is spot on and very real.

How Murad tries toeing the line, doing what is expected out of him and still tries to be true to himself and acknowledge that having a passion is life is not only ok but essential, forms the crux of the movie.

The lingo, the people are all perfectly typecast although there are times when the movie seems to  move slower than one would like. Friendships, loyalty and dreaming the impossible and achieving it are all the takeaways at the end of the reel.

The music: is middling between mediocre to decent. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics are worth pondering on and the acting seamless and without much of histrionics.

One may not like rap as a genre, or even the rappers with their yo-yoing all over the place and hoodie pants, but Gully Boy shows the poets that live within.

Rating: 3/5

 

Lost In Translation#498

Kids extrapolate things based on their own frame of references. Mine does it quite a bit and even more so with words of a different language.

He loves music and at different times we have played hosts to quite a few different earworms of his. One of his old favorites reemerged due to a shuffle in his playlists and we were both humming along with it when he started off with that singsong tone he singsongs more whenever he has a question to ask me, “So A…is the Bulleya song about…?” And I reacted with a mother’s instinct and one honed from dealing with these particular gems- “No baby, it’s not about bulls. It’s about a poet and thinker (because early morning rushes are rushed enough without stopping to explain what a philosopher is) whose words have been put to song and who people sing about.”

And sure enough, came the expected rebuttal which led to this bit of head scratching fun-” But it says Bulleya…BULL-eya. Are you sure it isn’t about bulls?”Am positive! Baba Bulleh Shah didn’t have anything to do with bulls.” “Baba??” That’s what you call P (his nickname for my dad). Why is he called Baba?” “GO TO SCHOOL. BYE BYE. HAVE A GOOD DAY. LOOK IT UP ON WIKIPEDIA.”

Mom over and out. Oh how I miss Red when he’s out of town.

Movie Review: Kedarnath

This post isn’t advocating that you go and see the movie if you’d much rather not. However, it does stress on the aspect of enjoyment you’d get and the surprise you may feel if you did.

Set in the backdrop of the catastrophic floods that ravaged parts of Uttarakhand back in 2013, this movie has people, communal tensions and the fury of nature playing critical roles without anyone giving an inch to the other. If you have star crossed lovers on one side, you have bigotry on the other and everything getting submerged (excuse the pun) under the torrential flows of water.

Sara Ali Khan- is a surprise. Mainly because so many other young debutantes, barring Alia Bhatt and Anushka Sharma, have failed at being convincing or even realistic. She doesn’t sound like an NRI who just got off the plane and neither does she seem uncomfortable in her own skin. Her body language is spot on when playing a devil may care young girl who flouts societal norms and her ‘in your face’ attitude seems to flow naturally.

She could have gone with more modest attire when playing a girl who’s father is a staunch Hindu priest and one who lives in a town built around religion and myths. But if you have Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla dressing you up for the movies, then the look of a small town girl is probably hard to pull off. She could take a leaf out of Anushka’s book ala Sui Dhaga.

Sushant Singh Rajput as Mansoor is believable as a (pitthoo) guide who lugs the pilgrims up and down the mountains. A lot of Bollywood actors get so used to the urbane, yuppie roles they play that even when they have to go deglam, they can’t get into the skin of the character. Mansoor doesn’t appeal unworldly, far from it, but he does appear to be straight talking and knows who he is. SSR could have avoided the SRK-like posturing towards the fag end of the movie but the scene called for drama and SRK does drama; cliched as it were.

Pooja Gor, Nitish Bharadwaj, Nishant Dahiya, Alka Amin and others round up the cast and bring to life the stronghold that religion has not only on the lives of the people in Kedarnath, but their actions, their thought processes and ultimately what they deem is right or wrong. All these actors with their strong backgrounds in television bring in a whiff of freshness amongst the acting talent that’s been around in Bollywood for a while.

Amit Trivedi’s score for the movie isn’t fantastic but the song Namo Namo certainly is. The visuals are quite breathtaking and made me want to visit the place. Any movie that evokes that kind of a feeling in a viewer must be doing something right.

The images of the lake overflowing, the cloudburst don’t look realistic at all. Even back in the day movies like The Day After Tomorrow was able to make tsunamis and rampant destruction look believable.

But special effects only add to the mix in a movie like this. At the end of the day you still feel bad when the boy and girl fall prey to nature, stigma and society. What remains is a good time that was had, hummable music and lovely visuals!

Rating: 2.5/5

Movie Review: Simmba


If there was a movie which could have had ‘OTT’ as a catch phrase it would be this one. Or it could have the slightly longer but also accurate one of ‘The Movie Where Rohit Shetty Didn’t Blow A Car Up’. Whatever be the case, Simmba is a movie that is unadulterated entertainment. The kind that harks back to the days when we whistled as the hero made an entrance for the first time and blew everyone else away! 
Seemingly tailor-made for Ranveer Singh R.S), Simmba is the story of a cop gone wrong who changes his ways when tragedy hits a bit too close to home for his comfort.

With unabashed cheesy dialogues and catch phrases, R.S is the epitome of a mast, bindaas guy who is always looking for his pound of flesh. Life’ taught him that crime does pay and if you wear a uniform while committing the crime, it pays even more! With endless amounts of pomade and clothes as tight as Akshay Kumar in his Churakey Dil Mera days, Singh delivers the goods in the movie.

Ashutosh Rana in a middle-aged form; plays the voice of R.S’s conscience. The only other cast member to have significant screen time and have something else to do barring looking pretty is Sonu Sood. He growls, barks, threatens and flexes his biceps menacingly in an unending series of muscle shirts.

Sara Ali Khan is a prop plain and simple. She prances in with a bouncy ponytail and then steps back and lets R.S run amok. Because that in a nutshell is Simmba-in your face, brash and total paisa vasool. It’s like an 90s movie in this age with two famous remixed songs to prove it.

Should you watch it? Absolutely! You’ll leave the hall dancing and laughing- what else does one want from an action packed flick?

Rating: 3/5

Movie Review: Uri The Surgical Strike

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Not only was this my first movie of 2019 it ticked multiple boxes of requirement for my movie-watching pleasure. Having grown up on the kind of war movie fare that comprises of Border, LOC and its ilk, Uri sets a new benchmark in the genre. While it’s not as taut as Zero.Dark. Thirty or Hurt Locker, it doesn’t drop the ball much and maintains the EQ (entertainment quotient) at an even keel.

The positives:

  • The cast doesn’t ham it up or go excessively overboard A la Manoj Kumar and the jingoism is kept to a tolerable minimum.
  • Vicky Kaushal stands out as always. He has the ability to get into the skin of his characters and make them believable. His Vihaan Shergill is light years different from Vicky from Manmarziyaan. Hopefully he won’t go down the Salman and Shah Rukh route and rehashing the same role over the decades.
  • The cinematography and combat scenes are shot well and look pretty realistic without the main protagonists coming across like invisible superheroes.
  • The locales and terrain are well-chosen and play as much of a role in building the pace as do the characters and the plot.
  • The chest thumping machismo is kept to highly realistic levels while giving a *very* human glimpse into what a soldier’s life is like. Image result for border movie gif
  • The music is spot on and thankfully they don’t burst into a song and dance like Border did. *rolls eyes*Image result for sandese aate hai gif
  • The lack of a romance angle, the staple fare in Hindi movies, is very refreshing. The movie is about brotherhood, vengeful justice and about family from beginning to end.
  • The so-called side characters like Rakesh Bedi, Ivan Sylvester Rodriguez, Mansi Parekh and Riva Arora do their bit very competently in adding layers to the evolving story line and Riva Arora especially, emotes beautifully as the daughter who has just lost her father. Her outpouring of grief is very realistically portrayed in a child this young.

The Not-So Positives

  • Paresh Rawal is wasted in this role IMHO. An actor of his capabilities just frowns and breaks mobile phones in half all through the movie and would have been more apt as a spokesperson for an antacid or IBS.
  • Rajat Kapoor too doesn’t succeed in embodying the persona of the PM. His casting seems to be a misfire.
  • Swaroop Sampat too falls flat slightly as an Alzheimer’s patient. She is restrained, too much at times, to really have any impact at all. Pretty much a wallflower.
  • Yami Gautam is pretty. And that’s pretty much all there is to her. She fails to convey a sense of urgency as a RAW agent. She is entirely extraneous in the whole scope of things.
  • Kirti Kulhari, as always, comes across as very serene and composed as real. Her role could have been a bit more fleshed out.
  • The scene where Asma and her husband get information about of a senior Pakistani official about the troop deployment at the Indo-Pak border could have been choreographed better. But then again, who knows how spooks get the job done.

All in all, Uri is a slick flick where the cast, locale and OST all do justice to the subject- The Surgical Strike. This is the kind of movie that evokes the pride and patriotism slowly but surely.

Rating: 3/5

Movie Review: Andhadhun

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Image courtesy http://www.freepressjournal.in

In a nutshell? This movie is a mad cap caper. Andhadhun translates to Blind Tune or a state of being slapdash and both definitions fit the scenarios perfectly.

Led by Ayushmaan Khurana and Tabu in their usual capable ways, the movie starts out strong in the first half but the director ends up dropping the ball with the tautness in the latter half. Made more elaborate than needed at certain parts and leaving a couple of gaping holes in the story line, the overall execution and narrative is quite a refreshing change. This movie did not come out from the Barjatya stable for sure!

The way Bollywood tells its stories has undergone a major change. There is black humor, taboo topics, flawed people and all without middle-aged people playing roles decades younger than their actual age, taking off clothes or bursting into a flash-mob of dances 5xs in a movie.

Watch this movie for the piano recitals, the peppy songs, Tabu’s unflinching off-kilter moods and the seemingly unending series of greedy, money-hungry, ready to kill people with a rather flexible moral compass.

In Andhadhun…everyone’s crazy and playing blind man’s bluff in the most neurotic way possible. And that’s the whole story right there!

Movie Review: Karwaan

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I’d like to start off by saying- Go watch it. It may not be something you’d want to watch again and again. But you’d like it if ,you did watch it just the once.

This is what Karwaan isn’t:

  • It’s not a screwball comedy a la It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • It’s not a road trip movie alone.
  • It’s not just a buddy-buddy movie.
  • The main actors do not fall in love with each other.
  • No one breaks out into a song and dance to express their emotions or thoughts.

And this is what Karwaan is– a journey of self-discovery, of finding the most unlikely people to be friends with, rediscovering one’s passion and coming to terms with everything that life dishes out. Amply aided by a rather mellow soundtrack.

Dulquer Salman is an actor whose movies I haven’t watched till now, but plan to rectify that as soon as I can. He is vulnerable, closed-off, but a decent guy whose softness comes through in his actions. Everything he can’t say or wont is expressively played out on his face. Acting pedigree aside, he is aptly cast as someone who joins the rat race to “make something of himself”, putting aside his actual aspirations on the bullying/ say-so of his well-intentioned but badly-expressed father. His inability to grieve his father’s death with the run-of-the-mill tears and his off-beat eulogy at his father’s prayer are heartfelt, and heartwarmingly portrayed. He can give any highly lauded Bollywood actor a serious run for their money.

Mithila Palkar is another actor who I haven’t come across earlier. She comes across as a sulky, petulant-at-times child in the movie and while you may not always like her, she’s unapologetic and that’s what she was intended to be. I can’t genuinely say that I liked her acting much but she fit in where she had to and acted how I suppose college kids do.

Irrfan Khan the main BIG star of the movie, as it were. His Shaukat is irreverent, utterly in his own groove, doing his own thing all through. The movie’s main comedic moments arise out of his utterings and actions. Be it his dismay at every new destination/detour Avinash (Dulquer) seems intent on taking or his reaction to a pretty burqa-clad lady; his stubbornness in carrying on a one-sided conversation with foreigners asking for directions or his fleeting bravado in the face of repo goons, Khan brings not only light-hearted moments to the film but also proves why he is so good. He can share screen space with other actors- big names or otherwise and not have to hog the limelight. He, unlike most of the Bollywood Khans out there, can emote extensively and doesn’t need histrionics or highfalutin dialogues to help him do justice to his part.

The rest of the cast including Amala Akkineni who is charming in the little screen time she has and is quite likeable and honest in her portrayal of a daughter grieving and celebrating her mother, Beena , Kriti Kharbanda all contribute to the journey that the 3 main characters undertake; revealing the blossoming of Avinash into who he was supposed to be. Akash Khurana could be any Indian dad off the street. He wants security, success for his son and can’t embrace what he doesn’t understand. His flashbacks add more depth to understanding Avinash and the choices he makes. Adding to the charm are two vehicles, one with a coffin tied to its roof and the gorgeousness of Ooty and Kochi.

The only odd part? The overly loudmouthed boss of Avinash’s company played unconvincingly and rather shoddily by an actor whose name I am unable to locate on Google for some reason. Of course his “asshole quotient” was needed for Avinash to make the final break from the rut he was stuck in, to embrace the vibrancy of the life he always wanted.

All in all, I saw this movie sitting in the 2nd row with the screen right up front. It was without nachos or popcorn and the hall was kind of cold. But the laughter flowed all through and I found myself misty-eyed at times too. The acting was on par and I was thoroughly entertained. That ticks off everything on my list.

Rating: 3 out of 5