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

Movie Review: Raazi

Meghana Gulzar’s making a name for herself in tackling the tough topics people talk about, wonder about but don’t always want to dramatize for a Bollywood consumer; their usual diet being movie that have 5 songs, dancing on mountains and always a happy ending.

With Raazi she achieves a narrative that doesn’t falter, she touches on patriotism without becoming rabid and she coaxes good performances out of her already capable cast.

The movie however, isn’t superlative. Alia’s fear, vulnerability and soldiering on in the face of danger is portrayed well enough. But is it a very taut performance? Not entirely. Her constantly looking around and observing the comings and goings while she spies, is a bit obvious and repetitive. Her guilt at the extreme step of taking a life is also portrayed quite convincingly. People who help her shine are actors I hadn’t come across earlier but who clearly are good at their craft viz Jaideep Ahlawat. Arif Zakaria is underutilized in his role. He of the expressive eyes and the rhetoric, could have been given a better deal in this movie. He’s sadly almost a prop.

Soni Razdan, Rajit Kapur, Shishir Sharma come in when they’re supposed to, do their bit and leave but barring Shishir Sharma they don’t really have any meaty roles or dialogues and are around to hold up their bit in the story.

So what’s good about the movie? The dialogues, the OST (Dilbaro is a song one can listen to again and again), Alia, the locales, the restrained story telling and not portraying Pakistan as the Devil’s Incarnate all adds up to an interesting watch. And with each movie, Alia proves how effortless she can slip in and out of roles in movies like Student of the Year, Highway, Badrinath ki Dulhania and Raazi. She has a good range of emotions and brings a freshness to her characterizations.

Will wait till the next Meghna Gulzar movie to see what else she has up her sleeve. This movie? 3 out of 5.

 

Movie Review: Veere Di Wedding

I almost didn’t watch this movie. Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor aren’t quite the draw for me personally. Add to it, the reviews had been less than stellar and I didn’t want to watch a badly made chick-flick when I could use those 2 hours to sleep or read instead…color me pleasantly surprised!

Now this movie isn’t a must-watch or even a repeat-watch but for a one-time watch with a buncha gals or even guys who get the Punju colloquialisms, it’s worth the money. The rest of the movie is about relationships. Between friends who become family. Between parent and child and definitely between a woman today and the world around her.- Bottom line? It’s entertaining and that’s what’s to be remembered about movies. Thought-provoking or not-they serve to entertain.

Is this movie hatke? Well…it is woman-centric for one. Guys are a part of their lives the same way they happen to be in real-life rather than a larger-than life reel-life man with bulging muscles who romances onscreen for a 3-minute song spanning from Switzerland to Botswana with 5 attire changes which often includes a sari pallu longer than Princess Diana’s wedding train. Phew! Head-spinning global lau (Gujju-ishtlye love).

This is a story about women who are believable; especially in this day and age. There are plenty of them out there who run from marriage, structure, socially sanctioned relationships and having to do Mata ki chowki at the drop of a pin! And Bollywood being Bollywood, would have them all be from the upper crest as well so impromptu trips abroad are also viable.

I was watching this movie with a Dally-based (aka New Delhi) friend (she’s a veere too I guess if one goes by the definition in this movie) and she, amidst gales of laughter, assured me the depiction of Wast (West) Dally (Delhi) was a very apt caricature.

And let’s not even get to the bling…if there’s no bling, there’s no big fat Indian wedding at all. All families have their skeletons and dirty secrets, every couple has stuff that rips at their seams, every girl is prevailed upon at some point in her life to “get-married already” by her mother. Same as the characters in VDW.

I’d read somewhere that the F-bombs in the movie seemed contrived or excessive. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. My gal pal reminded me how “unpolished” my own speech was before the advent of motherhood. It contained allusions to human anatomy and mothers and sisters quite a bit. Something I engage in now primarily while driving.

I think people should watch this movie. It’s fun. It has a lively pace. It’s not excessively dramatic or melodramatic and I made a fun memory watching it with someone with whom I have a 17-year-old history. That’s what makes this movie relevant. It won’t win Oscars. But it wasn’t meant to.

I left the theater dancing and laughing. Paisa vasool.

 

Movie Review: Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety

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First question? Why did I watch it and 2) Why am I bothering to review it either?

Answers: 1) My kid’s school still hasn’t opened so am just gasping for things that distract me and we’re both (mother and son) tripping on Bom Diggy Diggy  song from the movie so why not? 2) I just wanted to see the misogyny that’s been touted so much in this movie.

If someone wants mindless entertainment where you laugh, wince and tap your feet to peppy songs and the Punju dialogues that seems to be a staple of any Bollywood movie; this movie isn’t a bad choice. With the emphasis on the word ‘mindless’. However, the ‘bros before hoes’ notion is played to the hilt here which can and probably does annoy most women. But keep in mind women do behave in the manner shown…controlling…taking over her bf’s life out of the goodness of her heart and for his overall improvement.

Get it tight with a girl and she’ll have your family history out of you because she wants to interface. A guy? Not so much. He’ll want to make-out, have fun and keep it light. And this movie does the same but the conclusion could have been handled better with all parties coming to an agreeing-to disagree funda. Most movies of the Housefull and Golmaal ilk are mysogynistic in their portrayal of women-props, quasi or totally slutty and barely able to keep the clothes on their bodies and perpetually getting into sinuous movements to entice the musclebound moron of a guy or the deadbeat kinds aka Tusshar Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh et al.

But all lecture aside, let’s move onto the movie which is about Titu (Sunny Singh) who’s a nice guy but makes the same mistakes with the opposite sex all the time and gets his heart broken. Enter his BFF Sonu (Karthik Aaryan) who steps in to clean up the damage and often preemptively tries to brings things to a closure with the kind of girls he thinks are going to be problematic. Their bond is tight but then enters Sweety (Nushrat Bharucha) – who becomes Titu’s fiance and has the social sanction to make changes and integrate herself deeper and deeper into Titu’s life and loosening Sonu’s hold on his friend. Neither wants to back down and at the grand finale, ultimatums are given and one is followed. Alok Nath as a non-sanskari grandfather is refreshing-ish.

Sweety isn’t shown as a harpy but from Sonu’s point of view she’s making changes which aren’t needed and more importantly, his space is diminishing in his friend’s life and the cause falls squarely on the girl. It’s a major power struggle and shows people as selfish, grasping, needy, insecure and afraid of change. It’s misogynistic if one really wants to see it only as that and nothing else. But how many Bollywood mainstream movies showcase its female talent to its proper extent anyhow? Maybe 1 in 10 if that?

Watch this movie without judgement especially if you’re the kind of person who has also watched Race 3 and sat through the Welcome-2 without flinching! It’s entertainment pure and simple. No one said anything about it having to be classy as well.

Movie Review: Blackmail (2018)

A madcap black comedy that’s refreshing amongst the usual Bollywood shtick of songs and dance-that’s Blackmail for you.

But before I lavish too much praise on it, the movie does suffer towards the end with too-much-a-good-thing syndrome in the form of the same idea being circulated once too many times to keep being interested. Scroll down for the spoiler…

Irrfan Khan is a disenchanted man who seems to have become one of the many rats in the rat race. Zombie-like he stays put at work because going home to his wife doesn’t seem like a balm either.

The one day he does deviate from his late night routine and heads home to catch up with his wife forms the crux of the rest of the story unfolding.

Finding her in bed with her old boyfriend (Arunoday Singh in a musclebound quasi-moronic but humorous turn) shakes him out of his funk and instead of getting mad, he decides to get even; by blackmailing her and her boyfriend. But seldom do things go the way they’re supposed to.

With an oblivious-to-his failings boss (played obnoxiously and ably by Omi Vaidya) and co-workers who get him in deeper trouble by jumping on the blackmail bandwagon; Irrfan’s character is a person everyone ends up feeling sorry for. Even his fetishes of spending “quality time” on and for himself in the loo with the filched images of his co-workers’ spouses don’t deter us from rueing his unending bad luck of getting blackmailed by every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Others in the cast like Divya Dutta (playing Arunoday’s wife) add a punchy feel to the movie and keep the pace from slowing down too much.

Go watch it just to do some “shake-my-head” gestures at a bunch of selfish people; some of whom do get their comeuppance.

Movie Review: Padmaavat

Dropping the “i” from the title didn’t provide much relief to the Karni Sena am guessing,  but it certainly generated more buzz around an already buzzing hive of wasps and hornets.

But getting back to the movie- it’s epic! In its grandiosity, its conception and sadly, its mediocrity. And yet, it still works. And how!

IMHO despite being the eponymous character, Deepika doesn’t have as much screen time as one would think. She occupies screen time in dialogues uttered by other characters and hers is a stiff upper lip that Brits may kill for. She runs and glides along wearing a steely resolve and heavy ghaghras and looks pretty. She is stoic in the face of widowhood, childish and raw in the face of love and courtship and soppy in the arms of her husband at times. But hey..I didn’t live all those years ago..who am I judge how Rajput women conducted themselves. Maybe I should ask the Karni Sena *taps chin ponderingly*

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Shahid Kapoor- he’s a hunk with a body that’s made to be flaunted and the kolh-rimmed eyes are HOT! But in the role of the honor-bound Rawal who is the upholder of values, traditions and legacy of the clan, he falls short. He isn’t believable after a point. You keep waiting for him to finish speaking so Ranveer gets to repartee. And repartee him good!

Ranveer Singh- the mainstay. The obsession, the mockery, the clowning around and the utter disdain for anything beyond his own hedonistic pleasure is brought to life by this man. It’s highly dramatic, that’s true, but the other male leads in Bollywood (barring Aamir Khan) don’t really have the acting chops to pull off this kind of lunacy and bullheadedness on-screen.

Jim Sarbh- with his sly gestures and words (and good looks) the character of Malik Kafur is quite entertainingly portrayed by this Parsi hunk. Now I want to see Death in the Gunj as well to see how he tackles different roles.

i-like-people-who-dont-fear-death-laughing-colours-trying-29371441I have wanted to see the movie for a while now. Just held myself back because watching in a movie hall meant no fast forwarding of songs I didn’t want to sit through. Lo and behold! Amazon came to the rescue. Since I’d visited Chittorgarh town and fort eons ago; watching a dramatized version of what may have happened there, with dollops of creative licenses taken with the lives of the original characters had pinged my curious nerve a few times.

Am glad I gave into the impulse to watch it because it is entertaining. It’s longish, it’s slow, it’s got bits that didn’t need to make the final cut- like the Bin Te Dil song. It’s a good peppy song but to devote screen time to it wasn’t entirely the best call. It’d already been established that in the movie Khilji was a womanizer and took his pleasures where he could find them. It was just more time of seeing Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh) lust after Khilji while still doing his hedonistic bidding.

So what does recommend this movie? The scale on which things have been conceptualized and carried is quite a lot to take in when you see how movies are used to being made in India. The acting isn’t the worst part of it either. It sticks to what is required- drama, drama and more drama. It’s not just grand, it’s grandiose but it does evoke interest, curiosity and a feeling of paisa wasool. So go on and stream it…it’s worth one bowl of popcorn.