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: The Secret Life Of Pets 2

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If I was to purely think in kiddy terms then this movie is amazeballs! I have two constant movie partners- one for grown up movies and one for the kiddy (quasi) stuff. This movie falls more into the latter but since there’s still at kid inside us who clamors for popcorn at the movies ( ooh me! me!), it suits the grown-ups just fine too.

Picking up where the first one left one, The Secret Life Of Pets-2(TSLOP) is a very organic segue into the turns the lives of the pets humans take purely because of actions of the hoomans that abound.

Bringing back everyone from the first movie and adding on a few more characters, the movie isn’t a laugh-a-minute fare but it’s entertaining for sure! Especially with your own little hooman by your side.

Here’s how it goes- Max has to deal with making room in his life and apartment for a few more people in Katie’s life and in the process, grow up some more. Adding more flair to the movie as always is Snowball, the crime fighting bunny, Gidget the Pomeranian and a gruff Harrison Ford in the form of Rooster- the old farm hand (dog).

Take your kids and enjoy a big tub of popcorn while these pets romp around and do what they’re best at…bringing a smile to our faces.

Rating: 3/5

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: Deep Blue Sea-2

Verdict: Spare yourself. Seriously.

Sharks are beautiful creatures with rows of serrated teeth and soulless eyes that would scare the bejesus out of anyone who saw them up close and personal.

But they are worthy of that respect that comes with fear. They aren’t the Jason or Freddy of the scary creature movie world. They are the Damians and Michael  Meyers who stalk silently and without too much brouhaha. Because brouhaha isn’t classy. It’s massy and doesn’t have enough gravitas.

I have proved again and again I have rather low standards when choosing movies. I’ll usually watch anything once without feeling too snobby about it. But when a movie is so ridiculous that it just makes you want to throw things at your beloved telly, then there’s truly something rotten in the state of Denmark. Note: Author has no idea about the sudden and inexplicable segue into Shakespeare. Let’s put it down to the brain getting scrambled by this movie.

Back to the ranting! I usually screen whatever movie my child wants to see especially if it’s beyond a PG rating. Deep Blue Sea is something he’s not seen yet so I was wary about the part-2 since they usually go OTT trying to get people to like it as much as the previous one. But this installment of the movie is a joke. With baby bull sharks being confused about their sharky heritage and acting like a bunch of piranhas instead. Yech.

The acting is so sub-par that is doesn’t behoove me to mention it at all. With the movie copying the iconic scenes from the 1st movie you are just in a hurry to switch it off and move onto something like White Chicks to restore your faith in creature flicks.

 

So, will TO be allowed to watch this film? NO! If he has to hurt his eyes by watching crap, I’d rather he watched Sharknado. It has the distinction of ‘being so bad it’s actually good’!

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

 

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

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: 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.