Movie Review: Gangubai Kathiawari

When one goes to watch a Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB) movie, one goes expecting theatricality but one also expects a narrative that is interesting. I have watched quite a few of SLB’s movies that I’ve had differing reactions to; boredom hadn’t featured in them till date. While the sets are of a particular type, the lights and cinematography done in a particular manner, the acting is usually engrossing. It all fell flat for me today. Even more so because the trailer gives off a vibe of an engaging narrative which the movie fails to build up let alone sustain. Gangubai Kathiawadi could have been so much more. Could have. But it wasn’t.

Let’s start with the positives- the topic. It is the only thing that gets slotted into this category. And yet, it didn’t get the treatment it deserved. It could have been a gritty movie. Made well, with angsty characters and the pain of their suffering, frustration and betrayal underlying the phoenix-like rise of a woman scorned in the infamous red light area of Mumbai.

Moving onto the less than positives: the choice of Alia Bhatt baffles me. While Alia is a good actor and emotes well (Highway etc), this particular character was not something she was cut out for. The pain and the utter fall into degradation and despair is touched upon so glancingly by her that it doesn’t even seem like Gangubai suffered the agonies and indignities that she did in real life.

The music falls flat as well and there’s hardly any chemistry between the actors- whether it’s hatred for the madam that made her into who she became, the old lover who betrayed her or even the new one with whom she’s taken up- they all seem to be going through the motions of acting in a movie without becoming the characters. And that’s the tragedy of a dramatic movie like this; when it fails to live upto its potential and when everyone in it is so obviously acting and that too, not well.

A movie of this type needs to be brutal without necessarily having gratuitous violence and profanity. It needs to be able to show angst and pain without just showing teary-eyed heroines. It needs to show the underbelly of a place which clearly keeps its own rules of justice. But it does none of these things.

I left because I got bored and maybe I should’ve sat through at least more of the footage where Vijay Raaz gets to be on the screen because he’s always quite engrossing but I just didn’t want to. While the critics may be lauding the characterisation and enactment of Gangubai Kathiawadi to the skies, this is just one movie I’ll give a hard NO to. Go watch Spiderman instead. Way better ROI anyday!

Movie Review: Gully Boy

Image result for gully boy poster

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: 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.