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

Lost In Translations#501

TO has an accent. We’re not sure which country it belongs to. It’s a relic mishmash of whatever animated programs he’s grown up watching. 

He, however, doesn’t know Hindi; a language he loves listening to songs in. His pronunciations are decidedly foreign and poor dear Alexa often has problems deciphering what he wants.

The new addition on the playlist is Dilbar. TO pronounces it as Dill(the herb)+Bar(the place where people go for a drink). Needless to say Alexa’s response of, “I don’t know about the DILL-BAR. Dill is a herb ah blah blah and bar is either blah blah blah”, wasn’t unforseen. By moi. TO was part- disappointed and part-annoyed that Alexa wasn’t “getting” it.

I was called in to speak Alexan and translate the song name into something darling Alexa could make sense of and finally when the song played I got the epithet of “My favorite mother’ and a hug…the rewards of a job done perfectly.

Hang on…I have to go again…someone’s trying to tell Alexa that there’s something called  ‘Abytoepaarteeshoeroueeaye’. My translator’s ears are picking up signs that it may be Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai. I’d better unconfuse the gadget before she blows a fuse.

Ta!

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: Andhadhun

Image result for andhadhun
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

Image result for karwaan poster

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: 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.