Movie Preview : Zero (release December 21st, 2018)

From Aanand L. Rai, who gave us lovely films like “Nil Battey Sannatta” and “Tanu Weds Manu”, come Zero. Shahrukh plays Baua, a dwarf, trying to find the one. Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma costar.

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Movie Review : Dhadak (2018)

Rating : 3.2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Shashank Khaitan
Cast : Ishaan Khatter, Jahnavi Kapoor, Ashutosh Rana
Kid rating : PG-15

I loved Sairat, as you know. For a while, everywhere I went I would get up on my soapbox and exhort everyone I met to watch this masterpiece. Then came Dhadak, Karan Johar’s remake of Sairat. It was expected that he would inject sheen and glamor into this earthy, rural tale, and after watching it, despite my initial prejudice, I have to say it wasn’t too bad at all.

In Dhadak, Parthavi (Kapoor), high caste “princess” of Udaipur falls in love with low-caste Madhukar (Khatter). Her orthodox politician father (Rana) promises swift and fatal retribution and causes the lovesick pair to run away to Kolkata. Of course, both miss their families, but Parthavi’s dad is still baying for their blood . . .

Director Khaitan moves the original tale out of a village to a city, and modernizes it a bit. It works in part, but there are still some awkward contrivances for the public pool/bathing scene – I cannot imagine a city-bred girl going on a public bathing outing with her friends. The leads are better looking, there is more color, sheen and fanfare to this production as compared to the original Sairat. While this might make it more “watchable” for some, from my point-of-view there is a flip side to this injection of glamor – and it is this: muting or softening of the original tale takes away the impact. Casteism is a harsh and narrow truth, and must be portrayed as such.

So my problem with this film is more philosophical, as in I’m not sure this was a good pick for the Dharma Productions stable. From them I look forward to seeing glitzy, slick tales which for all their trials and tribulations end satisfyingly, if not happily. There is no way to tell Sairat’s story in that fashion, no matter the amount of color and pomp you inject into it. And if we are talking story, I will say that Dhadak’s ending, which is different to that of Sairat, is weak.

Now, I liked both of the leads – they were well-cast and looked good together. Dhadak is Jahnavi’s debut, and she does bring to screen the pouty innocence of a girl born to wealth. She is not quite the actress her mother was, but shows promise. Ishaan was really good here. His natural persona oozes vulnerability so this role suited him to a T. Dhadak borrows two of its songs directly from Sairat; the lovely “Yad Lagla” becomes “Pehli Baar” even being sung by the same singer Ajay Gogavle, and Zingaat remains its own catchy self, only in Hindi.

On the whole, Dhadak is a passable watch, if wishy-washy. If you’re looking for realism, watch Sairat instead.

Kidwise: Some scenes of violence, one pretty grotesque. Ghastly violence is implied.

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Movie Preview : Thugs of Hindostan (releases November 8th, 2018)

This reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean, and Aamir here reminds me of Johnny Depp, what with the kohl-laden eyes and all. It seems a bit much and I’m afraid that after all this hype, Thugs of Hindostan might never come through on its promise. I hope that it does well, and we get a nice, well-done blockbuster – we haven’t had one in such a long time!

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Movie Review : Badhaai Ho (2018)

Rating : 3.7/5 (Good)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 5 minutes
Director : Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Cast : Ayushman Khurana, Neena Gupta, Surekha Sikri, Sanya Malhotra, Gajraj Rao, Sheeba Chaddha
Kid rating : PG-13

The premise of Badhaai Ho is inherently funny and awkward. In middle-class India, where parents of adult children are automatically relegated to elderly, asexual, ascetic-like, satsang-going status, how does even begin to comprehend the fact that mom and dad are in fact, still doing it? Our twenty-something hero Nakul (Khurana) must digest this fact, whether he likes it or not, because his mom Priyamvada (Gupta) is pregnant. Nakul is dating work colleague Renee (Malhotra), and his romantic dreams are thrown into disarray when he finds out that the parental unit are expecting another child. The news stuns the household, makes the Kaushiks the butt of jokes in their social and familial circles, and causes Nakul major embarrassment.

Director Sharma milks this awkward social situation for all its worth. While Priyamvada is firm that she’s keeping the child, she is also embarrassed by her growing belly. Neighbors yell out congratulations, and smirk behind their backs. Family members preach sanskaar and look askance at Priyam. Nakul’s friends howl with laughter at his predicament. Priyam’s mother-in-law blames her for the mishap. Her son also is not beyond reproach. Says she is a delicious sequence to her squirming son, “When did you get the time? You never have time for your elderly mother.”

If you’ve watched the trailer, you might expect a full-on comedy. And while Badhaai Ho starts off with humor, it morphs into a mature drama, with major emotional baggage. It is sweet and tender in patches, especially when showing the relationship between Nakul’s parents. The basic message of familial love and support is well conveyed, and it did get me teary-eyed. However while it does a good job of questioning the hypocrisy of it all, it also gets a tad bit preachy and OTT – Priyamvada’s’s godbharai celebration was a bit much. I also kept waiting for the common sense disclaimer proclaiming the genuine health risks of a later-age pregnancy, but it never came.

Badhaai Ho is an interesting film with a great cast. Ayushmann as Nakul rehashes the role he’s played in so many other movies – the middle-class, Delhi guy – and he’s good at it. Sanya Malhotra, whom we just saw in Pataakha, is quite lovely here as level-headed, liberal Renee. Sheeba Chaddha as Renee’s well-heeled, moneyed mom is spot-on. Surekha Sikri as Priyam’s mom-in-law is fantastic, but that’s a given with her. The real star of the film though, is Neena Gupta as the firm-willed Priyamvada, who weathers the brunt of social finger-pointing like so much bad weather.

If there’s one fault with the film, its over-milking audience sympathy. I know the desi junta loves the “family above everything” theme, but let’s not trade common sense for emotion. Still, Badhaai Ho was a fun watch, and treated a touchy topic with maturity.

Kidwise: Clean, really. The content of the film might be incomprehensible and a little unsuitable for the younger ones.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, comedy, drama, humor, rating-PG13, recommended, social issues | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Andhadhun

Rating : 4/5 (Good)
Genre : Thriller
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Sriram Raghavan
Cast : Tabu, Ayushman Khurana, Radhika Apte, Zakir Hussain, Anil Dhawan, Ashwini Khalsekar
Kid rating : PG

Expectations were high for Andhadhun because it came from Sriram Raghavan, who’d given us the impeccable Johnny Gaddar. Fortunately, unlike the recent Pataakha, this one keeps up its end of the bargain; it’s a treat to watch this well-done thriller.

Andhadhun is based on French short L’Accorder (The Piano Tuner) and has a fabulous plot. Blind pianist Akash (Khurana) meets lovely hotel proprietress Sofie (Apte). Through Sofie he meets film veteran Pramod Sinha and his beautiful wife Simi (Tabu). When Sinha is murdered, Akash is willy-nilly sucked into the aftermath and becomes witness to certain unfortunate events.

The film starts off with us following around our golden boy, good-humored Akash as he runs around doing errands, with the aid of his walking stick. The film quickly switches tracks as Akash is embroiled in Sinha’s murder, and this surreal upheaval comes on so suddenly, that it takes you completely by surprise. From then on, the tension grows, twists come at a fast clip and the bodies pile up. No one is above suspicion. Everyone has ulterior motives and secrets to hide, even protagonist Akash.

Andhadhun has a capable cast. Ayushman’s character Akash is a mixed bag – he is cheerful and friendly, but we can tell that there is more to him than the suave facade he presents to the world. Khurana brings Akash to life with his deadpan mannerisms. Then there is veteran Tabu who shines as Simi Sinha, flipping from lovely, sweet-talking femme-fatale to testy, tantrum-throwing customer in the blink of an eye. Dependable Zakir Hussain plays a greedy doctor with aplomb even in a short role. Radhika Apte felt wasted in her brief screen time, with her character not really lending heft to the story.

I’ve got to hand it to Badlapur director Raghavan – he knows how to keep them coming. Andhadhun has the tautness of a thriller, interspersed with quirky, zany, dark humor. It was hard to tell where the film was going or how it would end. The film chooses as its locale, Pune, a city where one imagines low-key, casual piano-bars abound and veteran film personalities hobnob with the local erudite junta. Another nice touch is Raghavan’s nod to Chitrahar, Chaya Geet, Doordarshan and 80s films – a homage to the pre-24×7 programming days.

Andhadhun was such a refreshing change – an engrossing entertainer and a well-done thriller! Totally worth the money and time! Do go see!

Kidwise: Bodies, blood and gore abound in this film.

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Movie Review : Pataakha (2018)

Rating : 1/5 (Poor)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 14 minutes
Director : Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast : Vijay Raaz, Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Sunil Grover
Kid rating : PG

I’ve long been an admirer of Vishal Bharadwaj’s work. With his recent films, however, there’s always the risk that his films might be edgy beyond tolerance – like “Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola”. Unfortunately for us, Pataakha is kinda in that genre, and almost impossible to sit through.

Pataakha based on Charan Singh Pathik’s short story “Do Behnein” is a tale of 2 sisters – Champa Kumari aka Badhki (Madan) and Genda Kumari aka Chutki (Malhotra). Each hates the other with a vengeance. They are constantly fighting, their father (Raaz) is constantly trying to separate them, but friend and neighbor Dipper (Grover) adds fuel to the fire – watching the sisters spat is his entertainment. And so it continues until the sisters marry and separate. However that is not the end of their woes . . .

Bharadwaj has always told earthy tales, but the tales – atleast the ones like Omkara and Maqbool – have been taut with drama. Pataakha is missing that drama. It is touted as a comedy, although I couldn’t see it as one. The two sisters are extremely unlikeable characters so I couldn’t root for them or get invested in their lives. Also, it is hard to tolerate the banshee-like screaming and shouting which happens throughout the film.

The actors in Pataakha do well – it is especially a treat to see Vijay Raaz. The dialogs, the Rajasthani accents, costumes, locales are spot-on. Still all that finesse cannot save this film. I could see this rural tale as a late-night intermittently-watchable drama on good old Doordarshan, before the advent of 24×7 programming, but as a full-fledged 2 hour film this fails to elicit interest.

Kidwise: A variety of gaalis/swear-words. I didn’t see any other deterrent for the young ones.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, book to film, directors, drama, rating-PG | 2 Comments

Movie Preview : Badhaai Ho (releases 19th October)

This comedy is from director Amit Sharma, who directed the unsuccessful Tevar. I hope this one does better – the teaser looks fun. Badhaai Ho stars Ayushman Khurana, Sanya Malhotra, Neena Gupta and the fabulous Surekha Sikri.

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Movie Review : Sui Dhaga (2018)

Rating : 3.8/5 (Good)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 2 minutes
Director : Sharat Katariya
Cast : Anushka Sharma, Varun Dhawan, Raghuvir Yadav, Yamini Das
Kid rating : G

Sui-Dhaga is a family-friendly, clean, crowd-pleasing entertainer, and we have had very few of those this year. From the trailer, Sui-Dhaga looks like a predictable film, which it is, to a certain extent, but it is an interesting, pleasant film.

Mauji (Dhawan) and Mamta (Sharma) are husband and wife, who live with his aged parents. When blue-collar-worker Mauji is insulted publicly by his boss, Mamta exhorts him to quit his job and start something of his own. Mauji has one skill – and that is of tailoring, but when he decides to set up shop, the idea is firmly opposed by everyone except Mamta. The road to entrepreneurship and dignity will be an uphill one . . .

Sui-Dhaga is the tale of the common man – the aam aadmi, who’s trying to make ends meet, fill up the paani-ki-tanki before the water is gone, and sweating through the heat and grime of everyday life. Katariya’s “Dum Laga ke Haisha” – another splendid film – was also of a similar genre. Like that film, the beauty of Sui-Dhaga is in the details. From nicely etched characters to accurately depicted locales, to the realistic portrayal of middle-class life, Sui Dhaga is very believable.

This is an underdog tale, so the first half of the film sets up the atmosphere, introduces us to the characters and presents the problem. The second half of the film then goes about solving the problem in classic underdog-ian we-can-take-on-the-world style – and that’s a tad less realistic than the rest of the film. I can swallow that however because the film overall is so well done, seamless and well-heeled.

I liked the fact that Sui-Dhaga weaves into its storyline the plight of weavers and artisans who’ve left their traditional skills because of insufficient remuneration. Mamta’s character in the film is also interesting – she is quiet, but stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her man. When he tries to pin blame on her, or minimize her contribution, her anger is palpable.

All the actors seem to be in top form. Mustachioed Varun Dhawan as sab-badhiya-hai happy-go-lucky Mauji looks and acts the part. Raghuvir Yadav as his fearful-of-change father is wonderful and is ably supported by Yamini Das who plays his wife. Anushka Sharma seems a little too modern to be playing a small-town, subservient bahu, but she also does well.

Sui Dhaga has it all – high drama, humor, emotion. The scenes between Mamta and Mauji, as they struggle through their vicissitude, and bond, left me a little misty-eyed – I was so invested in their life. Melodious songs complete the package. This wholesome charmer is a must-watch!

Kidwise: Clean. Family-friendly.

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Movie Review : Batti Gul Meter Chalu (2018)

Rating : 2.8/5 (Average)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 41 minutes
Director : Shree Narayan Singh
Cast : Shahid Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Divyendu Sharma, Yami Gautam
Kid rating : PG

Do recall that the reason I’d wanted to see “Batti Gul Meter Chalu” was that it was helmed by the guy who directed “Toilet: Ek Prem Katha”. I’d expected it to be at least as good if not better than Toilet. And in this I am disappointed. Batti Gul Meter Chalu is just about average, watchable maybe once.

Batti Gul Meter Chalu is about corruption in the electricity supply sector. We are presented this problem via three friends : Lalita Nautical (Shraddha Kapoor), Sushil Kumar Pant (Shahid Kapoor) and Sunder Mohan Tripathi (Divyendu Sharma, whom you might remember from Pyaar ka Punchnama). When Tripathi’s newly set-up business runs into problems with the electricity department because of trumped up bills he can find no recourse. Lalita aka “Nauti” and lawyer Sushil aka “SK” jump in to help their friend.

The first half of Batti Gul is devoted to the threesome and their easy camaraderie. In the second half of the film, things take a serious turn and there is plenty of courtroom drama. While the story by itself is not uninteresting, the characters are so overdone, it made it hard to actually root for any of them. The only one I felt not annoyed by was Divyendu Sharma’s character – Tripathi. Shahid hams it up big time, a far cry from his Kaminey days. Yami Gautam’s smarmy character has narrow scope, and is further weakened by cliched dialogs. Shraddha is as un-impactful as always.

Batti Gul is a serious misstep by director Singh. This could have been a much better film, but as is, suffers from poor screenplay, editing and a complete lack of finesse. The courtroom scenes are especially disjointed; I would have liked more coherence in this film, and that’s putting it mildly. Also for a social issue film, it dithers on its messaging, and relies too much on sexist comedy. It is overly long and could have been cut to half its length.

So what’s good about it? It is an underdog film – you know there’s justice a-coming! There is some well-done emotional drama. Sushmita Mukherjee is delectably droll as the judge in the courtroom drama.

So, this is still watchable – if you are a sucker for social issue films like I am.

Kidwise: 1 tenuous lip-lock. Some sexist jokes.

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Movie Preview : Sui Dhaga (releases September 28th)

This film looks lovely! And it features an interesting combination : Anushka Sharma and Varun Dhawan. Sui Dhaga is written and directed by Sharat Katariya, who also directed the gorgeous “Dum Laga ke Haisha” and wrote the fabulous Titli.

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