Movie Preview : Rangoon (releases February 24th, 2017)

Vishal Bharadwaj’s new offering starring Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Kangana Ranaut.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, directors, drama, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Madaari (2016)

 photo madaari_zpswzxek0gt.jpgRating : 3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 13 minutes
Director : Nishikant Kamat
Cast : Irrfan Khan, Jimmy Shergill, Vishesh Bansal, Tushar Dalvi
Kid rating: PG

Madaari is kind of like “A Wednesday” because it also features a hero who wants to punish the corrupt. Here too it is a lone wolf, ordinary commoner Nirmal Kumar (Khan), who’s taken an extraordinary step – kidnapping the Home Minister’s son – to force the powers-to-be to listen to his demands. The Home Minister calls in the experts and the investigative agencies, and it’s a cat-and-mouse game. Will Nirmal Kumar get his justice?

This is a passable film, mainly because of Irrfan Khan, who is an amazing actor. The film, which for the longest time is devoted to the search for the missing boy and his kidnapper, should have worked like a thriller, but is kinda dragged out and slow-paced. In the film, we do get to see Nirmal’s personal anguish, and Khan does remarkably well in portraying his grief. He really is the backbone of the film; without him, Madaari would probably have disappeared unseen into the background.

Jimmy Shergill, the other should-have-been-pillar of this film plays Nachiket Verma, a higher-up in one of the investigative agencies, and the one spearheading the search. His character seems incapable of catching his prey despite the bold promises he makes and Shergill himself appears stilted. Vishesh Bansal plays Rohan Goswami, the little boy who is kidnapped, and does a fairly decent job, given that kids in Hindi movies are almost uniformly annoying.

When you look at this film post-watch, you aren’t floored by it, but it wasn’t bad either. It had the potential, but didn’t offer up anything new or innovative. Madaari (madaari in Hindi is a street performer who trains monkeys to do tricks) does attempt to show the unholy nexus between Indian politics and governance, and the way the common man is getting shafted, but when have we not seen that before? The fighting-against-corruption/vigilante justice theme isn’t new anymore, and if employing this theme, there is a necessity to take up a new tack or angle to stand out. Unfortunately Madaari doesn’t do that, so it’s ho-hum. Been there, seen that.

Kidwise: Some potentially scary themes implying dangerous situations, and harm to kids. Some violence – gunshot wounds etc.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, drama, politics, social issues, suspense | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Jolly LLB 2 (releases February 10th, 2017)

The sequel to Jolly LLB but with Akshay Kumar, who doesn’t have quite the acting chops Arshad Warsi has. Human Qureshi co-stars, and the wonderful Saurabh Shukla makes an appearance. Director Subhaash Kapoor directs this one too.

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Movie Review : Raees (2017)

 photo raees_zpsy11qc4vj.jpg
Rating : -1/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 41 minutes
Director : Rahul Dholakia
Cast : Shahrukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Narendra Jha, Zeeshan Ayyub, Mahirah Khan, Atul Kulkarni
Kid rating: PG-13

Shahrukh Khan is Raees, a poor little street-smart urchin who grows up to be a powerful hooch smuggler in “dry” Gujarat. His RobinHood-ish life is interrupted by various police skirmishes, and intermittent romantic episodes with the neighborhood beauty Aasiya (Mahira). I think this film was meant to portray an awe-inspiring picture of a modern-day golden-hearted don (think Amitabh in his angry-young-man phase), but it fails miserably; Raees is an almost 3 hour long piece of garbage.

The movie has no structure, continuity or even a remote relationship with any story. It is so haphazard, that one wonders if the filmmaker built it up on the spot, swayed by the mood of the day. The characters are as shallow as roadside puddles. Characterization is absent. To call Raees superficial is to be kind. I am amazed that this poorly made movie has been directed by the director of Parzania, or that Farhan Akhtar is co-producer.

Surma-eyed SRK is bearded which lends him an almost rakish handsomeness; and that’s about all I can say for Shahrukh. Mahirah is beautiful, and in her, SRK might have found an eyebrow-wiggler to match. She tries desperately to emote in the standard one-size-fits-all love-interest role. I wish someone had told her that there really wasn’t scope; all that was required of her was to smile, simper and deliver the odd supportive dialog. Still she tries, raising one eyebrow while tremulously dropping the other.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is pretty decent as bold, brash policeman Majmudar. But even he, that valiant actor, can’t do much for this pathetic excuse for a film. Zeeshan Ayyub plays Raees’s right-hand man and does well. Atul Kulkarni (as Raees’s first employer), Narendra Jha (as mafia-man Musa) and Sheeba Chaddha (as Raees’s mom) round up the supportive cast.

The movie’s lack of a distinctive score is a major problem. Each plot-event is accompanied by the dhan-ta-dan beat of an 80s flick. I was nostalgic, and not in a good way. The songs are passable; Raees features a well-done remix of “Laila, mein Laila”.

I hold that in this day and age we shouldn’t have to watch regurgitated trash from the 80s. So, in writing this review I am done with my good deed of the day. Be warned and stay away.

Kidwise: Lots of killings, gun violence, spattering blood. Raees gets pretty gory at times. In one scene Raees is shown murdering another character by gutting him in the throat with the stem of his wire rimmed glasses.

Posted in 2017, action, bollywood, drama, rating-PG13, stinker | 1 Comment

Best Hindi Films of 2015

10. Bajirao Mastani

The grandeur and beauty of this film was quite something. While I wasn’t totally floored by this film, it was quite the visual spectacle – Bhansali made sure of that.

9. Badlapur

Badlapur was a violent, gory film with Varun in a very different, un-choclatey, un-comedic role from the ones he normally picks. Here he plays a man driven by murderous revenge, a need so great that nothing can stop him.

8. Tamasha

Tamasha was angst and anguish out on display, beautifully portrayed by Ranbir Kapoor’s haltingly hesitant hero. Deepika, in her fine performance, serves as the trigger which is Ranbir’s undoing in the film. Quite stunning to behold.

7. Baby

This Neeraj Pandey directed thriller has Akshay Kumar essaying a role he could do in his sleep, that of an intelligence officer in a covert operation named “Baby”. It is engrossing, and a nice spare procedural. Baby also stars Taapsee Pannu and Rana Daggubatti.

6. Dum Laga Ke Haisha

The unwary lad’s foray into matrimony turns into a nightmare when family members force him to marry Sandhya, a woman he cannot contemplate taking on as a life partner. Ayushmann Khurana and Bhumi Pednekar are wonderful to watch in this sweet, simple, moving film.

5. NH10

The feminist film of the year, NH10 draws attention to the lack of women’s safety in the national capital (and elsewhere), and to the archaic, khap-driven, traditional rules of honor which still dictate whether they live or die. Anushka Sharma and Neil Bhoopalam star in this hair-raising, tension-filled drama.

4. Dil Dhadakne Do

Zoya Akhtar’s feel-good drama about family ties, love and loyalties. It stars her brother Farhan, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma, Anil Kapoor and Shefali Chaya among others. Drama, romance, comedy, humor and some foot-tapping music made this the all-in-one entertainer of the year.

3. Piku

The story of a father and daughter’s nitpicky relationship, and a journey involving emotion (and motion), Piku focussed on Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padrone, Irrfan Khan and the digestive tract. Beautifully wrought and moving.

2. Masaan

Society’s traditional order is crumbling not just in urban cities, but also in rural small towns. Masaan tells us of this via two parallel stories – that of Devi (Richa Chaddha) who’s fettered in by “good girl” morality, and Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) who’s trying to rid himself of the barriers the caste system imposes. The fabulous Sanjay Mishra stars as Devi’s impoverished father.

1. Titli

Titli’s titular character, played by Shashank Arora, is trying to make his way in the world, by leaving his greedy, grasping, lowlife family far behind. When he gets anchored by an unfortunate marriage, wife Neelu brings in her own set of complications. Ranvir Shourie also stars in this unpredictable, surprisingly violent film.

Posted in 2015, Best hindi movies, bollywood, comedy, crime, directors, drama, feel-good, feminism, humor, lists, outstanding, recommended, romance, social issues, suspense, thriller, Top 10 | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Kaabil (releases January 25th, 2017)

Kaabil is a revenge drama with a blind protagonist. The film is directed by Sanjay Gupta, so am not sure how subtle this will be, but looks promising.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, crime, Previews | 1 Comment

Best Hindi Films of 2016

My Top 10 movies for 2016 are below. These are, from my point of view, the best hindi films of 2016. Do let me know if you disagree :-)

10. Wazir

Wazir should have been rated higher, but this revenge drama owes its measly #10 spot to its dithering climax. Still, patches of brilliance, and actors Farhan Akhtar and Aditi Roy Hydari make it a hard-to-forget film.

9. Dhanak

Dhanak is the moving story of a brother-sister pair who journey across the sands of Rajasthan to achieve their almost impossible goal. This is written and directed by US-educated-chemical-engineer-turned-passionate-director and creator of remarkable films like Dor, Nagesh Kukunoor. It takes its time along the journey, but succeeds because of its natural portrayal and the charm of its lead child actors Krrish Chabria and Hetal Gada.

8. Dear Zindagi

Protagonist Kaira is unhappy with her life, only she doesn’t know it. This finding-yourself film stars Shahrukh Khan as a mature, all-knowing psychiatrist, which you wouldn’t think would ever work, but it does. Dear Zindagi is Alia’s film though, through and through.

7. Aligarh

Veteran actor Manoj Bajpayee stars in this sensitive portrayal of a gay professor in disapproving Indian society. Based on real-life, Aligarh depicts the plight of Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a Marathi professor at Aligarh Muslim University, when he is yanked out of the closet forcibly via an intrusive sting operation.

6. Dangal

Aamir’s Khan’s supposedly feminist film about female wrestling, and specifically about the wrestling champions Geeta and Babita Phogat, and their determined father Mahavir Singh Phogat is a riveting watch. Dramatized from the real life story, Dangal is told well, although it could have been shorter and held back on the cliche-ridden cheesiness.

5. Neerja

Another real-life-based film, Neerja tells the story of brave flight attendant Neerja Bhanot who died trying to save the passengers of her hijacked flight. This is a delicately told tale, and Sonam Kapoor’s and Shabana Azmi’s fabulous portrayal takes this film up several notches.

4. Udta Punjab

Alia Bhatt is in 3 of the Top 10 films for 2016, so she’s had quite a year! In Udta Punjab she plays an unlucky lower class girl who meanders down the wrong alley. Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Punjabi film star Diljeet Dosanjh also feature in this hard-hitting look at the Punjab drug problem.

3. Nil Battey Sannatta

This gorgeous film has luminous Swara Bhaskar as Chanda, the uneducated housemaid, who strives hard so that her insouciant daughter can study and make something of her life. In this quest, Chanda has the support of her encouraging employer Dr. Diwan, portrayed by the lovely Ratna Pathak Shah.

2. Kapoor & Sons

This big name starrer has its heart in the right place. Kapoor & Sons has drama, romance, comedy and heartbreak, and spans three generations of the Kapoor clan, whose aging patriarch (played by Rishi Kapoor) is not ready to kick the bucket before bringing together his fractured family.

1. Pink

A pioneering film for Indian cinema, Pink dares to speak the truth and live. In Amitabh Bachchan’s booming voice Pink tells the truth about hypocritical Indian society, which on one hand reveres women as mothers, but then treats them as chattel, when they don’t behave as “good girls” should. Kriti Kulhari, Taapsee Pannu and Andrea Tariang star as the three scared but brave young girls who raise voices against patriarchal attitudes in this magnificent, must-see film.

Posted in 2016, based on true events, Best hindi movies, bio-pic, bollywood, comedy, crime, directors, drama, humor, outstanding, real-life-based, recommended, romance, social issues, suspense, Top 10 | Comments Off on Best Hindi Films of 2016

Movie Preview : OK Jaanu

OK Jaanu starring Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor releases January 13th. It is the Hindi remake of the Tamil hit “OK Kanmani”, which is on Netflix, and is a pretty cute romance starring Dulquer Salmaan and the perky Nithya Menon. The girl’s an architect who wants to go study in Paris, and the guy, a software game developer wants to make it to the US. Both, while in Bombay, live-in, but separation, when the time comes, is oh so difficult.

Big hopes from this movie, because:

  • The original was none too shabby
  • It is co-produced and written by Mani Ratnam (who directed OK Kanmani)
  • The hindi version is directed by Shaad Ali, yes he of Saathiya and Bunty or Babli fame
  • The music by AR Rehman looks promising. The title track “OK Jaanu” is the same as the “Mental Manadhil” track from the Tamil version (see below), and it has a gorgeous remix of “Humma” from Saathiya.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, directors, music, Netflix Recommendations, Previews, rating-PG, recommended, remix, romance | 2 Comments

Movie Review : Dangal (2016)

dangalRating : 3.8/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 49 minutes
Director : Nitesh Tiwari
Cast : Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra, Girish Kulkarni
Kid rating: G

Dangal is based on the real-life story of Geeta and Babita Phogat, two sisters from a small village in Haryana, who are champion wrestlers today. The credit for much of this goes to their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, who was a wrestler himself.

In the film Phogat (played by Khan) is a National champion, but gives up wrestling to take up a government job and settle into matrimony. He pins his wrestling dreams on the birth of a son, but when his wife (Tanwar) delivers 4 daughters in succession, Phogat puts away his medals and his dreams. When daughters Geeta (Sheikh) and Babita (Malhotra) thrash a neighborhood boy to pulp, Phogat is overjoyed that their fighting skills can be put to good use in the wrestling arena. Thus begins their training.

Dangal is a feel-good, patriotic sort of a film. We know the ending, so it is a tad bit predictable, but it has been dramatized well and showcases the Phogat family achievement nicely. There is an effort to involve the audience – the rules of wrestling are explained, and much of the film has full length dramatized wrestling matches. There is also a feminist angle to Dangal, in that Phogat challenges the norms to push his daughters into the wrestling arena, a domain that in rural Haryana is reserved only for men. The villagers laugh at his long-haired, salwar-kameez clad daughters’ transformation to “knicker”-wearing, short-haired girls wrestling with boys, for want of female sparring partners.

Aamir Khan, per his reputation, brings authenticity to the film. As the stocky, Haryanvi Mahavir Singh Phogat who, to the derision of the orthodox village, trains his daughters to wrestle, Aamir is the backbone of the film. Dangal revolves around Papaji, his resolve and his determination. While that is interesting to watch, it also brings up some troubling points. For a film that talks about female empowerment, Geeta and Babita seem to have no choice in the matter of wrestling. Their father’s wishes are foisted on them – he decides that they will become wrestlers, even going as far as too have their long locks sheared off, against their wishes, when the hair interferes with wrestling.

There is another scene in the film where Geeta, now training at the National Sports Authority Camp, comes home to question Papaji’s theories. Several emotional scenes later she puts aside her own opinion and begs forgiveness from her father. I found this troubling, because it seemed to negate Geeta’s independent thought (whether right or wrong), and forced the “cultural” more of “the parents are always right”.

I understand that Aamir set out to make a commercial film not a documentary, so some “fictionalization” of the story was necessary. However the emotional drama is laid on a bit thick, and some characters like the NSA Coach’s (Kulkarni) are caricaturized to make Phogat the hero by comparison. While I am glad that wrestling is getting its due as a sport, and that the Phogat story will inspire many other young women, and open doors that otherwise would have been slammed shut, I am little disappointed that Dangal does not delve any deeper than surface-level jingoism.

Amir’s character in the film seems a medium-grade liberal, desiring sons, but not blaming his wife for birthing daughters either. He becomes a feminist because of his desire for a wrestling medal, and his daughters are able to flout patriarchal notions of propriety because he stands behind them protectively. Would Geeta and Babita have had freedom to do this, if wrestling had been their desire not their father’s? We’ll never know, and Dangal does not attempt to give Geeta and Babita a voice either.

Still, a decent watch. Be prepared for some cheesiness.

Kidwise: Clean and family-friendly.

Posted in 2016, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, drama, family-friendly, feel-good, feminism, rating-G, real-life-based, social issues, women | 2 Comments

Movie Preview : Dangal (releases December 23rd)

Dangal is an Aamir Khan production and is directed by Nitesh Tiwari, who produced the gorgeous Nil Battey Sannata (his wife directed it). So this’s got to be good.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, Previews | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Dangal (releases December 23rd)