Movie Review : Befikre (2016)

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Rating : 3.6/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Aditya Chopra
Cast : Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Arrmaan Ralhan, Ayesha Mishra
Kid rating: PG-13

Befikre – or carefree, is what our protagonists are. Dharm Gulati (Singh) is the Karol Bagh ka munda who’s in Paris to do a comedy gig. Rambunctious Shyra Gill (Vaani Kapoor) considers herself the French daughter of Punjabi parents. They meet, fall in lust, and decided to live-in to spend more time with each other. Alas, this does not end happily. Or does it?

Befikre is not a straightforward love-story, nor is it a traditional Bollywood-ian romance. There is no evil pyar-ka-dushman, no classist society and no angry parents to stop the two lovers. Also the two lovers don’t really know whether they are truly in love or not – there is a lot of going back and forth on the pyar-wala question. And that is actually the story of this film – they say Haan, then they say Na, then they . . .

For the lack of story in the film, Befikre never gets boring. There is always something happening to rock the emotional boat, there is energy, there is song and dance, there are life changing decisions to be made and fights to be had. There are some improbable/cringeworthy situations (Dharm’s comedy routine sucks) but Shyra and Dharm make up for it by spewing out smart, snappy, humorous one-liners, and generally lifting up the mood of the film with their zest for life.

The film is shot in lovely Paris, so it’s got the Parisian sights (a lit up Eiffel, the Pont des Arts, Notre Dame) and the Aditya Chopra sheen all over it. Singh and Kapoor light up the screen, he with his antics, and she with her beauty. The music is light and boppy and has a considerable amount of French in it. You’d think this film would work, right? Well, it does and it doesn’t.

Firstly, there is little chemistry between the leads. They are pleasant to look at and listen to, but they don’t quite make you believe in the smoldering passion that supposedly lies beneath their vehement denials. Also the characters are shallowly sketched. We don’t get to know them. Vaani’s character seemed a lot more interesting, and deeper, than Ranveer’s, probably because she tried to play the part and he just overwhelmed the role with his personality – I never got a feel for who for who Dharm actually was. Also, Dharm and Shyra seem caddish – I felt bad for the other folks in their lives.

Director Chopra also manages to insert mummy-ka-pyaar, desi ghee and aloo ke parathe into Befikre, to its detriment. Also annoying was the general display of the parochial mindset – Shyra’s parents annoyed at Shyra because she isn’t as Indian as they’d like, etc. No, this film is not an earth-shaking leave-you-wanting-more film, but it is still a decent one-time watch, because really, its leads are just so gosh darn cute!

Kidwise: One-fourth of the film (I exaggerate of course, but still) features lip-locks, love-making scenes. Every 10 minutes or so (I exaggerate again, but still), Shyra rips off her top to reveal lacy lingerie. Ranveer appears in nothing more than his underwear, and in one scene not even that (I kid you not). I’ve read reviews which have called Befikre “cheap”, but it is not. Yes, there is more bare skin, kissing etc. in this film than “normal”, but it is done cleanly, with none of the leering, suggestive, demeaning innuendo found in other so-called “family-entertainers”.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, rating-PG13, romance | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Anaarkali of Aarah (releases March 24th, 2017)

This preview is a little late, but I still feature it because am such a fan of the three main leads of this film: Swara Bhaskar (of Nil Battey Sannata fame), Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi.

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Movie Review : Aligarh (2016)

 photo aligarh_zpsbxb32grq.jpgRating : 3.7/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 1 hour 54 minutes
Director : Hansal Mehta
Cast : Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkumar Rao, Sumit Gulati
Kid rating: PG-17

Aligarh leaves an impression. Days after watching it, I still remember Manoj Bajpayee’s anguish. The film is based on a real life incident, and about Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University. Professor Siras was also gay, and was outed forcibly one night in a sting operation conducted by some journalists.

Once the “scandal” breaks, all hell lets loose. The protectors of “morality” demand Siras’s resignation. Siras faces hostility, and is let go by AMU. He is hounded wherever he goes. His case catches the attention of fledgling journalist Deepu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao), who helps Siras find redress.

Bajpayee is fabulous as Siras; a slightly abrasive introvert of a man, who likes a drink in the evening to the accompaniment of music, in the peace and solitude of his own home. He isn’t the picture of conviviality, but so be it. We feel for Siras when we see him humiliated, his life in tatters, harassed by the culture police and then by the state itself. Kudos to Bajpayee for his moving portrayal of Siras. Rajkummar Rao (whom I last saw in Shahid) too makes the film better just by being in it, so accomplished is he. I wish he was in every film I saw.

Siras is a single man, peaceably living his life. The film does not portray him as a person without flaws; he does have his own imperfections, biases and frailties just like the rest of us. Without overt dramatics, Aligarh beautifully brings to the fore the real problem: what happens when an individual lives his life as he sees fits, not harming anyone, but is still forcibly strung out for all to flay for his personal choices?

Kidwise: Probably not appropriate for younger kids. There is one scene between Siras and his lover, but it doesn’t get too explicit.

Posted in 2016, 2017, bollywood, drama, rating-PG17, real-life-based, social issues | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Jagga Jasoos (releases July 14th, 2017)

Anurag Basu brings us a tale of a search – a search for Jagga Jasoos’s missing father. Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is accompanied by the lovely Katrina. Seems quirky.

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

Movie Review : Badrinath ki Dulhania (2017)

Rating : 3.65/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 19 minutes
Director : Shashank Khaitan
Cast : Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sahil Vaid, Rituraj Singh, Gauhar Khan, Shweta Prasad
Kid rating: G

Here’s another film of the “ki Dulhania” series from the same director and the same production house. This is better than “Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania” though because it’s more forward looking and less trite.

Vaidehi Trivedi (Bhatt) is an opinionated spitfire from Kota, and Badrinath Bansal (Dhawan) is the bratty scion of a rich orthodox sahukaar from Jhansi. When Badri sets eyes on the lovely Vaidehi, he is immediately smitten, and makes plans to make her his bride. She won’t have him however because : a)She has an unwed elder sister b)Badri’s dad wants a dowry which Vaidehi is against. Badri promises to fix these 2 problems, and Vaidehi promises him marriage in return. Just when it looks like things are looking up for Badri, the unexpected happens.

Badrinath ki Dulhania was an entertaining film. There was nary a dull moment what with the lively leads, foot-tapping music and the fast pace. This film took a typical romance and brought it, so to speak, into the modern world, by challenging orthodox customs. Vaidehi, a smart small town girl, is paired up romantically with an uneducated boor (this was also how it was in Humpty Sharma). This beauty-and-the-beast scenario does gets tiresome after a while (especially on-screen), but it apparently arises from raising offspring in the traditional “Indian” way – we get smart daughters and uncouth sons.

I liked that the director had approached the problem from a young person’s point of view. The relationships seemed real, and the friendships moving. Alia’s and Varun’s characters were very well-fleshed out. Vaidehi’s leaps towards freedom, and Badri’s gradually changing mindset was believably portrayed. Yes, in real life, mindsets do not change as rapidly, but I’m willing to give them that, considering that is a commercial film and all. Sail Vaid played Badri’s childhood pal, and there were some nice moments showing the great bond they shared.

Badrinath is a rom-com with a twist. It’s not full-fledged war on the patriarchy, but this movie does blare the feminist horn in its own way. It is a bummer, that the budding of an actual relationship between Vaidehi and Badri happens in law-abiding Singapore, because were it in India, the storyline, and I say this half-sarcastically, would have to account for goons kidnapping the uppity woman and stringing her up to the nearest tree, to protect their “honor”.

The film rolls to a predictable end; the director gives the desi junta what it wants – a sundar, susheel, sanskari bahu who’s willing to tolerate the loutish ghar-ka-chirag. This movie picks easy targets – a 10th class pass hero who “needs” to mature, making the incorrect assumption that education = maturity. It does not. For the next film in the series, can we a) Have a pairing of equals b) Get off the “ki dulhania” title; women are not property.

Kidwise: Clean. No suggestive dance moves, no innuendo-laden dialogs.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, feminism, rating-G, romance, social issues | 1 Comment

Movie Preview : Phillauri (releases March 24th, 2017)

A Punjabi love-tale involving a ghostly spirit, Phillauri stars Anushka Sharma (who is also the producer) and Diljit Dosanjh. Seems decent and comedic. The only downside to this is Dosanjh, who I have trouble seeing as a hero. Anushka, however can pull a film all on her own – we saw her do this in NH10 (where she was also producer), so maybe she’ll be able to do this here too.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, comedy, Previews, romance | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Phillauri (releases March 24th, 2017)

What To Watch On Netflix Instant – Edition #29

Sairat (Marathi, 2016)

I’ve watched Marathi movies before, but they are generally non-commercial social-issue based/bio-pic dramas. Sairat is a semi-commercial venture – it has become the highest revenue grossing Marathi film of all time. And well-deservedly so – it is a perfect and very entertaining balance between a non-frivolous drama and a love-story. Yes, we’ve seen tons of love-stories, but this love-story is a cut above the rest.

Archana Patil (Rinku Rajguru) is the daughter of the rich village landlord, and Prashant Kale (Aakash Thosar) is the son of a poor fisherman. Prashant, or Parshya, is in love with Archana. Archana, or Archi as she is popularly known, is headstrong and willful, and because of her father’s status in the village is able to boss folks around. To even look at wealthy, upper-caste Archi is anathema, so Parshya’s unrequited love does not bode well for him.

Rajguru and Thosar are not professional actors, and they come across like a breath of fresh air. Director Manjule has beautifully developed their characters in the film, and we can’t help but root for the purity and honesty of the emotion on screen. Manjule does a fabulous job, and the screenplay, cinematography are equally excellent. I have to mention the soundtrack here because this is some of the best music I’ve heard recently. In the soundtrack there are very earthy, ethnic sounding songs like catchy “Jhingat”, but then surprisingly, there are also songs like “Yad Lagla” (embedded below) which have strong Western classical vibes.

Sairat is one classy film. Highly recommended.

Posted in 2016, 2017, All Netflix, film festival, marathi, Netflix Recommendations, outstanding, rating-PG13, recommended, romance, social issues, WhaTWON | Comments Off on What To Watch On Netflix Instant – Edition #29

Movie Preview : Badrinath ki Dulhania (releases March 10th, 2017)

Is this Humpty Sharma 2.0 or a whole new film all on its own? Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt star in similar looking avatars; Dhawan probably has the dumb act down pat :). Looks entertaining though!

Posted in 2017, bollywood, directors, masala, Previews, romance | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Badrinath ki Dulhania (releases March 10th, 2017)

Movie Review : Rangoon (2017)

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Rating : 3.2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 36 minutes
Director : Vishal Bharadwaj
Cast : Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Saif Ali Khan, Richard McCabe
Kid rating: PG-15

In Rangoon, Vishal Bharadwaj does a Bhansali, i.e.; he creates a long and sprawling film which badly needs editing, however he appears to be so in love with the footage that he is unable to get rid of any of the 2.5 hour long material. Rangoon could have been cut by atleast 45 minutes, and you and I wouldn’t even have noticed. There is love, betrayal, angst and drama in the film but it comes only in the second half. The first half of this historical is used to set the stage, but oh-so-slowly!

Julia (Ranaut) is the leading lady of black and white films. Her mentor and lover is Rusi Billimoria (Khan). When Billimoria is exhorted by General Harding (McCabe) to let Julia do a few shows for the British Army (this was pre-independence), Julia sets forth under Harding’s escort, specifically being guarded by Jamadar Nawab Malik (Kapoor). Love triangle, capiche?

Rangoon’s characters are fictional (although Julia seems to be based on Fearless Nadia) but the events around them are real. It is set in the 1940s; the Indian National Army (INA) led by Subhas Chandra Bose is gaining strength with Japanese help, and the British are trying to thwart its movements and funding. Julia, Rusi and Nawab are sucked into this political struggle, albeit on opposite sides.

Kangana is her usual tremulous self; she always seems to do well in these slightly eccentric roles. Shahid looks a little smug as the mustachioed Nawab, and Saif fits in nicely as the dashing Billimoria, all slicked back hair and glittering eyes. There is decent character definition, but I thought that the love thing between Julia and Nawab came about a little abruptly.

There was a time when Bhardwaj films (Maqbool, Omkara, Kaminey) were instant classics – smart, well-told, engrossing tales. However, lately, and by that I mean the last few years, Bharadwaj seems to be losing his touch. Rangoon, in spite of its considerable star power is slow and meandering. It does get its act together somewhat in the second half, but by then it has sapped you of your will to live :-). Also, it seems kinda un-subtle, cut-and-dried, almost like Bharadwaj doesn’t want us to think too hard. Whither the mystery, the subtext, the things left unsaid? The poor music doesn’t help.

All in all, Rangoon makes a decent one-time watch; just temper your expectations before you step into the theater.

Kidwise: Gory violence, splattering blood and heads being lopped off with swords. Also intense love-making scenes, and a surprising amount of Kangana’s bare skin.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, directors, drama, historical, rating-PG15, romance | Comments Off on Movie Review : Rangoon (2017)

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 | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Rangoon (releases February 24th, 2017)