Movie Preview : Secret Superstar (releases Oct 19th 2017)

Among the depressingly bombastic films upcoming in the later part of the year, comes this little gem – or what looks like it. Zaira Wasim (of Dangal fame) stars as a wannabe singer who sings undercover because of familial strictures. There’s also Amir Khan doing his best impression of . . . Akshay Kumar?

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Movie Review : Anaarkali of Aarah (2017)

Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 3 minutes
Director : Ashwin Das
Cast : Swara Bhaskara, Pankaj Tripathy, Sanjay Mishra, Ishtiyak Khan, Mayur More, Vijay Kumar
Kid rating: PG-15

Anaarkali (Bhaskar) is a poor orchestra singer-dancer in the small town of Aarah. When Dharmendra Chauhan (Misra), a local political bigwig, takes a shine to her, she must tolerate his attentions. Things however come to a head, when he, in an inebriated state, manhandles and assaults her on stage during a performance. Everyone thinks that this is par for the course for a nautch dancer such as she, but Anaarkali is outraged at Chauhan’s treatment of her. What can she do alone, against the well-connected Chauhan?

Anaarkali of Aarah has a feminist message, similar to that of Pink, although they are vastly different movies: No means No. Anaarkali sings bawdy songs, along with the requisite pelvic thrusts and suggestive dance movements. She lives independently, makes her own sexual choices, including a relationship with her married orchestra owner Rangeela (Tripathi). She is no wide-eyed ingénue, we are told, but, regardless of her lifestyle or her chosen profession, retains the right to consent.

This is a great message, and well-portrayed by director Das. It is an interesting set-up, and we, the viewers, are primed pretty well to be on Anaarkali’s side. Bhaskar, the wonderful actress that she is, has us eating out of her hands, despite her character’s flaws. While the story’s premise is believable, I was a little surprised at the lengths Anaarkali goes to thwart Chauhan’s plans for her; one would expect her to be attuned to patriarchal views which treat women as property – to be done with as they please. This is India (not that that matters – such views exist across the globe), and she obviously isn’t living under a rock. Also, in some scenes we see that her mother, who was also a nautch girl, is at the beck and call of similar men – a plight not hidden from the then teenager Anaarkali.

The ending seemed a clichéd – a fanciful, feel-good cop-out of an otherwise insoluble problem. Do Anaar’s troubles end after the denouement? Probably not. The system is corrupt, and for a single young woman of “questionable” character, justice might as well not exist.

This was still a pretty good film. It works the human moments – the dalliance between Anaar and Rangeela, the tenuous ties between Anaar and Anwar, and Anaar’s own helpless outrage. It offers up little quirks – a policeman named Bulbul. It emphasizes the hypocrisy – Chauhan’s “respectable” wife and daughter sitting with him watching a nautch girl crudely strut her stuff, in the name of entertainment, at a University event.

Props where they are due – to the fantastic cast. Bhaskar, whom we last saw in the lovely “Nil Battey Sannata”, is just as fabulous here; I watch films just because she is in them. I’m glad that she is getting lead, meaty roles worthy of her mettle. Tripathy as the street-smart Rangeela, Mishra as the lascivious Chauhan, Vijay Kumar as corrupt policeman Bulbul Pandey and Ishtiyak Khan as the golden-hearted admirer Hiraman round off this delectable star cast.

Kidwise: Anaarkali’s performances which we see a lot of in the first half, are filled with extremely suggestive dance moves, and crude, innuendo-laden language. While these are portrayed in a straight-forward matter-of-fact way, it might not be appropriate for younger viewers.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, drama, feminism, Hindi movies on Netflix, Netflix Recommendations, rating-PG15, recommended, social issues, WhaTWON, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (releases September 1st, 2017)

The Hindi remake of Tamil film “Kalyana Samayal Saadham” Shubh Mangal Saavdhan stars Ayushman Khurana and Bhumi Pednekar, both of whom are having a very good year.

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Movie Review : Bareilly ki Barfi (2017)

bareillyKiBarfiRating : 3.2/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 3 minutes
Director : Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Cast : Ayushman Khurana, Kriti Sanon, Rajkummar Rao, Seema Pahwa, Pankaj Tripathi
Kid rating: PG

You’ll know that I’m a sucker for small-town, semi-arty films with substance :). In evidence I place the lovely Ankhon Dekhi, Dum Laga ke Haisha etc. Of course, given that this film was helmed by “Nil Battey Sannatta’s” director, and Seema Pahwa and Ayushman Khurana were in it, along with Pankaj Tripathy AND Rajkummar Rao, I’d expected another treat. Alas, it was not to be!

Bitti Mishra (Sanon) is your average drop-dead-gorgeous small-town girl suffocated by conservative mores. She hides her smoking habit, spurns the various arranged marriage suitors who come knocking on her door, and swallows her tears when her well-meaning mother (Pahwa) chides her on her “un-girly” behavior. When she reads Hindi novella “Bareilly ki Barfi” she spies a ray of hope in the liberal outlook of the Bareilly-resident author, a Pritam Vidrohi. Good friend Chirag Dubey (Khurana) is instrumental in putting her in touch with Vidrohi (Rao). Love is on the horizon.

Bareilly ki Barfi has all the ingredients to make a nice, entertaining film – a luminous, rebellious heroine, quirky suitors and idiosyncratic parents. However the poor plot and the awkward contrivances to the story sink this could-have-been-surefire-hit to just about ho-hum levels.

bareillyKiBarfiDialogFirst the good – and there is much of it. Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi are phenomenal. Rajkummar Rao is stellar. Khurana is very good. The film is grounded in realistic details, and offers us glimpses of an eccentric, small-town home (Bitti’s). Bitti’s mother is bent on getting her wayward daughter married, and her hospitality towards visitors in her home waxes and wanes in proportion to said visitor’s marriageability. Bitti’s friend Chirag runs a printing press (he has also published “Bareilly ki Barfi”) and is quite the (young) man about (small) town. Some of the dialogs are pretty hilarious, and use the hindi vernacular.

The bad: After a while, the plot lost logic and reason, and even given the brain-addling effects of love on the brain, I couldn’t fathom why the characters behaved the way they did. The end seemed too predictable, kind of a cop-out. Kriti Sanon is supposed to be playing a small-town girl who only half-understands the english films she attempts to watch, but her accent seemed way too urban. Similarly problems with Khurana’s character. Only Rajkummar Rao gets it right; he’s a real pleasure to watch. Also, the hero wasn’t a nice guy, and it’s a problem when you can’t root for the hero.

An average film, “Bareilly ki Barfi” is a one-time watch for the very keen.

Kidwise: Some language. Otherwise clean.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, romance, watchable | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Simran (releases September 15th, 2017)

Simran is a film I’m looking forward to, because it is directed by Hansal Mehta (Aligarh, Shahid) and stars Kangana Ranaut, wo this year, hasn’t had much in the way of hits.

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Movie Review : Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017)

meriPyaariBindu
Rating : 2.8/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 25 minutes
Director : Akshay Roy
Cast : Ayushman Khurana, Parineeti Chopra,
Kid rating: PG

This film’s review can be summed up thusly: the trailers were better than the actual film. Quite a bummer because my expectations from this film were so high!

Abhimanyu Roy (Khurana) is a successful B-grade hindi horror novelist, penning “classics” like “Chudail ki choli”. When he decides to write a “quality” romance, he ensconces himself in the parental home, and overcome with nostalgia while listening to an old mix-tape, looks back over the events that have shaped his life. Thus, we are introduced to his next door neighbor, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Bindu Shakarnarayanan (Chopra). Abhi has been smitten with Bindu from the day he laid eyes on her. Reciprocative feelings are hard to discern because flighty, ditzy Bindu knows not what she wants.

Khurana plays Abhimanyu to the T, Parineeti not so much. Although I can’t blame Parineeti really – she is a fine actress. Her character itself felt like it had no depth. We do get to see snatches of her personality and her thought process, but I didn’t really get to know her. Was she just your garden-variety self-centered extrovert, or was there more to her? I couldn’t tell.

Ergo, this does not work as a love story. I’m firmly in Abhimanyu’s corner, and feel for his fragile heart, but I see not the tremulousness of effervescent love etc. Much ado about nothing. The emperor hath no clothes. I could go on.

We didn’t need this film. And I say this with some regret: the film was well made, it went back and forth in time, and put together the story through colorful vignettes. Some scenes and songs (like the one below) were done so movingly, but alas, the emotion behind the imagery isn’t conveyed. The characterization (or lack of it) sinks the film. It’s hard to feel for narcissistic strangers. So, waste not your time trying.

Kidwise: Clean.

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Movie Preview : Lucknow Central (releases Sept 15th 2017)

Lucknow Central stars Farhan Akhtar, and directed by Ranjit Tiwari, who’s assisted on movies like D-Day. The film looks gritty and interesting, although time will tell :)

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Movie Review : Mom (2017)

momMoviePosterRating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2017
Running time : 2 hours 26 minutes
Director : Ravi Udyawar
Cast : Sridevi, Sajal Ali, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna, Adnan Siddiqui
Kid rating: PG

Sridevi is Devki Sabharwal, a busy teacher, wife and mother juggling her responsibilities. When step-daughter Arya goes missing en-route home from a late-night party, Devki is breathless with panic. Arya is found, bloody and beaten, but in the aftermath of that tragic night, is even more withdrawn from Devki’s ministrations. The perpetrators are set free by the toothless justice system, while Arya is unable to get on with day-to-day life. And there is nothing Devki can do about it.

Mom is yet another film about sexual assault in the National Capital. It is a tale of revenge, as meted out by the victim, the law and order system having failed. Thus Mom is predictable. It is also Sridevi’s film, through and through. The other actors acquit themselves well, Nawazuddin in particular as Daryaganj-based detective Dayashankar Kapoor, but this film is a vehicle for Sridevi, not that she needs one, versatile actress that she is.

Pakistani actor Adnan Siddiqui plays Sridevi’s husband but his character appears weak and ineffectual when compared to her’s. Sejal Ali, the young actress playing Arya does well; we’ll probably see more of her. Akshaye Khanna is his usual dashing self, all blue-jean-ed and leather-jacket-ed in his Inspector-wala role. Were that the Indian police force actually had inspectors like him :)

Mom is well-crafted, and movingly told. It was not as good as Pink, because you are not as involved in this predicament as you are in the one in Pink. Maybe its because Pink’s victim is a strong-willed, courageous protagonist, and Mom’s victim is more passive; it is her mother who has the courage and the guts to do something about the injustice.

On the cons side, I’d say the emphasis on Sridevi takes away from the film’s story. Also Mom’s story is a bit fantastical, what with the straight-laced teacher suddenly becoming an expert in sleuthing and breaking-and-entering.

While I liked Mom, I’d say it’s a decent one-time watch.

Kidwise: Adult situations, although nothing too grisly is depicted on screen.

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Movie Preview : Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (releases August 11th, 2017)

If you search the web, you find many articles on the lack of proper toilet facilities in rural India – especially for women. This is the subject for this romantic tale. It stars Akshay Kumar and the much-slimmed-down Bhumi Pednekar, who has a penchant for picking interesting films – you might remember her from the lovely “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”.

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Movie Review : Bahubali2 (The Conclusion)

bahubali2
Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 47 minutes
Director : S. S. Rajamouli
Cast : Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Ramya Krishnan, Sathyaraj, Tammanah Bhatia, Nasser
Kid rating: PG

Now that we’d see Baahubali – the Beginning, the husband and I decided to see Baahubali 2 in the theatre when it released. At our local AMC, when the cashier asked for $71 for the IMAX show, we thought there’d been a mistake. No, she said, each IMAX ticket was $35. The non-IMAX ticket was $25. Now, we’ve seen films like Avatar in IMAX at regular ticket prices, so this was a surprise, an inexplicable one. Apparently, the film-maker had requested these ticket prices. Long story short, we saw the film much later :), once the frenzy (and the ticket prices) had died down.

Bahubali – The Conclusion takes up where Bahubali 1 had left off – Shiva’s discovery about his birth and past. This film is mostly dedicated to his revenge against the evil and powerful rulers of the kingdom of Mahishmati. There is pomp and splendor in each scene, as the director tells us, in flashback, the tale of the great Amarendra Bahubali (also played by Prabhas) and his downfall as plotted by evil brother Bhallaldev (Rana Daggubatti). There is lots of warfare, with grand armies lined up complete with trumpeting elephants and charging soldiers. As in part 1 director Rajamouli displays amazing vision, and gives us awe-inspiring and stunning visuals. It is all beautifully done.

Many of the characters from the first movie continue on here. Anushka Shetty is brought in as Royal Princess Devasena. There is much song and dance as romance ensues, but it all comes to a thundering climax with all the drippy, over-emotional sentimentalism of a desi film. As justice is done (and you know that it will be done) each moment is drawn out and the impact hammered in via pulpy slow-mo, and just as melodramatic dialogues. The average sounding songs don’t help much, not that I was watching this for the songs.

Inspite of all that, as far as epic Indian films go, this movie is the bomb. I don’t think I’ve seen any other Indian movie with this kind of sci-fi-fantasy-ish vision, and the incredible attention to detail. Bhansali comes close, but director Rajamouli is in a class by himself.

Baahubali 2 succeeds because it is a lavish visual spectacle, supported by a handsome and talented cast. This is how quasi-mythical films need to be done, albeit without the sentimental melodrama that plagues the desi film-scene. Recommended.

Kidwise: Violence of the slashy sword variety.

Posted in 2017, directors, drama, fantasy, historical, recommended | 2 Comments