Movie Preview : Gold (releases 15th August, 2018)

Based on India’s historic hockey win in the 1948 Summer Olympics, Gold stars Akshay Kumar as hockey player Balbir Singh. Gold is helmed by director Reema Kagti, who has also directed Talash and “Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd”.

Posted in 2018, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, drama, historical, New Films, Previews, real-life-based, sports | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Sanju (releases 29th June, 2018)

A biopic on actor Sanjay Dutt’s life, this stars Ranbir Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal (whom we just recently saw in Raazi) among others – the star cast is large.

Sanju is directed by Raj Kumar Hirani.

Posted in 2018, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, drama, New Films, Previews, real-life-based | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Veere di Wedding

Rating : 2/5
Genre : Drama, Comedy
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 15 minutes
Director : Shashanka Ghosh
Cast : Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Swara Bhaskara, Shikha Talsania, Ayesha Raza, Sumeet Vyas, Manoj Pahwa, Vivek Mushran
Kid rating : PG-15

Seriously, one “womance” after all these “bromance” movies, and they can’t get that right? I am so bummed – “Veere di Wedding” fell really, really below my expectations.

Our awesome foursome are : Kalindi Puri (Kapoor Khan), Avni Malhotra (Kapoor Ahuja), Sakshi (Bhaskara) and Meera (Talsania) – childhood friends who even in adulthood are very much in touch despite living in different places. When Kalindi and boyfriend Rishabh (Vyas) decide to make it official, the 3 friends are summoned to Delhi for the very traditional Punjabi wedding. Kalindi hates the familial expectations & mummyji that come with marriage so she’s having second thoughts. Avni is on the lookout for a good man, but sadly there are none. Sakshi is estranged from her husband, and finds solace at her parental home partying and spending daddy’s vast wealth. Meera, now US-based and married to a “gora”, has incurred the wrath of “bade papa” who won’t accept her Caucasian husband.

There are lots of sub-angles and and a myriad of characters to “Veere di Wedding” – there’s Kalindi’s gay uncle and his partner, her never-present father and her step-mom. Delhi culture is on display – there are the sniping aunties Sakshi has to deal with, the get-married pressure Avni has to fend off and the over-bearing, blingy in-laws that Kalindi must now defer to. Meera, away in the US, has to come to terms with her anger at her insular parents.

Now, watching all that on screen could have been fun, and indeed, I quite enjoyed some of the truths these women speak – there’s a scene where Avni bemoans the fact that society looks down on even a very accomplished woman if she isn’t respectably married – but, but . . . all of it is marred because these 4 appear to have no substance to them. It all seems styled and frivolous, and we never get to look into any of the characters to see what she really thinks, to even try and relate to them. It might seem like it, but really, there is no depth here.

Kareena Kapoor Khan is awful in this movie – hammy and over-the-top, and I considered her a good actress (remember Omkara?). Sonam Kapoor Ahuja is not much better. I like Shikha Talsania – very believable. But Swara Bhaskar easily outdid them all, nicely essaying her rebellious character. I’m blaming the director here for the extremely poor character development; all 4 seem cut from the same cloth, more or less. Whither originality? Whither variety? Are all women this outre, this squealy, this ready-to-dissolve-into-pink-glitter given the chance? Even if I overlook the cliched plot-line, the screenplay is ghastly – the film actually gets boring – words I’d never thought I’d say about this movie.

It does not help that the movie’s music is poor, and that we are buried under an avalanche of brands and bling. Also, I am seriously miffed that there weren’t any decent male leads. 4 gorgeous women, and all we get is Sumeet Vyas and the Delhi ogre “Bhandari”? Think “Zindagi Na Mileage Dobara” without Katrina, or “Sex And The City” without Mr. Big – who would watch that?

Some might deride this film as “limousine feminism” – these women are uber-rich, where a Phuket vacation is just a thought way, but I don’t see abundant moolah as a problem. The problem though is making wealth the solution, like in the trite ending to the movie.

Veere di Wedding is a serious misstep; the intention might have been dandy, but the execution is oh-so-flawed.

Kidwise: One non-explicit scene with a vibrator, which might need an explanation for curious minds. Other than that, nothing too problematic for the kiddos.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, rating-PG15, touchy-feely, women | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety

Rating : 2/5
Genre : Drama, Comedy
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 17 minutes
Director : Luv Ranjan
Cast : Nusrat Bharucha, Sunny Singh Nijjar, Karthik Aaryan, Ayesha Raza, Deepika Amin, Alok Nath, Viendra Saxena
Kid rating : A

Remember Pyaar ka Punchnama? Remember how it reeked of misogyny? That reek taints the atmosphere yet again, because director Luv Ranjan has churned out another one. This time the story is a little different. Yes, there is still a bromance, a strong, strong bromance between Sonu and Titu! Titu (Nijjar) is the emotional fool, falling for unsuitable young women again and again, breaking and shattering his innocent, golden heart into a million pieces, sob! Sonu (Aaryan) is called upon to come pick up said pieces, wipe away the tears, put Titu back together back again, kinda like Humpty-Dumpty. Usually, this is easy-peasy for strong Sonu. Until Sweety (Bharucha) comes along, and wraps Titu around her itty-bitty finger.

She is beautiful, seems sweet and considerate, and Titu is oh-so-ready to marry her. Sonu however, thinks her too good to be true. He has a “feeling” he says. Sweety meanwhile is no shrinking violet and is ready to show Sonu his place! It will be a battle of the titans. And the prize, the prize you ask (with bated breath)? Sonu, yes, Sonuuuuuuuuuuuuu (wipes tears)!

The plot of the film is a little thin; cracks appear even to a very casual observer. Sweety is branded an evil witch by Sonu because she is too good to be true (!!), AND she has the gumption to challenge Sonu outright (his ego takes a beating, what). Yes, she is wily, all narrowed eyes and arched eyebrows, but her machinations never have a sound reason; the evilness is never quite proven. Also, it was never really made clear why she was being all Bond-villain-ish, without doing anything vile – she had Sonu’s parivaar eating out of her hands anyway.

The film then is a tug-of-war between Sonu and Sweety, with Titu being led, lamb-like, this way and that. By intermission, the deck was stacked against Sweety – we saw how wily she was, and were firmly on Sonu-Titu’s side, believing that her nefarious motives were to be revealed and thwarted by the awesome twosome. Yet, nothing like that ever happens. We don’t get to see the nefarious motives, or any real damage she does. What we do see is Sonu scheming to bring her down because she’s getting the upper hand in this three-cornered relationship.

Time has flown. It was in 2011 that Pyar ka Punchnama had me barfing up my dinner, but it seems like yesterday; I’m bringing up my food again. To be fair, SKTKS is well-paced and director Ranjan knows how to make a mountain out of a molehill and keep it suspenseful. However it also brings in to play all the sexist stereotypes there are. The women in this film are cast either as home-makers or gold-diggers. Titus mom (played by the lovely Ayesha Raza – you might remember her from Dil Dhadakne Do) runs around organizing food and festivities, while the grandma holds the purse strings and gives the nod for her husband (Nath) to accompany Titu and Sonu on their bachelor party in Amsterdam, while Sweety stays home and organizes mata-ka-jagrans. Double standards, I hear you say?

SKTKS displays a mindset steeped in deep misogyny (so deep it actually cavorts as comedy), where the women are disposable, essential only for house-wifely roles, and holding down the fort smilingly as the men go gallivanting around the world for their pleasure. This world-view does the men no favors either; they are either simple-minded baboons like Titu or creepily possessive petty thinkers like Sonu, who can’t suffer a dented ego even for the sake of his best friend’s happiness.

Sonu and Titu are both unlikeable, and our Sweety is no crowd-pleaser either. You’ll enjoy this film only if you agree with this film’s misogynistic philosophy.

Kidwise: Nothing reprehensible about this film except the way it reinforces the patriarchal mindset. Enough danger in that to keep the kids away from this juvenile film.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, comedy, Hindi movies on Amazon Prime, juvenile, rating-PG13, stinker | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (releases 1st June, 2018)

Director Vikramaditya Motwane needs no introduction – he’s directed wonderful movies like Udaan and as a part of Phantom Films produced gems like Queen and Ugly. Now, he brings us Behaves Joshi Superhero, which is the story of friends against corruption, and the debut vehicle for Harshvardhan Kapoor (Anil Kapoor’s son).

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Movie Review : Raazi (2018)

Rating : Watchable (3/5)
Genre : Spy thriller
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 18 minutes
Director : Meghna Gulzar
Cast : Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajit Kapoor, Soni Razdan, Arif Zakaria
Kid rating : PG-13

Raazi is a spy thriller, of which there have been a few in Bollywood – Agent Vinod, Ek Tha Tiger etc. It’s still a matter of pulling it off well, which few do. The last well-done Hindi spy thriller was D-Day, and before that . . . there really were none. Raazi is a decent watch, but as an espionage thriller still lands somewhere in the middle of well-done and half-baked.

Raazi is based on the book “Calling Sehmat” by Harinder Sikka (he also has writing credits for the movie), where he describes the real life story of an Indian undercover spy operative, who on her father’s wishes married the son of an important Pakistani general and, once married and ensconced in her in-laws home in Pakistan, sent military intelligence to RAW agents. Alia Bhatt plays gently brought up Sehmat Khan, who full of the fervor of patriotic duty and inspired by her spy father (Rajit Kapoor), agrees to embark on this dangerous mission. She is hastily trained by RAW agents, and married into enemy lines, where she manages to send back critical information. However, the mission soon becomes dangerous, and Sehmat is sorely tested.

Vicky Kaushal (of Masaan fame) plays her husband Iqbal Syed, a decent, considerate kinda guy, and he is quite fabulous here in Iqbal’s serious, soft-spoken persona. Do recall my review of “Love per Square Foot” where he just didn’t seem to fit the role; although he’s wonderful in subtle serious characters, like Iqbal’s. Jaideep Ahlawat (you might remember him from Gangs of Wasseypur) plays Khalid Mir, Sehmat’s chief RAW trainer and handler, and he is just about perfect. Alia’s real-life mom plays her screen-mom, Teji, in a short role.

I did like Raazi, but like most of Meghna Gulzar’s work this doesn’t quite hit the spot. It is not that the film is not interesting; the ups and downs of Sehmat’s life as a covert operative makes interesting viewing. However, even with such a suspenseful subject, director Gulzar fails to build up momentum or a real connection to our intrepid heroine. Alia, who is a superlative actress (Udta Punjab, Kapoor & Sons) looks the part, all innocence and light, but doesn’t do as well as expected – her character seems extra diffident, and not well-defined. Also, getting a look-see into the personal tribulations and conflicts of a female spy practicing a very intimate deception, would have been interesting, but other than a speech from Sehmat about the country being foremost in her affections, we get little in that regard. Since Alia is the lead character here, and she seems a tad removed, it lessens the emotional impact; I do not feel for her like I could have had this character been better etched.

In the end, Raazi remains a story we watch from afar. We care, but not too much. Films which leave a lasting impact have characters that impress themselves upon you, you either hate them or love them, but feeling for them is a must. Raazi does not succeed in that regard, but still remains a decent one-time watch.

Kidwise: Some tepid love-making scenes between Sehmat and Iqbal, filmed very delicately, and shouldn’t hurt any juvenile sensibilities. Some scenes depicting violence.

Posted in 2018, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, rating-PG13, real-life-based, spy movie, thriller, watchable | Comments Off on Movie Review : Raazi (2018)

Movie Review : Love Per Square Foot (2018)

Rating : Average (3/5)
Genre : Romance
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 13 minutes
Director : Anand Tiwari
Cast : Vicky Kaushal, Angira Dhar, Ratna Pathak Shah, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Raghuvir Yadav
Kid rating : G

For folks in the US, Netflix India’s original content is showing up on here now. Love Per Square Foot is Netflix’s first movie in India. Its a rom-com with non-commercial, not-so-well-known faces : Vicky Kaushal and Angira Dhar. Kaushal was the male lead in Masaan and is set to appear in the Alia Bhatt starrer Raazi, while Dhar is debuting.

Here’s the setup: Sanjay Chaturvedi and Karina D’Souza work at the same company, and long for homes of their own. Neither has enough money to afford one on their own in expensive Mumbai, so when they hear of a housing scheme for married couples, they decide to apply for it together – after all what are the chances that they will indeed get it (its a semi-lottery), and then marital details can be decided upon (or so they think). Their friendship/love fizzles, but the housing scheme contract still binds them. Uncomfortable situation this.

This is the kind of movie that should appeal to me – decent plot, good actors, reasonable pacing etc., but unfortunately I’m kind of wishy-washy about it. A rom-com need a personable (read good-looking; yes, I’m being shallow  🙂 ) hero and heroine. While Dhar is peppy and cute and easy on the eyes, why are we (the female viewers) stuck with Kaushal? He’s a great actor, and was fabulous in Masaan (where he was well-cast), but here he just doesn’t fit into the romantic hero mould. I would liken him, in physical looks, to Ajay Devgan, but Devgan has the force of his personality to carry him through.

Also I had major issues with his character: Sanjay is having an affair on the side with his whiny, self-serving, already-in-a-relationship boss. He comes across as a bit of a calculating opportunist, not as one would wish he would, i.e.; a dependable, reliable kind of guy. Karina on the other hand I really liked – a nice, sweet girl – too good for Sanjay.

So, you get it – I didn’t like the romantic pairing in this romance. But here are somethings that I did: both the fabulous Pathak sisters – Ratna Pathak Shah and Supriya are in this film as the moms. There is also Raghuvir Yada (we saw him in Newton recently) in a small role as Sanjay’s harmonium-playing dad, facing imminent retirement from his Indian Railways job. The music is pretty decent – I especially liked the song Aashiyana.

“Love Per Square Foot” is tepid at best; watch only in desperate circumstances.

Kidwise: Clean.

Posted in 2018, All Netflix, bollywood, Hindi movies on Netflix, humor, rating-G, romance | 2 Comments

Movie Preview: Veere di Wedding (releases June 1st, 2018)

We’ve had Bollywood bromance movies galore: Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara etc. Finally, here’s a womance about 4 friends played by Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar (whom we saw most recently in Anaarkali of Aarah) and Shikha Talsania (remember her as Sid’s supportive friend in Wake Up Sid?).

Veere di Wedding is helmed by Shashanka Ghosh who also directed the Sonam Kapoor-Fawad Khan romance “Khoobsurat”.

Thanks to the trailer, I know one more Hindi word that I didn’t know yesterday. Indeed, life is a journey of learning 🙂

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Movie Review : Padmaavat

Rating : Average (3/5)
Genre : Historical
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 44 minutes
Director : Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast : Deepika Padukone, Ranvir Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Aditi Rao Hydari, Raza Murad, Jim Sarbh, Anupriya Goenka
Kid rating : G

I’ve finally seen Padmaavat, and post-these-3-hours of my life, I remember why I didn’t want to watch this film in the first place. I do think director and film-maker Bhansali is very talented – Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is one of my favorites. That film had a plot, romance, humor, ups and downs. Not so with his more recent products; the “style” seems to have swallowed up the substance in his films. Plus he also seems to be in love with his own work. Ergo, problems with the editing. The film goes on forever (e.g. Ram Leela); 2.5 hours or more.

Padmaavat follows a similar pattern – long, long film full of exquisitely designed sets, intricate costumes and jewelry and grand, sweeping locales. There is however only so much stupendousness that the eye can take before you start to zone it out, and long for a real film sans the fripperies. Bhansali seems to be missing the forest for the trees.

You’ll know that this film is loosely based on Queen of Chittor, Rani Padmavati’s Jauhar upon Alauddin Khilji’s attack and Chittor’s imminent defeat. Gorgeous Deepika Padukone plays Padmaavati, Shahid Kapoor plays her husband Maharaja Ratan Singh and Ranvir Singh is the marauding, savage invader Alauddin Khilji. While Padukone and Singh are well suited to their characters, Kapoor is miscast, because he appears to not have the stature or the commanding presence which you’d think he’d have as this brave warrior king. He seems so much better suited to “modern” films like Kaminey. Singh is all kohl-laden eyes, scarred face, clad in shaggy fur, and brings a ferociousness to this role.

Deepika is lithe and luminous as the almost-monastic huntress of deer, when she first encounters Ratan Singh. She succumbs to the charms of this already-married man, and post-marriage prefers to remain safely ensconced in the palace dancing the ghoomar to hunting. Bummer! That’s the other problem with this film – yes, freedom of speech and expression and all, but it is still troubling to think that despite all the disclaimers, this film does glamorize Jauhar/Sati. It does! Indeed, it’s a downer to think that Rani Padmini/Padmavati, well-versed in dance, music, and warfare, fearless and fancy-free ends her life by jumping into a fire, to protect her honor, per social diktat.

However, credit where it is due: Bhansali is a genius. He brings a unique vision, artistry and execution to make larger than life films. Now if only he could go back to his roots and make films which aren’t just grand spectacles steeped in patriarchal story-telling, that would be nice.

Kidwise: Nothing really troubling for the younger set, although I doubt that younger kids could sit through this almost 3 hour long self-indulgent extravaganza.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, book to film, directors, drama, historical, rating-PG, romance | Comments Off on Movie Review : Padmaavat

Movie Preview : Raazi (release 11th May, 2018)

A spy story starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal (of Masaan fame), this thriller is directed by Meghna Gulzar.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, drama, New Films, Previews, spy movie, suspense, thriller | 1 Comment