Movie Review : Karwaan (2018)

Rating : 3.8/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 5 minutes
Director : Akash Khurana
Cast : Irrfan Khan, Dulquer Salman, Mithila Palker, Amala Akkineni, Kriti Kharbanda
Kid rating : PG

Karwaan is about Avinaash and his friends. It is about happiness, and living your life to get that happiness. Malayali heart-throb Dulquer Salman (you might have seen him in OK Kanmani) plays straight-laced Avinash, who’s given up his passion for photography and is now tied to his desk doing the old 9-to-5. When a family emergency requires a road trip, Avinaash borrows friend Shaukat’s (Irrfan Khan) van, and sets out. Shaukat joins him. On the way, they pick up another passenger, college-kid K. The journey takes many detours, is adventuresome, but reaches a good destination.

The film is not unpredictable. We start off with a bit of a cliche, the young man railroaded into a “good” career by his family at the cost of a personal passion. We know there’s going to be a resolution to that, we just don’t know how. Because this is Avinash’s film, his life, his career, his personal situation is front and center. But Avinash’s friend Shaukat is also an interesting character, and some time is devoted to his adventures and personal problems.

Feel-good films about life and happiness are hard to make, because higher emotions like kindness, goodness and altruism are hard to define and even harder to portray meaningfully on screen. Karwaan succeeds because it shows us Avinaash’s journey from the desk-bound, resentful young man to a more-at-peace, free, individual. And it does this delicately, spinning up believable characters who come into his life and have a benevolent influence. There is humor and a reflection on realistic day-to-day quandaries. As the journey progresses, we watch Avinaash evolve in his thinking, mature, give up his anger and gain an acceptance and an understanding that brings him calm. That is a beautiful thing to see.

I was a little doubtful when I first read of Dulquer Salman portraying average joe Avinaash, because his non-Hindi films are a little bombastic, where his roles have flamboyant personalities. Surprisingly with a normal hair-cut, glasses and a computer bag swung over a shoulder Salman transforms into quite the nerd. He also does a decent job of the acting. Irfan needs no introduction; his Shayiri-spouting, eccentric Shaukat brings humor and a light-hearted charm to this film. Mithila Palkar as the impetuous Tanya is also quite a good. The surprise here is seeing lovely yesteryear South Indian actress Amala playing Tanya’s mom Tahira; she is just the woman to bring this graceful role to life.

Karwaan’s lovely soundtrack emphasizes the film’s tender-hearted tale. While it is a little slow-paced, the film left me with a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling. I look forward to director Khurana’s future ventures.

Kidwise: Clean.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, directors, drama, family-friendly, feel-good, humor, New Films, rating-PG, road movie, touchy-feely | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Fanney Khan (2018)

Rating : 2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 15 minutes
Director : Atul Manjrekar
Cast : Anil Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Rajkummar Rao, Pihu Sand, Aishwarya Rai
Kid rating : PG-15

Fanney Khan is produced by Rakesh OmPrakash Mehra Pictures (ROMP), so basically the folks who gave us films like “Rang de Basanti” and Delhi-6. Lately they have been more miss than hit, but one can always hope that they’ll pick a winner. Unfortunately, in Fanney Khan they don’t.

Fanney Khan has a convoluted mess of a story. It involves a golden-hearted orchestra singer Prashant Sharma aka Fanney Khan (Anil Kapoor) who nurses his dreams of becoming a singer and hopes his daughter Lata (Pihu Sand) will fulfill them. In here are also Baby Singh (Aishwarya Rai), a top singer who’s sick and tired of her conniving manager and the will-do-anything-for-TRP industry.

One day, Fanney and Baby’s paths collide, and the film turns unpredictably. This opens up possibilities, but director Atul Manjrekar manages to squander all of them. Fanney Khan basically went downhill from there, actually getting so silly at times, that my husband, who was watching the film with me, wanted to walk out halfway. I wish I’d agreed to that!

The film’s characters are kinda black-and-white, which I didn’t expect in a ROMP film; I expected better. Prashant and wife Kavita (Divya Dutta) are the typical filmi, sacrificing, door-mat parents – they want the best for their daughter but they let her walk all over them. The daughter Lata is a thoughtless, selfish child – and really hard to root for. In Bollywood sacrifice is good, and the film tries to milk some sympathy for the poor, downtrodden parents; I felt nothing but pity – for the director.

There are a few bright spots even in this messy film, 2 to be precise. There is Rajkummar Rao (who was magnificent in Newton), who plays Prashant’s friend Adhir, and Divya Dutta who plays Prashant’s wife Kavita. These two perform their hearts out, give more than they are asked for, and imbue their characters with personality. Even Pihu Sand is pretty good; it’s a pity that her character is defined in such a one-dimensional way. Anil Kapoor is the same as ever; while he is fine he’s never been known for nuance. Aishwarya Rai, while gorgeous, is wooden. If she ever had an acting bone in her body, motherhood has sucked it right out of her.

This film is not worth watching; save your time and money.

Kidwise: Clean. But think again: why would you put a child, nay anyone, through a film like this?

Posted in 2018, bollywood, drama, rating-G | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Fanney Khan (releases 3rd August 2018)

Fanney Khan has some big names: Anil Kapoor & Aishwarya Rai. It also has Rajkummar Rao and Divya Dutta, plus what looks like a heartwarming tale about a wannabe singer and her struggling family.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, New Films, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Blackmail (2018)

Rating : 3/5
Genre : Drama, Comedy
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 15 minutes
Director : Abhinay Deo
Cast : Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari, Arunoday Singh, Divya Dutta
Kid rating : PG-15

When Dev Kaushal (Khan) finds out that his wife Reena (Kulhari) is cheating on him with someone called Ranjit Arora (Singh), he, instead of confronting them, starts to blackmail Ranjit. Ranjit, a gold-digger husband himself, stands to lose quite a bit if his wife Dolly (Dutta) hears of his infidelity. The problem of course is money – where to get it from?

Now, I thought Blackmail pretty decent, even though it has some flaws. Blackmail is directed by Abhinay Deo of Delhi Belly fame, and he brings some of that same sensibility here, with the attempt to be punchy (large-lettered headlines on screen) and snappy, the infusion of black humor. Blackmail does move fast, there’s always something happening. There is also a decent attempt at delineating the characters. We get a good feel for who Dev is, what Reena is like.

There are some problems too. There’s cringey humor with Dev’s work life at a toilet-paper-making company, and a could-have-been-left-out parallel track with Dev’s boss, played by Omi Vaidya. Some thing’s are not explained – why is Dev’s marriage so down in the dumps? Why does he have some of the fetishes he does have? For kicks? For laughs? To display character conflicts? Not very clearly done. Know that Blackmail is much more of a grown-up film than Delhi Belly was, so the humor that worked for that – it had a cast of 20-somethings – doesn’t quite work here.

Director Deo has assembled an impressive cast – Irrfan Khan, Kirti Kulhari (you might remember her from Pink and the dark Shaitan), Divya Dutta – are all superb. Arunoday Sigh is a bit OTT at times, but he does suffice as the lying lout Ranjit. There’s also Gajraj Rao as slimy private investigator Chawla. Also there is Shahid Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter’s mom Neelima Azeem playing Dolly’s mom’s role.

Even with all that – a great cast AND a reasonable plot-line, Blackmail is average not fabulous, like it could have been. It starts well, but then loses steam. It’s grey-character theme is well done, and they couldn’t have a better man that Irrfan to do it, but it falters. Blackmail is slap-dash, not quite knowing how to build up to a crescendo; it ends weakly. I’m pinning it on director Deo – his skill will take some honing.

Kidwise: Blood and bodies. Lasvicious characters. Adult theme. Unsuitable for younger kids.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, directors, drama, Hindi movies on Amazon Prime, movies online, quirky, rating-PG15, suspense | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Sanju (2018)

Rating : 3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 41 minutes
Director : Raj Kumar Hirani
Cast : Ranbir Kapoor, Diya Mirza, Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Paresh Rawal, Manisha Koirala, Vicky Kaushal
Kid rating : PG-15

Sanju stars off with Sanjay Dutt (Kapoor) having lost his trial, watching tv at home with wife Manyata (Mirza). He has a month left before he is incarcerated again – apparently the Courts’s have kindly let him complete his films before they escort him to the kaal kothri. And before that month is up he would like to have his story told via a book, and is busy convincing world-famous biographer Winnie Dias (Sharma) to write one. In persuading her, Sanjay tells her his life’s story and that is the film, reminiscing via flashback.

Dutt’s life has been colorful. Born to famous actors, he’s never been out of the limelight. He’s made grievous mistakes, and been judged by the media and the courts on them. One assumes that coming from director Raj Kumar Hirani, who has been Sanjay’s director in blockbusters like Munnabhai MBBS, the film will cast a sympathetic glow on Dutt’s life. And it does. It also divvies up the blame. Some of it goes to his parenting, some to his friends, some to the media. It seems like everyone else is to blame for the messes that Sanju baba got himself into, but Sanju himself – character and self-control be damned.

The film does own up to some of his faults – the womanizing, the casual disregard for relationships, his apathetic nature, but paints him as an open-hearted, insecure, naive human being who wanted to do nothing but live his own life the way he saw fit. It takes a forgiving look at the man, portraying every wrong turn as a misfortune, over which the poor little rich boy had no control; he meant no harm whatever he did – the druggie phase, the consorting with hoodlums, and his connections with the Bombay blast. In the film, the people around him support him and the ones that don’t quickly fall into place, soon convinced of his golden heart.

Ranbir is marvelous; he becomes Sanjay Dutt. A close second to that performance is Vicky Kaushal (he’s having a good year; we just saw him in Raazi) who plays Sanju’s steadfast friend Kamlesh Kapasi. Manisha Koirala is passable as Nargis, but I found Paresh Rawal a poor choice as Sunil Dutt. Every time he spoke, I heard Rawal not Dutt. Sonam Kapoor plays Ruby, a Parsi girlfriend (Tina Munim? Although Munim is Gujarati) and is you know, all right – I haven’t been too impressed with her since Veere di Wedding. Diya Mirza as Sanjay’s third wife Manyata does well. Anushka Sharma as biographer Winnie Diaz sports blue eyes, an awkward looking curly-haired wig, and an accent. I was nonplussed.

Sanju is a Hirani film. It tells a colorful story without worrying too much about finesse or sheen. It bathes its hero in a golden light, offering up redemption, and the love of the masses. This is still a decently watchable film even if you are not a true-blue Sanju fan, if you are prepared for the fact that this is a tame homage to the real-life persona, and leaves out far too many uncomplimentary details.

Kidwise: Scenes with drug ingestion.

Posted in 2018, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, drama, rating-PG15, real-life-based | Comments Off on Movie Review : Sanju (2018)

Movie Preview : Dhadak (releases 20th July 2018)

Dhadak is the Hindi remake of the fabulous Marathi romance Sairat. This Hindi based version is set in Rajasthan and stars Ishaan Khatter (Shahid Kapoor’s stepbrother) and Janhvi Kapoor (Sridevi’s daughter). While Sairat’s lead pair were first time actors and were from that region, Khatter and Kapoor are both star-children. Remains to be seen if Dhadak can do what Sairat did.

Posted in 2018, bollywood, drama, remake, romance, social issues | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Dhadak (releases 20th July 2018)

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 | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Gold (releases 15th August, 2018)

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 | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Sanju (releases 29th June, 2018)

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 | Comments Off on Movie Review : Veere di Wedding

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 | Comments Off on Movie Review : Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety