Movie Review : Kedarnath (2018)

Rating : 2.5/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 25 minutes
Director : Abhishek Kapoor
Cast : Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan, Nishant Dahiya, Pooja Gor, Nitish Bharadwaj, Alka Amin, Sonali Sachdeva
Kid rating : G

Kedarnath seems not of this world. Not surreal like Zero, but like a throwback to the 1980s. I mean, it is not like everyone should not have the freedom to make all the old-fashioned cinema they want to, but really? Another jaded inter-faith love story about a Hindu girl falling for the local Muslim porter? Kill me now.

The specifics: she’s frisky Mandakini aka Mukku. He’s the staid Mansoor Khan, a “pithoo” or porter helping ferry pilgrims up the steep hillsides of Kedarnath. She takes a shine to him, and he, after much ignoring and rebuffing her flirtatious advances, accedes. Since daddy’s a priest and the upholder of “dharm” there is a bunch of hai-tauba at Mukku’s romantic entanglements with a non-Hindu guy. Just when the young lovers are being separated comes the flood.

Kedarnath is a dull, dull film. It offers no freshness, no new angle to a clichéd storyline. Even the dialogs are so 80s, so ghisa-pita! There was a story hidden behind Mukku’s seemingly outrageous behavior but the film doesn’t dwell on it too much. I would have liked to see more of Brinda, Mukku’s sister’s (played by talented Pooja Gor) story – there is a segway into that, but the film doesn’t go into much detail. There could have been some exploration of the relationship between the sisters, but that is given short shrift.

Perky Sara Ali Khan does bring some pep to Kedarnath, but she really doesn’t fit the small-town girl profile. Sushant Singh Rajput, a good actor, is wasted in his poorly sketched out character. He is still very good as unassuming Mansoor, and I really felt for his character.

Nishant Dahiya (of the cute teenie-bopper romance Mujhse Fraandship Karoge) has aged into an almost-gauntness, and plays Mukku’s shrewd, family-ordained suitor. Another actor to note is Sonali Sachdev who is pretty impressive in limited screen time as Mukku’s harried mom.

What I did like about the film were the songs, especially Qaafirana. The rest of it is average bordering on deathly boredom. Love might be a pilgrimage (per the title) but this movie was a slog!

Kidwise: Clean.

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

Movie Review : Gully Boy (2019)

Rating : 4/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2019
Running time : 2.5 hours
Director : Zoya Akhtar
Cast : Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Vijay Raaz, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Amruta Subhash, Vijay Verma, Kalki Koechlin, Sheeba Chaddha
Kid rating : PG

I convinced my son to come see Gully Boy with us because he, like most desi teenagers, is into rap these days – that was the USP, but I was unprepared for how much rap there was in this movie. He liked the movie more than I did 🙂 . I did like Gully Boy, but not in the way I adored Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Murad (Singh) is a chauffeur’s son from Dharavi. His father (Raaz) has taken a much-younger, second wife, which is causing chaos and drama in the small chawl they all live in together. The incessant poverty, the constant beat-down from his parents (keep your head down, a servant’s son will always remain a servant), the ubiquitous classism, the societal strictures preventing him from acknowledging his love for Safeena (Bhatt) are taking a toll on rebellious Murad. He finds an outlet for his pent-up anguish in poetry which, on encouragement from MC Sher (Chaturvedi), he voices through rap.

Gully Boy is pretty intense. Zoya Akhtar really drives home the grittiness with realistic dialog, locales and genuine depth to the characters. Ranveer as Murad is Ranveer as we’ve never seen him before: unsmiling and unvarnished – shorn of all his accoutrements and his trademark swagger (what a difference from Simmba!). We see him, another poorly-dressed lad on the street, backpack, earphones in place. We see him at home, head bent, quietly taking the slaps his father deals him for his uppity-ness. Later we see him rebel, and root for him as he starts giving it back, throwing his father’s belittling words back in his face (“Will someone else tell me who I am?”), and we cheer.

Gully Boy, despite my aversion to rap, works because it is an underdog story – and we love those. It works because Zoya Akhtar has the courage and the sensitivity to portray a bunch of issues (classism, poverty, powerlessness of women), subtly tying them into the fabric of Murad’s story. And it works because of Murad’s character, who’s got the gumption to battle the soul-destroying chorus of “you are nothing”, and dream on.

The cherry on the top are these beautifully done scenes set to some sublime poetry. My favorite was set to “Doori”, as Murad chauffers his employer’s daughter in her expensive car, and she weeps for an unknown reason. He stonily looks ahead, the faceless servant, unable to cross the class barrier to ask or to console. There is another scene set to “Ek Hee Raasta” which questions the rat-race; a portrayal of truth like no other.

Accolades to the actors – Ranveer and Alia and Vijay Raaz, known faces all, are terrific. Film debutant Chaturvedi as Sher and marathi actress Amruta Subhash as Murad’s mother are fantastic. Vijay Verma (we saw him in Pink, remember?) as small-time con-man Moeen drove me to tears. Kalki as Berklee-educated musician Sky is as always, just so right. Chaddha, whom we saw recently in Badhai Ho, is impeccable as Safeena’s mom.

I find Gully Boy a tad lacking in the entertainment department, but was still drawn in and engrossed by Murad’s story. Recommended.

Kidwise: Some adult situations, some lip locks, but that’s about it.

Posted in 2019, bollywood, coming of age, directors, drama, music, rating-PG, recommended | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Gully Boy (releases 14th Feb, 2019)

Zoya Akhtar directs Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in Gully Boy. Quite a different tack for Akhtar because she has in the past directed films like “Zindagi na Milegi Dobara” and “Dil Dhadakne Do” (both of while I loved) which are not quite as gritty as this one looks to be.

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

Movie Review : Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga (2019)

Rating : 2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2019
Running time : 2 hours
Director : Shelly Chopra Dhar
Cast : Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Anil Kapoor, Rajkummar Rao, Juhi Chawla, Abhishek Duhan, Seema Pahwa, Brijendra Kalra, Regina Cassandra
Kid rating : PG-13

With Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga I was expecting a lazy, ghisa-pita jaded tale of Bollywoodian romance. What I got was way worse.

If you’ve been listening to the buzz around this film, you already know that this is a lesbian love story gone mainstream. Amazingly “mainstream” and “lesbian” in the Bollywood context aren’t oxymorons anymore. So yes, ELKDTAL is a brave film for even venturing down this path. Unfortunately for us, brave does not equal watchable.

Sweety (Kapoor Ahuja) from Moga, Punjab, is a closeted lesbian. Brother Babloo “Virji” (Duhan), a stickler for patriarchal norms, suspects as much, and keeps a close eye on “abnormal” Sweety. When he realizes that she’s been making trips to Delhi to meet her female lover Kuhu (Cassandra), he concocts a story about her being in love with a Muslim man and exhorts their father, businessman Balbir Chaudhary (Kapoor), to marry her off to a “nice Hindu boy”. And then . . .

Early on in the film, in the dim confines of a theater watching a play, Sweety opines that the play she’s watching is flawed – it “has no feel”. This is ironical because this is pretty much the way I feel about ELKDTAL – no feel, no depth, no nuance. This film is superficial in the extreme; it broaches the topic of homosexuality but once broached doesn’t know what to do with it. Another problem is that for an “empowering” film, this has its female protagonist unable to help herself – she needs male assistance to even speak her mind! The film also implies that the female point-of-view is not enough – it must be accepted and validated by a male one to pass muster.

The film’s characters apart from Sweety and Sahil are run-of-the-mill Yashraj stereotypes – the beaming Beeji, the jovial father figure Balraj, swagger-filled Virji, bantering, adoring servants. The characters though are ill-defined, especially Sweety’s and Kuhu’s. Their relationship is not really shown too much, so it’s hard feeling for them. There were some moving scenes depicting a father’s love, and one to-be-remembered dialog from Anil Kapoor where he says that homosexuality is inborn, and has nothing to do with western culture.

Sonam is very weak as Sweety. She fails to portray the mental tumult, loneliness of a closeted lesbian; a few angsty glances and some hand-wringing doesn’t quite cut it. I don’t give her all the blame (director Dhar must share) – after all she was marvelous in Delhi-6.

ELKDTAL is insipid and slow-paced; I actually nodded off in the first half, the husband had to prod me awake. I wish that it had a rousing screenplay and a fiery, anger-filled heroine instead of this weak, wilting one to lead the charge. This could have been a much better film, if it had decided to delve deeper, speak plainer and actually point some fingers (a la Pink) instead of just whitewashing the solution as “acceptance”. Acceptance doesn’t come about all of a sudden, one fine day. It takes time, an open mind, and the ability to countenance a different point of view – a truth this film seems to be unable to speak or address.

Kidwise: Clean. Talk of homosexuality.

Posted in 2019, bollywood, drama, rating-PG13, social issues, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Sonchiriya (release 8th Feb, 2019)

From the director of films like “Udta Punjab” and “Ishqiya” comes Sonchiriya. It has a fabulous star cast: Manoj Bajpai, Ranvir Shourie, Ashutosh Rana, Bhumi Pednekar and Sushant Singh Rajput. I’m looking forward to this one!

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

Movie Preview : Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga (releases 1st Feb, 2019)

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga (what a mouthful) stars Sonam Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, real-life daughter-dad playing screen daughter-dad. Also starring is Rajkummar Rao. Now, while I think Rao is a fabulous actor, I’m kinda surprised to see him getting these mainstream hero-type roles, because let’s face it : the man is no Adonis.

The film is resplendent with the smell of Punjab, sarson ke khet, and the golden plot fallback for the lazy Bollywood film-maker : getting daughters married off! Seems a little ghisa-pita to me, but let’s see. Fingers crossed!

P.S.: The tile is from the song of “1942: A Love Story” which starred Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirala.

Posted in 2012 | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Uri – The Surgical Strike (2019)

Rating : 3.8/5
Genre : Drama/Action
Year : 2019
Running time : 2 hours 18 minutes
Director : Aditya Dhar
Cast : Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Yami Gautam, Kirti Kulhari, Rajit Kapoor
Kid rating : PG-13

The husband had mentioned that film-reviews he’d read weren’t exactly glowing in praise for Uri, so my expectations going in to the theater to see it were at best mediocre. The film surpassed my expectation by a whole lot. In short: I liked Uri – this is a good film.

The film is about the 2016 Uri Attack, an attack on Indian Security forces by 4 heavily-armed terrorists. Many were injured, and many were killed as they slept. The movie shows the attack and then shows India’s retaliatory surgical strike against terrorist base camps near the Line Of Control. Vicky Kaushal plays Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, who leads the mission.

Uri is a little slow-moving but told sparely, with very little over-the-top drama. There are some jingoistic dialogs but I can see that as a need to build up the patriotic fervor. I was especially impressed with the scenes of the actual operation as the commandoes move soundlessly and with very little fuss into enemy territory and accomplish their mission. Even the zing-zing of the bullets felt real. We have such few well-done war movies in Bollywood that Uri is a breath of fresh air.

The star of this film truly is Kaushal. If you’d asked me before who’d be the right choice for this role, Kaushal wouldn’t even have come to mind, but he does an amazing job! He’s a fabulous actor and fits into this role snug and sure. Gone is the scrawny hesitant lad of Masaan, and the arrogant rapper-DJ of Manmarziyaan! In Uri, a bulked up Kaushal takes center stage as a confident Army major, willing to do or die for this country. Of course, Kaushal also gets the meat of the film, complete with a climax ka hand-to-hand battle with the bad guy.

The supporting cast while good, could have benefited from better character development. Yami Gautam is an Intelligence Officer, but the role is sketchily developed. Kirti Kulhari is quietly dignified as an Air Force pilot – I would have loved to see more of her back-story. Swaroop Sampat plays Shergill’s Alzheimer-ridden mother and does it well. Rajit Kapoor (you might remember him from Raazi) as a soft-spoken PM, kind of like a weird amalgamation of PMs Modi and Manmohan Singh, and Paresh Rawal as National Security Advisor Govind Bharadwaj complete the round-up.

What I really like about Uri besides the action of course, is the fact that it focuses on the story, there is no needless romance thrust into the film (unlike Padman). There is no unnecessary naach-gaana or endless emotional drama about maa-ki-mamta and other Bollywoodian crap. Uri sticks to its business. It is spare and strong, slick and gritty, an engrossing watch. Go see!

Kidwise: This is an almost-war movie, so there’s violence and bloodshed and some bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat.

Posted in 2019, action, bollywood, directors, drama, real-life-based, recommended, war | Comments Off on Movie Review : Uri – The Surgical Strike (2019)

Movie Preview : Manikarnika (releases 25th January, 2019)

Kangana Ranaut plays Manikarnika, Queen of Jhansi, and I cannot think of a better lead for this role. She looks magnificent! I hope the film is as good!

Posted in 2018, bio-pic, bollywood, drama, historical, New Films, Previews, real-life-based, women | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Manikarnika (releases 25th January, 2019)

Movie Review : Simmba (2018)

Rating : 2/5
Genre : Drama/Action
Year : 2018
Running time : 2 hours 45 minutes
Director : Rohit Shetty
Cast : Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan, Ajay Devgun, Sonu Sood
Kid rating : PG-13

If you’ve watched the Trailer you wouldn’t be in any doubt that Simmba was going to be a masala movie, and not necessarily a bad one. I did like Singham, and hoped that this would be similar or better. However Simmba by comparison is so very, very OTT – it’s like kuch bhi! I’m dissapointed.

Anyway, formalities first, so here’s the gist : Sangram Bhalerao (aka Simmba) is a corrupt police officer who has only one objective – how to make the most of his job and line his pockets. However, when his muh-boli behen, a girl he considers to be his sister, is brutally raped, Simmba decides to alter course. Experienced officer Singham comes in to lend a hand.

Given that Simmba is a Rohit Shetty film, I had no expectations of any nuanced emotions. The characters are all either black or white, don’t think too much, make impetuous, illogical decisions and all emotion and drama is milked to the T. There are lots of colorful songs, gaana bajaana, with lavish sets, a ton of extras and our hero is resplendent slo-mo. It’s like Salman’s song sequences in Dabangg but even more OTT.

Simmba’s every move is stylized beautifully in slo-mo, from the time he makes his first appearance to when he really gets into it with the action scenes. Of course there could be no better hero than Ranveer to make the most of this, because he is such an entertainer. He hams with panache, dances with swagger, and delivers even the most inane dialogues with such aplomb that it is a pleasure to see him on screen. This is his film truly – he is in literally every frame.

Sara Ali Khan is the heroine and her role is more like a guest appearance. She is in like 5 scenes, relegated to the songs, and some romancing. Sonu Sood as the villain has a chunkier role than Khan. He does well too, flexing his massive biceps and spewing out cuss-laden lines with menace. Ajay Devgun makes a late (slo-mo) entry in the film, and there was actual clapping in my packed theater when he did!

If you are in the mood for a brainless, masala entertainer, Simmba is perfect. Me, I preferred Singham – Ranveer while entertaining is a little too flighty and frisky to be taken seriously, a problem brooding Ajay Devgun does not have. Consequentially Singham had more heft. Simmba also felt regressive, a step backwards in the direction of 80’s hindi potboilers, which hinged upon the macho male avenging the highly prized aurat-ki-izzat. Also, I’m put-off by the film’s oblique reference to the Nirbhaya rape; Nirbhaya’s injuries are not meant to be used as cheap plot-points/details in masala entertainers.

Kidwise : Suggestive dialogs and dance moves. While there is a rape in the film, nothing is actually shown.

Posted in 2018, action, bollywood, masala, rating-PG13, remake | 2 Comments

The Best Hindi Movies of 2018

Slim pickings this year, but I’ve managed to cobble together Bollywood’s Top 10 Movies of 2018. They are:

10. Blackmail

A quirky, suspenseful film about betrayals, infidelity and then some, Blackmail was interesting.

9. Raid

A predictable anti-corruption film starring the brooding, charismatic Ajay Devgun and the lovely Ileana D’Cruz, this one bottoms out at #9, because of its jaded, been-there-seen-that drama:

8. Karwaan

Fresh, fun and quirky, Karwaan could have used some star-power but leaves us with feel-good, warm, fuzzy emotions. This is very watchable at #8:

7. Raazi

Even though I wasn’t too gung-ho about Raazi immediately after watching it, now amid all the other films of the year, it seems to have done well for itself, settling in at #7 despite some problems. Alia and Vicky Kaushal were marvelous here.

6. Badhaai Ho

This well-done family drama was fun to watch because of the fantastic star-cast, and the in-built humor.

5. Sui Dhaga

A clean, pleasant slightly cliched film, Sui Dhaka comes in at #5 because of the lead pair and the great supporting cast.

4. Andhadhun

A who-dun-it featuring an unreliable, possibly lying, conniving hero, Andhadhun was so much fun and so very engrossing. Ayushmann Khurana stars again (he’s had a good year!).

3. Padman

This very important film delivers a social message and does it well. Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor star in this lovely tale.

2. Manmarziyaan

I loved Manmarziyaan. It was romantic, angsty, emotional – a real roller-coaster, but so beautifully wound its way into our hearts. Tapsee Pannu was gorgeous as was Viky Kaushal, and it was nice seeing Abhishek Bachchan again in a mature role that suited him to a T.

1. Mukkabaaz

As I said in the review, Mukkabaaz is Anurag Kashyap’s film-making at its finest. This was a stupendous film, in no small part because of hero Vineet Kumar Singh.

Posted in 2018, annual roundup, bollywood, lists, outstanding, recommended, Top 10 | Comments Off on The Best Hindi Movies of 2018