Movie Review : Wazir (2016)

Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama/Mystery/Thriller
Year : 2016
Running time : 1 hour 42 minutes
Director : Bejoy Nambiar
Cast : Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Haideri, Manav Kaul
Kid rating: PG-13

It is hard giving this film only a 3.5 stars, but that is what it deserves. Know that I’d expected a lot from Wazir given that it comes from Bejoy Nambiar and via Vidhu Vinod Chopra. And while it is good in places, it falters on its basic premise – and that my dears, is a big no-no.

Danish Ali (Akhtar) is an earnest policeman who is recovering from the loss of a loved one. Almost somnolent with grief, Danish meets wheel-chair bound teacher Omkarnath Dhar (Bachchan), who has also gone through a similar tragedy. They become friends, and when Dhar becomes the target of a stealthy enemy, Danish resolves to protect him. In the storyline, there is also a mix of politics, terrorism, and the threat of greater evil.

Wazir began well, so the first half is pretty tight. There is intensity to the scenes, and there was promise that this film would indeed deliver the goods. When all is explained at the end, the story looks amateurish, the premise a little too unbelievable – like it was written by someone not using all his God-given grey cells. And that’s my biggest problem with this movie. Were that Wazir’s story had legs to stand upon, this could easily have been one of the best films of the year.

I cannot fault Nambiar in his direction. Wazir is well-paced and builds up nicely. It also excels, mostly, in depicting its characters. Akhtar is marvelous as the dutiful cop, driven by guilt and grief. Hydari plays his katahak dancer wife, and she does well in the screen time she has – shades of beauty, and grief intermittent. Bachchan is generally a good actor, except in roles where he lets the Bachchan persona overwhelm the on-screen character. Unfortunately for us, this is one of those times. Last but not the least, I must mention Neil Nitin Mukesh who impresses even in his short role.

There is also great music here. “Tere Bin” is exquisitely picturized – all nostalgia and slow-mo, but that’s not surprising since Nambiar does do well at these (remember Khoya Khoya Chand?) Then there is Tu Mere Paas. Also Atrangi Yaari, sung by Bachchan and Akhtar themselves.

Kidwise: Some scenes of violence and mass gunfire, and the film is pervaded on the whole by an aura of gloom and doom. Kids are shown in danger, being threatened.

Posted in action, bollywood, directors, drama, mystery, rating-PG13, suspense, thriller | 1 Comment

Movie Preview : Fitoor (releases 12 Feb 2016)

Watching the trailer, I thought Tabu’s character reminded me of a fictional character – Miss Havisham. And indeed, looking this up on Wikipedia, I see that this is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations”. With a director like Abhishek Kapoor (Kai Po Che, Rock On) and stars like Katrina Kaif and Aditya Roy Kapur (fairly new, but pretty ripped :-) ), hopefully this will be a good one.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, book to film, Previews, romance | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Airlift (2016)

 photo airliftposter_zpsdfxctzfm.jpg
Rating : 3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 10 minutes
Director : Raja Menon
Cast : Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Purab Kohli, Kumud Mishra, Prakash Belwadi
Kid rating: PG-13

Watching Airlift, I am reminded of how a director can make or break a film. In this case, it is the latter, because for all its hype, Airlift is a shoddy piece of work. Going in for the film, I had high hopes, because all the hype was so positive. I smelled a rat, when smack-dab in almost the first scene I was treated to the film’s (thankfully) only item-number.

The story is based on the real-life evacuation of 170,000 Indians caught in Kuwait, after the Iraqi invasion. The movie’s fictional protagonist Ranjit Katiyal is a rough amalgamation of the two real men who helped engineer the evacuation. In the film, Katiyal (Akshay Kumar), an Indian with strong roots in Kuwait, is caught unawares as Iraqi tanks move into Kuwait and things go from bad to worse with alarming speed. Instead of quickly evacuating with his family, Katiyal instead stays back and assumes responsibility for the safety of Indian families in Kuwait. Nimrat Kaur plays his haltingly supportive wife Amrita.

Now, I am glad that this is not the usual ghisa-pita film; it actually has a story with some sense. Its got some good actors and some parts of the film, like the scenes depicting the bureaucracy in Delhi, are indeed done believably. That’s the good part. However there’s a lot to counter that good with. The writing and screenplay are poor and the pace loses steam. The film’s scenes are juxtaposed together without much finesse, so the narrative doesn’t exactly flow.

Airlift’s characters are shallowly etched – Ranjit’s character changes from streetsmart businessman to semi-deshbhakt, and that transition is depicted in awkward, black-and-white strokes. Akshay who can turn out decent performances in the hands of a good director, isn’t able to play Katiyal’s character with nuance. Even Nimrat who is a fine, fine actress (have you seen The LunchBox?), is reduced to looking like a newbie actress, flailing about trying to find her footing. For these many things to go wrong, I have to blame the director.

As I said, there is some good in Airlift, and Purab Kohli and Kumud Mishra are much of it – 2 actors who persevere in spite of the director’s amateurishness. The music is pretty good too.

So, weighing all the pros and cons: pro: good attempt, con: shoddy film-making, my verdict is that this is an average film, nothing to go rushing to the theater for. Given its overt jingoism and the hype, this will be on television soon :-). Curl up at home and wait for it.

Kidwise: Airlift does depict war-scenes, so tanks, gunfire and people getting slaughtered, and soldiers pawing women. It is pretty un-believably done, but it might scare the kiddos. Proceed with caution.

Posted in 2016, bio-pic, bollywood, drama, rating-PG13, real-life-based | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Talvar

 photo talvar_zps8n8ctrti.jpgRating : 3.7/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 35 minutes
Director : Meghna Gulzar
Cast : Konkona Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi, Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Sohum Shah, Prakash Belwadi, Sumit Gulati
Kid rating: PG-15

Talvar is based upon the real-life murder case of 14 year old Arushi Talwar, whose parents, Dr. Nupur and Rajesh Talwar were sentenced to life imprisonment. The film takes us into the story from the beginning , right after the murder is found. Then the local police are brought in and proceed to royally botch up the case. Amidst uproar in the media, CDI Investigator Ashwin Kumar takes over. What he finds out turns the case on its head.

This real-life case was a pretty grotesque one, and the film doesn’t shy away from details. However, credit to the makers in keeping this film strongly focussed on the story, and keeping away from the sordidness, which in less capable hands would probably have crept in to the film.

The film presents its mounting evidence in a very credible fashion and goes into quite a bit of detail regarding the investigation. All is logically presented, and it clarifies many details which were not correctly reported/garbled by the regular news media. I have no trouble believing the immense corruption and apathy that is depicted in the film. The policemen in the film are rude, uncouth and discourteous, besides being inept. It doesn’t come as a surprise when they concoct up an atrocious tale of “loose moral character” and “honor killing” to affirm their shaky theories; when it comes to women, everything simply must be about honor (#sarcasm). What is astounding is that in real life, the parents actually got convicted and sentenced based on these questionable theories!

At no time does the narrative feel forced or pushy. It does not make up our minds for us; instead it presents the facts and lets us make our own minds up. Of course, this could not have been done without the excellent cast. Besides Sen-Sharma and Kabi, who play the parents in a stellar fashion, there is also Khan, whom I need say nothing about; such is his reputation. Even the smaller roles are executed to perfection by actors like Sumit Gulati (as compounder Kanhaiya) and Sohum Shah (ACP Vedant Mishra).

Gulzar has directed a couple of films before this, none have been anything to write home about. She does well here, although I’m sure Vishal Bharadwaj’s genius (and writing) had beneficial effects on the film.

Kidwise: Owing to the topic, this is by no means an easy film to watch. While I’m rating this as acceptable for 15+, please exercise caution – this could be fairly disturbing for a younger audience.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, drama, rating-PG15, real-life-based, social issues | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Bajirao Mastani (release Dec 18th 2015)

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is back to doing what he does best – make films on a grand scale. His upcoming venture Bajiao Mastani is the story of Hindu Peshwa Baji Rao and his second wife, the half-Muslim Mastani. Ranveer Singh, who’s on a roll, plays Baji Rao, Deepika Padukone plays Mastani and Priyanka Chopra plays BajiRao’s first wife Kashibai.

I’m looking forward to this one.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Tamasha (2015)

tamashaRating : 3.8/5
Genre : Drama/Romance
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 35 minutes
Director : Imtiaz Ali
Cast : Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra, Javed Sheikh
Kid rating: PG

A man and woman meet in lovely Corsica, she frantic after having lost her purse, passport etc. He helps, order is restored. He introduces himself as Don, she calls herself Mona Darling and they spend a week together, assuming they will never see each other again. After a week she flies away, bereft. Years pass, and she sees him again. Only he isn’t the man she met in Corsica.

Imtiaz Ali’s new tale of romance starts off a little weakly. The Corsican setup is a tad cliched and I couldn’t get the “we’ll never see each other” assumption, what with Facebook, Skype, phones and the connected world in general. I’ll go with it however. The two, Don and Mona, are a little ditzy (we’ll chalk that up to vacationing in Corsica) and have fun together. Of course, the real tale starts off when several years later, still-lovesick Mona sees Don in India. This second meeting triggers some unprecedented soul-searching, and takes the film down an unpredictable path.

I can’t quite call Tamasha a romance; rather it is a coming-of-age film (although the protagonist is an adult) or a “finding yourself” film. The romance between Ved/Don (Kapoor) and Tara/Mona Darling (Padukone), although fun to watch, is more of a catalyst for his character development, rather than the plot for the film. The use of flashbacks nicely ties together various strands of Ved’s life, heightening the crescendo which comes with Tara’s advent into his life. Tara is a bit of a closed book, but then the film isn’t about her.

Director Ali’s films are never straightforward romances; he always takes the scenic, complicated route. Thus Tamasha has depth; you know that someone has thought about this stuff before presenting it to us. In Ali’s deft hands, life encompasses such tragedy, such emotional upheaval! There are some truly heartbreaking moments here, like the one where Tara pours out her heart to a very quiet Ved, realizing suddenly the implications of his silence. It is never easy to see people in anguish, but in Tamasha these poignant moments feel real and troubling, due to the wonderful direction and the equally immaculate acting.

Ali is the master of the milieu. His locales and his people feel so real! Ved’s family seems typical – a typical business class family – strict dad, housewifely mom, warm grandmother. Shimla feels like a smallish, hill station, winding roads with people at every junction – quite the spot for an imaginative little boy to grow up in. Ali also gives us some wry commentary on social mores, like the time when Ved and Tara, still Don and Mona to each other, talk about following societal norms where he is the aggressor trying to get her into bed, and she the shy, “good girl”, because “izzat/lajja hi aurat ka gehna hai”.

Kapoor and Padukone pour themselves into their roles. Deepika seems a little hesitant in the Corsica scenes but really comes into her own later. Ranbir is magnificent here, a flippant charmer as Don, and quite the restrained, nice guy as Ved. A.R. Remains’ music is quite spot-on; my favorite is the energetic “Heer to badi sad hai”.

I quite liked Tamasha, although not as much as Rockstar. While Rockstar is a passionate, true-blue love tale, Tamasha is a lot more heartfelt, and not as much a love-story, although its got a strong love theme.

Kidwise: Tamasha is pretty kid-safe, although it has a few bleeped-out words, and some kissing.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, drama, rating-PG, romance | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Tamasha (releases Nov 25th 2015)

It’s been a while since I could get behind an Imtiaz Ali film. I think this could be the one.
Doesn’t hurt that the film stars the most charismatic couple in Bollywood.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, Previews, romance | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Rating : 3.3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 43 minutes
Director : Kabir Khan
Cast : Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Harshaali Malhotra, Om Puri, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Kid rating: PG

Yeah, so I finally watched Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and I have to say it wasn’t as terrible as I’d thought it would be. Most of the credit for that goes to the child actor, Harshaali Malhotra. Unlike most other Indian child actors who can be cloyingly irksome, Harshaali is the optimal mix of cuteness and angelic innocence.

The story : affable do-gooder Pawan (Khan) with heart of gold resolves to restore lost child to her home in Pakistan. The catch: child is mute, although fairly expressive. Our macho hero tries the official route to getting little Shahida back home, but when all else fails he decides to hand-deliver her home. Of course that means he has to cross the border, but he being Salman, makes short shrift of that little problem. Bonhomie, good cheer is in the air. Everyone claps, leaves theater.

Salman does what he does best – plays a bumbling simpleton to the hilt. Karen is his kohl-lashed lady-love, weeping for his return from Pakistan. Bajrangi Bhaijaan has mass appeal because it loads the message of cross-border bhai-bhai with liberal doses of simple humor. Lots of drama, lot of emotional appeal, especially with Harshaali involved.

Kidwise: Some violence/gunfire etc.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, drama | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (releases Nov 11th 2015)

Rajshri Productions Prem Ratan Dhan Payo hits theatres this Diwali. From the trailer, this is another epic scale production, and reportedly took more than an year to shoot. It promises to be another Barjatya cocktail with grand sets (the palace in the film is a specially constructed set), and the curious mix of orthodoxy and modernity – traditional characters, clothes, values and locales, but modern cars/phones etc; turbo-charged Ram Rajya, if you will.

Here’s what I thought of the last Barjatya production I encountered.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, family-friendly, Previews | 1 Comment

Movie Review: Shaandaar

Rating : 1/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 24 minutes
Director : Vikas Bahl
Cast : Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor
Kid rating: PG

If you read the subtitles of this film, “Shaandaar” translates to “splendiferous”. Alas, splendiferous it is not. Much to my disappointment (I had expected a “decent entertainer”) this film is boring, Scratch that – it is insufferable!

Alia (Bhatt) is a poor little orphan being brought up in a richie-rich khandaan, loved only by foster-dad Bipin. When Bipin’s elder daughter, Isha’s marriage is arranged with the Fundwani clan’s scion, Robin, Alia meets wedding planner Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor). Alia and JJ are both insomniacs and meet more than once during the night, notably once when he is out motor-biking and she is skinny-dipping (** rolls eyes **). Love etc. blooms.

And then what? Then nothing.

No, seriously. Then nothing. Such is the film. It goes nowhere. There is little to no script/story. The lead characters Alia and JJ are as dull as dishwater. Their meetings are Disney-ish, innocent (yes, even when she is skinny-dipping :-)) and non-oomphy, and the conversations unsparkly. The rest of the characters are badly-written, hollow and so very easy to not care about. Shahid and Alia make a charming couple but even they can’t rise above the half-baked writing.

The locale is a grand British castle, where both families have gathered to celebrate the destination wedding. So the film rolls out as a series of wedding related events – the grand picnic, the black-and-white dance night, the sangeet etc. The pity is that while all these glitzy events make for some nice shiny visuals, they fall flat without having a backbone of a story.

The namby-pamby romance takes a backseat to the other issues the film tries to tackle (unsuccessfully) – like the issue of fat-shaming. Then there is the domineering mommy trope, the evil wifey trope, self-esteem issues, and the oh-so-cliched pair of twins muttering “OMG” at every pregnant pause. Need I say more?

It is like the many makers of Shaandaar (too many cooks?) had a brainstorming session where they threw all their ideas at a blank storyboard. All the sad, jaded ideas stuck and were put together in random fashion into this mess of a movie.

Saving grace, you ask? The songs. Catchy and energetically presented. Watch those on Youtube and be done with the film.

Shandaar is directed by Bahl, who also directed Queen – now that was a legitimately splendiferous film! Karan Johar is in here too as is Vikramaditya Motwane (of Udaan fame) and Anurag Kashyap. August company, you think? Never in a million years would I have thought that all these filmmakers could jointly produce a disaster like Shaandaar. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Kidwise: Pretty kid safe. Almost “Disneyish”.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, family-friendly, rating-PG, romance | Leave a comment