Movie Review : Dear Zindagi (2016)

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Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Gauri Shinde
Cast : Shahrukh Khan, Alia Bhatt, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi
Kid rating: PG

Dear Zindagi is a coming-of-age, “growing-up” film. The heroine Kaira (Bhatt) is an adult, who is a decently successful cinematographer in Mumbai, but personal satisfaction eludes her. How she “grows up”, forgives and moves on is what “Dear Zindagi” is about.

Lately Hindi cinema has become a lot more interesting telling tales which are not just love-stories. However we still don’t see too many Bollywood movies talking about “mental baggage” to any depth. I’d imagine most adults carry some of it around, and it impedes us from fully exploring and appreciating life. Kaira is one such adult who seems high-functioning on the outside, but on the inside she, afraid of commitment and the fear that happiness is fleeting and not truly meant for her, sabotages any chance at it.

With personal and landlord problems, Kaira decides to go live with her parents in Goa for a while, but even there cannot shrug off her dissatisfaction with life. By chance, she hears psychiatrist Dr. Jehangir Khan (Khan) talk at a mental health conference, and decides to go visit him professionally. Will Dr. Khan, with his unconventional ways, be able to help Kaira?

Alia Bhatt is pretty fantastic as always, and Shahrukh Khan is better than usual. Dear Zindagi is a decent watch, but a bit of a let-down coming from Gauri Shinde, of English-Vinglish fame. It is clear that this film is about Kaira and her personal travails, but Dear Zindagi doesn’t quite connect as it could have. Maybe it’s the “wide-spectrum” approach, not letting us hone in/focus on one aspect of the problem. It’s like the film-makers didn’t have clarity on their message; thus they can’t quite communicate it to us. There is so much to Kaira, or any young adult in similar circumstances, that it needed a finely delineated script to gather it all up and present it to us neatly packaged into 2.5 hours. Alas, “Dear Zindagi” does not have that script or screenplay.

This is still a good watch, with melodious music, including a remix of the old “Aye Zindagi, gale laga le” song. The actors in this film acquit themselves well. I only wish they had had better direction.

Kidwise: Clean. The touchy-feely subject matter might be too heavy for the younger ones though.
Recommendations if you liked this film: Tamasha, Dil Dhadakne Do, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Posted in 2016, bollywood, drama, rating-PG, touchy-feely | Leave a comment

Movie Review : M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story (2016)

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Rating : 3.9/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 20 minutes
Director : Neeraj Pandey
Cast : Sushant Singh Rajput, Kiara Advani, Anupam Kher, Disha Patani, Kumud Mishra, Rajesh Sharma
Kid rating: G

I hadn’t expected much from “M.S. Dhoni”. So I’m pleasantly surprised that it was such a good film – well-told, interestingly spun and engaging.

It is, as the title says, about Dhoni – early life to his success. We do get unexpected information about a private tragedy – information apparently not made public until the film came out. The romance is played out per Hindi film rules. Dhoni gets a just portrayal, a man with integrity and leadership qualities. A man with many friends. It was also quite heartening to see the strong support system he had – from family to friends to co-workers.

Sushant Singh Rajput is a talented and versatile actor; his many quality films (Kai Po Che, Shudh Desi Romance) lie in evidence. I do think that he lacks a certain oomph – I can’t see him being picked to do a suave, chocolate-hero kinda role. That very “everyman” quality serves him well here. He is Dhoni (although the long hair which looks great on the man himself, looked awkward on him). I appreciate the character more because of Rajput’s valiant effort.

There are films without a story (the majority), and there are films with a decent storyline (the minority). This is one of the latter. MS Dhoni is fairly predictable, because you probably know about Dhoni already, but it is still interesting because it gives us an intimate look at Dhoni’s life, his various trials and tribulations and how he overcame them. It makes this very public personality’s life personal. This film had heart, and good intentions, and it delivers on them.


Kidwise: Clean. Family-friendly.
Recommendations if you liked this film: Lagaan, Chak De India, Iqbal.

Posted in 2016, All Netflix, bio-pic, bollywood, drama, family-friendly, Hindi movies on Netflix, rating-G, real-life-based, recommended | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Raabta (releases 9th June 2017)

Raabta’s trailer promises an interesting story – rebirth/time-travel maybe? I’m being optimistic with the time-travel hopes, of course :) . This is the first directorial venture for prolific film producer Dinesh Vijan, who’s run the gamut from producing tasteful crowd-pleasers like “Love Aaj Kal” to revenge dramas like “Badlapur” to the not-very-great desi zombie drama “Go Goa Gone”. The film stars gorgeous Kriti Sanon, the up-and-coming Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkummar Rao and the yet unknown Jim Sarbh.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, drama, fantasy, New Films, Previews, sci-fi | 1 Comment

Movie Preview : Hindi Medium (releases 12th May 2017)

Irrfan Khan, Deepak Dobriyal and Pakistani actress Saba Qamar star in Saket Chaudhary’s (he also directed the very lovely “Pyaar ke Side Effects”) “Hindi Medium”. In the film Qamar’s character says that in India, English isn’t a language – it’s a class. Verily, the “Hindi medium”/”English medium” stereotypes do exist, and film explores this theme highlighting the mindsets of being “Hindi medium” in Indian society. Should be interesting, given that all three of these actors are skilled, and a pleasure to watch on screen.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, drama, humor, New Films, Previews, social issues | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Jolly LLB 2 (2017)

 photo jollyLLB2_zpsdmztqpnx.jpgRating : 3.4/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 20 minutes
Director : Subhash Kapoor
Cast : Akshay Kumar, Huma Qureshi, Saurabh Shukla, Annu Kapoor, Sayani Gupta, Kumud Mishra
Kid rating: PG

This is what I dislike about sequels. You take a perfectly good movie, and then think that if you only increase the superficial things that made it tick, to the umpteenth degree in the sequel, it will be an even bigger hit. What generally happens is that the increase in the commercial slant, affects the quality and structure of the film detrimentally. Of course this does not matter for a desi film, because the audience will lap it up anyway :( .

This is precisely what happens with Jolly LLB2, the sequel to the much-loved Jolly LLB. Director Kapoor replaces his original hero Arshad Warsi with the more marketable Akshay Kumar. He takes Judge Tripathi’s (Saurabh Shukla’s character’s) natural loquaciousness and has it hammed up to unbearable levels. He rams tearful, often familial, melodrama into the film, until it oozes from every pore. There is more of the gaana-bajana, even when it doesn’t fit in. The only improvement here is the heroine – Huma Qureshi replaces Amrita Rao.

The storyline follows predictable, not un-entertaining paths. Jagdishwar Mishra aka Jolly (Kumar), an educated lawyer, serves as a street-smart junior administrative underling in famous Advocate Rizvi’s office, and dreams of having his own office one day. In a financial crunch one day, he accepts a client’s (Gupta) case in Mr Rizvi’s name, only to have his dishonesty come to light later. Ashamed, he decides to fight the client’s case on his own terms, which pits him against a corrupt cop (Mishra) and his even wilier lawyer (Annu Kapoor). Up against insurmountable odds, will Jolly stand his ground?

While Akshay Kumar might have a great contribution in making this film a commercial success, he lacks the true honesty that Warsi, a much under-appreciated actor, brought to the role. Huma Qureshi is pretty good as the alcohol-swigging wife Pushpa. Stalwarts Annu Kapoor and Saurabh Shukla bolster the film up considerably, while Sayani Gupta (who’s cropping up everywhere these days) makes a short appearance as the hapless, pregnant client, Hina, seeking justice.

Even with all that, as compared to Jolly LLB, Jolly LLB2 suffers majorly in quality. The subtlety, the reading between the lines is gone. The screenplay isn’t as tight, with large portions of the film devolving into boring dialog-baazi. Jolly LLB2 is put together in a slap-dash manner, and the film lacks the soul the original had. And if you do not have soul, what do you have?

If it had not been for the tremendous cast, I’d have difficulty rating this film even as average. I hope Kapoor reverses this trend, and goes back to his storytelling roots. If you are looking for a commercial film with some sense/story, this might be it. If you are looking for a good movie, do not be misled by Subhash Kapoor’s past work; look elsewhere.

Kidwise: I suspect that kids are at risk of boredom rather than emotional scarring with this film. Some scenes/situations in the film may be distressing – there is some violence/aggressive behavior – but other than that, it is an un-perturbing watch.

Posted in 2016, 2017, bollywood, comedy, directors, drama, rating-PG | Comments Off on Movie Review : Jolly LLB 2 (2017)

Movie Preview : Meri Pyaari Bindu (releases 12th May 2017)

Abhi (Ayushmann Khurana) and Bindu’s (Parineeti Chopra) love-story comes at us 12th May. Look promising. The film will continue the saga told of in the trailers, which are 5 in all, all conveniently embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 3:

Chapter 4:

Chapter 5:

Posted in 2017, bollywood, Previews, romance | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Meri Pyaari Bindu (releases 12th May 2017)

Movie Review : Befikre (2016)

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Rating : 3.6/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Aditya Chopra
Cast : Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Arrmaan Ralhan, Ayesha Mishra
Kid rating: PG-13

Befikre – or carefree, is what our protagonists are. Dharm Gulati (Singh) is the Karol Bagh ka munda who’s in Paris to do a comedy gig. Rambunctious Shyra Gill (Vaani Kapoor) considers herself the French daughter of Punjabi parents. They meet, fall in lust, and decided to live-in to spend more time with each other. Alas, this does not end happily. Or does it?

Befikre is not a straightforward love-story, nor is it a traditional Bollywood-ian romance. There is no evil pyar-ka-dushman, no classist society and no angry parents to stop the two lovers. Also the two lovers don’t really know whether they are truly in love or not – there is a lot of going back and forth on the pyar-wala question. And that is actually the story of this film – they say Haan, then they say Na, then they . . .

For the lack of story in the film, Befikre never gets boring. There is always something happening to rock the emotional boat, there is energy, there is song and dance, there are life changing decisions to be made and fights to be had. There are some improbable/cringeworthy situations (Dharm’s comedy routine sucks) but Shyra and Dharm make up for it by spewing out smart, snappy, humorous one-liners, and generally lifting up the mood of the film with their zest for life.

The film is shot in lovely Paris, so it’s got the Parisian sights (a lit up Eiffel, the Pont des Arts, Notre Dame) and the Aditya Chopra sheen all over it. Singh and Kapoor light up the screen, he with his antics, and she with her beauty. The music is light and boppy and has a considerable amount of French in it. You’d think this film would work, right? Well, it does and it doesn’t.

Firstly, there is little chemistry between the leads. They are pleasant to look at and listen to, but they don’t quite make you believe in the smoldering passion that supposedly lies beneath their vehement denials. Also the characters are shallowly sketched. We don’t get to know them. Vaani’s character seemed a lot more interesting, and deeper, than Ranveer’s, probably because she tried to play the part and he just overwhelmed the role with his personality – I never got a feel for who for who Dharm actually was. Also, Dharm and Shyra seem caddish – I felt bad for the other folks in their lives.

Director Chopra also manages to insert mummy-ka-pyaar, desi ghee and aloo ke parathe into Befikre, to its detriment. Also annoying was the general display of the parochial mindset – Shyra’s parents annoyed at Shyra because she isn’t as Indian as they’d like, etc. No, this film is not an earth-shaking leave-you-wanting-more film, but it is still a decent one-time watch, because really, its leads are just so gosh darn cute!

Kidwise: One-fourth of the film (I exaggerate of course, but still) features lip-locks, love-making scenes. Every 10 minutes or so (I exaggerate again, but still), Shyra rips off her top to reveal lacy lingerie. Ranveer appears in nothing more than his underwear, and in one scene not even that (I kid you not). I’ve read reviews which have called Befikre “cheap”, but it is not. Yes, there is more bare skin, kissing etc. in this film than “normal”, but it is done cleanly, with none of the leering, suggestive, demeaning innuendo found in other so-called “family-entertainers”.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, rating-PG13, romance | Comments Off on Movie Review : Befikre (2016)

Movie Preview : Anaarkali of Aarah (releases March 24th, 2017)

This preview is a little late, but I still feature it because am such a fan of the three main leads of this film: Swara Bhaskar (of Nil Battey Sannata fame), Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi.

Posted in 2012 | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Anaarkali of Aarah (releases March 24th, 2017)

Movie Review : Aligarh (2016)

 photo aligarh_zpsbxb32grq.jpgRating : 3.7/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 1 hour 54 minutes
Director : Hansal Mehta
Cast : Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkumar Rao, Sumit Gulati
Kid rating: PG-17

Aligarh leaves an impression. Days after watching it, I still remember Manoj Bajpayee’s anguish. The film is based on a real life incident, and about Professor Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras who taught Marathi at Aligarh Muslim University. Professor Siras was also gay, and was outed forcibly one night in a sting operation conducted by some journalists.

Once the “scandal” breaks, all hell lets loose. The protectors of “morality” demand Siras’s resignation. Siras faces hostility, and is let go by AMU. He is hounded wherever he goes. His case catches the attention of fledgling journalist Deepu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao), who helps Siras find redress.

Bajpayee is fabulous as Siras; a slightly abrasive introvert of a man, who likes a drink in the evening to the accompaniment of music, in the peace and solitude of his own home. He isn’t the picture of conviviality, but so be it. We feel for Siras when we see him humiliated, his life in tatters, harassed by the culture police and then by the state itself. Kudos to Bajpayee for his moving portrayal of Siras. Rajkummar Rao (whom I last saw in Shahid) too makes the film better just by being in it, so accomplished is he. I wish he was in every film I saw.

Siras is a single man, peaceably living his life. The film does not portray him as a person without flaws; he does have his own imperfections, biases and frailties just like the rest of us. Without overt dramatics, Aligarh beautifully brings to the fore the real problem: what happens when an individual lives his life as he sees fits, not harming anyone, but is still forcibly strung out for all to flay for his personal choices?

Kidwise: Probably not appropriate for younger kids. There is one scene between Siras and his lover, but it doesn’t get too explicit.

Posted in 2016, 2017, bollywood, drama, rating-PG17, real-life-based, social issues | Comments Off on Movie Review : Aligarh (2016)

Movie Preview : Jagga Jasoos (releases July 14th, 2017)

Anurag Basu brings us a tale of a search – a search for Jagga Jasoos’s missing father. Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is accompanied by the lovely Katrina. Seems quirky.

Posted in 2017, bollywood, directors, Previews | 1 Comment