All posts by jimmy

Jai Mummy Di movie review: Pyaar Ka Punchnama’s team returns with a not regressive, not progressive, not anything film

If you are a fan of director Luv Ranjan’s brand of visceral misogyny in Pyaar Ka Punchnama 1 and 2 and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, and that is what you are hoping to get in Jai Mummy Di, then you will be disappointed. This new film, despite being co-produced by Ranjan, displays a surprising lack of animosity towards women.

If you saw the trailer of Jai Mummy Di, were intrigued by the hint of a long-buried lesbian romance and were hoping to see a film on this still taboo subject, then too you will be disappointed.

If the pace and sense of humour you spotted in the trailer left you expecting a couple of hours of light-hearted fun, again, disappointment awaits you.

That is the thing about director Navjot Gulati’s Jai Mummy Di. It is not regressive, not progressive, not anything.

Jai Mummy Di is the story of Pinky Bhalla (Poonam Dhillon) and Laali Khanna (Supriya Pathak Kapoor) who have been sworn enemies for decades. They are neighbours in a north Delhi locality and their mutual antagonism is so strong, that their children ⁠— Saanjh Bhalla (Sonnalli Seygall) and Puneet Khanna (Sunny Singh) ⁠— dare not reveal to the families that they have been in love since school. When the youngsters realise they cannot live without each other, they set out to find the root cause of the mothers’ hatred which, they are told, dates back to their college days. Back then, their common friend reveals, the two were so thick that they were even rumoured to be girlfriends.

The first half of Jai Mummy Di is certainly mildly funny, but the comedy and the film as a whole fizzle out as it gradually becomes clear that Gulati does not know where to take it. This was also the problem with that earlier film he wrote, 2017’s Running Shaadi starring Taapsee Pannu and Amit Sadh ⁠— there was the seed of a good idea there, but it got lost on a road to nowhere.

Once Jai Mummy Di starts going round and round in circles, it becomes limp and purposeless. Dialogues are left hanging, extra seconds hang loose and it begins to feel like an amateur stage production where the actors don’t understand poor timing.

Veterans Pathak Kapoor and Dhillon get to shout and grimace a lot, but for a film that is supposedly centred around their characters, Jai Mummy Di has precious little about them and gives them hardly any screen time in the second half. Sunny Singh and Sonnalli Seygall, both of whom are recognisable from Ranjan’s most famous films, look dapper and deliver competent even if not sparkling performances. Singh needs to work on his dialogue delivery though. In several places in the film I found myself straining my ears to figure out what he had just said because of his tendency to swallow words or shoot them out too fast.

Possibly because the Pyaar Ka Punchnamas gained notoriety for their misogyny, this screenplay tries to compensate with occasional moments of overt feminism. Saanjh demands to know why a woman must follow her husband wherever he goes after marriage, and Puneet does not disagree. When they hear of the possibility that their mothers were once romantically involved with each other, they respond with a complete lack of judgement. But these instances of pointed liberalism add up to nothing when actor Alok Nath surfaces intermittently in the narrative as a hanger on, and it appears that although the man has no particular role to play in this film, he has been placed there as an act of defiance against those who asked why he was cast in Ranjan’s last production De De Pyaar De despite the allegations of rape and harassment that were made against him during the Me Too movement in 2018, allegations he responded to with the most bizarre, apathetic non-denial.

His presence is a distracting irritant. What really kills this film though is the supposed big reveal in the end about Laali and Pinky’s intense enmity. It is so poorly conceived and so so ordinary, that you have to wonder why this plain film was ever made. Seriously, why?

What’s in a name? Love Aaj Kal borrows its title from the 2009 Imtiaz Ali film; Is it a sequel

The first look of an Imtiaz Ali film is always highly anticipated. In the case of his latest – Love Aaj Kal, more so because there has been a lot of online buzz over the past few weeks about what the film would be called.

The ‘original’ Love Aaj Kal had Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone essay the title roles, while this one has Kartik Aaryan and Sara Ali Khan. So why is everyone calling it a sequel? Maybe it is because our collective media dubbed it Love Aaj Kal 2 in the absence of an official title. For the longest time, I could not wrap my head around a sequel that did not feature the original actors —is a sequel not, after all, supposed to take a story forward? Unless this is one of those ‘saat janmon ka rishta’ thingamajigs, where Saif gets reborn with more hair. Well, who knows?

Now that the makers have settled on the same title as the 2009 film, one can confidently walk into a theatre knowing it is a reboot. Or is it? What if it is a reimagining? Or a remake?

Damn. All this Hollywood terminology is so confusing. Which is why we in Bollywood, use the word sequel to describe any and every film in a franchise. Take Dostana 2, for example. The upcoming film features Kartik Aaryan, Janhvi Kapoor, and Lakshya in the lead roles. Again, unless the characters played by John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, and Abhishek Bachchan had kids that have grown up to be 20-somethings in the last dozen years, it seems strange the studio would append a ‘2’ after the original title. But that is what they are calling it. Go figure.

This ambiguity creates an element of suspense Hollywood totally seems to have missed out on. I will be going to watch Dostana 2 knowing it has got something to do with the original, but will not know whether it is a case of new actors in a new story or new actors living in the same Miami apartment. Will they wear the same Manish Malhotra threads? And, more importantly, will they dance to a Tanishk Bagchi remix of ‘Desi Girl?’

As a true-blue believer in all things Bollywood though, I think, it is important to understand what I am dissing on the other side.

Hollywood reserves the word sequel for the continuation of a story. Studios add numbers like 2, 3, 4… to the original title in order to make it clear to people that what they are going to watch begins where they left off the last time. If you think about it, though, this shows an utter lack of imagination, and dumbs things down. Where is the fun in that?

Hollywood also loves a good prequel, where you dial back the story in time, and finish the new story where the old one begins. Sometimes, the prequels can have second and third parts, which are technically still prequels to the originals, but sequels to previously released prequels, as George Lucas (Star Wars) would tell you. And because they are spoilsports, they numbered the films with Episode numbers. A totally lost opportunity if you ask me. It would have been so much fun had they just announced every film saying it is a prequel/sequel, and let the audience figure which is which.

They also have spin-offs, which focus on aspects and characters that did not get much footage in the original story, but got uber-positive vibes from controlled audience tests conducted by their research teams. Take Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. When Harry Potter was done killing Voldemort, one would have thought that is the end of that cash cow. But Warner Bros and author JK Rowling were not ready to give up yet. They took a 12,000-word book, and announced a five-film series around it. See? Capitalism at work. However, they could have spiced things up a little bit more by calling it a sequel, and letting us imagine everything from Harry’s newfound interest in bestiality to the return of Voldemort as a dragon. No?

There are also remakes which essentially tell the same story, but with CGI. And then there are reimaginings, something Disney has built an empire around — take an old story, change one major thing, and you have got yourself a new Cinderella. So, what is a reboot then? This one is actually complicated. Here, the writers can either take an existing story and mess with the continuity, thereby creating a new status quo, or reconfigure the entire story. I am not sure I get it either, which is why I love Bollywood, and how it refuses to get caught up in semantics. Everything is a ‘sequel,’ deal with it. Even when none of the Housefull films have anything to do with each other.

Kartik Aaryan, who has earned himself the title of being the ‘king of sequels,’ is also in Bhool Bhullaiyaa 2, along with Kiara Advani. I am so excited about this particular sequel because it might actually be one in the classical sense. Manjulika might have moved on to terrorising millennials, and what could be better than that?

Jawaani Jaaneman makers unveil Alaya Furniturewallah’s first look from comedy, also starring Saif Ali Khan, Tabu

A week after releasing the first teaser from the film, the makers of Jawaani Jaaneman have unveiled the first look poster of Alaya Furniturewallah from the movie. Standing in front of a door with a pile of suitcases behind her and a backpack on her shoulders, Alaya is introduced as the “new star of the new decade.”

Alaya, who is Pooja Bedi’s daughter, will make her Bollywood debut with Jawaani Jaaneman, also starring Saif Ali Khan and Tabu.

jawani

Jawaani Jaaneman is helmed by Nitin Kakkar, who had previously directed Filmistaan and Mitron. It’s is touted as a fun, comic take on how a man confronts the harsh reality of his life. The film is produced by Jacky Bhagnani, Saif’s Black Knight Films and Jay Shewakramani’s Northern Lights Films.

The teaser, dropped on 27 December, 2019, saw Saif Ali Khan’s character partying at clubs, drinking himself silly, giving a clear picture of his irreverence right from when he is heard saying, “sher hu main sher. Jab tak akele rehta hai, woh raaj karta hai.” (I am a tiger. A tiger rules the roost till the time he is single.) It also saw him grooving to the revamped version of his iconic song ‘Ole Ole’ from the 1994 romantic drama Yeh Dillagi.

Producer Jay Shewakramani had earlier said the father-daughter bond between Saif and Alaya’s characters at the story’s core is both unique and relatable.

“A father-daughter relationship is universal. I don’t know about how different it is but the one depicted in Jawaani Jaaneman is definitely very unique, as well as new-age and contemporary,” the co-producer added.

Jawaani Jaaneman is set to hit theatres on 31 January.

Malang makers release character posters of Aditya Roy Kapur, Anil Kapoor, Disha Patani; trailer to release on 6 January

Malang-Poster

Aditya Roy Kapur and Disha Patani-starrer Malang is one of the most-anticipated films of 2020. Malang is a revenge drama, helmed by Aashiqui 2 director Mohit Suri, and produced by Bhushan Kumar, Luv Ranjan, Ankur, and Jay Shewakramani.

The makers released the first poster of Aditya Roy Kapur, Anil Kapoor, and Disha Patani’s character in the film. The actor also shared an image of it on social media. Sporting a pair of jeans, Kapur’s character is intense and screams into nothingness, almost as a sign of extreme anger. The poster is accompanied by a quote that says, “Unleash the madness,” which may well be a pointer to Kapur’s character arc in the film.

The backdrop of the film is mainly a thriller with a romantic angle that plays out between Aditya and Disha. The film also stars Kunal Kemmu in a pivotal role. A Mumbai Mirror report had previously stated Anil Kapoor’s character in the film will have shades of grey. In fact, a character poster of Kapoor was released a week ago on the seasoned actor’s birthday, where he sports rose-tinted glasses and a police officer’s uniform.

Malang marks the reunion of Aditya and Mohit after a period of six years, post Aashqiui 2. Meanwhile, Kunal comes on board Mohit’s film after having worked with him on Kalyug 14 years ago.

The film is slated to hit screens on 7 February. The trailer will be released on 6 January.

Mardaani 2 movie review: Rani Mukerji and a chilling antagonist are the lynchpins of a gripping thriller

When a woman is talented and successful, then society expects that in exchange for being allowed to go so far, she must be willing to conduct herself with humility and an unassuming demeanour,” Shivani Shivaji Roy’s boss tells her one day.

Ms Roy’s boss is not being a jerk. He is, in fact, an ally putting into words what most smart, professionally successful women face every day. This harsh reality lies at the core of writer-director Gopi Puthran’s gritty, gripping thriller Mardaani 2, a sequel to the 2014 box-office hit Mardaani. As in the first film, here too Rani Mukerji plays Shivani, a brilliant, no-nonsense policewoman who ruffles feathers with her disinterest in social niceties and indifference to the male ego.

Shivani has been assigned to Kota in Rajasthan when a local criminal hires a very young hitman called Sunny to do some work for a politician in the city. Sunny sees red when women wound his pride, and nothing wounds him more than a public takedown – either of him or of another man in his presence – by a woman. When he witnesses a girl admonishing her boyfriend for a perceived wrong one day, he rapes, tortures and murders her as punishment. This sets Shivani off on his trail. When he sees her, a female member of the police force, mocking him at a press conference, he becomes obsessed with showing her her place. Thus begins a game of thrust and parry between this murderous maniac and a sharp, tough-as-nails policewoman.

It is rare for a Hindi film to create a portrait of no-holds-barred evil without caricaturing the villain in question, at the very least giving him a weird quirk, a catchphrase or even a disability. Case in point: Riteish Deshmukh’s character in last month’s Marjaavaan. Mardaani 2 has no time for such immaturity. Sunny is cruel, his ego is fragile around women and when we discover his background, we get a clearly well-researched insight into the deep-rootedness of patriarchy in our society and the anatomy of violence.

Sunny is a frightening and extreme manifestation of the resentment that confident women face at every turn, not just in public places but also in their offices, social circles and homes, sometimes behind a mask of sophistication. In fact, when he occasionally directly addresses the audience, the device — forgotten too soon in the film — serves as an unnerving reminder of our proximity to the brutes in our midst.

As uncommon as its depiction of villainy is Mardaani 2’s portrayal of an independent woman (barring the irritating, problematic title – for more on that please click here for my review of the first Mardaani). In the past decade, as it has moved away from the cliché of the heroine as a coy, ideally home-bound virgin, Bollywood has come up with another stereotype: Hindi film writers and directors have tended to reductively equate female independence with smoking, drinking, a vocabulary packed with abuse and even obnoxiousness towards those around them, often making these the woman’s defining characteristics. Look no further than Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan in 2018 starring Taapsee Pannu. Shivani in Mardaani may or may not have habits that her doctor would object to, Gopi Puthran simply does not feel the need to point to them, and her vocabulary, while certainly not antiseptic, is not her identifying feature. What defines her is her brilliance, bravery and dedication to the job.

Although we are not left in any doubt about who is the boss in Mardaani 2, DoP Jishnu Bhatacharya does not giganticise Mukerji’s Shivani as is the norm with male superstars in action dramas. This is obviously in keeping with the director’s vision for the film. So is the sensitivity with which Bhatacharya shoots Sunny’s victims. His camera is an observer and reporter, not a voyeur, and the women are treated with utmost dignity.

Puthran – who earlier wrote Mardaani, which was directed by Pradeep Sarkar – lets Shivani and Sunny completely dominate Mardaani 2, but their characters are so detailed, the tension between them so palpable and the action so unrelenting that the plot feels never less than packed. The background is also dotted with enough characters giving us a glimpse into their respective worlds, from the hardened criminal who draws the line at the sexual abuse of random women to a supportive husband happy to be his wife’s anchor, a subordinate driven by his social conditioning and others who rise above theirs.

The use of a solitary statistic on juvenile rapists at the start of Mardaani 2 is misleading and troubling though, and the text on screen in the end is shoddily written. Another of Mardaani 2’s few faltering moments comes in a TV interview Shivani gives. While the anchor’s conservatism mirrors many real-life journalists, his silence in response to her defiance is unconvincing. Bullies do tend to be cowards, but it is just as true that when they find themselves overshadowed in a debate, chauvinists tend to camouflage a lack of substance with decibels or personal remarks, not acquiescence. For the record, like the female producer listening to their conversation, I too teared up at Shivani’s answer about the stress and scrutiny, humiliation and hurt that every woman experiences.

Aided by Monisha Baldawa’s concise editing, the tension does not let up for even a second in Mardaani 2’s economical one hour 45 minutes running time. John Stewart Eduri’s background score is perfectly compatible with the storyline and Puthran puts it to excellent use, not once raising the volume or thrusting it into crucial silences, unlike the makers of most Hindi thrillers. Sound designers Ganesh Gangadharan and Nihar Ranjan Samal too seem intent on not sensationalising the unfolding crimes.

A heroine and a bad guy unusual for Hindi cinema, cracking suspense, understated messaging that is woven into the characterisation, top-notch performances by Mukerji and Vishal Jethwa who plays Sunny, and Puthran’s no-frills storytelling style all add up to making Mardaani 2 a hugely entertaining, highly intelligent, polished thriller. In terms of cinematic quality, 2019 has been one of the worst years for Bollywood in a very long time. Mardaani 2 is a timely reminder of how good this industry can be when it chooses not to be weighed down by prejudice, market-driven compulsions and lazy formulae.

 

Dabangg 3 movie review: Salman Khan’s Chulbul Pandey is no longer charming or funny – R.I.P. please, Robinhood

Early in Dabangg 3, Salman Khan’s character is chatting with his subordinates when he makes what may seem like a throwaway remark, “…hum class aur mass, dono ke liye kaam karte hai” (I work for the classes and the masses). Since “class” and “mass” are words used by the Hindi film industry to informally categorise sections of the audience, this is obviously more than just a casual comment – it is an allusion to Khan’s success across social strata since he turned out the blockbuster Wanted in 2009.

The effort to retain his cross-sectional appeal is evident throughout this dated, dull and clichéd film, which is what makes it such a mish-mash of conservatism and liberalism, almost amusing in its confusion.

Dabangg 3 marks Khan’s third screen outing as Chulbul Pandey, the comic-serious policeman who has no qualms about circumventing the law to serve the common people. In keeping I suppose with Hollywood’s trend of serving us origin stories of superheroes, this Bollywood venture is about how a useless, purposeless fellow called Chulbul became the chap we now know him to be: a destroyer of evil who is ever ready with a self-deprecating joke or gesture. By Film 3, he is the ASP of Tundla, still married to Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), a father, and up against a human trafficking don called Bali Singh played by Kannada star Kichcha Sudeep (his name is spelt as Sudeepa here).

The writers’ please-all aim in Dabangg 3 leads to many scenes of unwitting irony. Such as when Chulbul speaks of respect for women and gets furious at men who refer to women as “maal” just moments after he is shown dancing to the song ‘Jumme ki raat’ from the 2014 hit Kick in which Khan’s own character had picked up Jacqueline Fernandez’s skirt with his teeth without her knowledge and followed her while dancing. Then there is Chulbul taking a purportedly feminist stand on dowry and women’s education even as he describes himself as the “rakhwaala” (keeper) of a woman he intends to marry. The self-consciousness and duality of his liberalism become exhausting to watch after a while.

Equally exhausting are the rusty dialogues filled with rhymes, many failed shots at clever wordplay, some scenes of double entendre and others of downright crudeness.

Sample: Chulbul saying, “Hum unhi ko tthokte hai jo zaroorat se zyaada bhokte hai” (I only bump off those who bark too much).

Sample: Rajjo telling her husband, “hamare petticoat mein chhed mat karna” (please do not pierce a hole in my petticoat) when he snatches it away from someone who was fitting a drawstring in it, at which point hubby eyes her suggestively.

Sample: a random character who randomly enters a toilet where Chulbul’s brother is doing potty, at which point we are subjected to gurgling potty sounds.

Sample: Chulbul impaling his butt on a nail.

Sample: a bad guy’s crotch falling on a dagger.

Sample: Chulbul dropping his pants by mistake when he takes off his belt to whip someone.

Sample: Chulbul shooting a junior who asks how he can get a promotion.

All these scenes are designed to elicit laughs.

And then there are lines like this that are no doubt meant to sound smart but do not: Chulbul saying, “Ek hota hai policewala aur ek hota hai goonda, hum kehlate hai policewala goonda” (there are policemen and there are hooligans, and then there are those like me who are police and hooligan combined).

The story is not even worth recounting. It feels like a bunch of disparate ingredients hurriedly thrown together in a cooking pot. So does the music by Sajid-Wajid who have in the past created so many memorable tunes for Salman Khan starrers. Here they first recycle the Dabangg title track, then deliver two numbers that sound like first cousins of ‘Tere mast mast do nain’ from Dabangg, one terribly boring song in which Chulbul romances Rajjo and – c’mooon, they’re not even trying – ‘Munna badnaam hua.’

The SFX are bad. Even the choreography has nothing new to offer, which is odd since the ace choreographer-cum-dancer Prabhudeva has directed this film.

As far as acting goes, Khan’s charm wears thin as he tries hard to resurrect that unusual blend of gravitas and humour that worked so well in Dabangg in 2010. Here he comes across as almost embarrassingly juvenile.

Sinha has little to do but pout and look pretty. Her Rajjo is also throw up in their air by a massive explosion that somehow leaves her makeup completely unscathed. Why is this talented women wasting herself so?

An unimpressive newcomer called Saiee Manjrekar gets a large supporting role to which she lends nothing but her smooth complexion and lovely figure. The rest of the cast hams shamelessly.

Anyone who has seen Sudeep in his Kannada films knows that he has the charisma to match Salman, but he does not stand a chance here in Dabangg 3 in the face of a sketchily written character which does little but showcase his towering physique.

There is so much tomfoolery and immaturity in this film that the climactic fight sequence comes as a shock. It is so grossly violent and in-your-face that I could barely bring myself to look at the screen. And of course because it is a masala film by a commercially focused director with a major male star as the lead, it has been given a UA rating instead of the strict a it deserves.

And no guys, it is no longer entertaining when two male actors with fabulous bodies take off their shirts for no reason to engage in fisticuffs. This was a fun device when it was first introduced, especially because for decades before that, male stars had been completely careless about their bodies and it was assumed by both the industry and audiences that only women can and should be objectified. Now though, it is a boring formula. Gentlemen, we love the fact that you work out, so get your scriptwriters to find a more imaginative way now to let you display your sexy torsos, please?

Somewhere in the middle of Dabangg 3, Rajjo tells Chulbul that she will never again force him to take a ’70s-’80s style kasam (oath). Never mind the context. I do wish Bollywood would take a kasam here and now to lay Chulbul Pandey a.k.a. Robinhood Pandey to rest.

Bhangra Paa Le, Sunny Kaushal’s dance drama, produced by Ronnie Screwvala, to now release on 3 January, 2020

Bhangra Paa Le, starring Sunny Kaushal and Rukhsar Dhillon in the lead, has received a fresh release day. Earlier slated for 1 November, the dance drama will now hit the screens on 3 January, clashing with Sab Kushal Mangal at the box office. The comedy film stars Riva Kishan, daughter of Bhojpuri star Ravi Kishan, and Priyaank Sharma, the son of actor Padmini Kolhapure. Himesh Reshammiya’s musical drama Happy Hardy and Heer, which was also supposed to release on 3 January, was recently postponed to 31 January, owing to the singer-composer-actor’s commitment to singing reality show Indian Idol.

Bhangra Paa Le will mark the directorial debut of Sneha Taurani, the daughter of music baron Ramesh Taurani. The film also stars Shriya Pilgaonkar in a pivotal role. Ramesh Taurani, along with Ronnie Screwvala’s banner RSVP Films, is bankrolling the project.

RSVP shared a quirky video on Instagram to share the new release date of the film. In the video, lead actors Sunny and Rukhsar, are arrested for dancing outside Shah Rukh Khan’s house Mannat and Salman Khan’s house Galaxy Apartments to the song ‘Bhangra Paa Le.’ The original version of the hit song was part of Shah Rukh and Salman’s 1995 movie Karan Arjun. The song has not only inspired the title of the new movie, but also a remake. Speaking about the recreated number, Sneha said that it was “adapted to the film’s world completely.”

“Two things led us to recreate this track. Since our film revolves around Bhangra, the song lends itself to the dance form. Secondly, our title itself is a good fit with the song,” she added, as per Mirror.

Bhangra Paa Le will chart the college rivalry between the protagonists Jaggi (Sunny) and Simi (Rukshar)

 

Varun Dhawan’s Street Dancer 3D trailer to be attached with Dabangg 3; clip’s digital release on 18 December

The trailer of Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor’s upcoming film Street Dancer 3D will have its digital release on 18 December. It will also be showcased across cinemas, prior to the screening of Dabangg 3 on 20 December.

Previously, the Street Dancer’s trailer was scheduled to be out on 12 December, which is also producer Bhushan Kumar’s birthday.

Confirming the delay, director Remo D’Souza told Bollywood Hungama, “There’s lots of VFX and 3D stuff is happening and right now we are all working on that. I am keen to show the trailer to everybody and have been working round the clock to get it complete by then. It will be a proper two-three minute trailer. You can expect some amazing, never-seen-before dances in it – and something very special which I cannot reveal right now (sic).”

The report further adds that Kumar and D’Souza are reportedly keen to have Salman Khan at the trailer launch.

The makers have previously called Street Dancer 3D “India’s biggest dance film”. D’Souza had also said that it is unrelated to the ABCD franchise. Dhawan and Kapoor will once again share screen space after 2015’s ABCD 2.

Mumbai Mirror had reported that Kapoor trained in five different dance forms – Afro, Krump, Locking and Popping, Animation Tutting and Urban. She joined the cast after Katrina Kaif opted out because of a scheduling conflict.

Shakti Mohan, Nora Fatehi, Prabhu Deva, Sonam Bajwa and Aparshakti Khurana also star in vital roles. Mohan will make her Bollywood debut with this feature. The first schedule took place in Amritsar after which, the cast and crew shot in London.

Street Dancer 3D releases on 24 January, 2020.

 

Commando 3 movie review: Vidyut Jammwal flexes his muscles while talking down to India’s Muslims

A study of Bollywood’s Commando series could be the basis for a PhD in opportunism. Commando: A One Man Army, released in 2013, was about a loyal Armyman being abandoned by the Indian government when he is caught in enemy territory. Off screen, India got a new government in 2014 and with it arrived the Hindi film industry’s open subservience to the establishment. So Commando 2: The Black Money Trail in 2017 batted for demonetisation. And now, as Islamophobia rages across India, here comes Commando 3 with its cringe-worthy condescension towards India’s Muslims.

The third instalment of Commando, this one too starring Vidyut Jammwal, is directed by Aditya Datt whose best-known feature so far is the Emraan Hashmi-Tanushree Dutta-starrer Aashiq Banaya Aapne. Jammwal’s Karan Singh Dogra this time is on a mission to track down a London-based terrorist running a conversion racket in India that draws innocent Hindu boys to the Islamic fold and brainwashes them into committing violence for Allah along with other Muslims. Buraq Ansari (Gulshan Devaiah) is as evil as a human can be. We first see him heavily veiled. His face is revealed in a scene in which he forces his little son to watch as he brutally murders a man.

Working alongside Karan is his sidekick Bhavna Reddy played, as she was earlier, by Adah Sharma. The mix this time is sought to be revved up by the addition of the British Intelligence agent Mallika Sood (Angira Dhar) who is based on the same prototype that has yielded the Bond franchise’s ‘Bond girl’.

The women in Commando 3 are occasionally given space to display their fighting skills and in that limited time Sharma and Dhar show us how immensely capable they are, but make no mistake about this: the primary purpose of their existence in this screenplay is to compete for Karan’s attention so that while he goes about the serious business of saving the country, we never forget that he leaves la femmes weak at the knees.

The subordination of women to the hero in Commando 3 is nothing compared to the film’s messaging about Muslims. The problem is not with the depiction of a terror network operating in the name of Islam — that such organisations exist must of course be acknowledged; the problem lies with the manner in which this film seeks to hold all Indian Muslims accountable for Buraq Ansari’s actions in a way that the public discourse has never held India’s entire majority community accountable for the wrongdoings of individual members.

Commando 3 is strategic while building its case. It is careful to prepare alibis for itself even as it lectures India’s Muslims about their duty towards the nation at large and their Hindu brethren in particular.

For instance, mention is made of beef-related lynchings and other genuine grievances of the Muslim community, which can be held up to anyone who accuses the film of being one-sided. Here’s the catch though: if majoritarian fundamentalists object to the acknowledgement of these crimes by their group, the defence is no doubt a scene right at the start where a Muslim terrorist was shown instigating his flunkeys to kill a calf to stir up trouble. The insinuation is that even the lynchings of Muslims have been the fault of Muslims.

While the principal evil Muslim in Commando 3 spends his time plotting against Hindus, the good Hindu hero waits for a Muslim terrorist to finish his namaz before capturing him. Oh look ye, respect!

(Minor spoilers in the next two sentences) The sermonising directed at Muslims peaks in a video appeal Karan publishes, aimed at inspiring the Muslim masses to thwart Buraq’s plan to attack the Hindu masses. The video and the subsequent scenes of Muslims rising up in response are dripping with a patronising attitude. (Spoiler alert ends) They are also amateurishly written and in your face, epitomised by that shot before the credits roll of a Hindu man and a Muslim man standing shoulder to shoulder right after they together fire a flaming arrow at an effigy of Ravan.

Those who wish to understand the difference between the mischief-mongering by Commando 3 and a factual portrayal of Islamic terrorism would be well advised to watch Anubhav Sinha’s Hindi film Mulk (2018) .

Commando 3’s minuses don’t end with its troubling politics. The Indian agents in London come up trumps despite being dumb, lax, over-confident and foolhardy, because these qualities are what the writing team perceives as bravery. (Some people may deem the next sentence a spoiler) For instance, both Bhavna and Karan, despite being undercover agents, blow their own cover early in the narrative to draw the snake out of his hole: she tweets about Karan from her actual ID and he releases a video to the media revealing his identity, both of which are somehow meant to be clever moves. (Spoiler alert ends)

Jammwal, Sharma and Dhar do what is required of them well enough: she and she scrap over him, all three beat up people, they glare, they stare. I experienced a little heartache though at the sight of a fine actor like Gulshan Devaiah reduced to over-acting as Buraq Ansari.

Commando 3 is technically glossy and the fight choreography is slick. The writing though is contrived. The film is filled with lines like this one tossed at Buraq by Karan, “Pehle purdon mein chhupa karta thha, ab mardon mein?” (Earlier you hid behind a veil, now you hide behind men?) as the latter walks towards him surrounded by armed guards, but the dialoguebaazi is tiresome and soulless. Even if this were not the case, it is appalling that the populist stereotypes in the script target an already vulnerable people.

It becomes evident in the end though that none of this comes from a place of conviction. So unsure of itself is Commando 3, that after all its bloodshed and bhashans the end credits run alongside not one but two formulaic song and dance routines.

First comes this kiddish Hinglish number lip-synced by Karan:

Tere peechhe main
Mere aage tu run-run
Kabhi aage tu
Kabhi peechhe main fun-fun
Dekhega jalwa ab toh tu
With my gun-gun
Ek hi toh bachke niklega
Yeh toh done-done.

As if that is not ludicrous enough, there follows Karan dancing with the two women in skimpy, sexy attire, ending on an image of him in silhouette with a Ravan in the background.

Commando 3: Ahead of film’s release, makers unveil Vidyut Jammwal’s introductory scene

Ahead of its theatrical release, the makers of Commando 3 have released an introductory video of film’s lead Vidyut Jammwal. The five-minute footage features Jammwal as a vigilante hero rescuing schoolgirls from a bunch of eve-teasers. The scene gives a glimpse of an action-packed treat that lies ahead for the viewers.

Commando 3 producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah says it’s a bold step and a big gamble to reveal the introductory scene. “Innovation is the key to reach out today to the audience, we have decided to take a bold step to put out a 5 minute clip of the film as it is. It is a gamble but it’s our belief that after watching this clip audience will be compelled to see the film. Fingers crossed,” Shah said in a statement.

The Commando series was introduced in 2011 with Commando: A One Man Army. The second part, Commando 2: The Black Money Trail, came out in 2017.

Helmed by Aditya Datt, Commando 3 also stars Adah Sharma, Angira Dhar and Gulshan Devaiah in pivotal roles.

The trailer of high-octane action drama revealed Devaiah as the antagonist of the upcoming action entertainer. Jammwal’s Karan Singh is tasked to team up with Mallika Sood (Dhar) from British Intelligence and Indian agent Bhawana Reddy (Sharama) to save the nation, and knock down Devaiah’s evil plans. The footage reveals Jammwal using his exceptional martial arts skills to beat up villains double his size, indulge in high-speed car chases, and spew out huge dose of patriot dialogues.

Commando 3 is presented by Reliance Entertainment and Motion Picture Capital, in association with Sun Shine Pictures and Vipul Amrutlal Shah Production.