Category Archives: Views on News

Akshay Kumar donates Rs 25 crore to PM Narendra Modi’s CARES fund to fight coronavirus war

Akshay Kumar announced that he will contribute a sum of Rs 25 crore to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recently-announced CARES fund to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The 21-day nationwide lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, has brought the country to a standstill. Ever since the number of positive coronavirus cases increased, many Bollywood film personalities have been constantly appealing to their fans to follow the rules put out by the government.

On March 28, PM Modi announced the CARES fund requesting for donations to fight the coronavirus war. Akshay Kumar, who has been vocal about Covid-19, is one of the first actors to pitch in and donate a sum of Rs 25 crore to the PM-CARES fund.

He announced the same on his Twitter page and wrote, “This is that time when all that matters is the lives of our people. And we need to do anything and everything it takes. I pledge to contribute Rs 25 crores from my savings to @narendramodi ji’s PM-CARES Fund. Let’s save lives, Jaan hai toh jahaan hai.

Nearly 1000 people in India have contracted the novel coronavirus, while 21 people have lost their lives. Announcing the CARES fund, PM Modi said that the fund will help the people of India during such distressing times in future.

He further added that the PM-CARES fund will accept micro-donations. “Let us leave no stone unturned to make India healthier and more prosperous for our future generations,” PM Modi said.

Akshay Kumar has been quite active on Twitter requesting people to stay indoors and practise social-distancing to curb the further spread of Covid-19. A few days ago, he also put out a video on his Instagram profile, in which he blasted the violators who failed to adhere to the rules of the lockdown.

Jawaani Jaaneman box office collection: Saif Ali Khan’s comedy makes Rs 16.80 cr in five days

Saif Ali Khan’s comedy of errors Jawaani Jaaneman has made a total of Rs 16.80 crore at the Indian box office in five days. The film garnered Rs 1.94 crore on Tuesday. As per reports from trade analysts, the slice-of-life flick has performed well in national multiplexes in the northern sections of India.

Jawaani Jaaneman is faring well as compared to Saif Ali Khan’s past solo releases Chef, Kaalakaandi, Bazaar, and Laal Kaptaan. Saif’s other film, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, featuring Ajay Devgn in the lead, has been having a dream run at the ticketing counters ever since its release in January. The period drama, also featuring Kajol, has made a total of Rs 255.77 crore in its fourth week.

Charting the story of an estranged father-daughter duo who come together after she hunts him down, Jawaani Jaaneman is directed by Nitin Kakkar. The narrative follows a middle-aged man Jasswinder ‘Jazz’ Kapoor (Khan), who has not come to terms with his age and shirks at the mention of responsibility. His life takes a dramatic turn when Alaya F’s character Tia finds him in an alley, and tells him there is a possibility he is her father. Tabu, Kumud Mishra, Kubra Sait, and Farida Jalal are also part of the cast.

 

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?

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.

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)

 

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.

Marjaavaan box office collection: Sidharth Malhotra-led action drama earns Rs 24.42 cr over opening weekend

Sidharth Malhotra’s new release Marjaavaan has been well-received at the domestic box office. Within three days of its release, the action drama, which marks Tara Sutaria’s second outing, raked in Rs 24.42 crore. Marjaavaan opened to Rs Rs 7.03 crore on Friday, earned Rs 7.21 crore on Saturday and witnessed a jump on Sunday (17 November) with Rs 10.18 crore.

Marjaavaan has received mixed reviews from critics. In her review for Firstpost, Anna Vetticad wrote, “Marjaavaan is so hackneyed that even the usually restrained Malhotra is driven to intermittent over-acting during its two-hours-plus running time. Deshmukh hams his way through playing Vishnu. Ms Sutaria is bland.”

Malhotra, whose last release was Jabariya Jodi with Parineeti Chopra, plays a local thug Raghu in the film to Riteish Deshmukh’s Vishnu, a local mafia don. The film reunites the two actors onscreen after 2014’s Ek Villain, directed by Mohit Suri.

In an interview with Firstpost, Sutaria called her role in Marjaavaan “challenging.” She said, “There is lot of crying and emoting, and especially since my character is mute, I had to express a lot with my hands and sign language. There is more scope to perform differently in Marjaavaan, whereas Student of the Year 2 was lot more fun. I suppose this one was far more challenging,.”

Marjaavaan is produced by Bhushan Kumar, Divya Khosla Kumar, Krishan Kumar (T-Series) and Monisha Advani, Madhu Bhojwani and Nikkhil Advani (Emmay Entertainment).

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Bala box office collection: Ayushmann Khurrana’s social comedy inches towards Rs100 cr mark

Ayushmann Khurrana, who had a successful year so far, might deliver yet another Rs. 100-crore club blockbuster with Bala. Trade analysts note that Amar Kaushik’s Bala is set to become Khurrana’s third film to enter Rs.100 crore club. In its first week, the film had paced fast to reach the Rs.50 crore mark.

During its Week 3 run, Bala raked Rs. 3.76 crore on Friday, Rs. 6.73 crore on Saturday and Rs.8.01 crore was added in the earnings. Along with Bala’s first week collection, which tallies at Rs. 69.25 crore, the film’s grand total currently stands at Rs.90.74 crore.

Bala has become Ayushmann Khurrana’s third film, after Badhaai Ho and Dream Girl, to cross the Rs 40 crore mark in opening weekend earnings. While the film serves as Khurrana and Yami Gautam’s third film to enter the coveted Rs.100 crore club, it will be second 100 crore grosser for Bhumi Pednekar.

While Khurrana battles premature balding, Pednekar plays a dusky complexioned girl combating prejudice coming her way. Gautam is seen as a local Tik-Tok celebrity, whom Khurrana’s character courts and eventually marries. Saurabh Shukla, Jaaved Jaaferi, Seema Pahwa, and Abhishek Banerjee too are part of the film.

In a recent interview with Press Trust of India, Khurrana called Bala the “most precious” films he has been a part of so far. “I’m humbled with the response and delighted that I have again backed a film that has its heart at the right place,” he added.

Bala movie review: Ayushmann-Bhumi crackle and pop while slamming bias…till the film reveals its own prejudice

One of the pleasures of watching Bala comes from its use of language. The characters in this film speak Kanpuriya Hindi which is a delight in and of itself. Better still, they hardly ever substitute words in their mother tongue with English equivalents. On the rare occasions when they do opt for a spot of English, they are hilarious without the narrative taking a condescending tone towards them or getting clichéd. And the dialogues are replete with usages you are unlikely to hear on the streets of Delhi or Mumbai.

So “hasthmaithun” is “hasthmaithun” for the hero, not “masturbation”. His younger brother speaks of his family’s “loloop nazar” on him. And a man is threatened with a “kantaap“, not a slap.

While the going is good in Bala, it is very good. The first half is rip-roaringly funny, simultaneously poignant and insightful as it takes us through the protagonist Bala aka Balmukund Shukla’s journey from a luscious head of hair in his teens to premature baldness in his 20s, from vanity and arrogance to a soul-crushing complex. Director Amar Kaushik, whose calling card for now is the stupendous horror comedy stree, never lets the pace flag pre-interval. Writer Niren Bhatt is clearly determined to make a point about a bald man’s sense of self-worth, stays true to this message and is intelligent while doing so here.

In the second half though, the humour and the intellect dip. For a start, the writing takes the easy way out in a crucial, pivotal situation. (Caution: Some people might consider the rest of this paragraph a spoiler) A woman Bala loves and who loves him back is condemned for rejecting him on discovering his baldness – condemned not merely by characters in the story, but by the film itself – by establishing her as a superficial creature for whom looks matter more than anything else and getting her to dump him solely and entirely because his appearance no longer appeals to her, never allowing her to believe what would have been a reason that might possibly have earned her some audience sympathy: that it is in fact his deception that killed their relationship, not his lack of hair. By getting Bala instead to acknowledge his lies and self-flagellate, the film uses even this opportunity to increase his likeability. This is silly, because it is a sort of ultimatum: once he apologises for lying, she had better forgive him, or else we will quietly slot her as a youknowwhat. It is all cleverly done, all the while ensuring that the judgement is subtle and the tone of the narrative never gets openly vicious towards her. From a film that until then and thereafter is honest about its hero’s character flaws and does not let him off lightly, this is disappointing. (Spoiler alert ends)

The message being driven home by Bala from the start is that we must stop caring about what others think of our looks – that once we begin valuing ourselves, the world will too. Towards this end, it has a dark-skinned heroine called Latika Trivedi who has all her life been derided for her complexion. Getting Bala to be one of those who taunted her in her childhood, and making him a fairness cream salesman in his adulthood even while he battles a bias against early onset baldness, are both nice touches. However, this aspect of the messaging fails because the film reveals its own prejudice against dark skin from the word go.

No one on Team Bala seems to have detected the irony in casting a light-skinned actor as Latika and painting her face black, rather than casting a black woman to play a black woman.

In a film industry that favours goraapan especially for female stars despite marginal evolution on this front in recent decades, Bala‘s unwillingness to seek out a dark-complexioned actor for this role underlines the attitude that a woman whose skin does not match a certain shade is not worthy of being a lead. It appears that Bhatt and his colleagues did not notice either that throughout the film, they treat it as a given that a dark complexion is indeed less and cannot possibly be pretty, and equate it with the side effect of a disease (namely Bala’s alopecia which is a direct result of his diabetes).

The screenplay well and truly bares its prejudice though in Latika’s own reaction to the mythological tale of the hunchbacked woman Kubja who Lord Krishna is said to have miraculously turned into a beauty. Stage enactments of the story in Kanpur are twice shown, both times a dark-skinned woman is cast as Kubja, and Latika – a bright lawyer who had earlier been vocal about her comfort with her skin colour – says after a viewing: “Why did Lord Krishna have to make her sundar? It is possible that someone would have liked her just the way she is.”

“Someone”? Umm, but wasn’t the whole point that we must accept ourselves and not measure our worth by the acceptance of others? Note too that she does not question the casting of a dark-skinned actor as Kubja and the intrinsic assumption that her colour is equal to a lack of soundarya. This is not to say that Latika must be perfect, but that the questioning, unbiased person she has been shown to be until then does not gel with the attitude she displays

This inconsistent characterisation and the team’s lack of awareness of their own prejudice robs Bala of much of its value. Tragic, because when it is dealing with the hero’s baldness it is smart and sharp, the crackling dialogues are rich with cultural references, even the songs and choreography add to the comicality (watch ‘Tequila’, please, and those TikTok videos are out-and-out killers), the comedy involving Bala never crosses the line into insensitivity and the cast is absolutely A-grade.

Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar live up to expectations by delivering fine performances, and Yami Gautam as the somewhat frivolous professional model Pari Mishra displays a talent for comedy here that will hopefully be explored in future films. The trio are backed by a fabulous ensemble of supporting actors, each jostling with the other in the run-up to a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Every single one of them, including the lesser-known faces (Dheerendra Gautam playing Bala’s younger brother, Sumit Arora as his boss) is given space to shine and they chew up the screen in those moments.

If this film had no Latika (or she was better written and appropriately cast) and the humour of the opening half had been maintained in the second, it would have been near perfect. There is a Latika though and the humour does dip, making Bala a 50-50.