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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.

Jabariya Jodi movie review: Sidharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra’s dialoguebaazi is the only saving grace in this film

After multiple delays, Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra starrer Jabariya Jodi is finally hitting the screens this Friday at the ticket windows. The romantic comedy venture, which was earlier titled Shotgun Shaadi has been in the news since 2018 and was earlier slated to release on May 17, but to avoid clash with other films, the makers finally chose August 9 as the final date and the cherry on top is that it’s a solo release for the film. Even the trailer with its quirk and mass appeal managed to garner the right buzz. But is the Sidharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra starrer worth the watch? Check out our review here!

What is it about:

Based on Pakadva Vivah that prevails in Bihar and some smaller town in India, Jabariya Jodi narrates the story of a thug (Abhay Singh) who kidnaps grooms in order to help them avoid paying out heavy dowries for their wedding. With the entry of the heroine, his whole ambition in life goes topsy-turvy.And not because he is madly in love but because inka focus “bistar se zyaada kursi pe hai”. What ensues though is a battle or hearts and the girl (Babli Yadav) turning the kidnapper.

What’s hot:

Sidharth steps into the role of Bihar ka goonda and pulls it off convincingly. Be it his flair in multi-coloured shirts and gamchas or the delivery with which he throws witty on-liners, Sid’s first rustic act deserves a pat. Even Parineeti does justice to her character with pitch-perfect diction and makes it seem effortless. SidNeeti’s chemistry is a treat to watch too. Slow claps are reserved for Aparshakti Khurana and Sanjay Mishra who light up the screen with their comic timing and punches.

What’s not:

The screenplay seems lazy and the editing, shoddy. Directed by Prashant Singh, the film wobbles at points and misses the plot more times than not. Especially the second half which beats around the bush for its entire duration without any plot device. The effort to soften the blow of social evils like dowry and forced marriage with comic intervention is note-worthy but debatable at best. And while Pari has caught hold of the accent, Sid’s is inconsistent. The film is also replete with one too many forgettable songs. Even the climax overstays its welcome with predictable sequences and dialogues.

Prabhas on his Hindi film debut with Saaho: ‘After Baahubali, I feel people like me in action movies

Prabhas became a nationwide sensation after the path-breaking success of the Baahubali saga — Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. While earlier this year, Prabhas made his debut on Koffee With Karan alongside his Baahubali co-star Rana Daggubati and director SS Rajamouli, he is now gearing up for his foray into Bollywood with his trilingual movie, Saaho.

Prabhas on his Hindi film debut with Saaho: After Baahubali, I feel people like me in action movies

In an interview with Mid-Day, the Telugu superstar said that he feels audience like him in action flicks and hopes people like his action-hero avatar in Saaho. “After Baahubali it’s an action thriller. I feel people like to see me in action movies, so after Baahubali, they may like it.”

Set to release in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil, Saaho also stars a bevy of Bollywood actors, starting from Shraddha Kapoor as the female lead; actors Jackie Shroff, Chunky Pandey, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Mandira Bedi will all play the antagonists. The action-thriller has secured a 15 August release in India.

It was previously reported that Saaho is going to be the second-most expensive film ever made in India, with a budget of Rs 250 Crore.

Shraddha Kapoor, who will be making her debut in Telugu films with the feature, is going to play an “important character” from whose perspective the film is going to be narrated, Prabhas said in a report by Gulf News.

 

Junglee box office collection: Vidyut Jammwal’s action-adventure film earns Rs 13.85 cr on opening weekend

Chuck Russell’s Hindi directorial debut, Junglee, picked up pace on the third day of its release. Starring Vidyut Jammwal in the lead, the film minted Rs 4.45 crore on Saturday (30 March) and Rs 6.05 crore on Sunday after opening with Rs 3.35 crore on Friday. The film’s opening weekend collection stands at Rs 13.85 crore.

Junglee box office collection: Vidyut Jammwals action-adventure film earns Rs 13.85 cr on opening weekend

Despite the buzz surrounding Junglee, the adventure-action flick has underperformed at the box office. Trade analysts opine that if the film continues its upward trend in the next few days, it will be able to recover its lost ground. The film has however performed well inthe mass circuits.

Junglee tells the unique tale of a friendship between a man and a herd of elephants. Jammwal, who made a breakthrough debut as an antagonist in the John Abraham-starrer 2011 action drama Force, plays Ashwath. His character confronts an international poacher’s racket at an elephant reserve. Jammwal was last seen in Ajay Devgn and Emraan Hashmi’s Baadshaho.

Junglee also stars Pooja Sawant, Asha Bhat, Akshay Oberoi and Atul Kulkarni. It has been produced by Vineet Jain and co-produced by Priti Shahani.

Kalank: Teaser of Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan’s period drama to be out 12 March; film will release on 17 April

Abhishek Varman directed multi-starrer Kalank, which was slated for release on 19 April, will now hit the theatres on 17 April. According to trade analysts, this will give the film a five day long extended opening weekend. The trailer of the epic drama will be out on 12 March.

Recently, the makers had unveiled first look stills of all the characters in the film. Kalank stars Varun Dhawan as Zafar, Alia Bhatt as Roop, Sonakshi Sinha as Satya Chaudhry, Aditya Roy Kapur as Dev Chaudhry, Sanjay Dutt as Balraj Chaudhry and Madhuri Dixit as Begum Bahaar.

Karan Johar had on 6 March released a teaser and had in an Instagam post, recollected recollected how the film was actually conceptualised by his father, Yash, 15 years ago. It was the last film he worked on before he passed away. The filmmaker had called the film a ‘story of turbulent relationships and eternal love.’ Kalank will be set in 1940s, around unrest and turmoil faced by India and Pakistan.

The film is being produced by Karan, Sajid Nadiadwala, Hiroo Yash Johar and Apoorva Mehta. It has been co-produced by Fox Star Studios.

Kangana Ranaut responds to Krish, Sonu Sood, Apurva Asrani: Maybe they can get back at me by making a film together

Kangana Ranaut has not been one to shy away from controversies ever. She has taken on the media and her naysayers head-on and has on most occasions, come out victorious.

In a recent video interaction with the media, when the actress was asked about the various allegations against her which have been levied by her fellow Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi co-director Krish, Simran co-writer Apurva Asrani and actors Sonu Sood and Mishti Chakravarty, Kangana replied by saying that targeting her will not solve anything and that they need to prove her wrong through their works.

Still from Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi trailer. YouTube screengrab

“It is of no use if all of them hurl criticism at me. I have also become popular through hard work in the industry and brought myself to a position where I can take a creative call to edit scenes and ensure a good film like Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. Instead of blaming me for their misfortunes, they should take inspiration from me and bring themselves up to the position of power.”

The actress also mentions how she intends to make a better directorial than Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi with her next venture behind the cameras.

Kangana addressed the issue of Krish’s name being second on the list of credits in the film. “Krish should direct another film, which stars Sonu Sood and is scripted by Apurva Asrani. At least that way they can ensure that they get back at me,” quips the actress before signing off.

Ankita Lokhande, who made her Hindi film debut with the film, also defends Ranaut when she states that most of Jhalkari Bai’s (Ankita’s character in the film) have been shot by Kangana. In an article in News18, Ankita reiterates that she is not speaking up in support of Kangana just because the film has done well, it is because she truly feels Kangana did not go wrong anywhere, and much like Lakshmibai’s protector, Ankita feels protective towards Kangana and the barrage of criticism that is being channeled towards Kangana.

Ankita’s remarks come at a time when Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi actress Mishti Chakraborty alleged that Kangna had unfairly edited out portions of other actors.

Manikarnika: Kangana Ranaut says naysayers will ‘shut their mouths’ after watching her upcoming film

Kangana Ranaut’s historical drama Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi will release in theatres on 25 January, 2019. At a party hosted by designer Neeta Lulla, the actress spoke about how critics of her upcoming film will “shut their mouths” after they watch it.

Still from Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi trailer. YouTube screengrab

Kangana, who stars and is also the co-director of the film along with Radha Krishna Jagarlamudi, told IANS, “I feel people who are not saying good things about me or my film will have to shut their mouths after watching the film and people who are saying good things, their mouths can’t be shut by anyone, this is what I feel.”

She shared that she had enjoyed taking up directorial duties and felt it was the result of team work. She said that initially, she found it difficult but later felt that she could do justice as both an actor and director.

Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi will focus on Rani Laxmibai’s fight against British colonisers for the rightful independence of her country and land. Jisshu Sengupta, Suresh Oberoi, Danny Denzongapa, Atul Kulkarni, Ankita Lokhande, Misti, Unnati Davera, Zeeshan Ayub, Rajeev Kacharo, Nihar Pandya, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Manish Wadhwa are part of the supporting cast.

2.0 director Shankar reveals Kamal Haasan was offered Akshay Kumar’s role as antagonist in Rajinikanth’s film

2.0, director Shankar’s magnum opus starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar, is set to hit theatres very soon. 2.0 has created headlines ever since the film went on the floors, especially as it’s being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever with a humongous budget of Rs 500 crore.

Poster for 2.0/Image from Twitter

Shankar’s wish to cast Hollywood action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of the main antagonist is familiar news. However, the director recently revealed that south star Kamal Haasan was also considered for the role now being played by Akshay Kumar, reports The Indian Express.

Recounting the deal with Arnold, Shankar said that it had been almost finalised adding that the Hollywood star was also pumped for the project but unfortunately, while drafting the contract, the makers were unable to reach a consensus on every detail. Post that, Shankar was keen on Haasan. “It was my desire to see Rajini sir and Kamal sir in the same movie. Jeyamohan (2.0 dialogue writer) and I met Kamal and discussed the role. But Kamal was more interested in doing Indian 2 and so we moved on,” said the director.

The report adds that though Rajinikanth and Kamal have had quite a number of films together, Hassan decided to not work with Rajini post 1979 film Ninaithale Inikkum so that he could get his own films.

The trailer is scheduled to be launched in an extravagant manner in Chennai on 3 November. 2.0 is due in cinemas on 29 November.

Zero trailer: Shah Rukh Khan takes a leap of faith for love in Aanand L Rai’s colourful film

The makers of Zero recently released the trailer of the much awaited film. The trailer was released on Shah Rukh Khan’s 53rd birthday.

Still from Zero trailer

The trailer depicts Anushka, who is wheelchair-bound, as Shah Rukh’s love interest. There are hilarious moments in the trailer, one being an altercation between Shah Rukh and his father, when Khan replies saying, “Guthka khaate rehte ho, sperm chhoti ho gayi hogi.”

Unfortunately, Anushka and his love story does not reach fruition and Khan moves on to Katrina, who is portrayed as a celebrity. Most of the Zero trailer revolves around the three main characters. Finally, the trailer takes us all by surprise with a sweeping shot of a rocket, with Khan’s voice over in the background, saying, “Kahaaniyon mein suna tha ke aashiq mohabbat mein chaand tak le aate hain, saale humne yeh baat seriously le liyi.” Zero may have Khan taking the leap of faith for his love.

Khan will reportedly not be the only one playing a special role in the film (he plays a vertically challenged man). Kaif will be playing an alcoholic in the film who struggles with her addiction, while Sharma plays a struggling scientist.

Director Aanand L Rai also shared a new poster of Zero featuring SRK on his birthday. The poster depicts Shah Rukh standing on what seems like a New York street amidst tall sky-scrapers with a garland of notes strung around his neck. Rai dedicated the poster to Khan’s dimples.

Recently, the first look posters of Zero were unveiled which saw Katrina and Anushka with SRK.

The teaser and title of the highly anticipated film was released on 1 January and it left the internet in a frenzy as Khan was seen as a “dwarf” for the first time by the audience. For SRK’s challenging look, the makers reportedly used advanced technology inspired from Hollywood films.

Manto, Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal, Tumbbad to be showcased at 2018 London Film Festival

London: The 62nd London Film Festival which opens on 10 October will show more than 200 films from 77 countries with more than a third of them from women filmmakers, including India’s Manto directed by Nandita Das.

Posters of Manto (left), Rajma Chawal (right), A still from Tumbbad

One of the world’s most prestigious film festivals will open with Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s thriller Widows.

Indian films are a growing feature at international film events and the London festival is no exception. Although Das’s biopic on the famous writer Manto, has already been premiered in India and elsewhere, the Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer is still a prominent entry.

Three other Indian films which are eagerly awaited at the festival are Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal, Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad and Dar Gai’s Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence.

In Rajma Chawal Rishi Kapoor gives a charming performance as a newly-widowed father who’s struggling to cope with the unfolding situation. Tumbbad is about the cursed family of a now deserted village while Dar Gai’s film is about a 65-year-old man who cannot take the noisy Mumbai city anymore.

Another Indian film being shown at the festival is Ivan Ayr’s debut Soni. The film is about a policewoman in Delhi which has already had its premiere in July at the Venice International Film Festival.

The 12-day London Film Festival will close on 21 October with the world premiere of Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie. This funny film starring Steve Coogan and John C, Reilly features a double act of Laurel and Hardy.

Some other prominent films at the 2018 festival are The Old Man and the Gun which features Robert Redford as an aging bank robber; Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma —a black and white film which is a tribute to the women of his boyhood.

Besides, Yorgos Lanthimos’s delirious period drama The Favourite, Mike Leigh’s historic epic Peterloo, the Cohen brothers’ dazzling new film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Luca Guadagnino’s art horror Suspiria.

Another film worth mentioning is Lords of Chaos by the Swedish director Jonas Akerlund. It is a darkly comic drama that tells the true story of how the rise of the Satanic musical subculture of Norwegian black metal in the 1980s, spun from an angst-inspired need to revolt into a fable of gross cult crimes.

The London Film Festival has featured some of the world’s best movie makers. The first film ever to be shown at the festival was Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957.

In that year alone, it showed Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria and Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd— all classics of world cinema.

India’s Satyajit Ray won the best film director award in 1959 at the London festival for his Apur Sansar. He was only the second director in the history of the festival to be awarded for his work.

In its early years, almost all films shown and awarded here were by international directors rather than British.