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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.

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.

Batla House movie review: John Abraham delivers another trade-tested cop actioner

John Abraham is back at what he does best! The action hero who has proved his mettle in amazing performances in Dishoom, Force franchise and Satyameva Jayate, will also be seen as a cop in Batla House in an action packed performance. To fill you in, he essays the character of ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav in the film who is at the crux of a supposed cover-up. But is the film worth a watch? Read our entire review here.

What’s it about
Batla House is a film based on true events. The film is inspired by the controversial case of Batla House firings that took place in 2008 in Jamia Nagar, Delhi. It was one of the most intriguing cases as it raised many brows on Delhi police and ACP Sanjeev Kumar who led the operation. Many questions were raised about the intent of the op. Was it the aftermath of Delhi blasts to nab the culprits or was it just a cover-up? The movie tries to answer the question and absolve the alleged claims that were flagged.

What’s hot
The film grabs you by the scruff of your neck and forces you to see the grim reality of communal disharmony and the riots that it births. With gripping action sequences and nail-biting fight-offs, John Abraham’s muscle power speaks its own language. His stoicism can be easily branded as effortless. The highlight is that film also scratches the surface of post-traumatic disorder as John’s character struggles with a bullet that didn’t kill him. He even takes help of therapy later which directs the conversation to the right direction. Also, Nora Fatehi is a surprising revelation in the second half which pulls better strings than the the first. The court-room sequence in the same also makes the most engaging part of the drama.

What’s not
Cannot lay more emphasis on how the film wastes the talent that is Mrunal Thakur. Even considering the little she is left to build with, Mrunal’s character is saying most of the clichéd dialogues. But John’s character isn’t that far behind. Apart from the not-so-subtle jargons, the chest-thumping one liners mar the buildup. Not to mention the romantic track between John and Mrunal sticks like a sore thumb. Apart from the vein-popping display of arms, even John’s restrained cop act falters at times when the plot needs it the most especially in the confrontational scenes. Director Nikkhil Advani tries to keep the pace but the story-telling consumes a lot of time on the peripheral red tape than getting to the point. It is only the second half that one sees the story that was promised.

BL Verdict
John Abraham is at his home territory as he portrays the role of a decorated officer and it’s nothing we have not seen already. Watch it for the depiction of real life incidents and the obvious cinematic liberties. It’s not really the independence day treat but makes for a one-time watch. We are going with 3 stars.

NGK movie review: Suriya is the mainstay in this political drama with a loosely knit plot

Before heading to see what NGK has to offer, let’s first look at the line-up of actors in the film. Suriya Sivakumar, Sai Pallavi, Rakul Preet Singh, Devaraj, Bala Singh and Ponvannan among many others. With such heavy load of stars, you can expect the experience of their coherent performance to be fireworks. But NGK is a complete letdown and feels like a wasted opportunity. Director Selvaraghavan’s focus on Suriya is more than any other element in the film including the narrative. NGK is a mashup of many political films from the past laced with thumping performance by the mainstay Suriya. But can Suriya carry the film single-handedly till the end?

What’s it about:

Nanda Gopalan Kumaran, played by Suriya, is a principled young man who wants to do his bit for the society and keep it clean. Kumaran gives up his lucrative job and takes up organic farming and encourages people around to adopt this method of farming. And in this process, Kumaran rubs shoulders with local MLA Pandian, played by Ilavarasu, who runs a business in conventional farming commodities. Pandian warns Kumaran of harsh consequences if he continues with his organic farming and beats up his associates. As situation demands, Kumaran is forced to join Pandian’s political party which makes him realise that politics isn’t what he always thought it to be. Kumaran’s wife Geetha, played by Sai Pallavi, is supportive of him in his perusal and encourages him to not give up. What happens when NGK aka Nanda Gopalan Kumaran fights all the odds and emerges as a winner forms the crux of the story.

What’s hot:

Suriya Sivakumar playing the titular role is all fireworks and delivers a whistle-worthy performance. From subtle to fierce, Suriya puts up a show which is a compilation of every emotion you could ask for. Selvaraghavan’s intense writing adds fuel to Suriya’s fire in the plot which takes a brisk walk in the first half. Sai Pallavi proves yet again why she is an actress par excellence and doesn’t bring any dull moment whenever she is on screen. Her presence itself lights up the frame in the film and keeps you hooked to the screen. Rakul Preet, playing Vanathi, comes up with a performance which no one would have expected. Besides Suriya, the other hero of NGK is music composer Yuvan Shankar Raja whose craft in the film is commendable. Besides the impressive album which is already a hit, the background score of NGK is like an anthem which keeps giving goosebumps moments.

What’s not:

While all the above mentioned elements light up NGK, it’s the lacklustre narrative which makes it a humdrum affair. Selvaraghavan, as a writer, has the habit of building drama gradually in an episode where the climax of episode is the only worthy moment. This has worked for him in the past successfully. But in NGK, it falls flat. Movie buffs may not cherish these moments with Suriya in the equation since a lot is expected from his film. Post the interval, the film takes more than anticipated time to get to the climax and is almost a drag. A forced song between Suriya and Rakul’s characters tests your patience and will make your wait harder for the end.

BL Verdict:

It may be too harsh to say NGK is a wasted opportunity since there is a lot of binge in the political drama. At times, it makes you wonder if it is way ahead of its time, but doesn’t waste a moment in making you realise that it is a loosely knit screenplay. We go ahead with a 2 for NGK.

Badhaai Ho movie review: Neena Gupta, Ayushmann Khurrana & Co redefine warmth in Sai Paranjpye/Basu Chatterjee style

What happens when a woman gets pregnant in her twilight years. If some gentle ribbing is all you are expecting, then you are out of touch with reality and the subconscious prudery that even supposed liberals direct at the elderly.

Now imagine if the expectant mother and her husband, the child’s father, are already parents of a teenaged son and another who is in his 20s. The contempt they face within the home then is no less than what the outside world inevitably throws at them, as Priyamvada and Manoj Kaushik discover in Badhaai Ho.

badhaaiho825

Manoj (Gajraj Rao) is employed in the Indian Railways and Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) manages their home. Their son Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) works in an advertising firm and is dating his colleague Renee (Sanya Malhotra). The younger one, Gullar (Shardul Rana), is in school.

Their family is rounded off by a tetchy, demanding grandmother (Surekha Sikri). Or so they think until a sudden bout of unease takes Priyamvada to the doctor and they realise she is almost halfway through a pregnancy she was not aware of.

The Kaushiks live in a congested house in a lower-middle-class Delhi locality with an old-world air. Nakul’s office is in Gurgaon, the suburb characterised by its glitzy, gigantic, modern buildings. Their worldview lies somewhere in between.

And so, first comes the older couple’s shyness to announce what in their youth would have been demanded of them as “good news” they owe to the human species. Then comes the laughter and derision of family and their larger social circle. This much is expected in such a story and makes Badhaai Ho a lovable slice-of-life comedy.

What is most telling and a departure from the expected is the nuance and sensitivity with which director Amit Ravindernath Sharma (who earlier made the dreadful Tevar) and his writing team (story: Shantanu Srivastava and Akshat Ghildial, screenplay: Akshat Ghildial) examine Priyamvada and Manoj’s own response to their situation, and the judgement they face from a seemingly forward-thinking character who sees in their decision not to terminate the pregnancy a sign of backwardness.

Messrs Sharma, Srivastava and Ghildial’s work reminded me of an article I read a few years back by a rape survivor who said she had to deal with considerable social opprobrium in small-town America when she decided not to abort the child she conceived from rape. Too many people who view themselves as liberal think that pro-choice means pro-abortion. It does not. It means being in favour of the right of every woman to choose for herself. So if you pressure her with your expectation that she absolutely must, in certain specific circumstances, exercise the option the law gives her, then how are you different from fundamentalists who want to change the law that gives women this freedom?

Priyamvada holds the conservative view that abortion is a sin, Manoj clearly does not and would like her to consider it. Badhaai Ho for its part reveals its standpoint in the position Manoj ultimately takes when he tells his beloved Priyamvada: “Kasht tera hai, final decision bhi tera hi hoga” (You are the one who will go through the trouble that this pregnancy entails, therefore the final decision too will be yours). That, and the fact that Badhaai Ho openly acknowledges abortion as an acceptable possibility, takes it light years ahead of most Hindi cinema so far including the Salman Khan-Anushka Sharma-starrer Sultan (2016) which steered clear of the subject perhaps for fear of antagonising a traditionalist audience.

This is what makes Badhaai Ho not just warm, funny and realistic, but also thinking, intelligent and unobtrusively politically and socially conscious. What makes it so enjoyable is that it wears its IQ lightly.

The characters in this film are not painted in black and white but in all the colours of the rainbow. The middle-class protagonists are not portrayed as saints nor are the upper classes presented as evil cliches. The screenplay, like these people, does have its imperfections though. Halfway down the line it moves too far away from Priyamvada and Manoj in its focus on Nakul and Renee. It’s not that we don’t get to spend time with them – of course we do – but they are dears and it feels like not enough. Since the young are the top priority of most cinema, it would have been nice to get better acquainted with the older pair here and especially know more about Priyamvada’s mindset, her goals and life-long dreams.

Still, what Badhaai Ho offers is precious – an insight into the lives of real people rather than glossed-up specimens of humanity that exist only in the imagination of commercial filmmakers. Sanu John Varughese’s camerawork plays a part in highlighting the contrasting spaces Nakul in particular inhabits. Varughese scales down while shooting the Kaushiks’ home milieu and even Renee’s wealthy residence, but his frames become more expansive when they shift to Gurgaon. The cast and Sharma’s vision are a match made in heaven.

Ayushmann Khurrana is gradually becoming the Amol Palekar of his generation, yet different. This young artiste is capable of top-lining conventional Bollywood cinema (as we see even with the closing song and dance routine in Badhaai Ho), but chooses to work in small films where the star is the story. He is completely convincing here as a well-intentioned though conflicted son. He also shares a comfortable chemistry with his co-star Sanya Malhotra, whose calling card as of now is her role as a wrestler in the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal (2016). Within a span of just three weeks, Malhotra has managed to display amazing versatility playing a sensible, urban, wealthy woman of today in Badhaai Ho, a character that is chalk to the cheese that is the loud, pugnacious sibling living in rural Rajasthan that she was in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha.

Surekha Sikri is rollicking good fun as the cantankerous Dadi who turns out to be not quite as old-fashioned as you might think at first. Hers is a character that occasionally is in danger of being overplayed, but Sikri holds back just at the point where she needs to. The always wonderful Sheeba Chadda’s performance as Renee’s mother is marked by her trademark restraint.

Neena Gupta plays Priyamvada with the natural ease that has characterised all her performances on film and TV. In addition it is worth noting how she has been styled and how she chooses to carry herself in Badhaai Ho. When she was young I never particularly thought of her looks, but in this film I was struck by her luminous prettiness in a face filled out beautifully with life experiences. Gajraj Rao is so credible as her reticent yet romantically inclined partner, and they are so good together, that they bring to mind these lines from ‘I Believe In You’ sung by the legendary American country musician Don Williams: “But I believe in love / I believe in babies / I believe in Mom and Dad / I believe in you.”

High Jack movie review: Sumeet Vyas’s comic timing is the best thing about this doomed hijack drama

A DJ whose career is in the doldrums agrees to carry a package on a flight without knowing what it is. He is travelling by an airline that is about to shut down, and as it happens, he chooses to fly on a day when the plane is hijacked by a bunch of disgruntled employees. The ensuing chaos spirals further when drugged passengers enter the mix. The title of course is a play on “hijack” and a drug-induced “high”.

An accomplished director of comedy could have turned Adhir Bhat’s story for High Jack into a rib-tickling affair. Sadly for this film and some of its gifted cast members, Akarsh Khurana seems not to be that person. Khurana, who was a co-writer on the screenplays of Krrish and Krrish 3, has written this screenplay too in addition to helming the project. Despite brimming with potentially hilarious situations and boasting of some razor-sharp actors, High Jack crash-lands not long after it takes off.

High Jack promo poster. Image via Twitter

Qarib Qarib Singlle movie review: Parvathy, Irrfan click individually but not as a couple

A conservative young woman, widowed early in life and hanging on to the memory of her late husband, spends years allowing life to revolve around work and married friends who take her for granted. On a whim one day, she puts up her profile on a dating website. Jaya Shashidharan (played by Parvathy) is a successful insurance professional staying alone in her Mumbai flat while her younger brother — the only person she seems truly close to — studies abroad. She meets poet cum inventor Yogendra Kumar Dhirendranath Prajapati a.k.a. Yogi (Irrfan) via the site. On another whim, she decides to go on a cross-country trip with him to meet his ex-girlfriends and check if they still carry a torch for him as he claims they do.

(Possible spoilers ahead)

No one is more surprised by her uncharacteristic impetuousness than she herself. Dating is not her scene. It is clear that at some sub-conscious level she wants to break free of her own sobriety, but it is an old habit that is hard to shake off. Her confusion over her life-long sedateness can be the only explanation for why she takes off on a journey with a virtual stranger and takes other risks in this story that even the average adventurous Indian woman would not. It also explains why she spends so much of this expedition regretting being on it. Yogi is everything she is not — unguarded, sure of what he wants, speaking his mind, constantly laughing at his own poor jokes, so sociable that even a ride on the wrong train turns into a fun diversion. She has the appearance of knowing her mind, but does not. She says one thing, while her heart wants something else.

Poster for Qarib Qarib Singlle

Most of what I have told you is already contained in the trailer of Qarib Qarib Singlle (Almost Single). Despite the sense of humour in some of the couple’s initial interactions, and the undoubted charisma of the lead stars, the film does not have much more to offer beyond the pleasures of that trailer. There is a kernel of an idea in there that could have been taken somewhere, but it does not come together as a cohesive, credible whole.

Froth and frolic notwithstanding, writer-director Tanuja Chandra makes a point here, although it is unclear whether that was her intention. In one scene, Yogi half-mockingly expresses admiration for Jaya’s feminism. Yet, the song and dance that is made about her lack of clarity regarding what she wants from him, treads the well-worn path of suggesting that behind all their bluster, there is nothing more that female feminists want than the comfort of tradition and a man. This silly stereotypical belief is implied and stated routinely in real life by those whose superficial understanding is that men and relationships with men are, theoretically, anathema to women feminists.

It is possible that Chandra did not intend to insinuate any of this, but the clichéd characterisation of Jaya and Yogi, no different from a standard Mills & Boon romance, ends up doing precisely that — not spelt out in black and white, but by implication.

Besides, Qarib Qarib Singlle’s lead actors Parvathy and Irrfan do not click as a couple on screen. It does not help that this supposedly off-mainstream film from a seemingly thinking filmmaker displays the same ageist sexism that we see in hard-core commercial Hindi cinema, in which 50-something male stars routinely play younger men and star with women half their age. The Net tells me that Irrfan is 50 and that baby-faced, chubby-cheeked Parvathy is 29, but in the film, Yogi is 40 (really?) while Jaya is 35 — an adjustment that has obviously been made to justify the casting. I guess it would be too much to ask this gender-prejudiced industry to pick a 40 to 50-year-old woman for a 50-year-old man, but Qarib Qarib Singlle would have been another film, and very likely a far more interesting one, if Chandra had gone down that path.

Movie Review: Sardar Mohammad, Punjabi Movie

 

 

Sardar Mohammad is the story of Surjit Singh who is the eldest son in the family of Retired Colonel Harjit Singh (Sardar Sohi) who has served for the Police Force under the British Rule and later joined the Indian Army. Surjit has 3 younger brothers and a younger sister. Life is going smooth and Surjit is even about to get married to Mandy Takhar. However, things take a turn when Surjit learns that he is not the real son of Colonel instead he was separated from his family during the Partition of 1947. Surjit learns that he has a mother in Pakistan and he decided to visit the neighbouring country in search of his mother. In Pakistan, he finds friends who help and support him in the search of his mother.

Review: I loved Tarsem Jassar and Harry Bhatti’s debut film, Rabb Da Radio but I am afraid that I cannot say the same about this film all together. Tarsem Jassar has taken up multiple tasks in this film – Lead Actor, Story Writer, Screenplay Writer, Dialogue Writer, Lyricist, Composer, Producer & God knows what else. The film carries a blend of emotion, drama & tries to churn all the elements into a typical potboiler commercial film at heart but the films ends up being nothing but a disappointment because of the sky high expectations that I had from the film after I saw the trailer.

Story-Screenplay-Dialogues are all penned by Tarsem Jassar and are based on real life events and the film informs the viewer about the inspiration through a Disclaimer in the very beginning of the film. The film begins on a very sluggish note as the comedy seems to be a forceful insertion in the very beginning and bears no connection to the overall storyline of the film. The Story is something which I can call new in terms of Punjabi Cinema but the treatment given to the story is very immature thus making a good idea seem boring on screen.

Also, most of the moments in the 1st half have no relevance to the actual plot line. They have just been added in order to give a commercial feel to the film  so that the viewer finds a bit of comedy, a little bit of romance (just the song), melodrama and what not. The dialogues were pretty regular and can be termed as mediocre. Overall, the writing of Sardar Mohammad is an opportunity missed.

Coming to direction, Harry Bhatti co-directed his debut film, Rabb Da Radio and this time he has directed the film completely on his own. Sardar Mohammad is one of those films which had a good story, a weak screenplay but bad direction made the film even more weaker. Harry just couldn’t handle the crunch situations. Seems like Harry Bhatti still has a lot to learn as a film-maker. I have always been of the believe that ‘A Successful Music Video director does not necessarily qualify as a successful film-maker’. Both the aspects are completely different from each other.

Coming to performances, I cannot point out a single performance which stood out in the whole film. Tarsem Jassar tried hard, put in all the efforts he could but still there was something missing which stops me from using terms such as amazing, standout, applause-worthy (Mind you, I am a hardcore Tarsem Jassar Fan). Karamjit Anmol is a fine actor and this is his 4th release in a span of 28 days. However, here he was under-utilised. Sardar Sohi was routine as usual. Rahul Jungral did a somewhat okays job. He could be someone who can make a name for himself in future if his choice of roles is good.

Harshjot Kaur, last seen in Qissa Panjab does well here as well. She plays Tarsem’s sister in the film. Neetu Pandher had a small role and was efficient. Rana Jung Bahadur also had 3-4 scenes in the film and was all right. However, Sardar Mohammad would be a disappointment for Mandy Takhar fans as she is seen only in the song, Single Double which also happens to be a dream sequence.

Music of the film lacked the feel of a Motion Pictures Soundtrack except for the Title Track of the film. It was more of the music which works regularly as a Single Track or a supporting track in a music album. However, tracks like Asool, Pind and Sardar Mohammad (Title Track) would be my picks from the album.

Munna Michael movie review: Who cares about logic when you have dance, action courtesy Tiger Shroff?

It’s 1995. An aging dancer with a disturbing Michael Jackson hangover is removed from the chorus line of a dance troupe. Michael (Ronit Roy) is devastated. He’s seeking solace at the bottom of a bottle but fate has him wander past an abandoned baby. Michael adopts the child and raises him as Munna.

Inspired by his father, Munna Michael (Tiger Shroff) becomes a dancing machine and makes a quick buck by pulling cons on the dance floor. His inspiration is also Michael Jackson.

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It’s bad enough that our choreographers are stuck in a time warp – they either design sequences aping Jackson or are rehashing hip-hop moves from the mid-90s. But here we have a film where even the writer and director are holding on to nostalgia, not just in terms of inspiration and choreography but also a story line.

Munna Michael takes the comic route and the cold, corpse-like narrative comes alive with the introduction of the ever-reliable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Siddiqui plays Mahinder Fauji – a hotelier and a thug with a soft corner for a dancer called Dolly (Nidhhi Agerwal). He believes the best way to impress her is by learning to dance, and for this job he hires Munna.

Let me explain that by this time Munna has left his ailing father in Mumbai and moved to Delhi to continue his con-on-the-dance-floor act. We don’t know what his father is suffering from and why Munna cannot think of any other career option but being a dancing cheat. But there you have it.

The moment Munna sets eyes on Dolly, it’s love at first shimmy and shake. Dolly’s dream is to win a dance show on TV. The men believe she’s a dancing queen. But Agerwal dancing is passable at best with her studied moves making her barely convincing as a champion dancer. Maybe she should have joined Munna’s dance classes! Alongside her, Shroff’s robotic moves almost look fluid.

Munna is assigned the job of helping Mahinder court Dolly and then, when she flees from Delhi, Munna must bring her back to Mahinder. What Dolly wants is, of course, of little consequence to Mahinder giving Munna an opportunity to deliver a lesson about that. Fortunately Mahinder’s obsession doesn’t become too creepy as the character is shown to be mean as nails otherwise but soft when it comes to matters of the heart. Siddiqui looks like he’s really enjoying the dance lesson sequences even as he flubs the steps.

Director Sabbir Khan and writer Vimi Datta have designed a film that is serviced by Shroff’s two skills – dancing and action. In spite of being predictable story with slack storytelling, Khan once again (Heropanti, Baaghi) showcases just what is needed to keep Shroff’s fans satisfied.

Put in enough of these two elements and who cares about logic, story, acting or originality.