Posted in Bollywood, Movie, Review

Padmavaati

My biggest fear while watching Padmaavati was that it will be like Bhansali’s previous outing Bajirao Mastani. Both movies are based on historical characters, set in 13th century or so, revolving around a love triangle set in an era where matters are solved through battles. My fears were wiped away as soon as Padmaavati started and I knew I was in for an exciting ride into the times and lives of this woman known as Padmavaati.

Before I get into the movie, I did some research and it’s interesting to see where the source material for the movie came from: an ancient Sufi poem, Padmavaat, written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540. The epic poem revolves around Rani Padmini, Queen of Chitoor, who is wife to Ratan Sen, and Sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji, who goes out of his way to get Queen Padmini. This is the basis for the movie. There is a lot of debate of how far the truth is, and allegedly the two men are indeed historical characters, but it is still not sure whether Queen Padmini actually existed or not.

Why the controversy? Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has indeed taken some liberties with the characters, for which he had to face a lot of protests and uproar from the Indians. One, the Rajputs are very upset for glamourizing the role of Khilji, the Muslim tyrant who desires Padmaavati; two, the women are very upset for making the movie more about the love angle rather than focusing on Padmavaati’s ultimate sacrifice; and three, general historical inaccuracies, and oh yes, Queen Padmavaati never really danced in front of so many men and women, as is shown in the movie.

Padmavaati is a grand, opulent film with the typical Bhansali’s excesses: huge sets, hanging chandeliers, royal costumes and jewelry, swords and shields, large forts and huge cinematic landscapes on which battles are fought. There is a lot to feast on visually—with each nose ring and necklaces, to the embroidery on the costumes and head gears, to the decorations of the rooms.

In the hands of a competent director, every scene is a piece of art- I mean I could easily take lots of pics and frame the scenes. The pacing of the movie works really well, and surprising moves at a decent pace to keep us audience engaged. The script worked well, the dialogue was not heavy handed—it was understandable enough for someone like me (otherwise I rely on subtitles in movies with heavy Urdu!)

The only part one starts to lose interest are the few moments before the explosive finale. It does tend to drag a little, and one song Khali Bali could have been shortened, or removed altogether. But it doesn’t ruin the movie watching experience.

Having said that, I cannot help but praise all three main actors: Ranveer Singh as Allaudin Khilji, Deepika Padukone as Padmavaati and Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Sen.

ranveer-singh-padmavati-7591Out of the three, Ranveer Singh comes out the strongest, for his role is the meatiest one. He plays a Muslim tyrant, who is hungry for power and wants to be the Sultan of Delhi. He is told about Padmavaati, and is hell bent on ‘seeing’ her. It is his desire for her that forces him to camp outside her fort for six months and striking a deal eventually to get to see her, with some disastrous consequences. Singh brings his usual energy to the character, and does an extremely incredible job of humanising an otherwise vile character. There are moments we hate him, and there are moments we feel for him- which is a trademark of an accomplished actor. Ranveer Singh has gone on record to say that essaying the role of Khilji, a character with such dark and evil shades, had a negative impact on him in real life, and actually had to work hard to come out of it to regain a sane mind. Singh is a brilliant, dedicated actor and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins all the major acting awards.

Deepika is not far behind in terms of strong acting, and I was worried she might do something similar to her role in Bajirao Mastani, and thankfully she doesn’t.

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Her eyes, her facial expressions, her body language are all so masterfully handled. She is currently my favorite Bollywood actress and with this role, she has another feather in her cap.

Shahid Kapoor, who is another brilliant actor, does a fine job of playing Ratan Sen, even though his role isn’t as fleshed out as Khilji’s.

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Despite that, Shahid Kapoor stands out in some of the more intense scenes, as well as the battle scenes. I was reminded of Shahid Kapoor’s role in another brilliant film of his Kaminey.

(On a completely different side note, both Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor have made me set some serious health and fitness goals– they have the perfect bodies with six packs and all, which I have noticed Bhansali loves to show in his movies! There are some homoerotic moments between Khilji and the male eunuch which had overtones of male bonding, including one where both of them are in the same bathtub).

I will also mention two other characters that stood out: Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari) who is Khilji’s wife, and Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh), a male eunuch who is Khilji’s right hand man. Brilliant acting all round.

The songs were adequate and Ghoomar actually stood out the most, with its mesmerizing dance sequences and music. The action sequences were fun to watch, especially when the arrows are shot and the catapults are used. There have been some complaints of some shoddy CGI work and unnecessary use of 3D, which wasn’t really an issue for us since it was 2D for us (yes, there are some moment when CGI is indeed shoddy, but at the moment it didn’t really matter for the movie was intense!)

Over all, Padmavaat will be a film that many will remember in years to come and will always be referred to as that definitive film on love, war, valor and sacrifice.

Which brings me to the finale—OMG! I was blown away. It is an ending that will stay with you for a while after the movie ends. It was such an unexpected ending, I didn’t even imagine it would end like this. The entire end sequence, with its loud background noise and ongoing battle, this one little sequence involving Deepika just tugs at you emotionally.

Bhansali and cast and crew—a job extremely well done!

4.5 out of 5

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  A period drama, the story unfolds as Allaudin Khilji, a Muslim tyrant, longs for Queen Padmavati, and the ensuing battles he faces with her husband Ratan Sen, set in 13th Century India.
Running time: 163 mins
Seen at: Cinestar, Xinhua Mall, Lahore

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bollywood, featured

Secret Superstar

It’s been a while since a great movie has been released at the cinema, with the last highly recommended watch being IT. Amidst all these average movies coming out, Secret Superstar proved to shine like a diamond. Having just watched it over the weekend, I cannot help but feel so inspired and motivated in life.
Secret Superstar stars Zaira Wasim as Insiya, a school girl from a middle class family, living in the small city of Baroda, India. However, she has big dreams— dreams of being a singer so big that the entire world listens to her. Her problem: her strict father who wants her to finish her education and gets married, because that’s what all good girls do. However, Insiya’s mother, Najma, secretly supports her daughter’s dream to be a singer.
The set-up of the family is just like any middle class family. A husband/ father who works tirelessly to support his family. The mother, who is an uneducated woman, is a homemaker, who cooks and looks after Insiya and her younger brother Guddu, and the grandmother in the house.
On the other side, in Mumbai, we meet Shekar Kumar, the obnoxious music director who’s just blasted his head off to a young contestant on a music reality show. He gets a lot of flak from the media and his second divorce is much publicised, rendering him as a womaniser, misogynistic asshole.
Najma, Insiya’s mother, secretly gifts her daughter a laptop and their lives are suddenly opened up to the world. They sit and watch all sorts of videos, thereby broadening their lives beyond the four walls of their little house. In a chance moment, Insiya watches a song Why This Kolaveri Di? on YouTube and hatches a brilliant idea: why not to make a video on YouTube to share her singing skills? The only catch is that her father can never find out.
Solution: wear a burqa and sing in secrecy! She does just that and soon her videos become viral, making her a superstar. She catches the eyes of the music director Shekar Kumar, and both Shekhar and Insiya connect.
But this movie isn’t just about Insiya and her singing dreams. It’s also about her parents, who are often caught up in domestic violence. In one rather harrowing scene, we witness the father beating up his wife, while the kids are terrified in the next room. It’s a very scary moment and will send chills down your spine- domestic abuse is a real horror.
Does Insiya becomes a superstar? Does her mother continue to be a submissive woman or escape the clutches of her abusive husband? Will the fight ever stop between the parents? And what will Insiya do with Shekar Kumar that will change everyone’s lives all together?
Secret Superstar is one of those movies that is far from the escapist Bollywood movie. It is a character-driven movie, with characters we can relate to. These are your normal people, who dress and act normal, and who look normal. Even Insiya’s ‘boyfriend’ Chintuu is just like any regular boy in class. Their problems are everyday problems, their moments of joys are relatable and their conversations are just like any child would have with his/her parents.
A beautiful point is made of how children should be allowed to fulfil their dreams. Insiya is bursting at the seams with her powerhouse talent, which is curbed by her father, but encouraged by her mother. As she says in the movie, “having a dream is a basic right.” Such a profound moment indeed.
Zaira Wasim is very talented young actress, who would actually put other actresses out there to shame with her acting skills. Her dialogue delivery, facial expressions, body language is so commendable, it became a pure joy to watch her act. Alongside Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, who plays the mother does a great job too in essaying the role of a submissive, uneducated mother. Why aren’t we seeing these actresses more on screen?
Having said that, the movie is not without it’s flaws. The father does come across as a one-dimensional character, who’s clearly portrayed as a villain. The third act does seem far-fetched at times (the airport scene and the awards scene) but because we care so much about these characters, we forgive the makers of the movie for the overt melodrama. We root for Insiya so much, we cheer for her at the end.
Which brings me to the final point: Aamir Khan. This man can do no wrong. Even though we dislike his portrayal of Shekar Kumar for being so obnoxious but he brings such fine nuances and mannerisms to the character, we actually warm up to him. That’s a mark of a true, professional actor. Aamir Khan, who produced this movie with his wife Kiran Rao, has another winner up his sleeve.
Secret Superstar is an emotionally driven movie, with characters we care so much about, and will leave feeling inspired to live out your dream, whether you are a child in your teens or an adult in your forties.
4 out of 5
Genre: Drama
Director: Advait Chandan
Cast: Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  Insiya, a young girl, dreams of being a singing superstar but faces the oppression from her strict father. With the help of her mother, Insiya begins singing secretly online leading to a series of unforseen circumstances.
Running time: 150 mins
Seen at: Vue Cinema, Westfield, London
Posted in Bollywood

A Gentleman

Sometimes, the reliance of putting two good-looking costars can be the driving force for the audience to sustain itself through the film. Case in point: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or for that matter Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif in Bang Bang. Because we have good-looking people to look at, we propel ourselves through the movie and gloss over the fact the movie hasn’t got much substance.
It’s the same case with A Gentleman. Sidharth Malhotra and Jacqueline Fernandez are ridiculously good-looking people. Since the movie has Sid playing a double role, he’s on the screen for most of the time, so it’s a pure joy for Sid’s fans.
Sid is playing two characters in the movie: Gaurav and Rishi.
Gaurav is a simple, straightforward working man in Miami, who has just bought a new house (filled with furniture and decoration from Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel), holding a steady job and waiting to marry the girl he loves so he can fill his new minivan with four kids.
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On the other hand, in Mumbai, we have Rishi, a hitman working for Colonel (a rather wasted Suniel Shetty— why is he even still acting?!), and Rishi doesn’t want to do any more secret mission because he is tired of killing innocent people. He wants to settle down– but Colonel has one last mission for Rishi to carry out: to retrieve the hard drive, which could potentially wipe out Colonel.
Halfway through the movie, it turns out the Gaurav has to fly to Mumbai to close a deal, all the while Rishi is on the run after having completed his mission. In what is the best part of the movie, the rather clever twist is revealed which totally changes the game of the movie.
Having said that, I wish the climatic twist had been revealed towards the end because post interval, the movie didn’t sustain itself well and delved into silliness. Which is when I realized that I needed to turns my brain off to enjoy the movie.
A Gentleman is in the rein of one those silly, adventure, rom-com movies where you need to leave your thinking caps at home. Things will not make sense (forging a passport, entering a high rise through abseiling etc) which is why the movie begs itself to not be taken seriously. With that frame of mind, one can sail through the movie and find out the fate of the much needed hard drive.
Subplots include the on-off love between Gaurav and Kavya, played by Jacqueline Fernandez (all she had to do was look pretty, act dumb and groove to some amazing songs– and oh yes, fire some guns!). Kavya doesn’t like Gaurav because he’s too safe, and wants some adventure in her life. That happens when she encounters Rishi and so thus begins a new love affair.
The arrival of Kavya’s parents provided some chuckles but that subplot is somewhat written off quickly.
The movie is directed by Raj & DK, who directed Go Goa Gone, a zombie movie starring Saif Ali Khan as a Russian zombie killer. The sense of humor in that movie can be seen in A Gentleman too (such as the discovery of India’s Defence Minister being gay) so it makes sense where the makers are coming from.
Having said that, A Gentleman is mainly watchable because of Sidharth Malhotra, whose ridiculous good looks will indeed save the film. His acting skills aren’t that impressive (unlike Kapoor and Sons and Ek Villain) but he’s certainly become a better dancer (Chandralekha is a standout song!)
Fun, entertaining, enjoyable but ultimately forgettable, A Gentleman warrants at least a one time watch, and don’t forget to leave your thinking caps at home. A Gentleman, in short, is all style- and what style it is- and no substance.
2.5 out of 5
Genre: Action, Romance, Drama
Director: Raj & D.K.
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  Story of two men, Gaurav and Rishi, one a straightforward man working in Miami, the other a professional hit man. Things get confusing when the two men are connected leading to confusion and mayhem.
Running time: 132 mins
Seen at: Supercinema, Vogue Towers, Lahore
Posted in Bollywood

Toilet

Ok, seriously, don’t let the title of the movie put you off like it put me off initially. Why the heck would I want to watch a movie called Toilet? Will the movie be full of crass and below the belt kind of humor? Will the movie be like one of those inane comedy movies that Akshay Kumar is known for, such as Housefull? Turns out that Toilet is actually a real story with some serious message behind it!
The opening frame of the movie- we are shown a small town in India, where we see a group of women all huddling together to go for a walk, before sunrise. It turns out that these women do this on a daily basis. Once they get to a certain place in the fields, they all defecate. The open field is their bathroom because guess what, their homes don’t have any bathrooms!
Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is an honest, goody two shoes man in the same village. His destiny to marry the right kind of woman is dependent on the Hindu rituals: he needs to marry a buffalo before he can marry a woman (and that too a woman with two thumbs!). This scene reminded me of the time when Aishwarya Rai married a tree in order to marry her husband Abhishek.
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Keshav meets Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar), a vivacious, strong-headed, independent girl in town. She’s smart, sassy and mouthy- knows what to say and when. Despite their initial fracas, they eventually fall in love, through a series of songs, and decide to marry. The catch: she doesn’t have two thumbs. So they hatch a plan, create a fake thumb to appease Keshav’s father, and ultimately marry.
The shock for the new brides comes the morning after her wedding when she realizes the house has no toilet! She’s been coerced to go to the open fields with the other women. Jaya feels totally insulted and degraded. Hence starts the fights between her and Keshav. “I cannot stay in this house if there is no toilet. Either you get a toilet or I divorce,” says Jaya. It hits me that while we have the luxurious privilege of using a toilet in the comfort of our homes, there are people out there who according to their religious texts, cannot have a toilet in their homes.
The main crux of the movie then becomes all about Keshav winning the girl’s heart back by trying to fix the toilet issue in his house, despite strong resistance from his superstitious father. His quick, short-term solutions don’t appeal to Jaya, and so she leaves him finally, ultimately seeking a divorce.
Now comes the somewhat funny part of the movie. Keshav with his friend approach the media and the high up in the government sector to install toilets in their village. It turns out, according to the government ministers, that the state has done its job of installing toilets, but it’s the people who are not accepting the initiative taken by the government. So suddenly, it’s the fault of the people and not the government.
Does Keshav succeed in getting the toilet made in his home, and his village? Do Keshav and Jaya go through the divorce that’s been publicised now? Does Keshav’s father give in or fights on to maintain his religious beliefs? For that, you should see the movie.
So what do I think about it?
First off, I was rather taken aback by the notion that a strict segment of the Brahmin caste don’t believe a toilet should be at home. Women should go out to the fields. However, this made me question a lot about what the men do? Where do they go? Where do they shower? What do pregnant women do? What do women, who are on their periods do? What about sick men and women? There were so many questions running through my head it made me question the authenticity of this idea that no toilet should be made at home.
Secondly, the second half of the movie felt like as if it was sponsored by the Indian government. Look at how much work we are doing, says the government. It felt like sheer manipulation on the part of the movie makers to influence the Indian public. Yes, there is a wonderful public service message about the importance of having toilets, but it felt slightly diverted from the movie. Apparently, Mr. Modi was very happy with the movie!
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Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar, playing the in-love couple, are a treat to watch. They act solid, with strong delivery and screen presence. I felt for them and wanted them to stay together. Their chemistry was great, which is what most other actors lack in recent Bollywood films.
The film is a tad bit long, and tighter editing, along with the removal of some songs, could have made this film a little pacier and edgier. Technically otherwise, the film is par excellence.
At the end of it all, watching Toilet: Ek Prem Katha was like taking an adventure into the lives of these Indian villagers, and their struggles. It certainly opened up my eyes to how some people on this planet live, and the varied customs and beliefs they hold.
“In 2014, The Economist reported that around 130 million Indian households do not have an indoor toilet, and of the estimated, one billion people in the world who do not have access to proper sanitation, an estimated 600 million of them are from India.” (Taken from Independent newspaper).
With all this mind, I came home and thanked God I have a bathroom attached to my bedroom. Some things should never be taken for granted!
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Do stay till the end of the movie, as we are shown a glimpse of the actual woman in India, who went through the same thing, and upon whose life the movie is based on. So yes, the concept of women raising their voices to have a toilet installed in their new home after marriage is actually true. The woman actually broke off her engagement and married another man that some NGO had referred her to, as he had a toilet in his home.
3.5 out of 5
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Shree Narayan Singh
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Bhumi Pedankar
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  Jaya, a newly wed bride, threatens to leave her husband if he fails to provide a toilet in the house. Despite his intention, the husband faces stiff opposition from his extremely religious father who says toilets are forbidden inside the house.
Running time: 155 mins
Seen at: Supercinema, Royal Palm, Lahore
Posted in Bollywood

Jab Harry Met Sejal

The expectations were high. The movie disappointed. Critics and audiences didn’t accept the movie.

What happened? A lot apparently.

So, here’s the problem with Jab Harry Met Sejal. (On a side note, it’s extremely difficult to get out of my mind When Harry Met Sally, and I am thinking When Harry Met Sejal! So zero points for originality there!)

One, it’s directed by Imtiaz Ali.

He is, in my opinion, a director who made two extremely brilliant movies with multi-dimensional characters: Highway (the compelling Alia Bhatt) and Tamasha (the talented duo of Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone). Imtiaz Ali also directed Rockstar and Jab We Met, another two rather awesome movies. So when one has that knowledge, one expects his next movie to top his previous ones. One expects his movie to have an interesting storyline, with characters that we care for. That this movie isn’t, thereby leading to massive disappointment. It’s only fair for the audience to expect something unique and fresh, and waited with abated excitement on what journey Imtiaz Ali will take everyone with him this time.

Two, the characters are not multi-layered.

Shah Rukh Khan is playing Harinder Singh aka Harry, a Punjabi tour guide with a Canadian passport. Anushka Sharman is playing Sejal, a Gujrati woman who stays back in Europe to look for her lost engagement ring.  Both these characters don’t have an interesting backstory nor do they have any depth. At times, there were moments when I thought, ok, wow, Harry has some sort of history with his country (was he ousted? Why did he leave? Is he suffering from a trauma?) But none of that happens. Instead, it just becomes a rather simple and mediocre story of a man longing to go back to his country.

If we compare it to Highway, we get to understand why Ali Bhatt develops an attraction to her kidnapper and craves for freedom. We also understand why her kidnapper (Randeep Hooda) is void of any emotions and feelings. Their backstories were deep and profound. In the same manner, in Tamasha, Ranbir Kapoor’s predicament is understood in the second half, which explains the whole putting on a pretend drama in Corsica. We also understand why Deepika Padukone is so keen to see Ranbir find his true self and heal in the process.

The journeys of these characters were intriguing and allowed us as an audience to experience their transformation ultimately leading them to redemption and freedom. It was all about these characters unmasking themselves. Layers were being peeled off to reveal their real identities and human nature.However, with Harry and Sejal, we don’t connect. Perhaps it has to do with their attitudes or their accent. I for one, couldn’t connect with Sejal and her Gujrato accent. I can understand that perhaps Imtiaz Ali intended for a “

However, with Harry and Sejal, we don’t connect. Perhaps it has to do with their attitudes or their accent. I for one, couldn’t connect with Sejal and her Gujrato accent. I can understand that perhaps Imtiaz Ali intended for a “zara-hatke” character, but it didn’t connect. Which is sad because then we really don’t care about her predicament (trying to find her lost engagement ring by retracing her steps all over Europe!). It’s the same case with Harry. We see glimpses of his recollections of his time in India, but we don’t really know what happened, except that he has vague memories.

Three, Europe disappoints!

Precisely Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Budapest, Prague, and Lisbon are shown as a seedy place where Bangladeshi illegal rob female pole dancers, all evening entertainment revolves around clubbing, and apparently, one such criminal in Lisbon is a Muslim who turns out to be a mouse than the lion he’s made out to be. Imtiaz Ali got it all wrong. Where are the charming little cafes, and parks, and museums and culture? These moments require the audience to turn off their brains and not even think to themselves: but that’s not really how Europe is. I wish Imtiaz Ali had seen other movies such as Before Sunset/ Before Sunrise, or for that matter Queen, where Europe is not shown through stereotyped eyes of someone from the Subcontinent. In fact, after a while, there were no distinguishing landmarks between all the European cities. What set Budapest apart from Prague? Not much really!

Four, the tone of the movie was confused.

Is it trying to be a comedy, either rom-com or black? Is it trying to be an emotional, human drama? Is it trying to be satirical, especially the Lisbon part where they encounter the criminal? The inconsistency of the tone of the movie confused us all too.

Having said that, I, however, found some moments in the movie that I felt were powerful. In particular the scene in Lisbon where Harry and Sejal are sitting at a café listening to a singer. No dialogues are spoken, but both convey to each other their newfound love for each other. It’s a scene reminiscent of Ranbir and Deepika in Tamasha during the song Tum Saath Ho. There are a few other such moments that reveal the chemistry between the two lead actors, and in these moments, I would feel like there is some potential and the movie will turn around soon. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Imtiaz Ali has gone on record to say the following:

“I am sure that a lot of people do not think that Harry Met Sejal is an intellectual masterpiece, but I did not intend it to be one. Some said you really need to be intelligent to understand an Imtiaz Ali film. For me, that was a blow. I feel that I have never been part of any intelligent club. I wanted to make a very simple film with all my heart.”

Seems like Imtiaz Ali will learn from this debacle and go back to what he does best.

Technically, it’s a great movie. The music was not memorable- perhaps Radha is the only one that will stick in your mind. The secondary actors were utterly forgettable. By the time you reach home from the cinema, you will probably forget most of the movie.

Watch it once, but watch it with very low expectation, and expect none of the previous masterful story telling Imtiaz Ali brought to us. If you are a die-hard Shahrukh Khan Fan, you won’t be disappointed, since he’s in every frame. Anushka Sharma does a good job but difficult to connect to. Overall, an all right one time watch that will disappoint more than please. Or better yet, go back to watching Tamasha or Highway, or even better yet, When Harry Met Sally!

2.5 out of 5

 

Posted in Bollywood

Hindi Medium

Things are changing in Bollywood. Now you have two types of movies coming out: one, the big-budget-drama-filled, emotional-melodrama ones (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil), and two, the low-budget, offbeat, more grounded to reality (Piku) that come out from nowhere and steals out hearts– while making lots of money at the same time.
Hindi Medium is the latter kind. It is a movie that needs to be watched not purely for its acting prowess from the main leads, but for the subject matter, it raises- namely, the flawed school education system that places pressure on parents to be well versed in English. For the uninitiated, the title of the movie Hindi Medium refers to the school system where students are taught in the Hindi language.
The movie opens up in Delhi where we meet Raj Batra, a successful owner of a hugely popular fashion house. With suave marketing skills in wooing and convincing customers, Raj is only held back from the fact that he cannot speak English. His wife, Mitu, is also in the same boat. She is very keen to get her 5-year-old daughter, Pia, admitted into one of the Delhi’s best school, Delhi Grammar School.
In the process of admission, both Raj and Mitu find out that the parents are also interviewed. Since both of them are not competent in English nor are polished and groomed to fit into what society prescribes to as “high class.” So the parents enlist the help of a consultant who teaches them how to answer correctly and proper manners. Despite this, their daughter fails to get admission.
The consultant suggests the parents to make use of the Right to Education act, which basically states that a child from a poor family can be admitted into the school. Raj and Mitu downgrade their lifestyle and move into a poor locality along with their daughter to pose as a poverty-stricken family. There they develop a close bond with one of the neighbors, who help them adjust to a life of poverty (no water, no food, knowing when to fight etc).
I won’t get into the rest of the movie, for I will spoil the surprise with the various twists and turns that happen but we get to follow the family’s journey and repercussions of their actions. But I will get into what amazing actors there are in Irfan Khan and Saba Qamar.
Irfan Khan, playing the role of the father and husband Raj, is one incredible actor. He is so natural in his role I was convinced his character is a real person. His mannerisms and dialogue delivery is impeccable and evokes a sense of sympathy for the character. Irfan Khan is a very talented actor, having proven his mettle in Bollywood and Hollywood. You cannot go wrong with his kind of talent.
Saba Qamar, what can I say about her, except that she did us Pakistanis very proud. It was sheer joy watching her act, get under the skin of the character and emoting at all the right places without being over dramatic. She brought her own mannerisms and quirkiness to Mitu, for example how she overthinks of a situation where if things don’t work out her daughter will slip into depression. Saba Qamar needs to be commended big time for holding her own against a giant actor like Irfan Khan. You will forget all our previous Pakistani actresses who’ve acted in Bollywood- including Mahira Khan in Raees.
Having said that, there are some minor (if not major) loopholes in the plot. How come the 5-year-old child doesn’t question the fact she moves from a rich neighborhood to a poor dwelling? Or why she’s being changed from one school to another? The technicalities of the daughter’s admission into the school also beg some suspension of disbelief. The whole idea of how students are preselected for admission also seems a little farfetched.
Personally, I feel two songs could have been eliminated as they dragged the movie time a little. The supporting actors played their part well, but hardly any memorable characters.
These are minor quips I have which shouldn’t deter anyone from watching this brilliant movie. The message is clear, the movie is wonderful and the acting is par excellence. At the end of the day, it does leave a strong message about why people from India (and Pakistan) develop a complex when it comes to the English language. There is a lot of food for thought as this movie is an excellent springboard to discuss the faults in the private education sector, even in Pakistan. I often meet people here in Lahore who want to improve on their English language speaking skills in order to secure better jobs and a better life. Other issues are glossed over, such as rich vs poor, high class vs low class, English vs. Hindi and so on.
As Raj says in the movie, “when the French and Spanish have no problem speaking broken English, why do the Indians develop a complex when speaking broken English?” Food for thought indeed!
4 out of 5
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Sauket Chaudhry
Cast: Irfaan Khan, Saba Qamar
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  Desperate to get their daughter admitted into one of the best English school in Delhi, the parents go to extreme lengths to do so, including pretending to be a poor family, with some dire consequences.
Running time: 133 mins
Seen at: Cinestar, Xinhua Mall, Lahore
Posted in Bollywood

Rangoon

To appreciate Rangoon, one has to have certain foreknowledge of where the director is coming from. Vishal Bhardwaj is the man who brought us Shakespearean adaptations to Bollywood: Omkara (Othello), Maqbool and Haider (Macbeth), these three being the top most prominent ones. They all were adapted so brilliantly, and the audiences lapped it all up. From intense acting to solid scripts, with Bhardwaj giving his own style of infusing musical numbers, his movies have been made memorable.
With Rangoon, it’s obvious that Bhardwaj has taken his ambition to the next level and came out with a movie that’s set on a much larger and bolder canvas to recreate an era of struggle, rebellion and love. Does it work? In most parts, yes!
The setting is 1943, against the backdrop of World War 2. In India, there is a nationalistic uprising led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who is creating Azad Hind Fauj, all the while Gandhi is leading the Quit India movement. The two movements are going up against the British Raj, who would eventually leave India few years later.
Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) is film actor turned producer, due to his accident performing a movie stunt (a diability that Khan imbibes in his character so well!). He is fond of the British and seeks to satisfy them a lot, in particular Major General David Harding, a bilingual Englishman who has no love for India.
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Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) and Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut)

Rusi is fond of Miss Julia (Kangana Ranaut), who is a very popular movie actress and seeks to become Mrs. Billimoria. She’s fearless, strong and powerful, but in the hands of her lover, she’s treated like a pet poodle, often referred to as ‘kiddo.’
Miss Julia and her team are commissioned to be sent to Burma to perform for the army men, when at the last minute Rusi is summoned home in an emergency. Miss Julia leaves on the train without her lover, and is being escorted by Jamadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), an army man who’s proven adept in his duty and is assigned to escort the team safely.
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Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor) with Miss Julia

A surprise military attack on their convoy forces Miss Julia and Nawab Malik to be separated from the group, leaving the two of them to make their way from Burma to India on foot. They are eventually joined in by Japanese soldier, who knows his way around to the border.
It’s no surprise that Miss Julia and Nawab Malik eventually develop some level of affection for each other during their journey- and it’s an affection that grows naturally and doesn’t seem forced. Having made it to India, both of them know that their love for each has to be kept secret.
The second half of the movie packs in more punches and has more meat. Political tensions rise, secret agents are caught, men and women are killed, all the while Rusi becomes aware of the affair between Miss Julia and Nawab Malik. The second half is something that needs to be watched and cannot be explained. Needless to say, there is a lot of drama and the climax that unfolds out on the bridge between India and Burma is a treat to watch.
The acting from the three main leads is entirely convincing and believable. Kangana Ranaut takes the cakes and certainly proves she has the guts to take on roles that are heavy on character. Her transformation from a childlike woman who’s treated poorly by the misogynistic Rusi, to a woman who’s blossomed like a flower is a delight to watch. Her ability to use her body language, dialogues delivery, physical prowess is all spot on. At one point, Nawab Malik tells her that she’s “buried her own personality in the grave.” This serves as an awakening call that she’s worthy and valuable.
Complementing her is Shahid Kapoor, who somehow doesn’t quite live up to Kangana’s acting. While he’s very good in his role as an army soldier, he seems to sleep walk his way through, maintain a suppressed personality and emotions. Even when he opens up a little, it’s frustrating to watch as he takes his time. He shares some kissing moments with Kangana, which doesn’t seem forced but definitely lacks the passion. One truly wishes that Bhardwaj had brought the brilliance in Shahid Kapoor the way he did in Haider.
Saif Ali Khan channels the suave Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca to the T. From the impeccable suits to the greased hairstyle, Khans does a great job. Even though he doesn’t have as much screen space as the Kangana Ranaut and Shahid Kapoor, the impact of his role can be felt. His transformation, and realization, is convincing too, as he begins to see how his lover has fallen for someone else.
An interesting thing for me was how each character were not playing a Hindu- Miss Julia is a Christian, Rusi Billimoria is a Parsi, and Nawab Malik is a Muslim. Though the religion of these characters are not expressed explicitly, or discussed, it’s an interesting take to bring three different religions together.
A huge highlight for me were the visuals. Each scene has been shot at a location (no sets are used) and the lush landscapes were beautiful to stare at. The trees, the waterfalls, the sand, everything was scrumptious. The camera angles that zoomed in and out of a location gave a brilliant sense of the location we are in. At times, I felt like there were shades of The English Patient and Life of Pi. The visuals are so brilliant that one tends to overlook some of the shoddy CGI in the climax.
The musical numbers were also infused in the narrative and didn’t drag the movie. Technically, Rangoon is par excellence and it’s a joy to see a movie like this come out from Bollywood. Movies like makes me wish the Pakistani film makers take a leaf out of their book and learn from them.
Rangoon clocked in at 2 hours 25 minutes which didn’t feel too long (the movie is censored in Pakistan which may be a blessings as the full version is being seen as too long and heavy). However, the movie does require patience in the beginning, and trust me, when you do give it patience, the second half plays out extremely well.
So, is Rangoon worth watching? “Bloody hell” it is!
4 out of 5
Genre: Period, Drama, War, Romance
Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  Set against the backdrop of WW2 and India’s independence from the British Raj, Rangoon follows the lives of three people whose lives are changed when Miss Julia falls in love with her army escort much to the chagrin of her lover.
Running time: 145 minutes
Seen at: Supercinema, Royal Palm, Lahore
Approval Ratings: 75% Rotten Tomatoes
Posted in Bollywood

Kaabil

Kaabil is worth watching for Hrithik Roshan only. Had this movie starred another male lead, the movie would have fallen flat, and certainly not worth your money.

 

The premise is rather simple.

 

Rohan (Hrithik Roshan), is a blind man who does voice-over/ dubbing for a living. He is introduced to Supriya (Yami Gautam), or as Rohan calls her affectionately Su, is a blind woman who works for an NGO. The two meet over coffee and have an interesting conversation over not wanting to marry for personal reasons, and something about two negatives not creating a positive. They continue to meet and eventually decide to marry.

 

Life is going for the two lovebirds till one day Su catches the eye of a local legislator’s son, who rapes her. Rohan and Su go to the police but the corrupt lets them down leaving them frustrated and angry. One day after returning from work, Rohan makes a startling discovery: his wife has committed suicide.

 

Rohan, being blind, seeks out to avenge his wife’s death when he discovers another startling truth. This is where the movie becomes interesting as we witness our blind protagonist carry out the “perfect crime” in a “perfect world” against the corrupt law and order system.

 

Hrithik Roshan carries the movie on his shoulders. The movie is nothing without him, and what a fine actor he is. There are some who may not like him, but after watching him deliver such a stellar performance, they may change their minds. The strong character driven movie is what keeps the audience engrossed. His ability to convey such deep emotions playing a blind man is no easy feat and kudos to him for showing us such gravitas. He is committed and earnest which draws you in and at the end of it all, you cannot help yourself but root for him. That’s star power!

 

Yami Gautam plays her role to the T and does a decent job. Inspector Chaube was an interesting character too who blurs the line between doing good and bad at the same time.

 

However, the same cannot be said for the other characters, especially the villain, who merely come across as one-dimensional characters. The story had several plot holes too leaving you wondering about whether the director was lazy or hoped the audience wouldn’t notice it (How does Rohan get all the number? How does he know the location of the warehouse where he confronts the villain? How are people able to freely use construction lifts without any security?)

 

There were definitely shades of inspiration from other movies (Blind Fury, Wait Until Dark, Ek Villain and Badlapur -which is far superior) but Kaabil was refreshing to watch. There were some interesting dialogues too: making sure to have a plan B; how those who are blind can see a lot more than who can see; the difference between hearing and seeing and so on.

 

The songs were passable and forgettable, with one item song that was completely useless. Technically, there were some shoddy CG which dampened the quality of the movie.

 

Having said this, the movie solely belongs to Hrithik Roshan, and given the fact that movie is fast catching up in raking in profits compared to the other Bollywood blockbuster movie Raees, Hrithik Roshan has proved that he’s one of the best actors in Bollywood today and the audiences are connecting to him on an emotional level.

 

2 out of 5

 

Genre: Action, Drama

Director: Sanjay Gupta

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Yami Gautam, Ronit Roy, Rohit Roy

Rating: PG

Synopsis:  Rohan, a visually impaired man, seeks to avenge his wife’s death through some ingenious methods.

Running time: 139 mins

Seen at: Supercinema, Royal Palm, Lahore

Posted in Bollywood

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

What’s all the brouhaha about?
We in Pakistan don’t have the privilege of watching the latest Bollywood film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (This Heart is Difficult- ADHM) which was released this weekend (and has the ever popular Pakistani actor Fawad Khan). That’s the problem. Given our other choices at the cinema (Jack Reacher and The Accountant), moviegoers have resorted out to eating out more and skipping out going to the cinema.
There are people out there who are upset at not being able to catch the new Bollywood films (even those who pretend not to like Bollywood!). They are trying to find torrents and pirated DVD for this movie. Then there are the staff working at the cinema who talked about the lack of business and cinema houses making losses (Pakistani films don’t generate as much business as Bollywood films, realistically speaking).
Pakistan and India are at odds, with the recent developments of both nations expelling the diplomats. Pakistan wants us to watch Pakistani films. They don’t want us to watch Indian films. What they don’t realise is that by banning Indian films, they’ve boosted the pirated market for Bollywood DVDs.
So, what’s the story then?
We have three main principal characters: Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor), Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) and Saba (Aishwarya Rai). Ayan is a wealthy musician (something like the character he played in Rockstar but has a private jet now).
He meets Alizeh, who is a lucky go super friendly bubbly vivacious woman. They spend some time together and pretty soon, Ayan falls in love. But Alizeh doesn’t. She merely ‘friend zones’ him. She believes that friends cannot be lovers, and so would like to keep it that. We find out that Alizeh has been hurt by her lover DJ Ali (our very own Fawad Khan, with a thick facial beard) who throws her heart away.
Moving along, Ayan, now super hurt from being friend-zoned, meets Saba, who is somewhat of a poetess. He fancies her and they spend some time together. We find out Saba has also been hurt in love, courtesy her ex-husband (Shah Rukh Khan in a cameo), who in turn is also hurt in love.
By now you get the point that everyone in ADHM has been hurt or friend-zoned. Everyone has unrequited love. Nothing new. Which is what brings us to the next point.
Why this movie?
Karan Johar aka KJo (director) has said that this movie is very close to him and there is a reason why he’s making this film: unrequited love. We don’t know who he gave his heart away to (a woman or a man) but clearly KJo has experienced the feeling of unreciprocated love (the same feeling that Adele and Sam Smith used so powerfully to create Grammy award-winning musical albums). ADHM has elements of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and the Hollywood film The Fault in Our Stars. With KJo, we don’t expect originality but that same familiar path down those love stories that are mushy and fuzzy, with lots of human, emotional dramas. There will be women (and perhaps some men) who will shed tears and leave the cinema halls emotional.
KJo says “…it is not a conventional love story or love triangle. It’s a film that dwells deeply on relationships, heartbreaks and how love completes you, defines you and yet leaves you wanting for more. I have never had, in my entire career, a film that has come to me so fast, so organically and so from within.”
The Reactions…
Bollywood celebrities have given this film a massive thumbs up, the newest fans being Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor. They are raving about Anushka’s performance along with Ranbir’s. Some have even labelled ADHM as the film of 2016 (which will be taken over by Aamir Khan’s Dangal IMHO).
However, critics are giving ADHM an average rating. Nothing new, same old love story, same emotions are some of the reasons they are citing for the lacklustre affair. Their score rating ranges from 2/5 to 3/5.
Audiences in parts are loving it, and given the recent publicity the movie got due to the political tensions between the two nations, a lot more people went (some even went to see if Fawad Khan’s role was cut or not– it’s not cut!). Any publicity, whether good or bad, is always good for a movie. There may be others who may have a meh reaction.
The Controversy and the Hype!
There was a lot of controversy surrounding this movie due to the reason that while Pakistan and India were politically at odds, that a Bollywood movie has a *gasps* a Pakistani actor— some of you will find it shocking that there is another Pakistani actor too, Imran Abbas who somehow never got any attention or mention. There were rumors of the two female characters, Alizeh and Saba, who play Pakistanis too.
So, is it really a big deal? Not really. None of the characters are playing Pakistanis and Fawad Khan isn’t getting any rave reviews like he did for Kapoor and Sons (makes you wonder about his rather close friendship with KJo and why Fawad is doing movies for him). In fact, no one is talking about Fawad Khan anywhere. This movie belongs to Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma. There is no controversy and the hype is completely unjustified, though it did help the movie gain more viewership.
So, what’s the final verdict…?
Unless you are a die-hard fan of mushy love stories and KJo, this movie won’t bring anything new to you cinema going experience. If you are a die hard fan, then this movie will be a treat (given all the gorgeous locations, good looking cast, music etc etc) for you. In other words, you’d be fine not watching this at the cinema at all.
2.5 out of 5
Posted in Bollywood

Baar Baar Dekho

Having underperformed at the box office, with mixed reviews from the critics, along with bad word of mouth from the audience, Baar Baar Dekho (BBD) didn’t do well. This was a disappointment as the music for the movie was already massively popular with one song being a wedding favourite. Not to mention the sizzling chemistry between the two leads that became the talk of the town.

BBD, if seen without any prior judgment, is actually a little gem of a movie. I happened to catch this movie a few evenings ago (yes, I am late with my review as I am on a vacation), it turned out to be an entertaining watch—and I completely understood why this movie didn’t fare well. So I am going to go against the reaction the critics and audience showed for this movie.

So I am going to go against the reaction the critics and audience showed for this movie (and even my readers may very well end up disagreeing with me).

Sidharth Malhotra (hot off from his success with Kapoor and Sons) plays a mathematician Jai Varma. Katrina Kaif (not so hot after her previous failures with Phantom and Fitoor) plays Diya Varma, a sparky, happy go lucky woman. Jai and Diya (captured in a beautiful pre-credits montage set to the song Kho Gaye Hum Kahan) are childhood friends who’ve been through all the good and bad times together.

We see Jai Varma excel in the field of maths, and is a professor at college. Diya, on the other hand, is ready to settle down with the love of her life Jai. Pre-wedding celebrations have begun and things finally become too much for Jai when his wife to be Diya surprises him with the apartment her father has gifted the couple. So overwhelmed is Jai that he merely refuses to take such an expensive gift and ignores Diya’s request for marriage, leaving her heartbroken.

Having drunk himself to wash away his worries, Jai wakes up the next day to discover he’s on his honeymoon. The following day he wakes up to realise he and Diya are having a baby. He is confused initially but figures out that life is showing him parts of the future.

This is where the movie becomes really interesting, as Jai ventures through his future life to see how it turns out for him. But it’s not all that hunky-dory as he realises that his actions today can have negative consequences in the future so it becomes a race against time to correct his erroneous ways today to fix his future.

  1. The acting. Both the lead actors have a great chemistry. It’s a treat to watch them act together. Sidharth Malhotra has great improved over his previous movies and he is one actor to watch out for, provided he picks the right kind of movies. Katrina Kaif, much to my surprise, does some decent bit of acting. Her character is such that I can’t see anyone else doing her role. Yes, she actually does a bit of emoting and passes it off convincingly. I won’t say she’s a great actress, but in BBD, she carries off the character well.
  1. The music. With two songs already busting the charts, the songs played an important role in the movie. They weren’t invasive or forced but gelled in rather well with the movie. (Reading the lyrics translation made me realised how well the songs fit in with the moment in the movie!) My favourite has to be Kho Gaye Hum Kahan and Dariya and of course Kala Chashma (which comes in the end credits).
  1. The supporting actors. They all had a role to play. A subplot involving the life of Jai’s friend becomes detrimental. Jai’s mother and Diya’s father had important roles to play. Not to mention the priest who may or may not have something to do with Jai’s flash forward. They all do a great job with none of the melodrama that’s associated with Bollywood.
  1. The concept. If you could have a glimpse into your future, would you change your present? The idea posited in BBD is an important one, especially for those of us living very busy lives. The director of the movie Nitya Mehra has gone on record to say that she learnt the lesson in life the hard way, and so the bottom line is to manage and balance your work and personal life. (I thought the future moments- 2034- was shown convincingly and believable).
  1. The unique storyline. It made for a refreshing watch to see a movie that didn’t follow the standard story line of ‘girl meets boy fall in love fight fall out of love then reconcile and live happily ever after.’ Yes, BBD is ultimately a love story but a very refreshing one. The flash forwards and flash-backs made for a rather interesting movie. (It may seem like the concept is lifted from Hollywood, but it doesn’t really matter.)

Movies like BBD fall in the ranks of those type of movies that the masses will not like. Other similar natured movies (Ek Main aur Ek Tu, Tamasha, Wake Up Sid, Finding Fanny) don’t perform entirely well because of it’s heavy concept and relatability factor with the general population). There is no family melodrama, item songs, standard comedy track. In fact, BBD plays out very much like a Hollywood rom-com movie.

BBD is indeed that little gem of a movie that may warrant a second watch, only to catch the details one may have missed the first time round— a case in point that most have missed: as the priest explains to Jai the importance of a couple walking around the fire seven times, with each round signifying something special, Jai actually jumps forward and back in time seven times, with each time travel moment signifying something important.

Watch BBD with an open mind and an open heart and you will indeed take something heartwarming with you and you may end up reaching out to your loved ones.

4 out of 5