How a handful of Sikh soldiers bravely fought thousands of Afghan tribesmen in the 1897 battle of Saragarhi is at the heart of Kesari.
With Akshay Kumar playing Havildar Ishar Singh, the valorous Sardar who leads his men from the front, you know that this will be an out and out star vehicle. Which it is: he is in almost every frame, barring a few passages here and there.
It is also a full-blown melodrama, the kind of film in which soldiers staring down ‘maut’, because that’s what fearless Sikhs do, burst into song. You know these beats, because you have seen them in practically every Bollywood film on ‘jung’ and ‘azaadi’: the rough-and-tumble camaraderie between the men; a rebel who will come to heel; a youngster, who has never made a kill, coming into his own when the time is right, and scant female presence (the chirpy Chopra as Akshay’s love interest is a walk-on part) just enough to show the soft side of the steely soldier.
There are also some threads which seem to have been included to kowtow to the current majoritarian sentiment: a mulla who talks up ‘jehad’, spouts venom against women, and ‘kaafirs’ who need to be decimated. A token Afghan who is not so much of a hardliner is bunged in for balance, but we know exactly who the good guys here are: the 21 Sikh soldiers who are ready to give up their life for their ‘kaum’, and not as men of the British army. Not to miss that ‘kesar’ is the Hindi word for saffron.
What works for the film is its unapologetic embrace of loudness and lack of nuance: rousing speeches of patriotism keep breaking into the bloody action on the battlefield. Akshay gets the maximum, naturally; but the other soldiers do too. Some work has gone into outlining the other men, one of whom is clearly ‘lower caste’, who gets a teeka of equality, another who hasn’t had time for his suhagraat, and yet another who has just become a father.
Akshay is the film. And he pulls it off, keeping that ‘kesari pagdi’ aloft right till the end, delivering thundering speeches while keeping his men’s morale up. His Ishar Singh is inhabited and convincing, and it helps that his Punjabi accent is completely on point.
Finally, despite its predictable arcs, the outcome which we already know, stretched-out length, and clear alignment with the nationalistic mood of the nation, we stay with the film.
Review: Since revenge stories are literally done-to-death in cinema, crafting a smart thriller around the same old saga requires smart execution and tactfulness. Director Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Badla’ delivers solid thrills and genuine twists with great effect. This whodunit, keeps the viewer engaged and constantly guessing about the big reveal. The fact that this is a remake of the Spanish film The Invisible Guest does not matter too much. The solid performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu, along with the eye-for-detail in writing by Ghosh and his team, make the film a thrill-a-minute ride.
The majority of the drama unfolds between just the two characters Naina and Badal Gupta, as they recollect the episode of Arjun’s murder. It’s a dialogue-heavy setup, where the interaction between two central characters draws you in and their repartee catches your attention. In the simplest sense, the premise of ‘Badla’ is a conversation between an accused, Naina and her lawyer, Badal. But, the very fact that both characters withhold the truth and reveal their true intentions, slowly and steadily keeps the intrigue alive. Ghosh and his co-writer Raj Vasant adapt the story to an Indian context with plenty of Mahabharata references. Some of the dialogues get a bit repetitive, but the emotions of the characters and the situation are conveyed crystal clear. The constant back and forth into the flashbacks does get a bit tedious and makes the film feel a lot longer than it actually is.
The real reason why the film comes together is the rapport between Taapsee Pannu and Amitabh Bachchan. On paper, the setting of client and lawyer may be familiar thanks to the two actors’ previous collaboration Pink, but the relationship and the dynamics between the two are completely new in ‘Badla’.Taapsee’s character has many shades and they’re revealed one by one as the story progresses. The actress makes all the transitions seem perfectly authentic. Mr Bachchan on the other hand has a more straight-laced role, but deft nuances and his ability to pull off the best lines with his elegant baritone, makes the performance as clinical as a veteran lawyer’s arguments in court. Together, both actors combine to create the right amount of tension and thrill. Supporting performances by Tony Luke and Amrita Singh are top-notch, too.
Sujoy Ghosh has made a habit of pulling off complex thrillers like ‘Kahaani’ and ‘Kahaani 2’ with ease, and with the multi-layered narrative of ‘Badla’, he seems right at home. The cinematography by Avik Mukhopadhyay, the editing by Monisha R Baldawa and the background score by Clinton Cerejo compliment Ghosh’s edge-of-the-seat storytelling. The predictability of the screenplay dampens the thrills occasionally, also the climactic twist requires a healthy dose of suspense of disbelief. But, even the seasoned genre faithfuls will agree that ‘Badla’ offers a creative and thrilling end to a captivating mystery.
Luka Chuppi Review: ‘Luka Chuppi’ is a situational comedy from the word go. And the situation in question is live-in relationships. What starts as a news story for a local reporter Guddu, turns into his own love story with hilarious complications. But peddling along are a host of other societal issues like misogyny, gender inequality, caste bias and moral policing that are tackled in a funny and harmless way. However, there is hardly a dull moment in the film that never takes itself too seriously.
As a debutante, director Laxman Utekar does a fine job of throwing in a bunch of quirky characters in unusual situations. Starting with the film’s hero Kartik Aaryan, who looks way too polished for his small-town character, but along the way, you soon start rooting for him. Whether he is covering a story or running for cover himself – Kartik exudes an endearing charm that is relatable. Ditto for Kriti. With all her prettiness and poise, she portrays the character of a girl-next-door without being over-the-top. However, the funny thing is, the two stand out as the only gorgeous couple in the entire town, what with the perfect touch of makeup and hairdo at all times. Their chemistry is not exactly crackling, but quite easy going, which works well for the narrative.
While Aparshakti Khurana plays the supportive friend Abbas adequately well, there is a very noticeable lack of enough comic punches in his dialogues. Pankaj Tripathi, a regular in this genre, is largely wasted in a role that could have been etched out far more elaborately. The rest of the actors, get ample chance to contribute generously. Be it the eccentric members of Guddu’s joint family or Rashmi’s politician dad, who uses his clout to rally against inconsequential issues.
But what really makes ‘Luka Chuppi’ an entertaining watch is the nuanced writing by Rohan Ghoge and its execution. The first half is swift and packed with funny moments that end in an unpredictable twist. The second half too, is marked by quite a few laugh-out-loud moments. At some point, the humour becomes repetitive, but it’s the short run-time that comes to the film’s rescue. Film’s two most popular songs (Coca-Cola & Poster) are thrown in at the end, during the credit roll.
Overall, ‘Luka Chuppi’ is a fun ride that never gets too preachy or uncomfortable for the family audience. It’s a clean entertainer with a message that’s not too loud, but clear, for sure.
Latest Bollywoods Movies Director and co-writer Abhishek Chaubey, working with a superb screenplay by Sudip Sharma and aided by first-rate camerawork (Anuj Rakesh Dhawan), editing (Meghna Sen), sound design and background score (Bendict Taylor and Naren Chandavarkar), crafts a disturbing, unvarnished cinematic portrait of violence and its repercussions in Sonchiriya, an immersive dacoit drama set in the harsh, dusty ravines of Chambal in the 1970s. The film completely upends the conventions of the genre. It draws the themes of crime and retribution, caste and gender, despair and redemption into the near-mythic, overarching sweep of the narrative.
The actors at Chaubey’s disposal – the known ones (Manoj Bajpayee, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bhumi Pednekar, Ashutosh Rana, Ranvir Shorey) and the not-so-known ones (Jatin Sarna, Harish Khanna, Sanjay Shrivastava, seasoned theatre actors all) – merge themselves so seamlessly with the milieu of this shot-on-actual-locations saga that they do not seem to be performing for the camera but actually living and breathing the parts. It is an astoundingly unblemished ensemble show.
and some not-so-willing. But that would be only if you go anywhere near it. The choice is yours.
Bajpayee’s is a class act yet again, Rana smoulders with intent, Shorey is fire and brimstone, Rajput exudes anguish and determination in equal measure and Pednekar claims her space in the male-dominated cast and forbidding setting with a measured turn that evokes life-affirming, ennobling compassion.
The outlaws that this film is about aren’t glamorised fugitives riding around on sturdy stallions like knights in shining armour. They survive on frugal meals and their weapons are at best merely functional. In one scene, an arms smuggler offers them better weapons – Rs.35,000 for one and Rs. 60,000 for two, remember that the period is the mid-1970s – but the chief of the dreaded gang of Thakurs is too strapped for cash to go for the deal.
His men are deeply conflicted individuals who have rebelled against a society that has cast them aside – they repeatedly talk about their sorry plight and, in their softer moments, allow themselves to dream of normalcy after they have surrendered and served their prison terms – and inevitably have to grapple with the moral dilemmas that attend violence and its aftermath. Memories of an involuntary bloodbath that they caused in a Gujjar village haunts the dacoits, defining their subsequent acts of both desperation and redemption.
Sonchiriya announces its intentions even before the light goes up on the screen – the buzz of flies on the soundtrack leads us from a dark frame to an extreme close-up shot of a dead snake lying in the path of the Thakur gang. The stench of death and fear pervades this unflinching probe into the pitfalls of rebellion and maleficent masculinity that seeks blessings from a Mother Goddess – Maa Bhavani – the reigning deity of the Chambal Valley. But this is, at the same time, a place where rape and repression are rampant and women are doomed to a veiled, voiceless existence. What is instantly noteworthy aboutSonchiriya is that the scalding portrait of patriarchy and prejudice that it paints, despite being set well over four decades ago, is still disquietingly relevant.
Equally interesting in this tale about guilt and expiation – here, lives have to be put on the line every day and every hour in the pursuit of self-preservation – is its strong ethical underpinning. One of the key plot points in the film pertains to the character of Man Singh (Manoj Bajpayee in an outstanding special appearance) making a fatal sortie driven purely by a call of conscience. One of his two most trusted men, Lakhan Singh (Sushant Singh Rajput), warns him of the grave perils that lie ahead. The other, Vakil Singh (Ranvir Shorey), chooses to follow his leader unquestioningly.
This daring raid by Man Singh’s gang on the house of a wealthy jeweller on the wedding day of the man’s daughter – it coincides with June 25, 1975, the day Emergency was promulgated in India, a fact underscored by Indira Gandhi’s voice announcing the move over AIR Akashvani and the slogans on a van parked at the site propagating the Prime Minister’s 20-point programme and not only asserting ‘Inki ladaai hamaari ladaai’but also exhorting people not to fall prey to rumours –“dheeli baatchit se bachiye”. How difficult could it be to understand this fraught situation in the times of tall claims and fake news that we live in?
Man Singh puts the timeless predicament of the dispossessed in perspective. When someone advises him to exercise caution against the police, led by an unrelenting Inspector Gujjar (Ashutosh Rana), the outlaw says: “Have government bullets ever killed anyone? The promises of politicians kill.” He then mimics an electoral speech (Bhaiyon aur behnon…) as the film cuts to the next sequence.
In this universe where life hangs by a thread, even the police force operates pretty much like a criminal gang, armed with the licence to kill at will. But is it free from the malaise of caste biases that afflicts the rest of the land? Not a chance in hell. We watch two of Inspector Gujjar’s subordinates talk about how demeaning it is for them, both Thakurs, to take orders from a Gujjar
Total Dhamaalis total duh: a slapstick caper that lurches from one brainless gag to another as a bunch of grownups stop at nothing to outdo each other in making utter fools of themselves. It is a zoo out there, literally. Once they are done with their asinine antics that might have passed off for passable jabs at situational humour if only the screenwriters knew what constitutes screen comedy, the characters wind up in a menagerie where the silent animals – computer-generated and otherwise – seem far more sorted out than the humans who invade the space in search of a missing booty.
Producer-director Indra Kumar, not having learnt his lessons from the low-yielding second Dhamaal outing eight years ago, continues to believe that all you need to elicit laughs is to have characters getting into life-threatening trouble and coming out of it largely unscathed and then continuing to dish out more of the same. Total Dhamaal is Tom and Jerry stuff – mind you, we have nothing against Tom and Jerry stuff when it is the real thing – masquerading as live-action buffoonery.
The film has five pairs of cartoonish characters, including a bickering Gujju-Marathi couple played by Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit, sent on a wild goose chase by a dying man’s revelation about a secret treasure hidden in a zoo in a place called Janakpur. The bloke who breathes his last surrounded by the aforementioned pairs has enough wind left in his lungs to intone “Mera aakhri waqt aa gaya hai“ before giving them a detailed lowdown. But he conveniently drops dead just before he can divulge the exact spot where the treasure is buried.
Total Dhamaalis a multi-starrer that demonstrates how not to waste a star cast that has actors with genuine comedic talent like ArshadWarsi and Javed Jaffrey, who provide some of the film’s brighter moments, which, of course, isn’t saying much.
Ajay Devgn, one of the producers of the film, plays Guddu, a super greedy conman who gyps a police commissioner (Boman Irani) and his sidekick (Vijay Patkar) of 50 crore rupees – it is their commission for converting Rs. 100 crore in pre-demonetisation currency notes. “Police commissioner hoon, 50 per cent commission toh bannta hain,” he declares when questioned why his cut is so huge.In a film like Total Dhamaal, the actors are reduced to such chumps that the animals that they run into in the climax – elephants, chimps, tigers, lions, gorillas and other poor creatures who deserve much better – seem to look as askance at them as the paying audience. If nothing else, Total Dhamaal is a great leveller – it reduces all of us, critics included, to dunces, some willing and some not-so-willing. But that would be only if you go anywhere near it. The choice is yours.
Who is the bravest mainstream Bollywood actress today? Not many of them get a chance to be brave. They are so taken up with being gym-produced eye candy that our heroines today scarcely get a chance to make their presence in the films they consider to be pathbreaking.
I mean, what did the highly-regarded Anushka Sharma do with her ostensibly offbeat roles in Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejaland Aanand Rai’s Zero? With the exception of Alia Bhatt who is an absolute game-changer, the other actresses are only adding lustre to the patriarchal proceedings.
There are exceptions. Deepika Padukone who debatably claims to have been paid more than her co-stars Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, is trying to make a difference to the way audiences perceive beautiful actresses.
I am afraid she was not able to bring the role in Padmaavat to full fruition. It remains one of those unfinished semi-parched characters that could have come across so powerfully if only the actress had pushed for passion. If only Ms Padukone had the range. Alas, for all of Bhansali’s affinity to her craft, Deepika is more Waheeda Rehman than Nutan.
Sonam Kapoor too is a limited actress. Her limitations come bubbling to the surface in the dramatic scenes. But a serious self-awareness helps Sonam overcome her limitations. She knows she is no Nutan, Sridevi or Mumtaz. But she also knows she has a certain finesse and restraint to her personality which serve her well in roles that put the female protagonist in a crisis.
Sonam’s carried herself with splendid savoir faire in Neerja, where she played a brave airhostess (almost as brave as Sonam, the actress), who perishes trying to save lives on a hijacked flight.
In her new film, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (okay, exhale), Sonam plays a homosexual girl trapped in the tropes of a tradition suffocated by sexist readings of what women should do. I can’t imagine any other prominent actress of today doing the role. Play a lesbian? What would mummy/mummy’s friends/mummy’s NGO partners think? Chee!
I had an argument about this with Sonam’s father Anil Kapoor, who insisted that today’s young actors are very adventurous. But he couldn’t name one of Sonam’s peers who would happily play gay. Audiences are blamed for not being evolved enough to accept flawed/deviant/non-conformist protagonists. But are our actors and filmmakers evolved or even adventurous enough?
Sonam has displayed an enterprising spirit right from the start. While other newcomers take the safe route, she chose Sanjay Bhansali’s Saawariya, a play-on-film shot in a blue hue that transcended the vibrant colours of puppy love.
Interestingly, Deepika Padukone made her debut on the same Friday in November 2007, with an absolutely conventional double role in Farah Khan’s mediocre Om Shanti Om. Deepika was the original choice for Saawariya. But then Sanjay Bhansali decided to go for the box office bait of Rishi Kapoor’s son (Ranbir) and Anil Kapoor’s daughter (Sonam).
Filming Saawariya wasn’t easy for Sonam. Many of the scenes had her fumbling for expression. I was sometimes on the sets to see her helplessness. Midway through the shooting Bhansali decided to shut down the film.
Love stories can get quite cliched, but when you talk about new age romance, the conversations can get pretty complex and interesting. ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ (‘ELKDTAL’) is an unconventional tale of finding love and acceptance. The film employs fair share of stereotypes to tell a modern and relevant story. The fact that it brings a still niche subject like homosexuality, to a mainstream movie, is one of its strengths. Thankfully, the progressive theme and emotional quotient of the movie, help it rise above a screenplay that lacks sheen.
The film starts off with the traditional boy-meets-girl setup, where Sahil finds himself carried away by emotion. A random, but pretty girl, Sweety, grabs his hand and pulls him into a chase. And the boy, as you’d expect, falls in love and sets off on a path to track the girl down and profess his undying love. Most of the film’s first half is spent in setting up this rather old-fashioned portrayal of courtship. The girl’s loveable, but conservative Punjabi family is also pooled into the story as the usual Beeji (Madhumalti Kapoor), Veerji (Abhishek Duhan) and Papaji, Balbir (Anil Kapoor) bring in the quintessential family drama. The film spends a little too much time setting up the deliberate, but misleading track that is in essence, building up to Sweety’s ultimate confession. Once she does come-out and reveal that the romance between the boy and girl won’t materialise, the film too, changes gears.
The second half, while still a bit predictable, engages in a sensitive and beautiful portrayal of a girl feeling trapped by her own emotions. The story’s track of a father coming to terms with the sexuality and the suppressed emotions of his daughter is touching. Though a bit theatrical, ‘ELKDTAL’ puts forth a progressive and important conversation around personal feelings and the true liberating nature of love. All of this plays out, in the most fun and entertaining fashion, which in a way is the strength of the movie, too.
The bulk of the entertainment comes through the performances by Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Rajkummar Rao. Sonam K Ahuja plays the central role and while she does manage to bring in the required vulnerability to her character, she doesn’t always convince you of Sweety’s emotional conflict. But, some staggering performances by Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao add a veritable punch to the proceedings. The adorable romantic comedy between Kapoor and Chawla is a sure-shot winner, too. Supporting performances by Madhumalti Kapoor, Abhishek Duhan, Regina, Seema Pahwa and Brijendra Kala are all top notch.
Writer-director Shelly Chopra Dhar and co-writer Gazal Dhaliwal (who previously wrote Irrfan’s ‘Qarib Qarib Singlle’) manage to spark off some pretty interesting ideas of love. Yes, their film deals with sexuality and seeking acceptance from the older and more-conservative family members, but at the core, ‘ELKDTAL’ talks about love being a universal feeling, one that cannot be shackled by societal norms and diktats. The writing isn’t all top-grade, but this film has its heart in the right place and sometimes that’s all that really matters.
Recently, Dabboo released a nine-minute-teaser of Dabboo Ratnani 2019 calendar with the creme de la creme of Bollywood, like Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya, Shah Rukh, Kartik, Kriti, Jacqueline, Sunny and Janhvi.
This year, the calendar features 24 Bollywood stars – Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Alia Bhatt, Farhan Akhtar, Varun Dhawan, John Abraham, Siddharth Malhotra, Tiger Shroff, Parineeti Chopra, Sonakshi Sinha, Sunny Leone, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shraddha Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Kartik Aaryan, Janhvi Kapoor and Kiara Advani.
While Kartik Aaryan and Janhvi Kapoor will be marking their calendar debut in the 2019 edition, it also features Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who has graced all 20 calendars of Dabboo over the years.The new calendar is all about the superstars and new age actors coming together with panache.Vidya Balan, who featured for the 12th time, shared the photo and wrote: “My shot in @dabbooratnani’s 2019 calendar. Thankoo @manishadratnani for being such an integral part of every one of our shoots.
Manikarnika starts with Amitabh Bachchan’s booming baritone where he throws light on how the riches of India are fast being plundered by the British. Within seconds, we are led into the world of Manikarnika through Kangana Ranaut’s imposing screen presence.
Kangana captivates your attention in every frame and grows from strength to strength as the film progresses. This is clearly one of her best performances and the role itself lends ample scope for her to perform. From the tender, beautiful moments of a young girl, to the heavy-duty action scenes from the battlefield soaked in blood and sweat – Kangana effortlessly brings Manikarnika to life. The casualties, in turn, are the rest of the actors, who don’t get a chance to shine just as well. Be it veterans like Danny Denzongpa (as Ghaus Khan, also a prominent figure in history) and Kulbhushan Kharbanda or the debutantes like Ankita Lokhande, who plays the role of Jhalkaribai. All supporting actors including Atul Kulkarni, who plays Tatya Tope and Bengali actor Jisshu Sengupta have precious little to do. Needless to say, most of the British characters come off as caricatures, except actor Richard Keep, who plays Sir Hugh Rose.
The narrative of the film directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish, stays on course showing the internal struggle within Jhansi’s royal family and unraveling important historical events during the 1800s. Some incidents like the Meerut Sepoy mutiny of 1857 are used as reference points, but the focus remains on Jhansi’s rebellion against the British.The film admittedly uses many cinematic liberties and fictional detours to ensure there aren’t any dull moments in this rousing war drama. There is a strong thread of entertainment that binds it all together. The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy add to the patriotic fervour of the movie.