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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Realism....from Bollywood!!!

Author: Jiten S. Merchant (jm@vsnl.net) from Bombay (Mumbai) India
13 June 2003

"Chandni Bar" is the BEST movie to come out of Bollywood in 4 decades. Its a brave film, speaking unabashedly about the seemy underbelly of Bombay (and YES it is and always will be Bombay to many), about the nexus between crime and the corrupt police in this city, about sin and the hope of redemption dashed by a vicious system. No wonder this was NOT India's entry to the Oscars....our politicians would be loathe to export something that could "create a bad impression" (they sent the ghastly jingoistic "Lagaan" instead). Pity, because, as an example of cinema verite at its grittiest, it would have probably won. Tabu would have definitely been in the running for Best Actress --- her performance is a study in truth and control. I happened to meet her on a plane and asked whether the film was shot more-or-less in sequence; and she answered in the affirmative --- no doubt this helped her create a slowly-intensifying graph of emotion, peaking at her gut-wrenching howls in the final scene. Her subtlety and sensitivity in the role of the dance-hall girl have had few equals seen by this writer in the cinema. Also the film's design, capturing the slums, back-alleys, police-stations and of course the seedy, sexual, smoky, boozy atmosphere of the dance-bar (changing its decor and its music with the passage of time in the plot) has an attention to detail and a REALISM that anyone who has ever been to these places will marvel at. Bravo to all concerned....and now may we PLEASE have this available on DVD?

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Life behind closed doors

10/10
Author: bhatian (bhatian@yahoo.com) from Dubai, United Arab Emirates
10 August 2004

After you have seen Chandni Bar, your perception of any prostitutes around the world will change drastically. Instead of looking at a prostitute as a sexually satisfying object, you will look deeper into her and realize "why she ever became a prostitute in the first place". It is too easy to say that "there is no excuse for being a prostitute, and one can choose his/her own career in life", but after you have seen Chandni Bar, your view point will change completely and you will want to help many women who are helpless/poor/prostitutes around the globe.

Chandni Bar starts by introducing the main character's traumatic beginnings that locks her into doing things she willingly doesn't want to. Throughout the film, the "change room door" in the bar signifies the actual life of helplessly trapped women on one side of the door, and the "pretentious women" on the other side of the door who make a living by selling themselves.

In conclusion the film has been very well put together, and has an excellent direction (worthy of film awards).

I have had tears rolling down my cheeks over ten times when I watched this film, and I suggest you view it with someone who has very little respect for women or views them as sex object. This is a very hard hitting film that will touch you deep within.

My Score: 10 / 10 (for all the ten tears I had)

Watch, listen and understand !

NEIL BHATIA

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Heavy but very good

9/10
Author: sjohnson71 from Atlanta, GA
25 June 2003

A riveting, extremely well-acted movie. Also, one of the most depressing I've ever seen. If you're looking for upbeat Bollywood fare, go elsewhere. This is an excellent film, but the main character is put through the ringer time and again, and the story takes you with her.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Quite effective. Makes you think of the miseries around...

10/10
Author: (nashish@hotmail.com) from Washington, US of A
6 December 2001

Although I rented this movie on Video, I am still very moved by it. It was quite an experience. Hats off to the director and all the actors especially Tabu & Atul Kulkarni are very effective. The director has done a lot of non-routine stuff like the narration, the lights, the bar songs and background music etc. Hopefully the people get the right message the director wants to convey.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing but Powerful

10/10
Author: gb-1 from Edmonton, Canada
8 October 2001

This is one of the movies that allows to peek at the life of the people who have suffered and haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel. The movie is very effective for it takes us into the life of a beer bar dancing girl (Mumtaz) in the city of Bombay, and shows us the rut that she is in and any attempts made by her to rise are in vain. The movie is both dark in content and in the lighting which is symbolic of the hopelessness and is very effective. Tabu's performance is noteworthy as she depicts the life of Mumtaz with absolute sincerity. Details, such as, her twirling the cord of the phone when she is in a state of hopelessness shows she has really immersed herself into the character. With her performance you never feel that she is putting on a show. The movie neither glamourizes nor demeans the profession of these girls and the director deserves praise for that. The lack of songs is highly appropriate for this movie as this is not a "feel good" movie. As a warning to the faint of heart, this movie is highly disturbing and should be avoided when depressed.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Blown away by the realism...

10/10
Author: Kunal Mirchandani from Australia
10 January 2002

In the land of Bollywood, where movies are purely escapist fantasies of love everlasting, here is one film that isn't afraid to be realistic. Chandni Bar tells of the plight of young girl from a small town, who goes to sin city Mumbai where she works as a bar dancer to make both ends meet. There are several scenes in this movie which shine with brilliance, and Tabu shines in her role. The rest of the supporting cast also give expert performances, but particular mention must be given to Ananya Khare, whose portrayal of bar dancer Deepa steals the limelight from Tabu whenever both of them are in a scene together. Atul Kulkarni also gives a great performance as Tabu's criminal husband Potya Sawant. The film has a very realistic look in its portrayal of the gritty back alleys of Mumbai.

If you are in the mood for pure escapist fantasy, go watch Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. But once you get sick of the sugary sweet concotions Bollywood has to offer, give Chandni Bar a try. It's deliciously bitter!

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Truly epic

10/10
Author: kookytree from Birmingham, England
29 July 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contains Spoilers! When I saw this on late night television as part of a "Bollywood Season", it was certainly not what I was expecting. This certainly isn't the upbeat, rabble rousing fluff of stereotype. But it IS unspeakably beautiful.

We follow the life of Mumtaz, beginning with her as a teenage orphan forced to leave her small town for the big city after a devastating riot, and finishing with her as an exhausted looking mother of two. The echoes and pointed repetition -both visual and story wise- between Mumtaz's life as a young girl forced to work in a squalid, seedy Beer Bar, and her life as a struggling widow, are very profound (a subtle example being the different way the Beer Bar girls dance- the "2000" ones are certainly presented differently than those of Mumtaz's era, but ultimately, nothing has changed- nothing changing being perhaps the main theme of the film). The film, covering as it does almost twenty years, is epic in both scope and screen time, but I found myself captivated by every moment.

This is an unspeakably bleak film. One of the most obvious themes is that of sexual betrayal. A young Mumtaz is raped by her lazy uncle. Deepa -one of the most sympathetically portrayed and appealing supporting characters, and played by a great actress- Mumtaz's guide in the world of the Beer Bar, is repeatedly forced to have abortions when she becomes pregnant, always told that the next will be the one she can keep. Mumtaz's newly adolescent son is raped by two men barely older than he in the latter part of the film. There is a feeling that no matter what Mumtaz does, fate has something against her. All those she cares about are taken away. Her parents are burned alive, her husband is shot, her best friend is killed by her overbearing husband....when Mumtaz, gazing numbly at Deepa's body, says that she knows she will miss Deepa, but she has suffered so much that she finds it hard to gather real grief anymore, it's perhaps the saddest single moment of the film. And, at the film's closing, when her clearly intelligent son throws away all hope of a bright future -the holy grail of Mumtaz's existence, the only concept keeping her alive- all because of sexual betrayal and the revenge he feels compelled to reap because of it, you despair with Mumtaz, now a broken woman, all she has worked for reduced to nothing, in a worse postion she was in when she first came into the city.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. Certainly, in the first portion of the film, when Mumtaz finds herself inducted in the apparently raucous sorority of the Beer Bar girls, the ensemble of cackling, cynical harpies can't help but make you smile along with them. Most notable is Shabbo, a spitfire of a young girl, thrown out by her parents due to shame, sexually predatory and gleefully foul mouthed. Deepa teaching Mumtaz to dance is one of the most purely enjoyable scenes, in almost a Hollywood sense. The apparent joy of these scarlet women is made poignant by one scene that immediately follows Mumtaz being raped. The girls sit around comforting her, but Deepa tells the girl to get a grip on herself. She then reels off a horrid soap opera of every one of the Bar girl's lives, each one a victim with a dark past as they cry and rock themselves. We hear them laugh later in the film, and it's infinitely more poignant, as sad as Mumtaz's howling sounds of grief at the closing.

This film hates men. Or at least, the stark, omnipotent power men hold over women in Indian society. Frequently, male characters are spat the insult of "pimp" by the Beer Bar girls. When Mumtaz actually calls one this to his face (when this is clearly an accurate description), he is inutterably offended. Another key theme of the film is that the only power women hold over men is their sexuality. When Mumtaz is "bought" for the night by a man who will later be her husband, he kisses her neck and torso desperately, as she lies there like a shop dummy. He pulls away, frustrated and bewildered, almost unable to look at her. For one of the only moments in the film, Mumtaz has real power over someone. When Mumtaz needs to get her son out of jail -and quick- the only way she can feasibly make the money is to prostitute herself once more. But her age means she doesn't make enough- until her very young daughter (who Mumtaz has constantly told to get a good education and concentrate on her studies, so she doesn't have to live like her mother) out of the blue- presents her with the cash, having prostituted herself for the first time so as to make the money to save her brother. It's an epic moment, and the look on Mumtaz's face, and the face of her pseudo-pimp, says it all. History repeats itself in the most horrid of ways. The only power women have over men, is also one that is frequently used to hold them in a subservient position, the film says. Indeed, it isn't a power at all, as it merely traps and defines them- they can never transcend it. The Beer Bar girls seem happy and liberated on the surface, but scratch only a little bit below, and one always finds a man forcing them to work in a way they hate more than anything.

One of the best thing about the film is it's performance from it's star. This is a hard character to pull off- she ages twenty years, but never changes because the system won't let her. She is clearly weak, but also strong in her determination that her children will be different. Two underworld lords, on separate occasions, try and coaxe her into submitting her son to an induction of organised crime, and her daughter into work as a Beer Bar girl, with even a bar named after her. Mumtaz tactfully, but firmly, refuses. The aging process is always hard to pull off, but by focusing on the eye area- the "old" Mumtaz has the same complexion, but is carrying hefty luggage beneath her eyes- the make up emphasises the numbing horror of never being allowed to grow or change or better yourself, an exhausting, harrowing existence for an exhausting, harrowing, brilliant film. Definitely see it if you can. Oh, and can someone put this out on DVD please?!?!

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A Bewitching Tale of Bombay.

7/10
Author: Herag Halli from Heraganahalli, India
6 January 2005

I have seen lot of movies where one face lingers that made a tremendous impact on the senses-and it happens to be an actress that is not seen often-since the tendency is to concentrate on the name actors. The actress that I am referring to is Anaya Khare who played the part of kumud in "Devdas". She has incredible screen presence like the other character played by Atul Kulkarni. Both have performed well to the extent that they should be worthy of awards or recognition. The movie is stark with all the nakedness of the underground "Bombay" exposed, this is as black and white in contrast to the colorful dancers of "Chandni Bar". The movie is riveting with a great direction by Madhur Bhandarkar of "Satta" Fame-in fact this was one of the reason that I saw the movie. Tabu is a good actress but I think she is overrated. This movie is parallel to a recently released book "Maximum City" written by Suketu Mehta (most engrossing book on Mumbai and India that I have ever read-writtien by an NRI,) which depicts the other world that existed from time immemorial and will continue to exist with the characters that are mere mortals.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Good documentation of beer-bar dancers' lives

8/10
Author: venkat_rs from Bangalore, India
10 October 2001

Thanks to the plethora of movie and music channels, the 'non-commercial' movies of today get enough and sometimes, extra publicity. Hyderabad Blues gave some distributors the confidence to venture out with such movies.

As is obvious from the title of the movie and from the promos on TV channels, the story revolves around the central character, Mumtaz, and her life and times as a "beer-bar" dancer. Rather than just narrating one particular story, the movie tries to document the misery in the lives of such people.

Hats off to Madhur Bhandarkar for boldly doing a movie the way he wanted to do it. The movie hits you on your face even more than Satya (to which it has drawn comparisons), primarily because of the absence of commercial elements (including songs). The movie is raw yet clean.

But the other half of the credit should go to Tabu, who stakes her claim for a second National Award, with a sensitive portrayal. The only problem is that she tends to maintain a kind of laziness in all her roles. The other actors are adequate and play characters which move in and out of Mumtaz's life. Raju Singh's background score is a good supplement to the movie, though it sounds eerie at times.

This movie is strictly not for entertainment. Just go out and get the satisfaction of watching a good movie.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Overall a very good movie

Author: nilendu from Mountain View, CA
29 November 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Contains Spoilers If you don't remember the movie TRISHAKTI for any other reason than for Milind Gunaji's awful acting, a very forgettable starlet in attractive swimsuits and the ever expressionless Sharad Kapoor - you should immediately upgrade yourself. The director of Trishakti (Madhur Bhandarkar) has come out with a work to remember - Chandni Bar.

If you attach only a single word with this movie, it's DARK. Some more options and you will say - realistic, gloomy, pessimistic, too much marathi / Bombay centric. All inclusive, the piece you must see if you liked Satya.

This movie has actors. Only name you probably heard before is Tabu. But others simply excel.

The story is gripping. The screenplay is by far the best after Satya, and very much comparable to Vaastav. Mumtaz (Tabu) comes to Bombay with her 'Mamu' after losing both her parents in a 'danga' in Sitapur, UP (circa 1983). Mamu puts her to a dancing bar guided by Iqbal ChamDi - the mohalla man. Anna (who really speaks a superb dialect) owns Chandi Bar. Podya - the local goon - gets attracted to Mumtaz and marries her. They have two kids when Podya is killed by police in a 'fake' encounter. It's interval and rest of the movie is Tabu's struggling against all odds and losing each time! Finally it ends when she sees her past in both her kids and not her 'future' as she imagined!

What makes the film depressing to watch is that the central character never grows as a person. She keeps wailing as misfortunes hit her but never does anything to overcome her 'fate'. She is showed to have told 'All the misfortunes ffall on me' and weep! It is hard to sympathise with a character who doesn't do anything to solve her problems. In fact, the only relatively positive step she takes is to marry Podya (Atul Kulkarni) and quit dancing.

There are few moments when this film assumes the character of a 'docu-drama' and sways off from the story. At times you will see mundane efforts to somehow establish this film as the comprehensive research work on Bombay's Beer Bar and NOT as an isolated story. (The director acks. this before the movie starts!). Too much of generalization at times. But it doesn't take too long to bounce back - such a tight screenplay it has.

There are juvenile homosexuality, criminal-politician nexus (so believable it looks on screen !), beer bar epic, marathi speaking Bombay police, and most of which you expect in a 'post-Satya' era.

The thing that will draw your attention is the (sometimes gross) coupling of the period with the then hindi movies. The beer bar is shown first time in 1980s. Anil Kapoor's photo hangs there. There is a Kimi Katkar show from Tarzaan too in case you wanna concentrate on those more! The posters are very much 80s. But when Mumtaz grows older the posters change to Shahrukh and then to Hrithik. The songs do it too. Probably there is a bit overdoing of it when Potya kills a 'khabri' (one who tips off police) and the background poster is from 'Khoon Bhari Maang'!!

For classical fans, Shubha Mudgal composed the title music. It's great!

The direction is good. But what will really impress you about this movie are the light and screenplay. The light work is blended very carefully particularly when it's inside the bar. Anyone who has been in a beer bar and police station in bombay will admit that this movie didn't at all look like being shot indoor!

Once again, this movie should be a lesson for young screenplay writers. It deals with many dimensions and still never ever on a single point it falls flat. There are patchy moments (like when Podya kills Mamu enraged over the fact he raped Mumtaz) - but the screenplay is so taut - you won't be distracted by those during the movie.

It's a must see. Do watch it. If nothing, the money will go towards 'Stop Yash Chopra Circus' fund!!

Note - Watch out for Atul Kulkarni. This guy has every potential to overcome Manoj Vajpayee. Off late Manoj has been only concentrating on mannerism. A lesson he could have avoided picking up while working with the B.

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