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2017: Outright Mockery. ♦ Grade F, 23 July 2017

If you look at Major Ravi's filmography, it is clear what his intentions are. However, none of his films are cinematically strong. They are like used bullet shells that have no use but are there to remind us about wars. This war drama is no different.

Sahadevan (Mohanlal) is a Major in the Indian army who speaks awful Hindi and English, and leads a team of largely Malayali soldiers at the border. It's 1971, and India is sporadically at war with East or West Pakistan (it's unclear). Although Sahadevan has a family back home, he is dedicated at his work and on the task at hand, which is to kill as many enemies as possible in the battlefield. With insubordination, arrogance, constant thirst for alcohol, and a large belly that prevents free movement of his body as weapons, he leads his battalion against a faction of Pakistani soldiers headed by Commander Akram Raja (Arunoday Singh), who (no prize for guessing) also has a family back home.

The narrative has no idea what it's doing because at one point, we see a soldier being sent to help a father grieve his father's loss and at another, we see Sahadevan reprimanding a young soldier for exchanging risqué pornographic love letters with his newly-wedded wife. To say the least, everything is all over the place. It looks like Director Ravi gathered all typical war elements in his hand, put it in a Preethi mixer grinder, and blended it till the time he was satisfied and was able to cook up a pretentious and pathetic story to decorate the blended mixture with. I'm not sure if the guarantee provided by Preethi was enough, because the final dish looks stale, smells ghastly, and tastes like human viscera. Throughout the film, the Indian soldiers are running and walking around the field in groups like they are in a treasure hunt. Just plain awful!

There's not a single good point to talk about 1971: Beyond Borders except Arunoday Singh's below average performance as a moral army man. Whatever the makers intended by creating such an ambitious yet floppy film is beyond me, because neither the technical aspects nor the writing is proper here. Mohanlal is a phenomenal actor but seeing him blurt out nonsense and play with a tank in a war field is excruciatingly painful. His character is a self-righteous pig who ogles at young married women when not at the war-front. While the supporting cast also disappoint with their unpolished performance, it is untalented Allu Sirish who becomes another pain in the neck portraying a soldier like he's a floozy.

Director Ravi is an awful director, and this film proves it once again. His intentions as a former army man may be novel, but it's a kind request from a serious cinema-watcher that he stop making us - the general, informed audience - put up with such ludicrous war films. I'm not even going to talk about those songs that are part of this 130-minute madness.

BOTTOM LINE: Major Ravi's "1971: Beyond Borders" is not a war film, but instead a mockery of war, picturised using painted characters that do not know anything about war just like the people who made the film. It is cringe-worthy, melodramatic, and purely imaginative. Skip for life!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Michael Is Rolling Over In His Grave. ♦ Grade D-, 22 July 2017

If anything Sabbir Khan has given Bollywood then it's disgrace, with the help of a couple turkeys like Kambakkht Ishq (2009) and Baaghi (2016). Maintaining the low quality of his entire filmography comes, he comes up with this dance comedy that takes inspiration from one of the greats to make a film that is eligible for at least one of EIC's Ghanta Awards.

Munna (Tiger Shroff) is a young man who aspires to be a successful dancer. An orphan, he was brought up by Michael (Ronit Roy), a dancer himself who used to work in films, Munna wants to participate in dance competitions and climb his way up. However, Michael does not concur with his son's aspirations and instead wants him to get a government job which is more secure and reputable. Munna disregards this and ends up being challenged by nobodies, eventually locking horns with Mahendra (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a fiendish gangster, whose kid brother he beat up the previous night. As they face off, one thing leads to another, and Mahendra requests Munna to teach him proper dancing in 30 days so that he can impress Dolly (Nidhhi Agerwal), a petite young dancer who works at a local pub...

As anyone can guess, Munna also falls for Dolly, but is prevented at courtship by his deal with Mahendra which has now grown into explosive camaraderie. It is evident that the writers wanted to make a comedy film, but also wanted to spice it up with gimmicks of dance and some old school hero-villain elements. All things considered, there is not an iota of logic in the proceedings. What gangster requests his potential victim to teach him dance moves? Okay, humor apart, how did it even pass muster in the writer's room? Having this as the main plot element, the film then shifts into romance between Munna and Dolly as both of them dance their bottoms off, eluding poor Mahendra.

There is some reality show in the background (which is judged by Shaan, Farah Khan, and Chitrangada Singh if you're interested), a gang of three that happens to be Munna's chum group but now seem to be helping Dolly qualify in that reality show, Munna not disclosing his "superb" dance skills to Dolly just because, and Dolly chasing her dream to prove to her father. There is all sorts of gimmickry in the film - something director Khan is known for - that makes it all look like a flashy TV show without substance.

Shroff is an average actor, but seeing him break a leg and then some bones is not entertainment. His character Munna claims to be an aspirant dancer yet he has more panache as a fighter. His co-star and debutante Agerwal cannot act, but she is at least pretty and that's what matters in Bollywood (other than nepotism; y'all reading the news, right?). Siddiqui performs well, but I'd rather see him typecast than fooling around like this. Supporting cast do a decent job.

Overall, Sabbir Khan's preparation is typical Bollywood that is unbearable to watch. Of course, there is some comic relief and nice dancing by Shroff, but other than, it's just another doltish film that, if tested by the times, is sure to turn into a shambles. For Pete's sake, it has a veteran actor like Ronit Roy dancing to "Goriya Chura Na Mera Jiya" in the opening sequence itself. Enough to make you coil in unintended laughter. It does not even respect the title, to be honest. A few Jackson moves here and there is not enough, guys!

BOTTOM LINE: Sabbir Khan's "Munna Michael" is too flashy and made entirely without logic. Its lead actors also fail to deliver what they promised, leaving everything to Ronit Roy and Nawazuddin, both of whom cannot dance. Rent a DVD if you are a fan. Watch "Lipstick Under My Burkha" instead.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Sakhavu (2017)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Socialism For Dummies. ♦ Grade D+, 22 July 2017

Sidhartha Siva's films often touch topics that no one else dares to. While his brilliant 2014 film "Ain" ended up being dust in the wind, his newest venture, a political drama, is just a long, unsolicited exercise on the basics of communism.

Krishna Kumar (Nivin Pauly) is a young slacker who considers himself a staunch believer of communism but lacks the determination or ideals of a true communist. He is a good for nothing fellow whose only motivation is improving his personal life even if that means not fighting for what's right. One day, just after creating a nasty plan to beat up one of their own party members, Krishna Kumar and Mahesh (Altaf Salim), his dim-witted sidekick, find themselves in a hospital. They were asked by the party to go there and help with a rare blood group for a wounded veteran communist also named Krishnan. What follows is Krishna Kumar's harried attempts to use his puny powers as a party member to display authority in front of the patient's kin and kith. Things go for a toss when he realizes that the person lying in intensive care is somewhat of a big deal...

The primary story occurs in a single, present day, whereas the parts that have some substance is in the backstory of Sakhavu Krishnan from the time he goes to a Kerala village in the early 80s to spread canons of communism and build a party/union to the time that leads to his current undesired hospital stay. While the narration successfully tries to showcase the current state of socialist politics in Kerala, it is the tried-and-tested elements that hamper the viewing experience. The introductory duologue between Krishna Kumar and Mahesh is not the most happening thing to start a film with. From then on, it's just below-average comedy produced primarily by Salim until the time when the film plays out Sakhavu Krishnan's awe- inspiring escapades as he challenges a couple of fascist plantation owners in an uphill Kerala village.

It is clear with Sakhavu Krishnan's backstory as to what the makers had wanted to convey, mostly to today's politics-inspired youth. The film uses Krishnan's activities as ways to educate its audience about real socialism. Thankfully there's no hint of nationalism here, but if the film works a little as it does, it's because of this middle part. Strong dialogues and interesting stunts involving fire torches are a pleasure to watch, but then again, the clock ticks for long here. It's a terribly long film (at two hours and 45 minutes) that gives much importance to background score and dialogues. The second half is again a stretch, shifting the focus to another episode that reiterates Sakhavu Krishnan's greatness.

Weighing the number of plot holes and issues with good points gives me a negative ratio, which is good. It is borderline preaching, in a way, but extra points for reminding us that politics is a part of all our lives since birth even if we are not interested in it. It's absolutely true.

Pauly is good as the lead protagonist. Most of the audience are going to able to complete watching this film because of his charm. Altaf is an average comedian who will need to work harder if he intends to stay. Supporting cast do not have much to do, and so do the actresses. It stumps me how they cast Aishwarya Rajesh in such a prominent role. Her haphazard dialogue delivery aside, her acting skills are below par, especially when she has heavier frames to handle. Gayathri Suresh is a puppet while Aparna Gopinath comes out directly from the ABCD (2013) sets. However, it was good to see underdogs being cast.

Although with a weak start and a less weaker end, Sakhavu as a film manages to entertain sporadically. There are some good scenes here and there, but as a whole, it does not pass muster. Despite Pauly's above-average performance and the seasonal ingredient of communism, the film fails to grip its audience. Poor editing and clichéd plot elements are to be blamed. Nonetheless, it is still a better film than Tom Emmatty's Himalayalan blunder called Oru Mexican Aparatha (2017).

BOTTOM LINE: Sidhartha Siva's "Sakhavu" is a lengthy tutorial about communism, intended for today's youth who have a very short attention span. It does not really work, you see. Rent a DVD if you are into politics or are a Pauly fan.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

The Curse Of Being Destitute Yet Humble. ♦ Grade C+, 16 July 2017

Every year, a few indie Malayalam films make it to the theatres, and soon move out not due to a lack of quality but because of a lack of an audience. 9 out of 10 times, such films are worth a watch. This tragedy here is worth a lot more.

Pareeth (Kalabhavan Shajohn) is an old man with humility. He lives with his wife Avva (Sajitha Madathil) and three daughters who are waiting to get married. Pareeth provides for his family by working as a pandari (chef) who is renowned in his village for his biriyani-making skills. Things are not copacetic in his house and poverty is just around the corner, but Pareeth's worry is about the possibility of his daughters' marriage. While the youngest is perceived as pretty, the elder ones are considered "ugly" by the men and marriage brokers who come to see them. Pareeth is currently trying to find a groom for Mehr, the eldest, but things do not look easy.

The story follows Pareeth's attempts to find a groom for his eldest daughter while defending himself and his family from the society's harsh insinuations. It basically narrates a parable of sorts which samples subjects such as religion, dowry, matrimony, and aesthetic discrimination. Pareeth's humility is what has cost him a life of near-poverty as he awaits death in his older days. And it is the same humility that is now putting his daughters' marriage at risk. However, there are many more elements at play in the latter part.

Director Gafoor Elliyas has created a film that grips you since the beginning. It is easy to watch the characters as the story moves ahead, making us root for the protagonist. Seeing him lose at every turn reflects the harsh truths about the society that we live in. Of course, the screenplay digresses a few times, but it picks up soon, never giving its audience a chance to blink. With a suited background score and inventive screenplay, this film can easily be considered as one of the better ones of 2017. Although there are a lot of issues with the film like a stretched second half and a few unanswered questions, most of them can be ignored.

Shajohn is phenomenal as Pareeth, leaving no stone unturned to portray the character in its most original element. It is because of Shajon's and his co-stars' performances that the film moves ahead strongly. Supporting actors Madathil, Sunil Sukhada, and Jaffer Idukki all do a decent job. Special nod for the actors who played the daughters.

Overall, Gafoor Elliyas' film is a great tragedy that needs to be seen. There are a lot of sub-themes to be enjoyed here - whether it's about the daughters' shared desire to be a mother or a young street-side seller's business-less days. Watch it if you are tired of all the potboilers and turkeys they are dolling out these days.

BOTTOM LINE: Gafoor Elliyas' "Pareeth Pandari" is an averagely-made brilliant film that needs to be seen by more people because the themes used here are very relevant to the times that we live in. Watch it on Yupp TV.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

7 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
As Awful As It Looks. ♦ Grade F, 15 July 2017

Anurag Basu is already known in Bollywood as the master of flawed films, and his latest venture just adds another feather to his cap.

Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is a wizard of some kind with a coincidental haircut resembling that of Tintin who is supposed to follow his high school course but is instead found to be on an impromptu, never- ending adventure in search of his missing foster father Tutti Futti aka Bagchi (Saswata Chatterjee). Katrina Kaif plays a hardcore journalist named Shruti who starts as a narrator in the film (narrating Jagga's story to a bunch of over-smart, hunger-less, and restive kids) and ends up finding herself all-in in Jagga's madcap quest. The plot basically takes its viewers on a roller-coaster ride through various locations in and around Asia and Africa as Jagga and Shruti sing their way to find Bagchi's whereabouts, who, as per a deadpan intelligence inspector (Saurabh Shukla) is not entirely who he claims to be.

The magic that Bagchi uses to mold Jagga into what he is today - whether with a trick to hide his inability to speak without stammering or the ignorance about worldly matters - is the central theme of the film, ultimately conveying that father-son love is eternal. This may have been what the makers originally intended to convey, but there's no way one can fully ascertain this owing to the haphazard layout of an otherwise ennui- inducing and sour broth that is this film.

The biggest problem with Jagga Jasoos (or I should say director Basu's treatment of the story) is that it is an adventure musical that fails to hold itself together. It tries to mix all possible genres into one and ends up drowning, while singing, in its own vomit. I could call it very ambitious (a la Hollywood musicals and plays), but then it would mean looking at this failure as a colossal disappointment and a gigantic waste of resources. Majority of the characters in the film - starting from Jagga to Shruti to that redundant character in the corner of that frame - literally sing out their dialogues. Plus points for the creativity here, but there's no denial that these songs uttered by characters as they communicate with each other is highfalutin claptrap in the highest order.

With the exception of Bagchi's character, there's not a single drop of sense in what happens in these three hours. If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say this: the film is basically a voyeuristic Kapoor beat-boxing his way out of every situation he is in, while his partner Kaif tumbles and falls down a couple of times, together trying to stop war, and replace arms and ammunition with candies. Everything is easy for Jagga, but it's his magnanimity that he lets Shruti fly an aircraft sometime in the narrative even as all threshold points of sensibility fly out of the window and the audience is looking for the exit sign.

There are many annoying things in the film, but the one that takes the cherry is Kappor's idiotic expressions as he sings his way into solutions so as to stop another event of illegal arms trade from happening. How thoughtful! He is glamorous, all right, but I do not want to see grown-up actors donning school uniforms riding pretentious crude-based contraptions fooling around (remember Kabir Khan's massively idiotic Tubelight that released few weeks back?) and getting involved in serious issues with the hope of rectifying them. Such an approach automatically disqualifies it as a kids' film, forcing me to not even recommend this to kids. Kaif is a mellow narrator at start, but as her role becomes more evident and inclusive to the story, she borrows Jagga's mindlessness and starts tripping off things - stairs, gates, windows, director's cues. Most of us already know that she cannot act, and here she proves it with much more panache. Shukla is expressionless throughout, while others are busy making horrible noises just because they are in a musical. I'm pretty sure Chatterjee was cursing the makers the whole time he was acting as Tutty Futty - a man without a cause but with an embarrassing side-burn.

Writer Basu seems to have a penchant for people with speech impairment (see Barfi! (2012)), but this one here is clearly a film that shouldn't have been made. They say it is for kids and those who are young at heart, but what kind of a kids' film deals with illegal arms trade and has the protagonist sneering when a man - whoever he may be - dies in a blast? There cannot be a single excuse for watching this film. Of course, it is shot and choreographed beautifully with some great production design and camera work, and looks like a lot of efforts from the crew, but what is the point when the story is as hollow and unrehearsed as a modern-day stand-up comedian's politically incorrect joke?

Other few things to be noted which are annoying as hell are the background score, the cringe-worthy songs by Pritam, and overall cast performance. To state the obvious, people who are not a fan of musicals are going to be tortured left, right, and center. There's not a single reason why anyone should spend their time at the movies this week to catch this blunder, even if they are a fan. We must all come together and let this slip dissolve in itself.

BOTTOM LINE: Anurag Basu's "Jagga Jasoos" is a foolish film that raises the bar so high up that when it falls back on the ground immediately, the shatters are filled with noises of horrid screams let out by people who watched it already. Skip for life.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Tubelight (2017)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Better Switch Off This Light. ♦ Grade F, 26 June 2017

Kabir Khan's films are always based on magnification of a small idea that looks good on theory, but becomes preposterous on reel. His latest Bollywood feature drama is the newest example.

Laxman (Salman Khan) is a dim-witted young man who lives with his younger brother Bharat (Sohail Khan) in a small North Indian town. He is called "tubelight" by his fellow town-dwellers because of his doltish nature and his inability to muster general things at the usual human pace. Bharat knows that his brother needs his support to survive, but still enlists himself for the army. With no one else to go to, Laxman now finds solace in a young boy named Guo (Matin Rey Tangu) who everybody misguidedly thinks hails from China, a neighboring country which India is currently at war with.

Director Khan, along with co-writer Parveez Sheikh, narrate a straightforward story here and try to exaggerate it beyond limits. The basic idea that they try to convey is about Laxman's undying love for his brother and his unabashed faith in this love that will possibly help his brother come back hale and hearty post the war. As stated earlier, while that story looks good on paper, watching the Khan brothers enact it with a couple of supporting actors (albeit talented) is real pain. Mostly because the whole drama is highfalutin nonsense that does not induce any kind of emotion, let alone tears. An added dash of ambiguous magical realism does not help either, as one will find out if one manages to finish watching the film.

Although, the film is too politically correct to not appeal to the average Indian audience. Of course, it may not matter to the international crowd, but when the makers inculcate thoughts of patriotism (nationalism, if I may) into the dialogues, one knows what the story is trying to achieve, and thus pay attention. One could look at this film as a message to the several unpatriotic citizens of India who should sign up for the army and look for Laxman's prayers to stay alive. Utter nonsense! Forget what's in the epitaph and hail the country!

At the end, however, one realizes that all that Laxman did was fool around with his new friend and his friend's mother. For an average film-goer, the experience would be foggy, unsatisfying, and deeply disappointing because of factors that are not only related to a poor script. The quality of acting is not that great either. Watching Salman Khan wince as he tries to act like a half-witted grown-up is cringe-worthy. The popular notion that he cannot act might finally be becoming more apparent. His brother Sohail has a small yet pivotal role, and he too seems over-occupied. Supporting actors Om Puri, Zeeshan Ayyub, Zhu Zhu, Tangu, and Brijendra Kala put up a better show.

The score is ambient, but the songs did add to the stupidity of the entire 2-hour long show. I am personally not against songs in Bollywood films, but when they are unnecessary, it's better to leave them out. Some exciting shots of northern locales of India, but other than that, it's just Salman and his borderline mockery.

Overall, there are far too many negatives in this film, which is a remake of a 2015 Mexican film called Little Boy. Even if you are optimistic about the Kabir-Salman duo or are a fan of any of the actors, skipping it would be in the best of your interests. Do not even watch the original.

BOTTOM LINE: Kabir Khan's "Tubelight" must be an ambitious project, considering that it released during a big festival time in India, but as standalone cinema it does not hold any ground. You might as well switch off this tube light.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Sachin (2017)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A Charged-up Documentary That Avoids Objectivism. ♦ Grade C-, 28 May 2017

It is not surprising that a British filmmaker who specializes in TV was chosen to make a documentary about someone who is regarded highly by at least 7 out of 10 people in India. We really don't know how James Erskine came on board, but we can be sure that he hasn't watched Azhar (2016) or M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) for then this sports documentary wouldn't have made the same mistakes they did.

Narrating the story of legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar from his childhood when he first picked up a bat to his retirement in 2013, the documentary tries to masquerade as a film and goes on to etch his story into India's history of the last 30 years. How Sachin as a young boy is supported by his family to follow his call, how he met his wife Anjali and got married to her, how he dealt with failure, what his single-biggest dream was, his highs and lows, his health, and his connection with the Indian people is all what the documentary explores. Much how the two biopics mentioned earlier were made, here the idea of the makers is to accentuate Sachin's appeal as a legendary cricketer by avoiding objectivism. It is clear from the first frame that the makers had no idea to go deeper into the specifics, and instead just provide a superficial chronological time-line of his life that is already present in the public domain. Executed with doses of sentiments of peripheral patriotism, this one is as straightforward as it can get.

The biggest problem with the documentary is that it takes "cricket is a religion in India" too seriously and tries to tie Sachin's endeavors as elements that carved India's fate and are reasons why and how India is as it is today - which is first-class drivel. So much that it goes on to exaggerate a couple of events just to prove its point. Statements like "change in the country's luck", "country's fate", and "the power of Indians" are employed to give emphasis to the point.

For people wondering why we cannot call it a film, it's because the film is basically a collection of cricket match footage since the 80s and interviews. Of course, there are emotions attached to certain matches which bring back nostalgia (to Indians), which is why I have to use the word "goosebumps" here, but play any nail-biting match in the history of Indian cricket which was a turning point for the national team, and those pimples are sure to crop up. Former batsmen and bowlers, journalists, celebrities, his family members, and Sachin himself share their thoughts about the subject as the documentary simultaneously moves ahead in the time-line. There are some interesting tidbits that it offers - for example, episodes of match-fixing, rivalry, age-gap between players, and other miscellaneous events that shaped cricket in India - which are the only novel thing an average Indian will find in this feature. For outsiders, it will be much more.

How Sachin changed the essence of cricket in India, and helped it rise from its ashes is what the makers and Sachin himself repeatedly convey in the documentary. The only problem is that it is not entirely convincing. Showing that his dream is synonymous with the country's dream as far as cricket is concerned is bit of an overstatement, and that is what plays with its appeal.

Director Erskine has surely made a recipe that evokes emotions and pulls a cricket fan back to the good old days. The screenplay is crisp and filled with substance, even though most of it is rehash. The problem is that this is not how biopics are made. The characters do a decent job at talking out, and if character performance is really to be mentioned - it should be about the two young actors who played young Sachin. They looked like they were enjoying. Other than that, it's mostly Tendulkar, his wife, and other known players doing the talking.

All in all, it's a well-executed documentary that plays very safe and does not get bowled out. It will not disappoint a fan, but might a cinema enthusiast.

BOTTOM LINE: James Erskine's "Sachin" may have got the tag-line "A Billion Dreams" wrong, but it surely is an enjoyable, one-time affair. Just don't expect Sachin to open his closet. Go for a weekday afternoon show!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Sathya (2017/I)
The Worst Malayalam Film of 2017. ♦ Grade F, 23 May 2017

I know it's wrong to nominate a film as the worst so early in the year, but I am pretty sure that there's not going to be a failure so grand and perfect int he next seven months. With condolences to slain director Diphan, I would like to note the reasons why the film is what it is: Jayaram's young man play with stunts that defy logic, Roma's presence, ludicrous songs and an even ludicrous story-line, Parvathy Nambiar's presence, and finally, zero imagination. Calling it a mass entertainer would also be a travesty.

It is hard to believe that the guy who gave us Puthiya Mugham (2009) could collaborate with the actor who gave us Veendum Chila Veettukaryangal (1999) and create garbage like this. But, it's reality, and the best way to deal with it is to avoid. Skip for life!

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
A Fraction of Romance. ♦ Grade F, 23 May 2017

If Mohit Suri's films are known for anything, then it's their soundtrack. The content of the films is usually rundown and uninspiring romance which sometimes even plays with the actors' careers. In this adaptation of Chetan Bhagat's bestselling young adult romantic novel Half Girlfriend, it looks like the thing about soundtrack may also be spiraling down.

Madhav (Arjun Kapoor) is a young student from Bihar who gets admitted to a reputable college in Delhi through sports quota. A skilled basketball player and amateur English speaker, Madhav falls head over heels in love with Riya (Shraddha Kapoor). And starts connecting with her with the hope to make her his girlfriend. Riya, herself an ace basketball player, reciprocates his connection requests, but plays mathematics when he pops the question. She says, "I can be your "half girlfriend"" and that she cannot go full. The story then moves forward to expose its undecipherable convoluted elements as Madhav tries to understand what that term really means.

The film strictly follows the plot of the 2014 book where Madhav is constantly in Riya's spell and is continuously trying to classify the type of relationship he is in (if at all), especially about which "half" he is in. With much attention given to the importance of English-speaking, the plot then suddenly flip flops between Bihar, Delhi, and New York, as the lead characters make rapid life decisions. Even if you do not understand why the characters do what they do, I'm sure you will notice the brand advertisements in every other frame. If one looks closer, the film looks like a 2-hour long advert for MakeMyTrip. And with my mentioning the brand in this review, I am sure the marketing budget of the bludgeoning Indian travels company has paid off.

The basic problem with the film is the character development. Arjun is unable to portray the true loverboy that Madhav is. Instead, he behaves like a magician's rabbit, always appearing where you think it would appear - around Riya. Shraddha, on the other hand - typecast, we call know - dilly dallies around in her scholar, fashionable, and affluent Riya character and exudes confusion. There's not a bit of realism in the proceedings, and in the second half, the degree of improbability hits the roof. One may like to call the story contrived, but there's an even better word for it: convoluted. Other big problem - and this one is crucial - is how the film is executed. This film is more of a musical than a steady romantic film - with a song or a montage appearing every five minutes. That is what wrecks the film's entertainment quotient as it fails to construct a proper, seamless storyline.

Both the Kapoors put up a below average show here, reminding us that Arjun may not be talented at all. Shraddha's previous films may save her, but the validity has definitely shortened. Seems Biswas looked out of character as Madhav's educationist mother, whereas both Vikrant Massey and Rhea Chakraborty do a fairly good job. The music by various artists is hummable, thanks to Arijit Singh and Anushka Sahaney. Rest of the filmmaking factors are best left unreviewed.

All in all, Mohit Suri's latest venture after the 2015 debacle Hamari Adhuri Kahani is worse. The romance is pulpy and unbelievable, for starters, and it's the last thing we are looking for in a year already giving us anxiety through the unpleasant world affairs. It automatically nominates itself to be ranked amongst the worst films of 2017.

BOTTOM LINE: Mohit Suri's "Half Girlfriend" fails to verify the theorem it so proudly boasts of, because modern love may be crooked, but not preposterous. Do not even read the book!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? NO

3 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Concludes With High Drama, Faulty Action, And Authentic Emotions. ♦ Grade C+, 11 May 2017

The frenzy and thirst for more that the first part started and caused in 2015 had to be quenched by content that has more power, more action, and more grandeur. This epic romantic drama, which is South Indian director S S Rajamouli's eleventh feature film, has the combined effect of all these factors, but is unsurprisingly let down by lack of logic.

Resuming exactly where the first part ends, the story follows king- slave Kattappa's (Sathya Raj) narration of the past events that occurred in the Mahishmati kingdom and how they directly led to its degeneration under the rule of the foxy and narcissistic Bhallaladeva (Rana Daggubati). Shiva (Prabhas), upon realizing his lineage, has to save the kingdom now and settle some scores...

Predictability is all over the place as you follow the flashback story involving Bahubali (Prabhas), who uses a method previously sampled by the protagonist in the 2005 Tamil film "Ghajini", to woo Devasena (Anushka Shetty), the fiery queen of a nearby smaller kingdom. Bahubali, with ample help from Kattappa, fool around with Devasena, as humor and borderline slapstick enter the concoction (but do not stay for long), which soon shifts to high drama as the lover boy's brother, Bhallaladeva, now has his eyes on Devasena. It's a ploy actually, which he masterminds with help from his crippled father, Bijjaladeva (Nassar). What ensues is a game of shifting, smarmy egos and value of integrity between Bahubali and his aunt, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), whom he regards as his mother. How things take a swift turn to what led to the events in the first part is what essentially the first two hours of this film is. It is up to Shiva to bring back the kingdom's glory by doing what is right: unshackle Devasena, his mother, and take back what is lawfully his.

There is enough substance for an average film-goer to look at and appreciate here. Starting from the opening credits, which poses as a prologue and a visual narration of the first part so that you can brush up, to the high-octane stunts that defy logic and science to derive magic, the good old melodrama, and an obvious yet satisfying answer to the eternal question derived from part one's climax. While Bahubali 1 banked on structural storytelling and a pretentious climax to hook its viewers, Bahubali 2 uses more firepower and style. On that front, it is imperative that we give the makers full marks for efforts and storytelling. Romance between Bahubali and Devasena is strictly martial, but is still palpable to our hungry senses. As is evident from the loads of social media mentions lauding both of these characters' authenticity and idealism, if there is one thing that you will take away from the Bahubali films, it is the virtues that these characters adopt and explicitly endorse. Also, there is this faint sampling of didacticism swaying around in the plot - whether it is trying to erect a feminist character like Devasena or showcasing the brutal kingdom affairs of the bygone era or the sexist nature of things - the pedagogical element is present, making the film overwhelming to some.

Having said that, there cannot be any excuse to the substandard CGI that is at show here. The degree of implausibility blows through the roof, yet it's the heroism that comes to the rescue in every single frame. Why the characters do not succumb to their injuries may be retorted by mythological and religious references, but for a learned viewer, there are going to be issues with the film. Weighing these issues with the grandeur and volumes of melodrama makes us reach to a conclusion which is slightly positive, only if you consider the entertainment value.

Director Rajamouli's storytelling should be lauded, and film students may want to take notes. He directs his cast well, and in order to describe them, we must first appreciate the casting. I cannot imagine anyone else playing these characters with such finesse and fidelity. Prabhas is magnificent in his portrayal as the hero of the people, and puts up a tireless show in both the films. His nuanced performances as Shiva and Bahubali - two characters with little difference - can be counted as one of the biggest defining factors of the franchise's success. Same goes for Daggubati as the classic villain. However, if I had to choose one star who shines like the greatest of all, it is Shetty, with her electric performance as Devasena. Sure, Bahubali supports her as the independent woman that she is, but her idiosyncratic stances on causes that matter to her, and her dialogues are all so defining (and relatable to the recent feminist uprising), it will be harder to not understand why she is the cinema character of the year. Nasser and Krishnan are equally good, but Sathyaraj is the man who will be remembered for his role and portrayal ten years for now, after Prabhas.

Overall, there is enough for viewers to both love and hate here. Which side you delve into more depends on how you perceive the sequences that make up the film. If you are someone who judges a film's watchability on the basis of its score, screenplay, and cast performance - then this is going to be a fun affair. If you aim for the plot holes or the poor CGI, then disappointment is going to be your friend.

BOTTOM LINE: S S Rajamouli's "Bahubali - The Conclusion" is a tightly-packed doll of goodies about kings, queens, love, and deceit that will entertain you most of the time. Arguably, one of the most entertaining films of 2017, if you choose to watch it, do it on the big screen. Go for a weekday show!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

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