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Jomon Disappoints! ♦ Grade F, 25 March 2017

It is disheartening to see a veteran director like Sathyan Anthikad making such low-quality family dramas that are not only difficult to watch but also without any substance. Even if one does not compare this cold turkey and the 2015 debacle "Ennum Eppozhum" with the director's past films, there is still the issue of lack of novelty.

Jomon (Dulquer Salmaan) is a carefree young man who has to take care of his father when the latter repeatedly makes few bad business decisions. The film largely talks about Jomon's sugarcoated struggle to be a good and responsible son.

Dulquer Salmaan should be blamed for taking up this project which is driven by a half-baked screenplay. Evidence of the shoddy execution becomes clear in the first half itself where the makers do not have any more things to say, so they introduce new characters, new arcs that just do not add up. With the exception of Mukesh, none of the cast members do a good job. Anupama Parameshwaran cannot act and neither can the newbie Aishwarya Rajesh. Salmaan and rest of the characters engage in blatant overacting (partly because the script demands it).

Lastly, comparing it with Vineeth Sreenivasan's Jacobinte Swargarajyam (2016) shouldn't be a problem as both of them are in the same league: exaggerated family drama that talks about responsibilities and accuses the younger generation of having none. Pure hyperbole.

BOTTOM LINE: I've not even listed the large number of plot-holes and glaring defects in the film. Not recommended!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Trapped (2017/II)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Trapped With Awe. ♦ Grade B+, 18 March 2017

If there is one thing that still makes intelligent people go to the movies, it is the little bit of realism that today's independent movies adopt. While Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan (2015) is one such film that comes to my mind right now, this emotional thriller here is going to be on my mind when I review a next similar-kinda film.

Shaurya (Rajkummar Rao) is a young working-class man who has finally found his purpose through his lady-love Noorie (Geetanjali Thapa), a coworker who is about to get married to someone else. He succeeds in cajoling her to marry and move in with him, but she only has one condition: get an apartment (rented will do) for himself and then they can start complementing each other. Shaurya agrees, pulls up his socks, and gets on with room hunting, only to be the victim of one hasty, badly-made decision.

Starting from the first scene, Rao keeps you hooked with his nuanced performance, as writers Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta slowly introduce him as this desolate youngster trying to woo one of his coworkers. The tiny amount of playful romance the film uses to kick-start what quickly becomes an ordeal for the relatable protagonist is what essentially works for the film. With shades of subtle humor and realism in every few scenes as the story slowly inches forward, the film tries to address a handful of issues. The primary one being isolation (from the outside life) and its acknowledgment. It is the central theme of the film, which it then goes to explore and come to the point that fear breeds isolation, which can only be overcome by courage.

Other causes it faintly touches are real estate issues, religion, vegetarianism, and self-reliance. While it may be easy to eschew these delicate samples in the film, what you cannot ignore is the sheer simplicity of the plot-line. The film is inherently about Shaurya and his experience as a guy who gets locked up in a flat in a high-rise without food, water, or electricity, which robs him of more than just few days' life. But, what the film tries to say between the lines is something extremely relevant in this time of a connected world where people are moving away from each other.

Motwane's actors are brilliant in their collective act, and are real pleasure to watch. Rao is phenomenal as the taciturn, unlucky guy whereas National Award-winning Thapa mesmerizes me in this short role that she does with finesse and loveliness. Rao has always done roles that demand a great effort, and in here, his efforts have paid off. Of course, many people could have done this, but I cannot think of anyone else who would have done such a great job. The supporting cast are well directed, and support the film in its quest to convey a message or two without inducing ennui. Of course, there are long sequences where the central character just stares into the moonlit sky, but branding them as boring is like disrespecting the art of realistic cinema. Realism, surprisingly, comes with its fair share of bitterness, and Trapped balances it perfectly.

It's an emotional thriller that should be lauded for its experimental nature, minimalistic storytelling, and brilliant overall filmmaking. It wouldn't have been what it is without the arresting music by Alokananda Dasgupta, crisp editing, and fine photography. The sequences and score are going to play with your mood and your emotions as you try to pointlessly help Shaurya get out of the flat. Furthermore, it is obvious that this is a thinking man's film and not a typical Bollywood thriller.

BOTTOM LINE: Vikramditya Motwane's "Trapped" is a brilliant fun- filled thriller made with so much less yet heavy substance that it drives home a point or two and tugs at your heartstrings once or twice all in a 100 minutes. Go watch it at your nearest theater.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? NO

Just Noise. ♦ Grade D-, 12 March 2017

It is disheartening to see veteran filmmakers like Shyam Benegal present films that are so bad you wonder how they got silver screen releases. A collection of short dramas, this one fails to impress.

Surrounding the topic of how "noise" is a part of all our lives and how we are so used to it, the anthology begins with a short titled "Azaad", which narrates the story of an activist who writes about noise pollution and who is threatened by the right-wing. It is a finely made film, with the only problem being there is no clarity about what the director wanted to primarily convey. The second one, titled "Aamer", is the only one that is worth watching - about a deaf young boy who gets to 'hear' for the first time, but is not sure if he likes his new 'gift'. Another one that warrants a mention is "Yellow Tin-Can Telephone" which tries to talk about a sudden relationship between two misfits with certain physical shortcomings. A nicely-shot, colorful film narrated in English - it is at least great to look at. Rest of the shorts are either badly made or are just plain boring.

Does not make sense to spend your time on these average short films when there is better, more creative content available online.

BOTTOM LINE: "Shor Se Shuruaat" may have had great intentions, but most of the short films look like they are the worst products of first- year film students. Watch the ones I have mentioned on YouTube, and be done with it.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Dulhania Ka Badrinath. ♦ Grade C-, 11 March 2017

Hindi films about marriages are always fun to watch, if not meaningful. The man who gave us Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania in 2014 is back again, this time with some purpose in his romantic comedy drama story.

Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) is a student majoring in English language who has rejected a jobless young man named Badrinath's (Varun Dhawan) marriage proposal. Despite having brought up in a middle-class non-affluent family, Vaidehi is committed to her career, and thus, does not believe in immediate matrimony or all that (read dowry and post-marriage suppression) comes with it. Badri, on the other hand, wants to obsessively make Vaidehi taste some patriarchy, sponsored by his dogmatist father. Both dilly-dally for a while until one of them decides to let go...

Set partly in Rajasthan and Singapore, the story is pretty straightforward. Viadehi is rebellious and does not want to give in to the pressures of society, whereas Badri is a naive person who has never thought about the oppression faced by women after marriage in spite of having an example sitting in his own house. The film starts off by firing shots in an attempt to break stereotypes even before it has introduced these so-called stereotypes. Comparing genders with financial jargon to induce humor, the film basically revolves around few characters who deal with marriages, dowry, societal pressure, women suppression, and self-seeking. While it should be lauded for trying to at least address these relevant issues by using romance as a container, there is no running away from the serious cinematic shortcomings.

The first half is a fun-filled adventure with Badi trying to woo Vaidehi through typical Rajasthan-style tricks. It is the high dosage of melodrama and mindless sequences in the second half which plays with director Shashank Kahitan's broth. Cringe-worthy sequences and drama that some of its actors cannot handle - that is essentially what the film gets wrong. Other than a crash course in air hostess studies, there is nothing substantial one can grasp from it, which climaxes with one of the lead characters turning more responsible and being the poster person for the issues addressed previously. And at the end, there is no hint of development or change in the general mindset. Of course, the male character gets the courage to talk back to and question his parents about the ancient system and astrology that they believe in and unabashedly push down on their daughter-in-law, but there is no detailed furnishing of what happens next. A single montage is used to convey what does not live up to all that promise the film makes in the first half. I'm not even going to talk about the terrible music.

Bhatt is lovely in her character, and her chemistry with Dhawan works yet again. (Special shout out for whoever does her costumes.) She can pull off such "girlfriend" characters effortlessly, and it is she who has 51% stake as the lead character in the film. Dhawan, as usual, crosses the line of overacting, and even takes it a notch or two higher here with his awkward facial expressions. Loved Sahil Vaid as Badri's sidekick, making us wonder whether sidekick actors do more in such films than who they play sidekicks for. Rest of the cast are fine, and portray their characters well. Khaitan directs his cast very well, and is let down only by his lazy writing.

All in all, the film works because of its adequate amounts of humor and romance, with drama filling majority of the cups. Reminiscent of recent Bollywood films like Shaad Ali's "OK Jaanu" and Amit Roy's "", Khaitan's spiritual sequel to the 2014 film is a welcome gesture in this time of aggressive feminism, but still may not go down well with people, mostly because its two lead characters sometimes act like high school pass-outs.

BOTTOM LINE: Shashank Khaitan's "Badrinath Ki Dulhania" is an average romantic drama that hopes to move mountains with its intentions of smashing stereotypes about Indian marriages, but ends up just relocating it. A cool afternoon watch at your nearest theater after you are done throwing colors at each other won't hurt.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Ezra (2017)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Beginning Of A New Ezra. ♦ Grade B-, 21 February 2017

Horror films are hardly made in Mollywood these days. So, when such a film comes in, one has to welcome it with open arms and unmitigated support. It will be very difficult to not be impressed with debutante Jay K's horror period drama as it tries to be one of Malayalam industry's defining films of the 21st century.

Ranjan (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and Priya (Priya Anand) are a happily married young couple who decide to move from Mumbai to Kochi after the former gets a promotion with transfer from his company. The duo quickly purchase and move in to an old villa with the thought of creating a family. With Ranjan busy with his new responsibilities, Priya shows diligence as a homemaker and tries her hand to give the villa a makeover. One such thing that she thinks will help her in her quest is an antique Jewish box. Ignoring the ominousness surrounding it, she buys it and brings it home without having an iota of hint about the horrors that she and Ranjan are going to be subjected to by the vengeful spirit that it houses...

Starting from the opening sequence, director Jay K succeeds in pulling its audience into the story that seems innocuous at first, but slowly starts to pick up, ultimately turning into a fast-paced, intense thriller. The first death in the film is so frightening that you will feel the characters' fear and pain in your own heart as it will begin to beat faster with every inch the story takes. Writers Manu Gopal and Jay (seem to) have done enough research when they introduce the Jewish myth about the dybbuk box and carve their story around it. Despite being a popular concept in the Jewish folklore, I'm sure it is going to be something new to the Indian audience.

With sufficient doses of jump scares in the first half, the makers perfectly create a base in the film which escalates so quickly in the second half that you will sit in your seat wondering whether you are watching a Malayalam film. The style of narration as it explores the two central characters and their movements is phenomenal. With a flashback story and a winning twist at the end, there is no way you will feel a decline in the entertainment. You will want to focus on every detail as the story unfolds and slowly starts to make sense.

Three of the biggest achievements here are the background score, production design, and cinematography. Without them, a horror film like this wouldn't even survive the first 10 minutes. Sushin Shyam enthralled us with his track in one of 2016's best films, Kismath, and in 2017 returns to score a film which half works because of his genius. The eerie soundtrack, supported by the jump care sequences and brilliant camera work is all that Jay K needed to make his debut a roaring success. Even the songs by Shyam and Raj are great to sing along to. Sujith Vaassudev may be a bad director, but boy, he can crank that camera. I am especially in love with those sequences where the camera tilts leftwards so as to make the audience move like puppet just because we want to know what happens next. Brilliant technique right there. Fabulous production design supports the makers in making the film look real and convincing. You cannot tell a horror story without getting creative, for which Ezra gets at least 8 out of 10.

Cast performance is another thing which propels the film into almost being a triumph. Sukumaran finally gets mature and manages to portray a character with believable conviction. He does his part very well, and the final 15 minutes are going to be important for his future career. Newcomer Anand may be hot, but she still has a long way ahead. Supporting actors like Tovino Thomas, Vijay Raghavan, Sudev Nair, and Sujith Shanker are all brilliant in their respective roles. Pleased to see Babu Antony, and expecting more from another newcomer Ann Sheetal. All in all, the cast need to be lauded for pulling out those intense sequences which may look easy on reel but are, in real, very difficult and toiling.

Of course, there are plenty of plot holes in the film on which I have had heated discussions with my friends, but once you accept the fact that you cannot narrate a horror story without taking few cinematic liberties, you will start loving it. Director Jay has to be lauded for his attempt at opening a window of fresh air into Mollywood and giving us this exceptionally well-told and well-executed horror film without compromising on quality or bending the genre. His attention to details is another attribute that contributes in making the film a fine affair. Sure, John Varghese's Adi Kapyare Kootamani (2015) was a brilliant horror comedy, but this one here is on a whole another level. The story as a whole, with its iconic back story, may look typical to some, but that is not the primary element here. It is the visual extravaganza and the new style of horror in a Malayalam film that needs to be highlighted. One has to just look at the title scene and he/she will understand why Ezra is going to be on the top 10 films lists of 2017.

To conclude, if you are looking for a horror film to enjoy with your friends and family so that you can discuss it on the drive back home, watch Ezra. You will not be disappointed. The visuals are going to haunt you for days.

BOTTOM LINE: Jay K's "Ezra" is an excellent horror film that samples an age-old Jewish myth to narrate a story that incites sheer fear and gives 100% entertainment. There are just no bad parts. Watch it in your nearest theater today.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

5 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Like A Second Hearing. ♦ Grade C+, 10 February 2017

Subhash Kapoor is a man who knows how to make people laugh through his well-written filmy sequences and then make them remember those sequences so that they can think about it later and laugh out loud for the nth time. Although this one here is generally perceived as a courtroom drama, there is still some wry humor etched in the corners.

Jolly (Akshay Kumar) is an aspiring young lawyer who practices law without any scruples. Married with a small kid, he currently works as a submissive assistant to one of the most high-profile advocates in Lucknow. He hopes to own a chamber of his own one day, and one of his quick yet dastardly attempts at taking the short-cut forces him to reflect on ethics and other canons of professionalism that is otherwise at no display in his profession both customarily and personally. So starts a fast-paced drama inside and outside of the court as Jolly tries to solve his first full case and absolve his sins.

For people who have watched the prequel (Jolly LLB (2013)), there is no need for an introduction here, and even if you skip this review, you can still gleefully book a ticket and go for the next available show. You will not complain about the level of entertainment quotient as it is almost as high as it was back when Arshad Warsi was wearing the black robe. The only big difference here is that Kapoor has made it vividly more relevant if we consider the chaotic status quo of the political and judicial circues in the country. The setup is similar to what we saw four years ago - an up-and-coming lawyer looking for a breakthrough, a side family from the poor class looking for justice, corrupt policemen and babus, (coincidentally) an idiosyncratic judge, and good old courtroom drama. While the prequel dealt with an accident case involving murder, this one here talks about fake encounter.

It is evident that Kapoor has borrowed some points from Chaitanya Tamhane's 2014 path-breaker and Academy Award hopeful, Court, but this one is not as raw as the one which was arguably the best Hindi film of 2015 ( ). With use of wry humor, occasional slapstick, and non-feasible fiction dangling over the scenes, there is this intrinsic lack of seriousness in the whole two hours. It's like the characters did not want to irrigate even a tiny bit of propensity to pan their story as a serious courtroom drama where one or two essential messages are to be conveyed. Instead, the film ends with a preachy note that is as cringe-worthy as the lead man's make-believe lawyering. There are far too many improbable situations, but then there is a broad line between reality, what can be shown on film, and what is shown on film. If you are used to looking at your partner while watching such a situation (which would be impossible to think of IRL) in a film and then shrugging it off, then Jolly LLB 2 will be a much better experience.

Akshay Kumar looks good as Jolly, the helpless lawyer. His transition from being helpless to artful kinda gets muddled in the non- fastidious attempt to get everyone inside the court as fast as possible. If you are wondering, I would prefer Warsi anytime over Kumar despite the latter being a phenomenal actor who has proved his talent by donning diverse roles in his long career. Saurabh Shukla is a delight to watch, and it is around him that Kapoor etches those memorable sequences I was talking about. Along with brilliant performances by Annu Kapoor, Sayani Gupta, and Kumud Mishra, the film manages to hold on to its core theme throughout and does not disappoint, especially in the second half. Huma Qureshi could have been easily done away with, but let's discuss that broad topic sometime later.

Overall, this sequel is not as good as the original film, but still merits for a one-time watch considering we don't have many good films coming up these days.

BOTTOM LINE: Subhash Kapoor's Jolly LLB 2 is a brisk drama that tries to be - a courtroom drama, a comedy skit, and a fable - all at once just because it wants to make people believe that the justice system is still a trusted institution. It's good entertainment. Go for a weekday show where you get 50% discount on BookMyShow if you have certain cards or wallets.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Ore Mukham (2016)
Too Many Characters. ♦ Grade C-, 1 February 2017

Crime thrillers are rarely experimented in Malayalam cinema, and when they are, they look like this - muddled yet imaginative.

Set in the 80s' Kerala college scene, Zachariah Pothan (Dhyan Sreenivasan) is the leader of a self-proclaimed frat gang whose main activities are ragging, boozing, casual poontang, and other reckless things. Pothan is pompous, unscrupulous, ill-mannered, and full of himself, while his gang members - Das (Aju Varghese), Aravind (Arjun Nandakumar), Prakash (Deepak Parambol), and Devan (Yazir Saleem) - all senior-most students of the college, have successfully absorbed one or two of these qualities from him and yet have their own defining characteristics. They move around like they are having the time of their life, but things start going south when freshers, including Bhama (Prayaga Martin) and Gayathri (Gayathri Suresh), enter the college. The guys, naturally, begin to fall for these new "junior" students. In the non-linear narrative, two decades later, one of the gang members is murdered, throwing open a web of love, lies, and deceit.

Writers Deepu Nair and Sajith Jagadnandan have written a story that is interesting to watch, mostly because of the non-linear screenplay. The events that chronologically lead to the murder is exciting to watch, with police and journalistic investigations at one end and the campus life at another. The ensemble cast never disappoint, and it is mostly the nostalgic feeling that attracts you into the lives of these haughty young men and their love interests. However, there are far too many characters (with the younger and older versions of these college boys and girls) in the film which makes keep tracking of the happenings a bit difficult even for the most attentive viewer. You will find yourself memorizing the names. (Who was Prakashan? Who was Devan's girlfriend?)

How romance and enmity between people can turn them from friends to foes and can even cause deaths is the central theme of the film. Although, it will be a while before you realize that because the film has two polarizing halves.

Sreenivasan is a bit light for the heavy role that he tries to portray. Although his character is poorly written, he is the sort of anti- hero that we have been seeing in a lot of international TV shows and films lately, here where at the end you will see yourself rooting for Pothan. The rest of the cast, mainly Varghese, help bring faint humor to the otherwise grim story, and are well-directed for the most part. Chemban Jose, Renji Panicker, Maniyanpilla Raju, and Abhirami are decent in their portrayals while Sneha and Jewel Mary make extended special appearances. Overall, it is because of the talented cast and their performances that Ore Mukham becomes watchable.

The film definitely has its share of dull moments, plot holes, and improbable situations, which may put off some viewers, but if you observe closely and learn to appreciate the good parts, you will understand why it is one of the few underrated Malayalam films of 2016. It has a different tone to it, which will make the experience worthwhile.

BOTTOM LINE: Sajith Jagadnandan's "Ore Mukham" is an experimental crime thriller which talks about friendship, love, and deceit with the added dash of altruism sitting there like a sore thumb. Watch it once if your friend has rented the DVD.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
These Grapes Are Both Sweet & Sour. ♦ Grade D+, 28 January 2017

When cinematographer Jibu Jacob forayed into direction with Vellimoonga in 2014, everyone in the Malayalam film industry, including the audience, noticed. It was a triumph at political satire supported by the talented Biju Menon. Two years later, with this family drama, despite being supported by the complete actor, the fact that no one knew about Jacob before that in his 13-year long career gains some substantiation.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in a developing panchayat in Kerala, Ulahannan (Mohanlal) is a middle-aged, burly man who heads the local admin office. He is married to Annie (Meena), a homemaker and equally burly in stature who has gifted him two children, Jini (Aima Sebastian) and Jerry (Sanoop Santhosh). The family collectively lead a smooth life with minimum interactions between each other, but the biggest victim of this lack of interaction seems to be the patriarch of the family. Ulahannan is thus perceived as a reticent, aloof government employee who even keeps his handful of friends at a distance - be it at the workplace or at one of his colony building's terrace where adult men get together by evening to down few ounces and engage in casual banter. However, there is a deeper theme that the film tries to focus on: Ulahanna's distance from his own wife, and how that affects not only their matrimonial life (sex, too, if you are wondering) but also the lives of the remaining family members. M Sindhuraj's story then takes its audience to a lukewarm ride into these characters, their friends, their kin, and some unrelated people. Everything, to convey a point or two about the importance of uncensored love in a family.

At first look, you would think it's similar to Khalid Rahman's 2016 drama, Anuraga Karikkin Vellam, but then you chuck that thought off and compare it with Jeethu Joseph's 2013 path-breaking crime drama, Drishyam. Ulahannan's character looks underdeveloped, but his feelings of desolation and melancholy are relevant and viewers may be able to relate with it, especially married people. However, the transition that he makes from being this snobby husband to a starry-eyed toyboy is unnatural. Of course, there are external stimuli to this transition, and the makers may term it as the "instant effect of love", but character development is still a thing in modern cinema. It was like Mohanlal got a cue from the director, and there he goes inverting his gloomy face.

The story essentially tries to explore the complacency of middle-class family life. Ulahannan does not want to make things right, but is rather forced by that external stimuli (thanks to Neha Saxena and Asha Sarath's characters). Cannot be called a flaw per se, but it makes the whole film look like a skit that should have been presented and done with in 20 minutes. In fact, that becomes plain when in the second half, the family hop from one tourist destination to another just to kill time and bore its audience with the ridiculously expanded 160-minute play. In addition to the major theme of family life problems, there is this preachy peach that director Jacob covers the sweet and sour grape-flavored cake with at the end. Nonetheless, this too relates with the primary theme, which goes on to say that if there is a lack of plain-spoken love between the heads of the family, it will affect the foundation of the whole family.

Regardless of everything, the makers have to be lauded for slyly incorporating 51 shades of gray into this genre. Throughout the draggy yet palpable film, writer Sindhuraj shoots these tiny packets of fruity dialogues, innuendos, and references in the form of grapefruit pulp that dissolve in your mouth. Family dramas about husbands and wives have been made in Mollywood before, but these sexual innuendos in one which is directed at the whole family, and which has been received with open hands by the people so far, including those vigilante purists, is a mark of development.

The whole cast perform very well and help in the ripening of the grapes. Central man Lal puts up a good show, reminiscent of his role in Drishyam and Rosshan Andrrews's Evidam Swargamanu (2009), but crosses the line of overacting during that transition period. Meena steals the limelight hands down with her flawless portrayal of a sweet wife. The supporting cast is great, with some appreciable performances by Alencier Lopez, Kalabhavan Shajon, and Srinda Ashab. Sebastian's parents must be influential people, for there can't be any other reason for her to be cast in such an important role. She was a liability both in Manu Kannamthanam's Dooram (2016) and Vineeth Sreenivasan's Jacobinte Swargarajyam (2016). Special pat to Anoop Menon for finally doing a role that suits him - a typical Malayali envious of his neighbors. The makers couldn't have asked more from Ashab as his on-screen wife. A good part of the film explores their problems as Menon's character fools around with women just like Ulahanna DOES NOT with the political samples that sit outside his office ready to grease his hands. From one perspective, the lead cast just look like people in the backseat.

Jacob's characters indulge too much into whatever they are trying to indulge in. The political shade was not really necessary, but then again you cannot tell a Kerala-based story without protesting for the CM to resign, can you? But, there is no escape from the hollow second half which shifts the focus wholly onto Sebastian's character as she tries to read Frost. It is sure that married men and women out there who are in the middle of a mid-life crisis will cower at the end of their seats and envy at this on-screen couple.

BOTTOM LINE: Jibu Jacob's "Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol" is a breezy, feel-average film directed mainly at middle-aged couples who are experiencing knotted complacency in their matrimonial lives. Wait for DVD and then rent it.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Kaabil (2017)
1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
"Capable" Of Entertaining You. ♦ Grade C+, 27 January 2017

Hrithik Roshan needed a much-needed push to his acting career, considering his personal problems and an embarrassing attempt at recreating history (read Mohenjo Daro (2016)) had put a few red marks on his report card. Sanjay Gupta helps him here, with enough support from the Roshan clan.

Rohan (Hrithik Roshan), a dubbing artist, and Supriya (Yami Gautam), a pianist and NGO worker, are a visually challenged couple who are in love and have decided to marry. They begin their married life with much pomp and circumstance, along with their friends, with the hope of starting a better life together. However, horror knocks on their door the right next day when local goon Amit (Rohit Roy) and his friend sexually assault Supriya, shattering their lives forever. Sardonically, Rohan is more devastated than Supriya, and decides to avenge, after regretting his previous decision to marry, at all.

For starters, there is definitely a lot of heart in the film, with Rohan overacting to the core to impress Supriya. Soon, the focus shifts from their delicate romance to the idea of people mocking those who are disabled. Amit and his friend are both repugnant in their actions and words, and do not mind speaking their mind, especially when Supriya, or women in general, is the subject. The makers probably wanted to show the aftermath of rape, by sampling (or rather simplifying) disability, but handle it rather clumsily. There is no other excuse to create this film which has shades of cliché, mockery, and anti-feminism.

Viewers are guaranteed to feel angry at what ensues after the assault, taking the torch from the scene of act to the police station to the local minister's mansion. It is the usual flow of narration where police apathy and corruption barge in and make you boil. Nonetheless, it does not pass muster if the Roshans had wanted to show the stark reality about the condition of women in a country where the idea of feminism is muddled, and patriarchy and dash of fascism is at an all-time high. It addresses one too many social issues, and then moves on to the vengeance part - which is plain old sweetness.

Although Roshan looks like he's straight out of the Koi... Mil Gaya (2003) sets, he performs well, and is one of the many reasons why the film never bores. Gautam is decent, as well, but it is her facial expressions that is at great display here. The Roy brothers are great, with the elder one typecast and the younger one doing a film after a long time. Their characters are perfectly vindictive, and give too many causes for Rohan to fight back. Other supporting actors like Narendra Jha (also seen in Rahul Dholakia's Raees (2017)), Suresh Menon, and Girish Kulkarni (last seen in Nitesh Tiwari's Dangal (2016)) are all above average and portray their characters with much diligence.

With arresting music and some nicely-shot sequences, the film is sure to keep you at the edge if you are not a feminist. For people who are disturbed at how the makers carve the aftermath of rape, it is best to avoid the film and wait for Sankalp Reddy's The Ghazi Attack (2017). There is this one particular scene, had it been handled properly, would have impressed me a lot. Where after the horrendous scene, Supriya goes to Rohan and tries to calm him, apologizing for not being "the way she was" anymore and Rohan does not reply. The consequence of this scene is rather dreadful, but the writers fail to provide a good explanation as to why Rohan fell silent that moment, as if he was in pain more than his wife - which is factually incorrect and a bad thing to represent.

It has similarities with a lot of recent films such as Sriram Raghavan's Badlapur (2015), Nishikant Kamat's Drishyam (2015), and Priyadarshan's Malayalam film Oppam (2016), but that doesn't mean it's not worth your money or time. Yeah, you do feel Rohan's targets were only the bare minimum and he should have targeted more people, but you cannot choose unless we get interactive cinema in 3017.

BOTTOM LINE: Sanjay Gupta's "Kaabil" is a lot better than his 2014 cold dunk, Jazbaa. It will cause you to emote the same way you react reading newspaper headlines these days. Along with favorable performances and a well-executed story-line, this one is, wait for it, better than its competition. Buy a DVD later or maybe go for that weekday afternoon show. Don't forget to use the Freecharge offer on BookMyShow!

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

Raees (2017)
9 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
The Alcohol Is Of Substandard Quality. ♦ Grade D+, 26 January 2017

Three years after the cataclysmic riots in the Indian state of Gujarat of which only the spectators are alive today, Rahul Dholakia charmed us with his hard-hitting drama Parzania (2005). He talked about the hardship of Muslims fighting for their survival then. More than a decade later, his sloppy drama takes you into another world of crime in the same state, this time criticized for its alcohol prohibition.

Set in the prohibition era of Gujarat (officially since 1960), the story is set in the early 80s where a small schoolboy named Raees Alam helps local bootleggers by signaling them about the arrival of the police. Tired of apprehensions, although always inconsequent, Alam decides to go work for Vijayraj (Atul Agnihotri) who only deals in English liquor. A decade and a half later, Alam (Shah Rukh Khan) becomes his master's right-hand guy to the extent where he decides to start his own business. He does, much to Vijayraj's bitterness, and succeeds tremendously. Around the same time, a policeman named Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is transferred to Alam's town, and things get messy for everyone.

Alam lives and works by the slushy watchword that was taught to him by his mother about how no type of work is lowly and that no religion is above work. Alam makes it a point that he slurs it at least a dozen times throughout his life (the movie, too), not even sparing the law enforcement who appear to be doing their job much fervently as other similar Hindi films hesitate to manifest. The wordy phrase becomes his life lesson even as he begins his own journey as the master bootlegger in the whole of state. There is no escape from the fact that everything laid out by the writers here has a touch of artificiality, and we know better than consuming artificial alcohol, don't we? Alam is frequently teased with the name "battery" by almost everyone he meets, forcing me to use the word "contrived" at least once in this review.

Based on the extraordinary story of Gujarati gangster Abdul Latif, Raees is nowhere near the charismatic chronicle of the man which led to the current state of illegal alcohol flow in the state. Director Dholakia evidently aspires too much of his rags-to-riches story making himself believe that its sheer rawness would appeal its audience who are thirsty of something more than water. However, it has nothing new to offer other than the import from the neighboring country. The action sequences, as is customary in Bollywood, defy gravity. Stunts are shown between short intervals, and none of them are leading enough to make the broth an enjoyable affair. Over- dramatic slosh coupled with itsy-bitsy romance, a dash of revenge, and a puerile plot line – the first big Bollywood film of the year 2017 is a letdown. There is also this slight hint of criticism for the prohibition in the film's undertone which may be easy to overlook. As a result, it is impossible to detect if it was intentional or forced. (Depends on the makers' political orientation.)

Shah Rukh Khan is in good form, although nothing can beat his performance in Maneesh Sharma's Fan (2016) in recent times. His portrayal as the uneducated yet intelligent miscreant here is decent, enough to impress his servile fans who are even ready to give their life (see Vadodara station mishap). The dialogues that he munches out definitely give more power to the film, but when perceived as a single, whole piece, Khan's solo show becomes inadequate. His character is filled with sugary syrup ready to dissolve in its viewers' diabetic mouth. Even the stunts look messy, despite the cranking cameras doing their best to hold up. Siddiqui is the real star as I found myself, among others, rooting for him as he goes against Alam regardless of the attacks aimed at him from all possible directions. Last year, he was criticized for his portrayal as a deplorable school teacher in Shlok Sharma's Haramkhor (2017) and his inability to drive a film singlehandedly, and in here he confirms that the latter part is very much true. Just because Khan takes care of the rest, Siddiqui influences his audience and makes them love him for what he does. While the lead actor is the anti- hero, the plucky policeman is the real hero here. Newcomer Mahira Khan does not have much to do, which should have been obvious. Supporting actors Agnihotri and Zeeshan Ayyub are better. All in all, if you are capable of appreciating the performances, then Raees will be more palpable.

Overall, director Dholakia's latest feature is an ambitious film that is written poorly but shot well, has good score but paces like it's the end of the world, executed averagely but has good performances, and ultimately looks like aged Scotch but tastes like that liquor which was produced in the go-down of the local bootlegger whom Alam worked for in the beginning. Raw, substandard, and sickeningly acerbic.

BOTTOM LINE: Rahul Dholakia's Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Raees" is a very purposeful film, with the aim being to establish the story of an established historic character at a time when prohibition of all types seems to be rampant in the country. The only problem is that the story seems to be a "history-cheater". Wait for TV premiere if you are not a fan.

Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES

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