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Holding Back (2015)
8/10
A thought provoking short film that alarmingly reminds you of the most certain fact of life... i.e. DEATH.
26 February 2018
This real life inspired short film titled HOLDING BACK strongly points towards the one subject people are even scared of discussing and talking about, the only undeniable truth, the certain reality of our lives...... i.e. DEATH.

Directed by Wilson Louis, its indeed a worth praising effort inspired from an actual incident of 1999 and its really good to see the writer-director choosing this thoughtful, emotional subject moving much ahead than the usual 'attention-seeking' plots often seen in the world of short films.

Getting an appreciable support from the veteran actors and technicians, HOLDING BACK has Seema Biswas and Ananth Mahadevan playing the parents and Kunal Kumar, Raj Arjun and Aditya Lakhia as the other key characters. But without disclosing anything about its basic storyline (keeping the shock-value intact), the film revolves around a mother and the trauma she courageously goes through in an unexpected situation arising during their journey together in a train.

The true story strongly makes you think about the value of each and every second lived unconsciously, assuming that there is still a lot of time left in our given days..... whereas in reality we might not be able to see the next beautiful morning and even the present day's evening.

Personally it reminded me of a particular phrase of Guru Nanak in Sri Guru Granth Sahib where he says, "Hum Aadmi Haan Ik Dami". Meaning, we all are actually dependent upon the existence of only one breath.

Do watch it as a must and give it a thought. Cheers!
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Angrej (2015)
8/10
The immensely lovable performances, ethnic feel, well written dialogues and a fabulous soundtrack makes this familiar love story a worth watching film for sure.
2 August 2016
There are three basic ways to make a major impact on the Indian viewers always looking for some good entertaining cinema every Friday with the same excitement and passion.

One - Give them something entirely fresh with an unusual plot line never heard or seen before presented innovatively (which is extremely difficult).

Two – Transport them to a highly relatable, mesmerizing world with all lovable characters winning hearts right away through their individual mannerisms, looks and dialogues (despite having a predictable storyline).

Three –Come up with a hypnotic musical soundtrack with 6-7 spellbinding songs coming one after another at every 10-12 minutes creating some kind of 'romantic chemical locha' in their bodies reminding them of their own beloveds.

Thankfully after a painfully long wait moving ahead than the subjects of Comedy, Religion and 84, Punjabi cinema finds its lost musical soul back with ANGREJ, scoring the maximum on the second and third point mentioned above.

In short, despite having a routine, predictable storyline and budget constraints visible in the period film taking you back in the 40s before Indian independence, ANGREJ effortlessly wins your heart with its innocence, simplicity and honesty just like the people of those times living life through their 'hearts' and not 'minds' in comparison to the present era.

The film brings smiles on your faces within the first five minutes only and then that smile stays right till the end with all delightful characters getting introduced at regular intervals. In fact the most adorable one comes post intermission only making a sweeping impact right away with her charming presence and a charismatic smile. She is Sargun Mehta, the girl known for her TV appearances making her debut in Punjabi cinema with a bang. To give her the deserving credit, ANGREJ makes an instant connect with the young hearts due to her highly appealing performance and I can bet, 8 out of 10 boys would be feeling a crush for her coming out of the theatre (may be all the 10).

Getting valuable contribution from everyone in the cast including the talented singer–actor Amrinder Gill (as the innocent young boy caught in a love dilemma), Binnu Dhillon (as the funny but concerning friend in an unexpectedly short role), Anita Devgan (the cute mother) and the couple Sardar Sohi-Nirmal Rishi (providing the good old humour of the 80s), ANGREJ comes as a big pleasant relief for the audience who were being served the same usual content again and again by the Punjabi filmmakers irresponsibly.

However apart from Sargun Mehta and Amrinder Gill as the lead pair, the film gets a huge support from another debutant Aditi Sharma (playing the complex character of a confused girl) and Ammy Virk who simply bowls you over with his impressive screen presence and highly likable performance despite playing a negative character.

Having praised everyone in the cast above, the actual backbone of ANGREJ remains its heartwarming, nostalgic execution and fabulous writing with exceptional dialogues from the team of Simerjit Singh (director) and Amberdeep (story/screenplay/dialogues) reminding you of those pleasant times of the last century. The ethnic feel, the lost lingo, the heartfelt teasing and the cheerful interaction with everyone around by the young ones fills you with a different kind of positive energy not seen in the recent Punjabi films to be precise. It keeps progressing with all uplifting sequences without any drag hindering the overall pace. And there always exists a controlled comic feel throughout the movie that keeps the smiles coming along with the timely laughter.

Above all a peppy, melodious as well as meaningful soundtrack gives ANGREJ (Punjabi) a superior edge that was missing in a Punjabi film since many years. In other words, a soundtrack with each and every song bringing forward many traditional elements of Punjab's culture was not found in any of the recent hits or super hits to give you the exact picture. And when you have all exceptionally melodious tracks with highly lovable performers enacting them so wonderfully, then that itself becomes a reason enough to visit it in the theaters as soon as possible.

Talking about the people more interested in business point of view, ANGREJ should teach the makers, directors, composers and producers of Punjab that what a melodious score actually is and what a well- made incomparable soundtrack can do to a film in terms of its opening figures at the box office. And for this big musical achievement, the entire team led by Jatinder Shah and Amrinder Gill needs a special appreciable mention. Especially Amrinder, who always displayed a keen understanding of the melody, right from his early days of "Chann Da Tukda".

Coming to the downers, the biggest one remains a routine, seen before love-triangle plot that becomes entirely predictable post interval and offers nothing new in terms of story content. Plus I strongly felt the traditional ladies singing in the second half going into a bit longer length than required.

Other than that ANGREJ deservingly calls for a higher rating for the merits mentioned above. But here I personally would like to congratulate the person who did the casting of the two brilliant girls playing the key roles, especially Sargun Mehta.

So for all Punjabi film viewers and friends interested in taking a sweet, feel good cultural ride back in time to the mid 40s, buy a bunch of tickets for the entire family and visit your nearest cinemas at the earliest to celebrate love and music together in a pure cinematic form like never before with ANGREJ and have a great time.
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1/10
Its a badly written & executed film served in the name of sex-comedy, with only one pretty face and a catchy song.
2 August 2016
Post the unexpectedly huge success of GRAND MASTI, it seems the makers are ready and willing to cross more bolder limits to earn some quick weekend returns, finding the courage to promote the latest part of KYAA KOOL HAIN HUM series as India's first ever 'Porn-Com' or Porn Comedy in its promotional campaign.

However their 'visionary' plans are sure not going to work big time, since the film neither has anything enjoyable in terms of sex or comedy with everything simply falling flat without any likable mass appeal. Interestingly it all begins well with a bang, projecting that there's lot more coming next in the subsequent hours providing the expected content. But strangely the film never takes any major leap in the later reels and remains entirely dependent upon all badly written double meaning dialogues, suggestive moanings, cheap dragging-in of reputed names such as Karjatya (mocking The Badjatyas) and unengaging sequences presenting the same old plot of presenting a group of friends as members of one 'Sanskari family' in front of a visiting relative.

As a matter of fact, the word 'porn' is used in the tagline, since one of its lead actor Krishna is into making porn films in Bangkok as spoofs of the hit Hindi films like LICK instead of KICK, KHOLEY instead of SHOLAY and more bringing in the only few entertaining moments in the entire film. Apart from that KKHH3 doesn't have anything in either the screenplay, gags, dialogues or individual (erotic) performances wherein the director and his writer even use a rat, dog, horse and a macaw too (a long-tailed colourful parrot) in desperation to bring in the desired humour, which actually turns the film into a silly mess post intermission.

In the performances, continuing his mastery achieved in such silly portrayals Tushar Kapoor irritates instead of entertaining, whereas Aftab Shivdasani remains okay as his close friend. Krishna as their common buddy once again becomes a victim of a bad script that fails to exploit his known talent on the bigger screen. Plus in the female cast there are girls willing to shed off their clothes as per the requirement, who just wished to be the heroine of a Hindi film, even if it is a 'porn-com' not in any way concerned about their acting talents. So we have Gizela Thakral and Claudia Ciesla trying to titillate the viewers through their repetitive 'suggestive moanings' and 'dropping pallus', along with the beautiful Mandana who also gets simply used as a leading glamour doll and nothing else. In addition the film also features Shakti Kapoor, Meghna Naidu, Darshan Zariwala and few forgettable cameos too that fail to lift up the proceedings in many manner.

In the musical section, a catchy song among all mediocre ones is unable to make any impact due to the otherwise silly story progression. And the same can be said about the background score, editing and cinematography too trying hard to deliver individually. Actually being the major culprit behind this poor dud, director Umesh Ghadge tried to make a project assuming that the Hindi film viewers are ready to accept anything and everything in the name of sex, without caring about any enjoyable content in terms of funny sequences, witty dialogues or comic performances.

In short, it's a film that has been blindly made to encash the controversial genre in a quick span of time with all available actors, shot in probably one schedule (with the location/bunglow also looking the same as last seen in Akshay's ITS ENTERTAINMENT). Hence you can watch it at your own risk if you must or in case you have become a big fan of Mandana post the latest season of Big Boss and wish to watch her on the bigger screen in much lesser clothes.
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Hero (V) (2015)
2/10
To make a remake is not a SIN, but to make it so casually murdering its actual characterization turns it into a much bigger PAAP.
2 August 2016
To begin with, if a person is eager enough to either appreciate or criticize HERO just because its produced & presented by Salman Khan then that would be a faulty way of watching or rating the film unarguably. So let us keep 'The Salman factor' associated with the project aside and consider this as an important debut venture of a young 'industry' couple willing to win over the audience through their honest efforts.

But moving ahead, the second hurdle HERO is bound to face inevitably is the comparison with its original musical gem HERO (released in 1983), that is still fresh in the minds as well as in the precious collection of Hindi film music lovers all over the world. The present version of HERO largely follows Ghai's classic in the first half and therefore cannot avoid the comparisons drawn by the viewers, being an official remake coming after 32 long years.

However, respecting the makers as well as the debutants relying a lot on the film, I would like to keep the comparison for the later part of the review and begin with the film as a fresh release presented with a major publicity campaign. So as a love story with the catchy title HERO, introducing two youngsters from the families belonging to the industry itself, what can be the first thing expected from the film by the excited viewers?

The very first thing has to be some kind of novelty in the project in terms of storyline, execution, sequences, action, conflicts, the loving chemistry and the soundtrack making it a worth watching experience for all. But sadly Nikhil Advani's HERO has got nothing to offer in these crucial departments and the film simply remains a lazily or rather unintelligently made project relying too heavily on the person promoting it from the front having a gigantic fan following. In fact watching the film progressing so boringly on a badly written script with nothing engrossing at all happening in those two hours, one is forced to assume that maybe it's the case of too many cooks spoiling the dish as the saying goes. Probably too much interference coming from all corners (Shettys, Pancholis & Khans) turned the film into an unentertaining mess that was supposed to be a remake of a highly enjoyable and hit movie of the 80s. Commencing on a very poor note following the typical Bollywood format and a below average party song, HERO fails to make any kind of impact within its first 20 minutes itself and then everything happening so quickly defying all the logics simply puts the viewer off before the intermission only. Post interval it even stops following the original and goes on with its own clichéd and mediocre plot with no sense of time-gaps or logical justifications as such.

To say the least, there is no depth found in either the two persons loving or the others opposing their love right till the climax. As a result, you never feel like watching an intense love story with a lot of conflict involved. The film begins and keeps delivering the same seen before sequences one after another without caring about the people sitting in the theater having spent their hard earned money and time. In other words, HERO of 2015 can easily be presented as a perfect example of most irresponsible film made in the present times playing with two young careers.

Also its a film having the most inappropriate people chosen as the cast, who fail to establish any kind of connect with the given roles be it a father, an uncle, a bhabhi, a mother or the villains. So where Tigmanshu Dhulia falters big time in playing the father (despite being a gifted performer), the rest of the actors simply play their roles as another usual assignment signed to earn some quick bucks. And as it is said, nothing can hamper a film more badly than a wrong casting.

A fine cinematography and action accompanied by some mediocre writing, sloppy editing and dull dialogues keep affecting the film at various points. Like its really amusing to notice an inspector suddenly giving the instructions from a helicopter, who was just doing the same at the ground in exactly the previous shot. Moreover a scene showing the girl praying to BUDDHA considering him as a GOD, clearly reveals how much less the writers as well as the youngsters know about the enlightened soul and his views about the existence of God.

A big letdown in the music department too, the only likable track remains the Salman Khan number that has been arranged well with a catchy hook line working fine. But God knows when the music directors would understand that by only calling in Rahat Fateh Ali Khan to render a track doesn't ensure you a hit song always.

Coming to the two debutantes, Sooraj certainly has got a decent screen presence with a solid physique to display, particularly in the actions sequences and Athiya Shetty looks pretty in some specific scenes only to put it honestly. However as far as the performances are concerned, they both got to thank their 'surnames' much more than the inherited talent, that needs to be accepted as a harsh truth at this particular point of time (as nobody knows what fate or luck has in store for them in the coming years).

In few words, Nikhil Advani's film quite brutally and shamelessly murders Ghai's HERO, particularly while adapting its fabulously written characterizations. And thus cannot be recommended for anything at all.
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Masaan (2015)
7/10
A fine realistic film with sincere performances, falling short of the huge expectations raised by the media.
2 August 2016
Revealing the basic review, where at one end MASAAN does turn out to be a fine, worth watching film as a powerful debut of director Neeraj Ghaywan, capturing the basic essence of Banaras representing life and death together, at the other it doesn't offer anything outstandingly new in terms of the basic story content and isn't able to shake you well as expected from a film majorly focusing on DEATH.

Putting it bluntly, the standing ovation from the foreign audience as well as from a particular section of Indian festival viewers, was probably just because of the extensive 'burning ghats' shots and sequences shown in the film for the first time ever in such details. Exactly similar to many of those early Ismail Merchant movies that used to exploit the Indian cities, its local people, traditional rituals, caste-system, suppression of women and poverty on screen winning over the influential western audience for the obvious reasons.

As a matter of fact, my above conclusion got confirmed, when I found many of the co-viewers walking out of the theater talking with each other in terms of, "It's good no doubt, but….. that's it….. jitna suna tha utni nahin thi". Straight away pointing towards the humongous expectations raised by the several news reports, tweets, FB posts and videos posted at social network about those 'standing ovations'. Perhaps in absence of them all, MASAAN could have impressed a lot more, making a surprising impact bridging the gap between the mainstream and festival cinema as desired.

Anyway moving on to the film, it presents two different story lines running parallel to each other that finally meet at a mutual point in the end, representing the 'Sangam' - a progression we have earlier witnessed several times before in various films. Thankfully, the interesting insertions in this familiar setup remain 'many' ranging from 'young mind's excitement over sex', 'mms curse', 'police corruption' and 'underemployment of educated girls' (in the story related with Sanjay Mishra and Richa Chaddha) to 'soft inter- caste romance', 'role of Facebook in an affair', 'mention of many renowned Indian poets' and 'extensive coverage of burning ghats' (in the second plot revolving around Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi).

Focusing on 'hope' guiding every single character in its script, the major strength of MASAAN (a local spoken word denoting 'Shamshaan') becomes its rare picturisation of Banaras like never before, with bodies being burnt by the 'masaanis' following their daily hard routine, breaking skulls as the traditional ritual setting the spirits free and the 'pandas' making an earning by supposedly reaching and feeding the already dead as per the ages old religious customs. So here we have an entirely different city of Banaras/Varanasi/Kashi that is not the usual tourist destination or 'the holy town' normally seen in our movies till date.

But since the film offers all these emotionally moving and worth experiencing sequences post intermission only, therefore it just remains a sweet, realistic take on relationships in the entire first half that actually restricts its overall impact on the viewers as mentioned before. In other words, beginning with an otherwise shocking 'hotel scene' involving a young sexually excited couple, MASAAN takes some time to pull you in and then makes a decent impression in the end with a better second half like a sweet that tastes the best as it ends.

Apart from that, the most significant contribution of MASAAN for the younger generation happens to be the inclusion of respected names of Dushyant Kumar, Nida Fazli, Akbar Allahabadi, Bashir Badr, Brij Narayan Chakbast and more that many might not have even heard before like the hero of the film trying to impress his chosen girl with a song from film QAYAMAT SE QAYAMAT TAK. And with such inclusions MASAAN does fulfill the responsibility of good cinema introducing the current generation with all our masters of the past as required.

In its worth listening soundtrack, Varun Grover writes meaningful lyrics and Indian Ocean comes up with a beautiful composition of "Tu Kisi Rail Si Guzarti Hai" sung by Swanand Kirkire (adapted from a ghazal by Dushyant Kumar) along with 'Mann Kasturi' and 'Bhor'. Giving the much deserving credit to another substantial merit of MASAAN, it's the cinematography of the film capturing Varanasi and DEATH together with a completely different vision by Avinash Arun (the director of award winning Marathi film KILLA). And Avinash's silent camera indeed makes a lot of difference to the end result of the product, unarguably.

In the acting department, we once again have Sanjay Mishra excelling in his effortless act of a helpless poor father scoring the maximum and its really a treat to watch his every scene in the film, especially the ones with the small kid. Richa Chaddha tries hard to put up a good show and delivers to a large extent but its Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi who remain completely natural and adorable in their respective parts with Shweta winning every heart in the theater in just a few scenes through her innocent looks and intelligent talks. As usual the talented Pankaj Tripathi makes his presence felt in a small cameo coming in the film's second hour. And not to forget the little 'diver' kid, who frankly comes up with the most moving sequence of the film while trying to win the big race for his old man.

In all, MASAAN surely deserves to be seen as a must because of its unusual execution revolving around the burning ghats and all realistic characters emoting well on screen pointing towards our known social curses still continuing as it is from hundreds of years. Yet as a film specifically focusing on DEATH, I personally found it much less hard hitting, missing that instant emotional connect and 'cinematic power of transforming the viewer', to be honest.
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Wazir (I) (2016)
5/10
A thriller with a super first half and a poor second, that actually gets ruined by its WAZIR only.
2 August 2016
The curse of the second half is a fact related with many recent films released by the big banners. But WAZIR can easily be presented as one of the most perfect example of the same with so much to offer and impress in its first half that simply gets ruined and forgotten by the makers in the second, giving you a shocking experience in the end unexpectedly.

Narrating my personal experience of watching it at a single screen theatre, I got my first doubt, when it began with a full length song right away along with the credits (following the old format seen in the golden era). But fortunately that was it, as WAZIR started delivering some solid well shot content in the very next minute post the song with some splendid action and emotional sequences put together silencing one and all. The engrossing content with all well-directed, enacted and written sequences continued till the next 50 minutes along a pulsating background score enhancing it well. And the dialogues really promised that something exciting is coming ahead focusing on the game of chess with lines such as, "Khel Khel Mein, Khel Khel Ke, Khel Khel Yeh Aa Jayega".

However, the excellence simply stopped like a dream the moment its title character WAZIR came on screen in a hamming scene and from here onwards suddenly the film changed its gear moving on to a completely illogical or rather foolish path with cinematic liberties taken so recklessly and loopholes as big as a pond questioning the thinking abilities of the viewers in an arrogant style. As a matter of fact, many in the theater could be found chatting and checking their cell phones post interval with the slow songs killing the pace even in a 103 minutes film making you strongly feel the repulsion.

In short, whatever praises or positives I had in mind about the film related to its brilliant shot taking, engaging story progression, crisp editing, an interesting cast ensemble, few likable songs, some well written dialogues, intense performances and more, simply turned into big negatives post intermission and WAZIR became an extremely disappointing dud in the end with neither the foolish suspense twist nor the laughable execution working in any manner in the strange final hour so shockingly.

But here since the film is a suspense thriller, I am not going to write any spoilers pointing the huge flaws in its various sequences defying all the logics. Yet, would like to add that WAZIR is nothing more than a technically strong, childish attempt to ape all those great mystery thrillers of the west. And the influence becomes even more evident when you find the name of Vidhu Vinod Chopra in the credits as the storywriter as well as a contributor in the script and editing department too apart from being the producer.

As the director Bejoy Nambiar (SHAITAAN, David) has surely taken a few noticeable steps ahead in WAZIR looking at the way he handles the first half. But keeping in mind the later part, its as if he lost the track completely either due to an influential figure guiding him from the back or due to the desperate will to present it as a Hollywood film revealing the surprising twist in the end as their set format. In any case he actually lost a great opportunity given, since WAZIR seriously could have been a rare mystery thriller in Hindi cinema revolving around the game of chess with a different and more convincing culmination.

Stating the film's major merit, it's the performances led by the icon, who once again gives you a solid reason of why he has been ruling millions of hearts since the 70s. As Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar, Amitabh Bachchan simply saves the film from becoming a complete disaster, especially in the first half till we get to see his meeting with the so called WAZIR. At the same time, I frankly couldn't appreciate the expression repeatedly using the word 'Yaara' in his scenes with Farhan, which actually looked like an avoidable, deliberate addition reducing the overall impact of their conversation. Having said that, the other truth remains that there still isn't anyone even close to Amitabh Bachchan enacting a drunkard on screen since all these decades because he just does it flawlessly in an adorable manner. On the other hand, Farhan Akhtar does full justice to his character in the first half and is a delight to watch too, till he begins behaving in a silly manner doing all those unimaginable things in Kashmir and later moving freely too (watching the video clip), post making the big kill.

Apart from these two lead actors, WAZIR has the charming Aditi and a hamming Neil Nitin Mukesh in a few scenes appearance along with two big names wasted quite foolishly as John Abraham and Prakash Belawadi (of MADRAS CAFÉ fame). Plus I also felt Manav Kaul not utilized well as per his untapped capabilities in the given role.

In the technical department, no doubt WAZIR excels in the cinematography and background score to a large extent. But in the music section (with only Tera Bin leaving an impact), this is yet another project which proves that having too many names in the composer's list is not the way to get a great soundtrack.

Summing up, WAZIR could have been a great film if the story was focused on Pandit Ji laying an unimaginable trap for the minister with the big assistance coming from the friendly police officer (Farhan) exactly like a game of chess killing every associate of the opponent as indicated in its title WAZIR. However in the present version its just another great opportunity messing it all in the second half.
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Airlift (2016)
7/10
Akshay's films might not be reaching the infamous 100 crore status, but the man is rightly choosing his subjects becoming the new-age Bharat Kumar for the present generation.
2 August 2016
Based on the genuinely lesser-known heroes of the past, AIRLIFT is a completely focused and a sincere effort by director Raja Krishna Menon enlightening the viewers about the time of first Gulf War, when around 1,70,000 Indians left stranded in Kuwait were safely rescued by the efforts made by a few local businessmen of Indian origin, a few government employees and diplomats here in India going out of their way compromising with the set protocol.

The rare and unbelievable kind of incident deserved to be adapted on the silver screen as a must and team AIRLIFT does the given important task pretty well with only a few preventable minuses revealed in the later part of the review, mentioning the merits first.

The film begins with a non-Hindi sequence giving you a feel of where the story is actually based and then the lead character of Akshay gets revealed as a cunning, money-minded businessman with a song "Dil Cheez Tujhe De Di', reminding you of Khaled's hit track of the early '90s titled DIDI. However, the relief moments get over soon within the opening 10 minutes and the narration straight away comes to its basic shocking plot without wasting any more time as required.

The director, along with his cinematographer (Priya Seth), brilliantly recreates the absurd, life-threatening and hell of a scary scenario on the streets very intelligently (with fine detailing), without going into any hugely grand scale (try to catch the sight of all wrecked shops at the back with boards like of CASIO). As a result one truly feels the fear watching military tanks moving around the houses, heavy guns in the hands of young soldiers and people being shot dead on just hearing a word said in Arabic.

Personally speaking, the well-shot and conceived transformation of life within seconds – without caring about any kind of richness one might have achieved – reminded me of a similar sequence in Yash Chopra's WAQT where the life-changing twist is a result of devastating earthquake and not any foreign attack. The story progression remains convincing and majorly gripping till intermission despite some unrequired songs and the film keeps heading towards an expectedly uplifting climax arousing patriotic feeling among the audience that honestly could have been much more energetic and exciting giving the event a thrilling edge.

Apart from the fact that AIRLIFT largely works due to its rare, unheard-of historical event and its (said to be) authentic portrayal, the other truth remains that the film completely relies on the strong shoulders of Akshay alone and the actor underplays the heroic act well without falling back to the usual Bollywood heroism. Akshay's first-rate performance gets decently supported by Nimrat Kaur, who could have done much better underplaying it too, because at times it does make you feel awkward watching her calmly living in her big house overlooking the gravely dangerous situation in the country they are living in. The supporting cast has some effective portrayals from Purab Kohli, Kumud Mishra, Feryna Wazheir and above all Prakash Belawadi who successfully annoys the viewers too along with Akshay and others on screen.

Coming to the hiccups in AIRLIFT, which unfortunately don't let you rate the film as any classic exemplary attempt making a major breakthrough, firstly it's the usual inclusion of love songs (with another inspired one from a Punjabi hit number 'Soch') coming at a time when there is tension written all over the screen with people dying. Admittedly post the first acceptable party track, the moment a melody begins, you feel like why they are adding songs in such a finely progressing movie based on a serious subject?

The second drawback in the film for me was the casting of Inaamulhaq as the Iraqi general speaking with a funny accent. No doubt Inaamulhaq is a fine actor who tried his best to deliver the expected result in the assigned job. But as I felt, another terrifying face in that particular role could have resulted in much more scary impact in those important sequences with Akshay avoiding all the unintentional comic touches.

As the third and most important hiccup of the film, its climax lacked that expected exaggeration or cinematic tension that should have been there depicting probably the biggest civil evacuation in the world history. The detailing was completely missing as it actually had more than 450 planes airlifting the 1,70,000 people from the region, that took around one to two months as reported. Besides, the emphasis entirely remains on talks and requests made on humanitarian ground, without any kind of exciting cinematic moments bringing the viewer on to the edge of his seat as seen in similar attempts in the west like in ARGO.

Talking about the political involvement and will showcased in the film as per the real life happenings, AIRLIFT actually doesn't make you feel proud for the government or political leaders of those times not taking any instant timely action as desired. On the contrary, it makes you feel proud for those few government employees and concerned officials who in reality made it possible through their personal efforts fighting against all the usual political drama and time-lags.

So keeping in mind the shortcomings, do watch AIRLIFT as a good film inspiring us all to be together as INDIANS irrespective of any caste, colour or region. But don't expect anything as exciting and effective as ARGO, HOTEL RWANDA or SCHINDLER's LIST.
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Jugni (2016)
6/10
A familiar musical tale but with a brave, mature ending and a lovable performance from the lead girl.
2 August 2016
It's often seen in our Hindi cinema that even when a film has a quite familiar tale to tell, it still largely works because of its likable treatment, fresh faces and good music. The most recent example of this is the new release JUGNI that apart from having the above mentioned merits has also got an unexpectedly mature ending too, that is actually more authentic in comparison to any previous film made on a similar concept.

In fact the best part of the film is unarguably its brave culmination which neither offers a happy or sad ending, but unapologetically remains much closer to the reality, as it mostly happens in life in such relationships formed. Based on the plot of a music composer finding and then (positively) exploiting a raw talent tapped from the interiors of Punjab, the second mature feature of the film is how it so sensibly presents the 'unintentional sexual relationship' between the couple from the girl's perspective in particular, representing the changing mindsets of the generation living in metro cities.

The third merit of JUGNI lies in its genuine performances led by the sweet Sugandha Garg along with Sadhana Singh, Siddhant Behl and Anirutta K Jha. Plus its the natural feel of the beautiful locations and spoken local language (Punjabi) that successfully creates a special mood in the film as required. The songs as its fourth worth- mentioning feature add a lot to the musical base of the subject sounding extremely fresh and great weaved into the fast paced narration. Still it's a kind of soundtrack that might turn out be more enjoyable as an individual creation, not related to the film as I strongly felt.

Having mentioned the merits, JUGNI yet cannot be termed as any path- breaking, novel attempt basically because of its routine subject that doesn't provide the film an exceptional edge (apart from its climax) in absence of any big known name adding a commercial value.

Secondly though debutant director Shefali Bhushan does a worth noticing job in her first attempt in terms of treatment and extracting lovable performances from the talented cast getting the perfect feel, still the film lacks that authentic Punjabi touch which might not be an issue for the non-Punjabi viewers watching it in the different states.

For instance, Siddhant Behl tries his best playing the local Punjabi singer, but at times he tends to go overboard too, turning it all into a forced act. The humour looks like intentionally added in some sequences not generating the expected response. Plus in a music based film, it isn't expected that the sound comes of a piano when the guitar strings are being played by a character on screen.

In addition, in every Hindi film featuring Punjab and Punjabi characters, a special care needs to be taken in pronunciation of words having letters like 'Jha', 'Dha' or 'Bha'. Because just the spoken way of these letters clearly reveals that the actor or the writers do not actually know the exact sound of these words in Punjabi and they have simply added them on the basis of how they have been earlier used in other Hindi films in the same wrong manner.

In all, JUGNI is a fine musical attempt with a bold, mature end and a likable lead performance by Sugandha Garg. But I wish they had chosen a completely different novel storyline using the same premises of the local Punjabi music scenario and the realistically raw characters.
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Chalk N Duster (I) (2016)
6/10
Shabana, Zareena, Juhi, Divya, Richa and Upasana together in a film about the role of TEACHERS in our life. Certainly a big reason to give this honest film a deserving chance.
2 August 2016
As an interesting co-incidence, where 2015 began with a well- intentioned film TAKE IT EASY focusing on the stressed life of school kids and the role of parents in it creating some serious issues, 2016 begins with a similar message oriented film CHALK N DUSTER focusing on the stressed life of school teachers and their relationship with the students as well as the management - more interested in money instead of education. So where TAKE IT EASY dealt with psychological and emotional aspect of the subject, CHALK N DUSTER refers to the ethical and business aspect of the same involving the political as well as corporate section of the society revealing an ugly truth.

The second similarity between the two films remains that both the appreciable ventures are impressive and tacky in parts together, having some highly emotional sequences too making you feel for the key protagonists on screen playing all realistic characters. And unfortunately, the third similarity is, that neither TAKE IT EASY was seen by a big section of viewers, nor CHALK N DUSTER is likely to reach its actual target audience due to several debatable issues related with our personal choice of cinema, the blind (male) star-following and step-treatment of the exhibitors given to such sincere attempts.

Talking about CHALK N DUSTER individually, here is a film that has everything right and touching as far as its core important subject and leading performances are concerned. But the film certainly could have been much more impressive and moving with a better second half and another novel culmination instead of the lengthy clichéd climax showcasing a 'KBC' kind of quiz show hosted by Rishi Kapoor (playing a cameo).

It begins well with all decent sequences introducing a great cast ensemble of talented ladies namely Shabana Azmi, Zareena Wahab, Juhi Chawla, Divya Dutta, Richa Chadha and Upasana Singh. The pace never drops before intermission and you enjoy watching the clashes between its strong characters heading towards a loud volcanic outcome in the later reels. Plus the peak is rightly felt as Richa Chadha makes her entry as a journalist just along the text displayed on screen saying RECESS referring to the interval.

However, things do not turn out to be exciting enough as expected in the film's second half, in absence of any skillful execution and novel story progression making way for all routine seen before stuff instead of the much expected volcanic eruption in the heated clashes. The pace drops and the sequences turn out to be nothing fresh with a more than 15 minutes long climax as mentioned above.

Yet, thankfully the spirit remains the same as in the beginning and an extremely touching emotional quotient doesn't let you feel any repulsion watching the end proceedings probably with all moist eyes. Moreover such is the pull in all those rare facts shared in its finale that you remain engrossed throughout, despite knowing the truth that it's all going to end in the same predictable manner with the obvious win. For instance, the questions asked include, what is the meaning of KAUR used in Sikhism, what are the full forms of YAHOO & GOOGLE, what BRUCE LEE did in the initial stages of his career and more.

As the two leading teachers, both Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla excel as true teachers along with Zareena Wahab and Upasana Singh doing complete justice with their given characters as required. Divya Dutta playing the negative role does it well (without any actual depth given by the writers) but Richa Chadha is shockingly wasted in a role that could have been done by anyone with a pretty face (which is quite a shame!). In the male leads once again we have Jackie Shroff simply doing nothing significant in his few scenes and Aryan Babbar also remaining under-utilized as the partner in crime with Divya, whereas Rishi Kapoor is fine in his surprising cameo towards the end.

In totality, CHALK N DUSTER is an appreciable yet uneven project from director Jayant Gilatar. It has a decent camera-work, just okay dialogues but an interesting background score demanding attention at times. Besides I really liked the way the composer and sound designer treated the voice in songs describing the importance A GURU in our life using traditional verses. As per its script, the brief references of a teacher's personal life post the school hours work well whereas the clichéd melodrama around the illness and the finale quiz doesn't, that could have been dealt differently.

Having said that, there still cannot be any denial to the fact that this honest effort surely deserves to be applauded (to a large extent) ignoring all it's the major hiccups and average insertions, as (nowadays) Hindi Cinema rarely gets into such educating, realistic mode talking about our basic social problems and lack of moral values.

As an important film CHALK N DUSTER brings forward a scary issue wherein we are not actually taking good care of the most crucial and guiding figures of our lives, our school teachers displaying a flawed vision. The corporates are clearly considering 'Education' as another profit-oriented industry instead of a nation-building exercise and the teachers are openly treated as easily replaceable clerks without any individual importance or a contributing value.

Hence serving its purpose well, CHALK N DUSTER works at many levels giving a significant message and with such an inviting cast ensemble of all extremely talented ladies, its surely deserves to be given a chance by the thinking viewers.
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5/10
An experiment that doesn't work until its last 10 minutes with the 'Biryani'.
2 August 2016
For a change let me narrate the basic structure of this gutsy experiment wherein a middle-aged director meets a young beautiful girl in a bar and while talking to her remembers his passionate moments lived with 10 different women in the various phases of his life beginning from the early years. The undisclosed interactions with these women get conceived by 11 creative directors on screen in their own distinctive way focusing on love, attraction, sex, lust, anger and much more. And it's this interesting amalgamation of 11 unusual segments that results in a complete film of around two hours that thankfully ends on a positive note instead of any depressing one.

No doubt an interesting description indeed that sounds quite appealing as a journey into the minds of 11 different women and a man, probably revealing a lot about our hidden psyche having unlimited dimensions or layers of unseen scary fantasies, we ourselves are not aware of.

But unfortunately that is not what the film offers to us as per the promises made, resulting in a rather messy collage of personal interpretations of 11 young and talented directors (including a few reputed film reviewers too).

On a contradictory note, the concept of roping in several directors for a single project revolving around a common theme is not a novel one as the experiment has been tried a few times before in the west and in Hindi films too as in DARNA MANA HAI (2003), DARNA ZAROORI HAI (2006), DUS KAHANIYAN (2007), THE LAST ACT (2012) and BOMBAY TALKIES (2013). In fact THE LAST ACT comes quite close to X – PAST IS PRESENT in terms of conceptualization (as it also had 12 debut directors looking upon 'a murder mystery' in their individual 10-12 minutes short segments forming a complete film). Having said that, there still exists a unique novelty in the present project, as it has an exclusive feature of 11 experimental directors visualizing the intense love-hate relationships of 'the same man' in different phases of his life, bringing in their own personal perspective, not found in any of the attempts mentioned above in particular.

But then why it dosen't work?

That's because not even one of the 11 contributing directors seems to be ever interested in reaching the viewer talking to him as an impressive story-teller. In fact all the 11 look like competing with each other to come out as the most thoughtful, artistic and deep filmmaker than the other, forgetting everything about the end-users sitting in the theater losing a good amount of money spent on those costly tickets sold by the exploitative multiplexes.

In other words, it's as if they all are having a bet that who will turn out to be the most creative-visionary director presenting his given section of the film with the weirdest choices of head spinning camera angles, forcibly written one liners and unwanted close-ups of the ladies, offering nothing enjoyable or entertaining to all the energetic, serious supporters of such experimental cinema. Sharing the experience of watching it in the theater, the film straight away begins with some unbearable camera movements introducing the key characters and this absurdity continues right till the end giving you a real tough time looking at the screen.

Besides, the reason that you don't get to see the main protagonist's face clearly in its majority of sequences, turns out to be the most frustrating feature of the film quite frankly (as the young character of Rajat Kapoor is presented without showing his face in few segments and the director also presents the scenes in an irritating first person narrative creating an unnecessary tension). Further despite getting conceived by 11 different directors, the story proceedings fail to the engage the viewers in any entertaining manner and one keeps expecting something interesting to surface soon till it all comes down to the concluding segment of the film innovatively titled 'BIRYANI' (the titles of each story get displayed in the end credits), that thankfully offers something intriguing and exciting that can be cheered for.

Adding to the very few merits of the project, Rajat Kapoor is immensely believable playing the lead character and it seems to be his own life on the screen proving his silent talent not deservingly tapped by our reputed directors. Anshuman Jha, as the young Rajat manages to give a decent performance playing the confused boy, but its only Swara Bhaskar among the group of girls who successfully makes a solid impact in the final 10 minutes of the film generating a mixed feeling of disgust and amazement together. So surprisingly it's neither Huma Qureshi nor Radhika Apte but Swara who becomes the sole winner in the project providing the much required shock in the end. Plus it was also great to see the always young, charming and lovable Usha Uthup featuring in a sweet cameo too in one of its key sections.

Summing up, though the film is a collective presentation of 11 sections directed by 11 talented directors dealing with 11 girls, yet its only one segment that actually has some quality stuff to offer putting it honestly. And (as mentioned above) its the final segment of the film featuring Swara and Jha together titled BIRYANI. But instead of spilling out the beans about its uncanny title, I would like to add that these last 10 minutes of the film would readily remind you of the good old days of maestro RAM GOPAL VERMA when he successfully tried to scare us all like hell with many of his enjoyable spooky projects beginning with RAAT.

In short, skip it if some abstract art confusingly trying to present a philosophical take on life doesn't appeal you. But do try if you wish to study an interesting but failed experiment that attempts to look into the life of 'the same person' through the unrelated, distinctive mindsets of 11 creative directors.
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Dilwale (2015)
3/10
They keep on serving the same seen before stuff in such smartly repackaged products, considering we the non-complaining viewers as mere foolish fans.
2 August 2016
This is once again nothing more than 'a mixed chaat' offered by the team taking references from here and there and presenting the same old things in a new smartly packaged product entirely relying on the two big names of SRK and KAJOL.

Opening in a typical filmy style riding high on the brotherly emotion, the big brother influence of HUM is clearly there but with a highly artificial or less impactful execution ruining a potential plot. As a result you never feel anything emotional happening on the screen at all amongst the routine cars explosions, gun-fires, gang- wars and all forced comic sequences in the initial hour. In fact the flashback giving you the glimpses of the magical pairing of SRK- KAJOL comes as the only relief element in the first half along with the fresh looks of Varun Dhawan and Kriti in particular. But at the same time it's pretty strange to see the overplayed song GERUA inserted at such a bad moment when you are just about to walk out expecting an interval. Besides here we also have another inspired sequence of '5 minute date' lifted from one of the episodes of a famous western TV Series HOW I MET YOU MOTHER.

Post intermission, the film continues with the same old routine storyline of gang rivalry, misconceptions leading to separation and then silly schemes being planned to unite the big couple again. But the most painful time watching DILWALE comes in its final hour when you repeatedly wish the film to finish off in the very next scene but the director refuses to do so and keeps on throwing vague (comic) sequences one after another adding to the unbearable length of more than 150 minutes. And wait, here too after almost 130-135 minutes you again have a song 'Daayre' that forces you to see your watch or mobile phone in quick intervals.

Regarding the music, many might have liked the song "Gerua" but it was actually the 'Late Gulshan Kumar strategy' working here for the makers wherein he believed a song could be made famous by playing it on every possible format in a repeated mode by paying more. So honestly 'Gerua' and all other songs of the film were just average numbers for me (expect the enjoyable 'Tukur Tukur'), maybe because I am still unable to tolerate any kind of loud SCREAMING in love songs composed without any heart touching melody. Plus the so lame story- telling by Rohit didn't really allow me to feel impressed by either the cinematography, background score or dialogues, that once again give you a strong feeling of 'heard before' (read TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS).

In all, DILWALE was a big disappointment for me and the only performance I loved watching in it was of Sanjay Mishra, saying his witty one liners in an entertaining style. However if you still wish to know what's in store here in comparison to the director's last SRK film, then DILWALE is not even close to Rohit's CHENNAI EXPRESS that at least had Deepika Padukone as its biggest savior.
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6/10
It reminds you of the simple, enjoyable spirit of the original 3 part series as a tribute, without any new or path breaking surprises.
2 August 2016
Taking you back in time, the original trilogy of this probably the most popular science fiction series till date began with Star Wars or Episode IV – A New Hope in 1977, followed by Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI - Return of The Jedi released in 1983. A prequel trilogy to these original three films was released later as Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II - The Attack Of The Clones (2002) and Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith (2005). Here though the response to the first (award winning) three parts remained more than the later ones, still the series went on to become the most successful film merchandise franchise with books, television serials, video games, comics, toys and more entertaining the enormous fan following in the last four decades.

Coming to the latest part released i.e. the VII Episode titled The Force Awakens, the film is surely able to deliver the expected content to some extent. But before writing about it in details, let me give you a fair idea about the viewership of this particular much talked about movie, broadly dividing them into three major sections. The first section includes the ones who have fondly seen all the six parts released till date and are die-hard fans of the series eagerly waiting for its VII episode.

Second section includes the enthusiastic viewers who have just got introduced to the series and have recently watched the first three or may be the later parts too only a few weeks or days before, only to get the right feeling or mood of the over-famous series and its actual storyline.

And the third section is of the viewers who haven't watched any film of the series till now but are still excited to see its latest episode released out of curiosity.

Now honestly where Episode VII would largely entertain the first section of viewers on the whole, it will subtly impress the second and would least appeal to the third who have no familiar characters to cheer for as they appear on the screen again after a long gap.

In other words, this is a film especially made for the huge cult- following of the series and they are more or less going to enjoy it feeling the good old nostalgia of the gone times. The episode clearly reveals its huge love towards the first trilogy beginning in the 70s with the world created by writer-director George Lucas. And one cherishes seeing the same white masked men, black deadly villain with a heavy voice, the young fighter Jedi, gigantic space ships, emotional link-ups between the characters, the adorable droids and Chewy presenting a simple & predictable adventure similar to reading those entertaining science fiction comic books in the teenage years. The cast enacts their given roles with the much required energy (giving ample space to the female lead too) and the CGI department along with the energetic background score gives you a good time offering a fast paced action show in the space shot with a bigger vision.

In short, the director JJ Abrams actually plays it pretty safe here, riding high on the original feel of the series beginning with the same yellow scrolling credits explaining the new adventure. But with no big surprises in store, it does leave you a bit less satisfied in the end as a long time fan since decades. Still, offering the same kind of energy and pull as there in the first trilogy, the latest VIIth Episode overall delivers it fine (if not great), which positively might inspire many first timers to go for the complete series beginning from 1977.
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Everest (2015)
6/10
Its a visually stunning but not so thrilling adventurous ride, realistically talking about the loss instead of any triumph achieved.
2 August 2016
EVEREST is about a real life tragedy of 1996 when such expeditions were arranged for the interested (wealthy) clients and one of those teams lost its eight unfortunate members while climbing down the hill (post successfully reaching the peak) facing some extreme weather conditions and breathing problems. The film is no doubt a 3D visual treat with a breathtaking cinematography making you feel the fear of heights as if you are right there with them fighting the mountain range, snow, wind and lack of oxygen. But overall it doesn't turn out to be anything highly exciting, roller coaster ride kind of film as per the expectations raised by its impressive trailer.

Yes, the fearful camera angles, scary heights, the sudden falls and an excellent use of computer graphics thankfully offer few (much awaited) exciting moments at intervals, particularly in the final hour. But the film mostly drags and is actually a sad and tragic account of a real life struggle between the man and nature, instead of any entertaining and enjoyable adventure.

The first hour of EVEREST focuses on its various characters and how they all form a team finding their common commercial guide. The pace remains slow without any great engaging moments, but following a different realistic vision, here we do not have any individual heroic figure leading to some predictable dramatic sequences of a disaster movie. Besides, the action actually begins much later in its concluding hour, when the team gets to face the sudden snow storms and changes in weather conditions while returning from the peak in a joyful mood. However I personally found that huge feeling of victory missing in the sequences when they all reach the top and start clicking their pictures. At times the visuals are simply terrifying, forcing you to think that why the hell they are so desperate to just climb that famous hill? In fact a question that can only be answered or understood by the people who truly share this crazy mutual passion of conquering the highest peak.

Putting the best of their individual efforts, the entire cast ensemble in EVEREST comes up with a fine show under the splendid direction of Baltasar Kromakur getting great support from his cinematographers, sound department and graphic artists resulting in many stunning visuals. But the written proceedings do not really generate any heart-stopping, enjoyable tension that is obviously the first thing expected from such adventurous venture.

In all, EVEREST is indeed worth watching on the bigger screen alone because of its great visual appeal in 3D. But the film is surely is not the one you were looking for after watching that lively trailer. Also, focusing more on the sad deaths than the proud triumph achieved in its final moments, the film doesn't allow you to move out of the theater in any celebrating mood at all, deeply thinking about many precious lives lost in just an attempt to win over an unconcerned mountain?
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6/10
A JOLLY LLB clone with a strong potential plot that becomes a victim of a lazy writing/direction and loads of overacting by the supporting cast.
2 August 2016
Adapting subjects similar to the recent hit Hindi films is one of the biggest blunders being made by the Punjabi Cinema since the past few years, simply ignoring the fact that the viewers of Punjabi films are actually the same people who regularly watch all Hindi films too widely released in their regions at a large number of screens. Still for a reason better known to them, they strangely keep on making films on many identical subjects and the latest example of the same is JUDGE SINGH LLB conceived on the lines of the much appreciated Bollywood movie JOLLY LLB released in 2013.

Thankfully this latest inspired project does have a novel twist added into the storyline making it different from the original but the twist unfortunately comes too late in the script and also not executed in any amusing manner by the writer-director Atharv Baluja along with his co-writer Chandan Prabhakar (of "Comedy Nights with Kapil" show fame).

Yet giving the team their deserving credit, JUDGE SINGH LLB cannot be rated as any bad film at all due to many noticeable merits such as being the first courageous attempt in the courtroom drama genre in Punjabi Cinema, presenting the same in a realistic form using the actual court settings in the local region, a commendable lead performance from Ravinder Grewal playing the dumb lawyer turning into a smart one, a fine supporting act from the 'ever dependable' B. N. Sharma as the father and some catchy tracks with 'Pari' already scaling the charts in the musical circles.

However with an equal number of negatives, the film is unable to rise above the average. And these downers include a quite lazily written and directed first half that is painfully long with nothing happening at all (the film actually begins post intermission), a poor background score and art direction giving you a feeling of watching a Tele film (particularly in the indoor sequences shot in various homes), wastage of potential actors in the supporting cast such as Chandan Prabhakar, a weird 'no attention attitude' shown towards the female lead, a completely silly and immature casting of the laughable lady judge and loads of (unexpected) overacting from the veteran Sardar Sohi (who takes his own references from Amrish Puri of DAMINI, Boman Irani of JOLLY LLB and the pissing sequence straight from again Rajkumar Santoshi's HALLA BOL). Above all with a poster design (showing the visiting card) straight away lifted from YRF's ROCKET SINGH, it was indeed a highly questionable move to promote the film as a pure comedy movie when it was actually a light hearted thriller cum suspense based court room drama revolving around a brutal murder.

In all, JUDGE SINGH LLB largely gets saved by its interesting subject and the worth praising, sincere performances of both Ravinder Grewal and B. N. Sharma together. But a better writing, direction and vision could surely have resulted in a much brighter product than just an average one time watch for the end user.
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6/10
Do watch this realistic soul searching journey into a woman's life in spite of an avoidable filmy climax and few clichéd insertions.
2 August 2016
Clearing the misconception one might have reading the tag line of the review first, this is not any heavy, off-beat, slow moving artistic film, over indulged in the self-realization of its various characters pointing towards the suppressed woman-power in our Indian society. Instead this is thankfully a pleasant fun loving film that begins on an interesting note and then keeps you engrossed for a major chunk of time till the writer-director fall short of ideas and bow down to a predictable Bollywood kind of ending spoiling the great buildup. However the exceptional USP of the film remains that the fun element here completely belongs to the ladies alone without any major male-bashing, talking more about themselves than the people (or men) around in their individual lives.

As far as story plot goes it doesn't have anything substantial to deal with revolving around a Goan girl inviting her group of old time friends for an undisclosed special occasion, with the entire focus on how they all live those few days revealing, discussing and sharing their individual stories of joy, pain, sorrows and doubts together in a spirited manner. So it begins as a fun time watch with some fine innovative introductions and then the first half turns out to be quite a fresh, light & breezy experience for the viewers, especially the women relating to the proceedings on a more personal level. But sadly as soon as the focus shifts from their individual characters to some unfortunate, shocking happening on a beach party in its second half (forcibly justifying its title with a reference of Goddess KALI), the film starts faltering and you wish they could have found a different culmination maintaining the excellence thoroughly enjoyed in its superb first half.

Having said that ANGRY Indian GODDESSES still deserves to be seen as a must, not only because of the fresh look given by a remarkable camera-work capturing the free-spirited locations of Goa but more importantly for the ladies and their entertaining performances with minimal make up and all natural expressions in their free, effortless conversations on screen (that sadly also get screwed up by the beeps added by our honourable Censor Board as usual). Nevertheless the good news is that at last here we have a film specifically celebrating the womanhood that can easily be called 'A rare female buddy film' surprisingly coming from a male director Pan Nalin, perfectly understanding the subject (talking about the opposite sex) in an amazing, worth-praising manner. No doubt the credit here also goes to the dialogue writer penning some highly relatable lines spoken in the language of our daily vocabulary. But the biggest applause surely has to be for the ladies who do contribute the most in this fun-filled ride that would instantly find a connection with the women audience in particular.

In short here we have a bunch of old time friends, remembering their nostalgic times spent in the college and then sharing the later years fighting their individual battles with the inner and outer world together dealing with the men (and women) in their lives. They complain, tease, laugh, cry and hug each other with love and affection along with mentioning the known atrocities widely practiced against women in our male oriented society. But still don't get into any major male bashing mode unnecessarily, that truly works for the film in totality.

Yes, the film does try to cater too many themes in its limited duration of two hours like career struggle, suicidal tendencies, homosexuality, childlessness, divorce, social outburst against capitalists, rape, comment upon the modern dress code of women, role of police & politicians in tackling gruesome crimes and revenge considered as the last resort by the common man or woman. Yet a pretty balanced handling of the sequences by its thoughtful director doesn't let the film become anything close to a heavily preachy or a message oriented one until its last 20 minutes to be precise. Plus a few experimental kind of tracks (and background score) keeps the fun spirit alive till it all gets down to a highly unoriginal and avoidable climax that certainly should have been given a second thought by the makers rectifying the big mistake.

Anyway, coming to the best feature of the film, i.e. its performances, here we have Sarah Jane Dias as the Goan photographer inviting them all, Rajshri Deshpande as her lonely local maid, Sandhya Mridul - the tough businesswoman having a young daughter , Anushka Manchanda - a disturbed struggling singer, Amrit Maghera - a half British actress trying her luck in Bollywood, Pavleen Gujral - a typical housewife suffering the pain of being a childless wife and Tannishtha Chatterjee - a strong minded social activist along with Adil Hussain playing the uncaring police officer making a last moment entry in the film's lackluster finale.

In all, ANGRY Indian GODDESSES needs to be seen for its collective on screen chemistry between the seven leading ladies performing superbly in their respective roles having a real good time together. Thankfully the film is not interested in making any strong social statement about the plight of an exploited Indian women (as expected by many) and remains more like a DIL CHAHTA HAI or ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA kind of attempt made from the women's perspective giving them the much deserving space and attention on the silver screen like never before. So the soul searching here is more about the individual identities alone and not as a society as a whole that might disappoint a major section of viewers expecting the same.

Hence coming out of that 'routine mode of expectancies', do watch it as a fun filled 'women oriented' film featuring some fabulous natural performances, that could have been a much more enjoyable enriching experience with a different uplifting climax unarguably.
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Hate Story 3 (2015)
2/10
Skip this mess as you have already seen what you might be looking for in the song videos.
2 August 2016
To begin with, we all know what sells here in our films apart from the Big Stars and that's exactly what's being offered in this third product of the franchise strictly known for its erotic content presented along with a 'must have' storyline. To explain it further, HATE STORY 3 is actually 'two films' woven into one, with the first one offering you the much expected erotica & bedroom scenes all incorporated in its deliberately added songs inserted at regular intervals. And the second is a typical Abbaas-Mustaan type of suspense thriller (with a surprise entry towards the end) which doesn't work at all due to a sloppy editing, an immature direction and many absurd twists & turns throwing the characterization out of the window as if it's never supposed to be there in a film like this.

As a result you have business tycoons behaving like college boys, legal blames being put on colleagues just like that, killings going on as if they have already bought the police & law, a lab sequence as well as graphics reminding you of those scientists & blasts shown in the black & white movies of 50s-60s and the ladies being there only to prove themselves bolder than the other with more intense skin show, deep kisses and suggestive body movements providing the expected content.

But here a worth mentioning catch is that if you are only interested in the film for some more erotic sequences than the already seen, then its going to be a big disappointment for sure, as HATE STORY 3 doesn't have anything more to offer apart from what has already been revealed in its various song videos before the official release. However if you still wish to watch those bodies moving freely on the bigger screen in the theater, then that's a different personal choice beyond any discussion.

Beginning with an unexpected emotional scene, HS3 straight away comes to the point in the first 10 minutes itself showcasing the most famous song and then starts delivering the same old routine stuff quite carelessly keeping the logic aside. Post intermission the proceedings further enter their 'the worst zone' when a song abruptly begins saying 'Yeh Kaise Ho Gaya' and you feel like as if the lyricist has somehow read your mind thinking in exactly the same language. Stating its few merits, though an energetic background score, fine cinematography and some melodious songs don't let you feel like watching something really bad. But the way it starts heading towards the culmination in a quite childish way, repeatedly makes you think about the filthy one sided mindset behind its poor making.

Besides, its most famous song, "Tumhe Apna Banane" honestly forced me to think that how can it be officially labeled as a reworked version of the original song from film SADAK (1991), when even the cult track of SADAK was also blatantly copied from a Pakistani song "Chale To Kat Hi Jayega Safar" sung by Mussarrat Nazir that was never disclosed either by the composers or the music company at the time of its release.

Anyway moving on to performances, the stunners here remain the two girls Zarine Khan and Daisy Irani, obviously not for any of their acting skills but for their 'nothing to hide' attitude while enacting on the bed to be specific. And its Zarine Khan who simply catches you unaware performing with such a bold confidence with both her young male co-stars in all the sexy sequences, whereas Daisy still needs to work hard on her scenes apart from the 'taking off your clothes' act that always works on the screen, irrespective of who is doing it.

In the male leads, Sharman Joshi should immediately forget this film to get back on the right track and Karan Singh Grover should not expect much either from this'women oriented subject' in terms of box office response. In the supporting cast,Priyanshu Chatterjee does deliver a pleasant surprise once again playing a similar role and rest are just okay in their given roles.

Coming back to its basic script structure, HATE STORY 3 (directed by Vishal Pandya), clearly takes its references from various sources (typically penned by story-screenplay writer Vikram Bhatt) including the basic plot reminding you of INDECENT PROPOSAL (1993), the faulty cold drinks and blame game insertion taken from our own CORPORATE (2006) and the terrace scene where the two heroes meet, faintly making you recall a similar one in THE DEVIL's ADVOCATE (1997). In short it's once again the same mix of an inspired revenge saga served along the essential erotica with two fresh female faces in the lead, who actually remain the only major attraction of the project for all the obvious reasons.

In fact this is a quite good business strategy of making money through such a sure shot 'movie franchise' hitting the bulls eye, wherein you quickly get a crime thriller screenplay written inspired by a couple of hit films, cast one or two beautiful fresh female faces in every new part of the series having the right curves, ask them to take off their clothes in some tastefully shot songs & bed room scenes, get some good melodious songs to run in the backdrop serving the right erotic mood and then walk your way to the banks after only a few days of its release making some quick money.

If truth be told then this was widely done by many B-C grade producers in the forgettable decade of 80s as well as 90s churning out some cheap, awful movies to be shown in the morning shows and the smaller centers earning some decent returns. But now the same act is being practiced again in a much upgraded corporate style by all the reputed names, that actually reveals the ugly side of the business popularly termed as Show-Biz.
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2/10
Its like, we have a hit star, a director and the money too, so let us make a film without any script or vision as such.
2 August 2016
The biggest star of Punjabi Cinema (Diljit) playing a character he is best known for, one of the most innovative directors of 'music videos circle' with some huge projects in his repertoire (Gifty) making his proud film debut, the nostalgic narrow lanes of old Delhi used as an immensely likable colourful backdrop and a comic theme revolving around cunning property dealers (vaguely inspired from the basic plot of KHOSLA KA GHOSLA), certainly seems to be an exciting premise for an enjoyable Punjabi comedy film tilted MUKHTIAR CHADHA along with some catchy upbeat tracks raising the expectation level.

But sadly, the above mentioned potential elements appear to be great only on paper, as the film simply fails to present them all in any collective enjoyable form disappointing many, particularly the family audience expecting some great entertaining cinema from Diljit and his team post SARDAAR JI.

In fact such is the substandard, upsetting result of this big project (reportedly stuck in the making for a long time) that one wonders that did they really had anything in hand as a storyline or script to shoot their various sequences at all? Because the film is just like a sum of many poor gags put together in a silly rush and all we have is the lead character and nothing else to be precise in the name of story progression or plot line heading towards a clumsy climax.

In exact words, here we have a Hindi speaking friend who keeps annoying right from the beginning quite pathetically, a leading lady (Oshin Brar) unable to make any connection with the viewers whatsoever and a big display of overacting from the'Mama Ji' along with the typical mother played by the veteran Kiran Juneja. Besides there are many deliberately added 'over the top' characters too like the thin funny gangster (Khyaali), a poetry loving land-grabber (Yashpal Sharma), a big well-built person with a girlish voice and a middle aged Bihari man being repeatedly fooled on the phone, that are unable to generate any laughter in the theater ruining all the big expectations from the film. Moreover it's the clichéd sequences of a funny Ramlila being played on stage, a 10-faced Ravan riding a scooter (straight away reminding you of Akshay Kumar's scene in TASHAN) and the ridiculous machine gun firing in the climax, that strongly pull down MUKHTIAR CHADHA to even below the level of mediocre to be honest. However the biggest shock comes post intermission, when we get to witness the weirdest scene of a 'graphically created girl' inserted without any reason at all, simply forcing you to ask, 'What the hell they are really up to as a creative team?"

In the technical department, the songs as well as the cinematography do keep trying to give the film its much required lift sincerely, but the background music keeps ruining their noticeable impact adding all kinds of variety sounds in its distinctive sequences. In short there is only one enjoyable element in MUKHTIAR CHADHA and that is the performance of its leading man Diljit Dosanjh alone, who just marginally saves the film from being a complete disaster.

However as fans and enthusiastic viewers of Punjabi movies, everyone was certainly awaiting a much better, polished, well written and maturely directed product from the team of Diljit and Gifty together.
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Spectre (I) (2015)
6/10
With a visually entertaining first half and a routine second, its an above average BOND movie that can be tried once.
2 August 2016
Keeping all the comparisons aside, SPECTRE directed by Sam Mendes with Daniel Craig in the lead offers a fresh visual treat at one side and the usual supposed to be thrilling drama on the other resulting in a mixed bag that can easily be rated as an above average venture that might not be able to satisfy many, especially the Bond fans.

Beginning with a terrific opening 10-15 minutes before the famous titles, the film scores a big star right away taking you onto a tour of the festival of the Dead in Mexico City blowing off a whole building post a worth noticing single shot following the Bond heading towards his chosen shooting spot. Further ending the sequence with a sensational scuffle in a dangerously flying helicopter frightening hundreds of people running away on the ground, SPECTRE raises your expectations a lot and then keeps delivering the well shot exciting moments before the 'forced' interval (in India) quite impressively. The plot focusing on a secret message left by the chief pointing towards a funeral that in turn leads to an international syndicate of criminals called SPECTRE lays a fine base for the much needed suspense element in the film.

But sadly the same goes missing in its second hour, wherein the pace drops and it all falls down to the same routine stuff with only the cinematography and action thankfully maintaining the excellence displayed in its opening hour.

To be specific one strongly misses the suspense factor in its script and emotional depth in the key characters, becoming a major drawback of the film post its initial 50 minutes. Besides the two main attractions Monica Bellucci and Christoph Waltz delivering nothing entertaining enough as per their individual persona turns out to be the biggest disappointment unarguably. On the other hand, its supporting cast plays it fine but a few insertions like the 'Special Car-Buttons' and the huge henchman trying to kill Daniel, does remind you of 'the classic Bond movies' and its famous characters like the one played by Kabir Bedi in OCTOPUSSY (1983).

In all, SPECTRE does have Craig in a good form well supported by some spellbinding action, background score and breathtaking cinematography keeping you hooked onto the screen in its first hour.

However it's the less enjoyable script losing its charm post intermission, a lengthy duration of more than 145 minutes and lackluster performances of both Monica and Waltz that force you to rate it as an above average venture falling short of the expectations raised.

Interestingly the Indian Censor Board has trimmed the duration of 'a long kiss' featured in the film as per their new norms or guidelines raising a relevant question that, 'how long a KISS should actually be in India, giving you the right amount of satisfaction or pleasure?" Hoping that the arguments given for the cut might be having the exact duration mentioned in second or minutes, you can surely try SPECTRE if you are a BOND-series fans since many years, but only for the opening 15 minutes and the visual treat it offers being the two major merits rising above everything else.
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Tamasha (2015)
7/10
Overlooking the tedious first half, do watch it for an exceptional-visionary second, that might trigger the much desired change in your life avoided since many years.
2 August 2016
Coming straight to point, the initial 15 minutes of the film (before the foreign locales take over) are too weird to handle (at first), shattering all the big expectations raised from the talented team. And later as the two lead characters meet and spend their 'individual good time' in the breathtaking locations of Corsica, it generates the feeling of 'deja-vu' reminding you of many similar films of the past and few foreign references too offering nothing new as content unfortunately. In fact it's a kind of silent confusion, desperately waiting for something unique to happen on screen that starts teasing the viewers by the end of its first 50 minutes (as I strongly felt), and the film solely gets saved by the adorable chemistry between Ranbir and Deepika alone and nothing beyond in this specific time period putting it bluntly.

However the explosion happens just before the intermission and then the director we know of gets back in form, sitting on the driving seat, playing some highly appreciable mind-games with his viewers we seldom get to seen in our Hindi cinema. In exact terms, TAMASHA is one of those rarest of rare films wherein we have the second half excelling and impressing the viewers many times better than the first in an amazing manner. And it's these final 80 minutes of the film only that force you to re-connect with those initial abstract moments and admit that it was completely wrong to conceive TAMASHA as the same run of the mill stuff made by the visionary director, since the thinking man did have something extraordinary in mind to present in his latest project.

Having said that, yes the film doesn't rise up to the level of his previous ventures with the major culprit remaining the lackluster first half and the less melodious music in comparison to the earlier hit soundtracks coming from the same team. But then, TAMASHA grows on you as it progresses or rather ends having a brilliant division of sections with their own indicative titles and interesting references of books such as Asterix & Catch 22. The visualization of its characters giving them different looks with the changes in time periods supports its basic subject superbly. And the songs turn out to be more enjoyable or meaningful after watching the film (with deep, thought provoking lyrics) that ironically has been a lucky case with many of A. R. Rahman's famous scores in the past too like HIGHWAY or RANG DE BASANTI. Love for Punjabi music and its culture is yet again there in Imitiaz's sixth film. Plus the well written quotable dialogues, background score as well as cinematography plays a major role in the overall impact of the theme (as always) with some mind blowing camera angles tried even in the crucial emotional scenes working wonderfully.

In the acting department, the remarkable performances from two of the most talented actors of the present times blow you off completely with Ranbir delivering a career-best act making a magnificent comeback post his recent over-famous duds. And the boy proudly proves his 'acting genes' representing the two greatest actors of Hindi Cinema, Prithiviraj Kapoor and Raj Kapoor with a big, loud roar unarguably. Deepikaon the other hand provides an effortless praiseworthy support to Ranbir with all her heartfelt love and affection, in spite of getting much lesser space on screen contributing sportingly. As a matter of fact, what I personally felt while watching the film was that these two actors are now way beyond the vision or capabilities of most of our present filmmakers to be honest and Imtiaz Ali has taken a quantum leap getting far ahead of any of the current Hindi 'mainstream' directors without any slightest of doubt (in terms of his extremely difficult choice of concepts). Moreover, where the supporting cast performs just fine, it's the noticeable casting of the child artist and the comic performance of Vivek Mushran as Ranbir's boss that does bring back the nostalgia of those good old days of "ILU ILU" in Vivek's debut film SAUDAGAR (1991) directed by Subhash Ghai.

Anyhow, the bitter truth remains that despite all the above mentioned remarkable merits of this delightful film, TAMASHA might not find many takers in the existing commercial world, since it forces you to stop for a while and think, that obviously many would not be interested in, being busy in the so called bigger races of acquiring more money & wealth unconsciously. Also this is not a film for the viewers who are just expecting another enjoyable, entertaining, rom-com drama expressing the same clichéd emotions to be cherished with some upbeat music and dance, talking and giggling in the dark having a good time.

Therefore many might not like it…………. as many might not be willing to re-think about their decisions taken, unnecessarily adding to their existing personal problems creating more doubts………..! But here one thing I can assure that every single person who would be able to reach and grasp its sincere 'life changing' message of 'Finding the REAL YOU', he or she is sure going to be benefited by this precious realization sooner or later in life, making it more beautiful and worth living in the remaining years.
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Titli (2014)
7/10
Watch it as a must for the intense performances, rising above the hard to believe sequences in terms of reality.
2 August 2016
Co-written and directed by Kanu Behl, TITLI is undoubtedly one of the most hard-hitting films of the year with performances capable of shaking you well establishing a highly relatable connection with the viewers, especially with the people living in Delhi and NCR. But unfortunately it's not the same Delhi anymore on the screen that once had all positive vibes and a unique freshness as seen in films such as Sai Pranjpye's CHASHME BUDDOOR in the 80s.

Interestingly Kanu Behl was also associated with two other projects using the backdrop of Delhi in their respective story lines and they were Dibakar Banerjee's OYE LUCKY LUCKY OYE (2008) and LSD: LOVE, SEX AUR DHOKHA released in 2010. However where these films specifically focused on the Punjabi ambiance of the West, North or the Central Delhi, TITLI thoughtfully takes you into the virgin lanes of East Delhi (lower middle class regions of Yamuna Paar to be specific) painting a different picture of the city moving ahead of all the earlier films mentioned above.

In other words, it's this authentic portrayal of the small adjoining houses of the region, the narrow lanes, huge sewer lines, tough living conditions, regular petty fights in the locality, unemployed youth looking for some easy money, numerous cases of road rages, builders lobby, easy availability of local ammunition, involvement of Police in even the small crimes and more, that exactly becomes the first strong merit of the film demanding a much deserving praise for its director along with his talented team of writers, art- director and the cinematographer in particular.

The second powerful merit of the film is its highly engrossing, impressive as well as disturbing performances that actually don't let you think anything else till it all gets over on an open note (following a set pattern). The cast ensemble brilliantly portrays the story of a dysfunctional family of 3 brothers and a father, with the elder brother going through a divorce and the youngest unwillingly getting married to a pretty girl, with a purpose of using her in some hidden criminal acts of the family not many are aware of.

Towering them all, Ranvir Shorey as the elder brother simply nails it with a haunting act full of terrifying anger, rage and violence. Amit Sial as the second brother presents a balanced act with a touch of kindness too. And Shashank Arora as the youngest (Titli) delivers an intense performance of a confused yet desperate youth willing to get out of his family's deadly mess at the earliest. Lalit Behl enacting their father (director's own father) impresses you in a different manner with his awkward lost mannerisms and body language.

But its actually Shivani Raghuvanshi as Neelu (Titli's wife) who simply wins the contest along with Ranvir playing a strong girl living with her own agenda of life that in reality has no sane meaning or direction, performing sportingly in the masterstroke scene where she pisses out of fear in the car itself.

Together director Kanu Behl, his co-writer and the team conceives a film that simply isn't interested in any spoon feeding (about the past) but does have a detailed visual description of the present life lived by its key characters with many small indicative insertions like the way they dress, eat, brush, gargle and talk to each other in a lingo that is so close to Delhi's real life found in such lower middle class colonies. Though its stomach churning violence and raw treatment might not be a pleasant feature for a larger section of viewers looking for their usual entertainment, but with a brisk story progression and crisp editing, the film doesn't drag at all and also provides the much needed relief factor too through some intelligent dark humour placed at regular intervals.

Stating its major drawbacks, the film is just perfect in its opening sequences and impresses you strongly in these initial moments till they decide to get their youngest brother married to an even smarter girl. And its from here onwards that the narration tends to become quite filmy as well as overdone at times with no investigations shown for the regular loots undertaken by the brothers in the same region, easy & mindless stealing of the trial-car (probably) killing the salesman too in the broad daylight with no chasing of police and then intentionally breaking the girl's right hand with a consent just to avoid the signing of a FD document. Besides, at one end the family is shown to be living in poor conditions throughout the film (though eating chicken most of the time in their meals), but on the other they are regularly looting rich travellers, taking away their cars too with no mention of where the money acquired from those crimes goes, skipping it completely.

However my biggest problem was with 'the unusual marriage' shown, that was just not believable right from the first scene itself where the two families and the couple meet each other.

Strangely the writers were least concerned about this particular point and just to move their story forward, simply decided to assume the girl's parents readily agreeing to the mismatched marriage as two dumb individuals doing nothing to fulfill their big parental responsibility and having no issues in sending their young, beautiful girl to the unacceptable house of such horrifying criminals only because she was having an affair in the past and they wanted to get rid of her at the earliest.

Yet concluding the review on a positive note, you should surely watch TITLI for all its praiseworthy, intense performances rising much above the hard to believe sequences in terms of reality. Because though it isn't perfect, the film still remains a highly appreciable and well enacted experiment that successfully draws your attention towards the kind of life lived in such narrow lanes of the otherwise developed metro cities of our country.
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Guddu Ki Gun (2015)
2/10
Whom did they wish to make a fool of? The viewers or the producers!
2 August 2016
Considering the last decade of our Hindi Cinema, a few of our thoughtful new-age filmmakers are intentionally trying to make a breakthrough with some worth noticing out-of-the box projects receiving a world-wide appreciation making a wise move. And yes, we do need to make films on many new, experimental subjects breaking all the set barriers bringing the much desired change essentially.

But the fact still doesn't mean that one can go on making films on 'just anything' in the name of 'entertaining fresh plot' as seen in this week's sex-based comedy GUDDU KI GUN. A misdirected film, that in spite of revolving around a 'strange sexual plot', isn't even close to an 'enjoyable adult comedy', messing up pretty badly with almost everything happening on the screen post some bearable opening minutes full of all double meaning dialogues.

To give you the exact weird baseline, the film revolves around a young Bihari flirty boy, who ditches a sincere girl and then due to the 'Tantrik Powers' of her father, finds his gun (the male organ) turning into solid gold one fine morning shining bright as a yellow bulb. Shocked by this sudden overnight conversion, he investigates the reason-behind and is told that in order to get back to the normal state he will have to find a true love and marry the girl too (becoming a 'one girl man'), otherwise the yellow bulb will keep shining as a long solid rock forever.

The film straight away comes to this utterly foolish and terribly bad plot in the first 10 minutes itself and then keeps progressing with quite childishly written sequences introducing more bizarre characters like a mad doctor, his sexy nurse, a silly don, an idiotic dealer of antiques, his sex-starved wife, a stupid journalist and more. The absurdity scales new heights post interval with the 'Gold Organ' even taken off from the body with a cutter in order to sell it as an antique piece and then welded back too by a local welder making a big fool of the viewers sitting in the theater. Further the writer-director Sheershak Anand & Shantanu Ray Chibber once again try to replicate the climax of JAANE BHI DO YAARON with a drastically long (supposedly) comic stage-drama as if that's the only way to finish of a comedy movie taught in the rule book.

Where the cinematography does try to present something fresh focusing on an eye-catching Bengali backdrop, its the music that repeatedly reminds us of the constantly falling standard of our Hindi films soundtrack quite sadly. In the performances, GUDDU KI GUN is yet another film that remains unable to take any advantage of Kunal Khemu's comic timing and Kunal keeps trying to impress throughout with his 'otherwise entertaining' Bihari accent in some key sequences. Sumeet Vyas tries hard with 'a more than required energy' playing the concerned friend and both Aparna Sharma and Payal Sarkar fail to make an impression along with the entire supporting cast.

In short, with no promised humour wasting every kind of given opportunity in its script, GUDDU KI GUN forces you to think that whether this film was made to con the viewers or its producers, who might have got impressed listening to its basic plot.

However on second thoughts, I wonder what would have been the atmosphere in that room full of 6-10 people listening to its first narration, where the basic plot was disclosed describing the hero looking at his 'the golden gun' in the morning, leaving many stunned red-faces around, exactly like the people sitting in the theater. So you can take the risk only if you can tolerate anything and everything being sold in the name of 'sex-comedy' made by a team desperately willing to get noticed by trying 'a new low'.
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5/10
Was expecting much more exciting, intriguing and informative film on the mystery man than this stylish attempt with quite less to offer in content.
2 August 2016
If after watching a film you have all praises for its lead actor, art direction and background score, but are not willing to praise the film on the whole as any entertaining experience at all, then that's a clear failure for the makers, unable to make any kind of connection with the general viewers, which is unfortunately the case with the much awaited MAIN AUR CHARLES made on the real life stories of Charles Sobhraj, a conman/serial killer active towards the end of the last century.

Recalling the news bulletins/newspapers of those decades I personally remember Sobhraj's criminal deeds being read and discussed with the element of an 'entertaining awe' and most of the people imagining him as a charming, clever hero of some Hindi pulp fiction novel, forgetting all about the blood and murders associated with his big-name willingly. So following the same pattern, one expected the bio-pic of such a controversial-likable personality to be an equally exciting watch depicting 'the cat & mouse games' played with the Police in a truly entertaining manner making the best of the opportunity given.

However it was really sad to see the film turning out to be nothing but a mere stylized portrayal of Charles's happening life scoring much less on the content level disappointing many.

Giving the deserving credit to its visible merits, yes here we have Randeep Hoodatruly enacting the character with an impressive, mesmerizing elegance using a fine mix of language, make-up and dialogue-delivery creating a hypnotic kind of impact (just like the real life Charles), an intelligent re-creation of the gone era by the art-directors, a pulsating background score (though there is no innovation tried by the composers following the past hits) and a talented cast ensemble in the key roles making it an enjoyable film for the viewers just interested in the technical part of the creation ignoring everything else.

On the other hand, when you take into consideration its less engaging script progression, the 'more than required' artistic style of narration, not so clearly spoken dialogues having a foreign accent, the deliberated inserted skin-show, lackluster music (ruining another golden hit "Jab Chhaye Mera Jadoo"), avoidable dumb characters as of Mandana Karimi and no detailed attention given on the 'How he did it all' part of the biography, MAIN AUR CHARLES seems to be a pretty confused product trying to cater the classes as well as the masses together following a jumbled vision of its director Parwaal Raman. As a result despite the honest efforts put in by Adil Hussain, Richa Chaddha and Vipin Kumar it doesn't reach out to the general viewers willing to see something exciting as well as entertaining made on the life of a negative but interesting French-Indian-Vietnamese personality of Charles Sobhraj.

Having said that, MAIN AUR CHARLES does hold you tight in its final 40 minutes showcasing the jail-break sequence and the link established with the opening scene of his murders committed in Thailand. Plus it has some exceptional strokes too played occasionally like focusing on the book 'Mein Kampf' in Sobhraj's personal collection, the old Black & White classic being played in the jail for the selected inmates and the warden referring to him as 'Sir'. Yet, one honestly misses the finer details and is forced to think that the potential subject and figure surely deserved a much better film from the makers materializing on the golden chance.

Moreover the film also couldn't give me answers for many significant questions in mind. Like what was his early childhood about, where did he learn his various arts of influencing/hypnotizing people, how he used to charge for his interviews and discuss copyrights of his personal life-content, did the 'Charles' in his name have anything to do with 'Charlie Chaplin' (as it is rumoured), what were his views about India in particular, what happened to him after the Indian chapter, where is he now and what's in his mind at the present after spending so many years in the jails of various countries? (The questions Google answers much better than the film!)

Anyway, where MAIN AUR CHARLES successfully manages to score on technical grounds, it fails to do the same in terms of 'connecting with the general audience' as desired. But you can still see it for the style quotient and Randeep Hooda in particular who simply nails it playing Charles Sobhraj …..unarguably.
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4/10
An immature take on a potential mature subject.
2 August 2016
There were two key reasons why I was eager to see this film after watching its promo with a difference. One was its promising story idea that had enough scope for the director to play with his two lead characters in an enlightening manner. And two, its interesting cast featuring the calm Parambrata Chatterjee (Kahaani) playing a sensible young man & the hot Paoli Dam (The Hate Story) playing an outspoken prostitute turned social worker meeting Parambrata in a train journey.

However it was really disheartening to witness the film turning out to be nothing but a collage of many hamming sequences playing everything over the top unnecessarily, post the opening fresh moments talking about the novel 'Twin Souls' instead of the usual'Soul-mates'. In fact it was really hard to accept that the director Subhash Sehgalwas not able to see Paoli as a complete misfit in her character of a loud, abusive sex-worker, repeatedly touching the heights of being unconvincing and unbearable together. As a result, where Parambrata is just okay in his given role along with Vidya Maldave,Paoli actually hits a new low playing to the galleries in a highly cheap & undesirable manner not suiting his otherwise sensuous on screen persona at all.

The poor screenplay, unable to express the required emotions becomes the major drawback of the film having a potential plot and the deliberately added fake mannerisms remain its most annoying feature throughout. Besides it's the overstretching that leads to a big boredom post intermission reminding you of Shah Rukh's OH DARLING YEH HAI India too at times along with some pretty badly directed scenes such as the one with the TT saying 'Kaash Maine Bhi Mohabbat Ki Hoti"….!

Missing the much required chemistry between its lead couple, YAARA SILLY SILLY has a below average soundtrack with only "Yeh Hai Hamare Darmiyan" sounding better. Moreover the film suffers seriously due to its various departments trying to present the theme in their own contradicting manner quite weirdly. For instance, where the director seems to be interested in making a thought provoking film with subtle touches of morality and emotions felt by the two protagonists, his writers (dialogues) are busy making it sound like a typical 'C' grade film with many raunchy lines & abuses, the costume designer is so keen in converting it into a soft erotica with all those tasteless dresses and the cinematographer is constantly looking for all the wrong angles enjoying the woman's body resulting in an utterly silly mess.

Nevertheless finding the only silver lining in the dark clouds, the film gave me the idea of another hard hitting story written on the similar lines, which would have been far more realistic, brutal and impactful in terms of conclusion, depicting the harsh reality of a man-woman relationship revolving only around 'Sex' (shared post the review).

So you can easily give it a skip, even when the film is being aired on a TV channel asking for your valuable two hours just for nothing.
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3/10
A forced experiment that doesn't work right from its first frame wasting a fine opportunity.
2 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Feeling the pre-release excitement created by its trailer with a difference, the most inviting feature of CHARLIE KE CHAKKAR MEIN (directed by Manish Srivastva) was the film being a 'rare' crime mystery, with Naseeruddin Shah playing the investigative officer/detective solving the given case. And since we haven't seen many films made in this particular genre in the last couple of decades of our Hindi film industry, so I was pretty excited being a die-hard fan of Hindi pulp fiction novels and all 'whodunit' thrillers made in the 'World Cinema' refreshing my grey cells.

But sadly after watching the film, I am forced to reveal that CKCM neither gives you anything as per the promised made nor makes you feel the excitement or curiosity even once in its short duration of only about 100 minutes.

Beginning on an experimental note, its opening 30 minutes are too heavy to grasp with the hand-held camera becoming the most annoying factor in several sequences. Plus with no engrossing moments as such except 'the deadly accident', the film fails to pull you in unexpectedly. Moreover with Naseer being there for hardly 10 minutes before the intermission it disappoints hugely delivering nothing as per the genre of an investigative crime thriller and isn't able to keep you guessing or glued to the screen with something engaging happening on the screen related with the investigations.

However the biggest blow comes just a few minutes post intermission when the film simply finishes off, the moment you get to know the main culprit, frankly ruining whatever was left in the film taking the most avoidable turn in a 'whodunit' crime-thriller. (Explained post the review as the spoiler)

In short, CKCM has a decent concept revolving around a strange case of multiple homicides caught on camera (installed by one of the victims only), and has a few noteworthy performances too (Anand Tiwari & more) along with the veteran Naseeruddin Shah impressing in his individual scenes as usual. But what doesn't work in the film is its confused story progression, over-experimental execution, irritating camera- work, uninteresting background score and the typical filmy culmination of the mystery resulting in a big opportunity missed by the team that had all the innovative elements to make it rightly.

As a result, while walking out of the theater one begins thinking that with another film of this genre sinking badly at the box office, will we ever witness a great murder mystery from Hindi cinema in the years ahead serving our grey cells well?

(Major Spoiler Ahead revealing it all)

The avid followers/readers of 'Investigative Crime Thrillers' would readily agree to the fact that the most ridiculous and annoying conclusion in any of the film/novel/serial of this particular genre is - when its revealed that the key investigator of the case only was the main culprit behind the games being played since the beginning, making a big fool of its readers/viewers quite pathetically. And CHARLIE KE CHAKKAR MEIN commits the same avoidable mistake wasting a huge opportunity given…..unfortunately.
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4/10
Wasn't expecting such a weak and badly written film from the reputed makers.
2 August 2016
Strangely, what Sooraj delivers in his much talked about and awaited PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO after a gap of nine years, turns out to be nothing even comparable to his cult films, straight away reminding you of the two mistakes made in the past as HUM SAATH SAATH HAIN and MAIN PREM KI DIWANI HOON, clearly indicating towards no lessons learned from their big failures at all in a highly ignorant and casual manner.

Giving you the clear picture, nothing works in this latest venture of Rajshri-Sooraj-Salman, nothing whatsoever……except the man… Salman Khan, taking two steps backward from his last mega-hit BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN. The film neither has some great characterizations in its shockingly routine screenplay, nor any memorable well written sequences or simplistic dialogues continuing the tradition started by MAINE PYAR KIYA. Above all in PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO, the team comes up with such pathetically overused, clichéd storyline that makes you wonder that how confidently they keep on making films on the same stories again & again assuming the people to be dumb enough to keep on accepting them year after year with closed eyes without any complains as such. Yes, at times even the same stories become hugely entertaining due to the writer/director's exceptional novel treatment & presentation. But sadly that is not visible anywhere in this film that unexpectedly even starts boring the viewers in its second half.

Recalling the experience of watching it in the theater, I was really surprised to see simply nothing executed on screen with the backing of some solid writing (post the decent opening Ramlila sequence) and the film progressing so casually without incorporating any kind of much needed suspense or enjoyable tension involving the double role. In fact, a few catchy songs and comic scenes remain the only relief moments in its first half, with the second turning out to be so painfully long that you keep looking at your mobile/watch repeatedly as if it's already gone beyond 3 hours shattering all kinds of expectations raised.

The cast ensemble including a couple of forgotten names, seem to be only interested in carelessly completing their given jobs establishing no emotional connect with their ultimate viewers, contributing 'nothing'. And the names include veterans like Anupam Kher followed by Swara Bhaskar, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh and the snake-man Arman Kohli. To be fair, there is only one person who randomly makes you laugh in his few scenes and he is Deepak Dobriyal who sadly remains under-utilized in the entire film displaying a shocking lack of vision.

Rephrasing the above, in PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO we have two lovers but no loving chemistry between them despite the hit tracks, brothers and sisters with no depth in their vaguely written characters placed just to get united again, villains with no emphasis given on their evil intentions or villainy and many deliberately inserted sequences like the unexciting football match post interval lacking the much- desired universal appeal and joy. Moreover except a couple of catchy compositions, both the lyricist and composer desperately keep trying to get into the Ravindra Jain/Ram Laxman mood making a conscious effort.

Ruining it further, it was hard to understand the director's obsession with the highly outdated mirror sequences towards the end that had no charm at all reminding you of the famous climax sequence of Bruce Lee's ENTER THE DRAGON. Besides the never-ending final hour of the film becomes so tough to bear, exactly like watching the last few overs of a one day cricket match that has already been lost in its 40th over.

To be honest, in the entire film I kept wondering that,

A. Was this the story Sooraj R Barjatya kept searching for since 2006 which is clearly a take-off from famous novels such as "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "The Prince and the Pauper" (with the shades of BAWARCHI), already adapted several times in the West as well as in numerous Hindi films changing the theme from Kings to Dons since the mid of last century? Ironically even Rajshri had earlier made a film on the same subject as RAKTA BANDHAN in the 80s.

B. Was this the film Salman approved of - full of old time obsolete feel, based on a ridiculously stereotyped theme, having only a few engaging moments, at your face brand promotion, lackluster background score, unimpressive 'big-empire' grandeur (that only worked in the promos) and loads of full length songs thrown in just like that, assuming that the viewers are still living somewhere in the 90s?

C. Or Was this a mess, wherein Sooraj was not allowed to do what he was willing to, with the major suggestions/interventions coming from the now much bigger STAR with no intentions of breaking through his own comfort zone?

In all, a big unexpected let-down, PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO actually has nothing Rajshri, Sooraj and Salman together are known for, not even the emotional warmth they used to offer in their earlier films.
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