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Rustom (2016)
Underwhelming. Waste of Potential.
16 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Sepia tone in the beginning – Check. Typical Villains and vamps – Check. Overdressed actors overacting – Check. Big cars, empty roads and horse races – Check. Incessant smoking as if it were a fashion statement – Check. Poor visual effects – Check. And that sounds exactly like a Bollywood film trying too hard to be a period film. And what about the script? Oh well, nobody seems to have given it a thought.

Based on the film's posters, if you thought that the movie was made by Neeraj Pandey (of Baby, Special 26, and A Wednesday fame), you have been fooled. IMDb merely lists his name as miscellaneous crew with the title 'presented by', not sure whatever that means! The film is instead directed by Dharmendra Suresh Desai who is two movies old and Rustom happens to be his first featuring a big star.

The story is apparently inspired by the real life 1959 court case of KM Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra which was the last case to be heard as a jury trial, after which, the government abolished the process. The film deals with the events leading up to the eventual acquittal by the jury. A simple reading of the Wikipedia page on the case tells you that the story had enough meat and didn't have to resort to extraneous stories.

Akshay Kumar plays the lead character, Commander Rustom Pavri who discovers that his wife Cynthia (Ileana D'Cruz) has been having an affair with Vikram Makhija (Arjan Bajwa, remember the 2008 film Fashion?). He obtains a pistol from the navy and uses it to kill Vikram point blank and then surrenders before the police. Pavan Malhotra plays Vincent Lobo, the cop who digs deep to unearth the multiple layers in the story.

The filmmakers chose to complicate the story by bringing in the angle of corruption with the antagonist being involved in it. It somehow rationalizes the protagonist's act. Also, the portrayal of Cynthia seems to have been done keeping in mind the views of the Indian audiences on extra marital affairs and have therefore shown her as a victim and Rustom as someone who had to kill Vikram to avenge the latter's wrongs to the nation.

Bollywood is far below the Hollywood benchmark when it comes to making serious defense based or courtroom dramas. Case in point was 'Shaurya' which was a poor remake of 'A few good men' which failed to impress despite casting some of the finest character actors. Rustom is also no exception as it fails to deliver on the promise.

Numerous clichés and caricatures spoil the seriousness of the film. The newspaper editor who runs articles in support of Rustom is almost shown as a buffoon. Esha Gupta plays Vikram's brother Preety Makhija in an utterly vamp-like manner, replete with smoking through long cigarette handles, elaborate makeup and garish lipstick. And then we have the classic Bollywood movie judge who goes on hammering 'Order, Order'.

Akshay Kumar's primary costume in the film is his pristine white Navy uniform.. It doesn't matter whether he is working aboard a ship, drinking at home, cooling his heels in police custody or his multiple appearances in court; it stays spotless. While appearing unreal, the only purpose is can possibly serve is to help woo women audiences!

With a 50 crore budget, it could have surely done better on visual effects. The orange sky behind the ship and the artificial fluttering flag in Akshay's entry scene look utterly unconvincing. Instead of wasting money on shooting a romantic song in a foreign locale, they could have at least made the Indian setting look more convincing.

Talking of music, it was mostly forgettable and the film would've done well without songs. The background score is loud in an attempt to build seriousness, but doesn't impress. I would be surprised if someone came out of the movie hall humming any song!

Despite its flaws, Akshay Kumar is the sole savior of an otherwise disastrous film. He is convincing as he plays an upright defense officer. Among the others Pawan Malhotra does well as the cop. Ileana D'cruz and Arjan Bajwa are passable. Sachin Kehdekar the annoying lawyer. Manoj Bajypayee was an invisible narrator and rather unimportant.

Verdict: Rustom had the potential of being a gritty courtroom drama, public sympathy and relationships gone awry. Instead, we get a sympathetic portrayal of an honest officer amidst a corrupt defense deal and a whole lot of inane caricatures. At best, it can pass boredom on a Sunday afternoon whenever it is aired on television.
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Interstellar (2014)
Scores on effects, fails on narrative!
22 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Christopher Nolan is known to experiment, such as the the non-linear narrative of 'Memento' and well written characters in 'The Dark Knight'. A director of his caliber also made the disappointing pseudo- intellectual 'Inception'. Sadly, 'Interstellar' too comes across as a let-down of sorts, despite interesting science.

'Interstellar' has all the ingredients of a typical space sci-fi film: spacecraft, wormholes, stasis, strange planets, time travel, a black hole, robots running on artificial intelligence, father-daughter drama, etc., in the background of a dying Earth. While these concepts aren't new to Hollywood, the big budget allowed for the visual spectacle. Still, it is marred by choppy narrative, clichéd dialog and poorly developed characters that we hardly care about.

Set in unspecified future, Earth's capacity to sustain life has diminished; crops are dying and there are dust storms. Agriculture takes precedence over everything. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former NASA test pilot turned farmer. A widowed Cooper lives with his father in law and children Tom and Murph. An inquisitive young Murph (Mackenzie Foy) is obsessed with the idea of a ghost in her bedroom and is always trying to decode signs.

As it turns out, the signs are coordinates to a hidden space station of NASA, headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), in search of life sustaining planets so as to evacuate Earth. Predictably, our hero, Cooper is the only man who can pilot the mission to outer space, beyond our galaxy accessed through a wormhole. Damn, a trespasser at a hidden space station is suddenly asked to commandeer a spaceflight without any serious briefing or training!

Joining Cooper on the mission are Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and two other scientists that are expendable. Their mission is finding three of the ten manned probes that went through the portal earlier and have reported seemingly positive findings. Again, don't ask why manned missions when they had advanced AI robots like TARS and CASE? That brings us to the existential question: why a manned follow-up mission, huh?

The overarching premise behind the mission is that certain benevolent 'beings' have opened up a wormhole and left clues through gravity- based anomalies. The aging professor has been working on a mathematical model to evacuate Earth. The model fails since it needs data from a gravitational singularity, where space and time can be bent. If Plan- A, to evacuate fails, Plan-B to populate extraterrestrial planets with genetic samples humans.

Unbeknownst to the fatality of Plan-A, the crew continues to explore planets. One Planet has time distorted to a level where an hour on it equals seven years on earth. The planet doesn't make the cut due to its shallow waters and gigantic waves. The second is an icy planet with ice-clouds (filmed in Iceland) and a crazed explorer (Matt Damon) who tries to kill Cooper so that he can execute plan B at the third planet, Miller; Result: needless drama.

As with every movie involving vehicles, terrestrial or extraterrestrial, fuel shortage and damage to the craft and the need for Singularity data are key plot elements towards the climax. Apropos, they need to slingshot past the black hole to the third planet which Amelia bets on, as her loved one went there during the original Lazarus project. Oh, a movie is so incomplete without a love angle! Glad there wasn't any romance between Cooper and Ameila.

And then, our hero, Cooper dives into the event horizon of the beautifully depicted super-massive black hole and reaches singularity. But what is this singularity? Just like the limbo being linked to Cobb's dreams in 'Inception', the singularity in 'Interstellar' is actually a four dimensional tesseract presenting a single location to Cooper at various points in time. And the location? You guessed it: Murph's bedroom. How convenient!

So, who's the ghost in Murph's life? Cooper! And the 'beings'? Cooper again! He opened up the wormhole near Saturn that took him through the same spot half a century later. Doesn't this create an inconsistent causal loop just like 'Grandfather Paradox' or a chicken going back in time and laying an egg that it is born out of? But then, an average moviegoer doesn't care as long as there are spectacular sights and happy endings!

'Interstellar' is lengthy and tiresome, narrative is patchy and has excessive inter-cuts during crucial scenes. Spoiling experience further is the jarring and ominously heavy background score by Hans Zimmer that muffles out dialog. Acting is just passable: McConaughey is hardly a fit, Jessica Chastain as the grown up Murph is decent as the scientist and Michel Caine seems to be having his fourth outing with the director.

Nolan's fiction works for audiences who believe they enjoy intelligent films, but actually watch them without thought or logic. As contradictory as it sounds, truth is stranger than fiction. Nolan's 'Inception' was full of plot holes, irrespective of whether it was deliberate or inept storytelling. Usually, a good narrative should have a logical end, except that it is Nolan and he likes keeping things ambiguous. I haven't come across anyone who understood 'Inception' or 'Interstellar' fully, despite claiming that they loved it.

About the science in 'Interstellar', Nolan found played it safe by bringing a scientist on board, Kip Thore, as a consultant and executive producer. This would've surely had an impact on the depiction of a spinning black hole and other stuff like the four- dimensional tesseract within the event horizon, boxy but versatile AI robots, etc. Nonetheless, I'm still amazed at how an astronaut can dive into a black hole and come out totally unhurt!!

If anything, Christopher Nolan must be admired for dreaming big. Sadly, this movie is a waste of a great concept turned into an average movie that sells only the basis of special effects bankrolled by a big budget. While die-hard Nolan fans would rave over this, discerning movie connoisseurs won't appreciate the poor storytelling.
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Baahubali (2015)
Deserves applause for taking Indian cinema to the next level
22 July 2015
For a long time, I don't remember struggling for tickets. Multiplexes and apps had just made things too easy. But then, India's most expensive film to date, Baahubali seems to have changed the whole demand game. Instead of media hype that is typical of Bollywood, it was actually word of mouth publicity that got many people to watch the film. Consequently, movie screens were almost full and finding tickets was tough.

The story of Baahubali has everything that a political tale from the era of kings would have. There are cousins battling for the throne, played by Prabhas, as the protagonist with superhuman strength playing Baahubali and Sivudu and Rana Daggubati as the formidable antagonist, Bhallaladeva. Tamannaah (forget the ever changing spelling) Bhatia plays a masked tribal warrior girl Avanthika and Sivudu's love interest.

Talk about wars and kingdoms, comparisons with '300', 'Game of Thrones' or 'Troy' and their likes are natural. In reality, filmmakers have very little latitude in the variety of stories that can be portrayed and it is also possible that some copied/ inspired scenes may emerge, for all we know! Still, one mustn't forget that SS Rajamouli's Baahubali is a story on political dynamics that are not unusual in Indian history and epics.

The lead cast is supported by strong performances from Ramya Krishna, playing the matriarch Sivagami and Satyaraj as the brave, but morally obligated Kattappa and Nasser as Bhallaladeva's father Bijjaladeva. Minor roles include that of Anushka Shetty as Devasena and Sudeep as Aslam Khan, who may have bigger roles in the sequel.

Bang for the buck comes from visual effects that are comparable to any big budget flick involving VFX. The scenes involving the gigantic waterfall and bull fight are on par with the global best such as Avatar or Jurassic World. Having said that, a couple of scenes, like the avalanche and some shots of capital city could have been improved.

Complementing the stupendous visuals was the flawless sound mixing. The dialog, sound effects and the background score blend seamlessly. MM Kreem's ominous 'maahishmati saamrajyam' provides a perfect backdrop to the serious scenes. The songs were decent, however none of them can be categorized as hummable.

Editing was perfect in the second half, while the first half was quite shaky. The movie could've taken more time to establish the characters but instead, some of scenes look rushed up. Frankly, a few minutes of extra runtime wouldn't have mattered if the transitions between some scenes were smoother.

With massive sets, everything in Baahubali is on a grand scale. The Kingdom's capital was luxuriously large and the waterfall was unimaginably gigantic. The war scenes were realistic and captivating. Maybe, it would've looked tad more realistic if the capital's sets looked a bit weathered. The costumes were well done though.

The weakest area in the film, that I could fathom was the make-up. Our filmmakers are simply unable to get past the obsession of painting faces. Time they understand that in ultra high definition of digital cinema, the make-up overdose look uglier than blemishes on the faces, that are natural and acceptable these days. This is one lesson that they need to learn from 'Game of Thrones' that got the make-up spot on. .

The dubbing in Hindi was well done. Nevertheless, it would have been better if distributors had more shows of the original Telugu version with English subtitles running in Mumbai's multiplexes. It would've helped retain the original flavor of the film. Let's hope the distributors release the sequel on more screens!

Rupees 250 crore for two films may sound like a big budget. But, in dollar terms a 40 million budget not actually big on a global scale. Yet, the movie has achieved so much. it is therefore testimony to the fact that India has tons of talent and if budget isn't a constraint, in the right hands, unbounded creativity can be unleashed in India.

A brilliant movie like Baahubali coming from the South that is jeered for dark-skinned and fat stars is actually a slap in the face for Bollywood that is churning out trash as hits (at least for the likes of avuncular and narcissistic Shahrukh's Ra.One/ Jab Tak Hai Jaan or pseudo-intellectual Aamir's Dhoom 3 or a Salman who hasn't learnt one bit of acting in decades or Rohit Shetty blowing cars or Farah Khan's outrageous plot lines).

Verdict: Sure as hell, Baahubali is no perfect film. But, for what it's worth, watch Baahubali on the big screen and thus discourage piracy This is the least bit that a movie fan must do to encourage the good guys among Indian filmmakers to take bigger risks in the right path and tell us bigger and grander indigenous stories.
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Worthwhile for its youthful romance and humor
11 July 2014
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, popularly known as DDLJ has been one of the biggest cult hits of Bollywood and an epic love story. What had made that famous Yash Raj movie tick was that it had the youthful element of adventurous love despite the fact that the girl is about to be married to a boy of her father's choice. And then, the lover boy goes all out to win over her parents and gets the girl.

Karan Johar has attempted to re-create the same magic by making a largely DDLJ inspired film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. It has oodles of romance, comedy and a bit of beating and getting beaten up plus a couple of likable songs. But, will this film make it as big as DDLJ? I don't think so. Partly due to short shelf life of films and partly due to generation change from the days of Bollywood style true love!

The film opens with an introduction to its lead characters. Rakesh 'Humpty' Sharma (Varun Dhawan) is a happy go lucky young man brought up by his equally chilled out father (Kenny Desai) who runs a bookstore in Delhi. Kavya Pratap Singh (Alia Bhatt) is girl from Ambala engaged to an NRI chosen by her authoritarian dad (Ashutosh Rana). Patriarch Singh detests love marriage after the failure of his first daughter's choice and wants the whole affair to go on in the way that he deems fit.

Kavya wants her wedding to be a grand affair. After noticing that her friend in Delhi, Gurpreet has bought herself a designer lehenga, she demands her family buy one for her too. When denied, Kavya quarrels with her family and goes to Delhi to make enough money to shop a designer. It was here that she meets Humpty and she arranges a deal to get him through a pass mark in his bachelor's degree.

For Humpty, he has fallen for the pretty, feisty and smart girl and chases her despite knowing that she is about to get married in a month and a half. But as is the case in all romance flicks, Kavya falls for Humpty after he helps Gurpreet with a problem and then delivers upon his promise to buy her a lehenga (although the latter seemed extremely contrived). Although Kavya heads back to Ambala to go on with the wedding plans, Humpty chases her and vows to win her father's heart.

The story takes a serious turn as Kavya's father and brother turn belligerent towards him. Upon Kavya's insistence, father Singh gives Humpty a chance by putting him on the task of finding at least one fault in the NRI boy Angad (Siddharth Shukla) that he has chosen for his daughter. The rest of the story is filled with humor as Humpty and his two friends go all out; plus the essential ingredient, emotional scenes.

While the plot is decent, the ending of Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania has far less impact than the epic scene of DDLJ where Shah Rukh Khan is on the train awaiting Amrish Puri to release his grip on Kajol and the latter running in all her bridal finery to board the train. Who can ever forget that scene!

This is just her third movie and Alia hasn't put a foot wrong, either in her choice of movies or performance. She has played a college kid, a soul searching sojourner and now a feisty bride with aplomb. Notwithstanding the dumb Alia jokes on the internet, the numero uno slot in Bollywood is just a matter of time for the actress who can carry off innocence and attitude perfectly well.

Varun Dhawan's character is not that of a typical macho hero, but a regular guy who wears his heart on his sleeve who falls in love with the girl. Siddharth Shukla, a popular face on TV makes his film debut. However, his role hardly has much scope. One of the most noteworthy performances is that of the acclaimed actor Ashutosh Rana as the stern father. He fits well into the Bollywood baddies hall of fame.

Verdict: When compared, there is no chance that débutante director Shashank Khaitan can manage what a débutante Aditya Chopra did 19 years ago. On a stand-alone basis, Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania is an enjoyable film and it's a choice you won't regret. The song 'Samjhawaan' is very likable too. You can watch it with your family, laugh at the jokes and yes, believe in the power of love!
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Mahabharat (2013)
Crappy animation ruins the potential
2 January 2014
India's 'Most expensive' animated movie, really? Why are the filmmakers Pen making fools out of the public? Is India's technical prowess down to this? Not at all. The animated 2013 Mahabharat by Amaan Khan is a downer by epic proportions.

The film begins by claiming that it has been designed to acquaint the younger generation about the stories from the great Indian epic Mahabharata and about the values contained therein. It begins with two little boys, brothers, fighting over a coin. Then, a messenger bird appears and narrates the tale of what a quarrel between brothers over greed, ego and power struggle could lead to.

Since the massive story of a hundred thousand stanzas needs to be consolidated into two hours of film, the script only touches upon the important highlights. The birth of Karna and the other Pandavas and that of the Kauravas is told as a passing reference. And there is no reference to Bhishma or Pandu & Dhritarashtra lineages.

The main story begins at the point where Pandavas and Kauravas showcase their skills at an arena in the capital Hastinapur. Patriarch Bhishma (Amitabh Bachchan) oversees the duels: Bheem (Sunny Deol) vs Duryodhan (Jackie Shroff) and Arjuna (Ajay Devgan) vs Karna (Anil Kapoor). In the end, Yudhishtir (Manoj Bajpayee) is anointed as the crown prince, thus angering Duryodhan and Shakuni Mama (Anupam Kher).

The tale then continues to portray the Pandavas' wedding with Draupadi (Vidya Balan) and explains the logic behind five husbands and then introduces the character of Lord Krishna (Shatrughan Sinha). Following Draupadi's insult of Duryodhan and the counter-insult after the game of dice, the Pandavas go to the jungles. On their return, evil Duryodhan doesn't return their kingdom and war between cousins is imminent.

'Mahabharat' 3D or 2D depending on the format that watches it in, focuses on the events of the famed battle, the message of Krishna to Arjuna and the aftermath of the war. While the animation is extremely loathsome, one can't help but appreciate the attempt to capture the essence of the values contained in the epic in about 2 hours.

The acting talent is only reflected through the voices of its actors. While Big B's baritone voice is the most resoundingly awesome one, the faces of the characters bear mild resemblance to the actors, leave aside the muscular bodies. In a way, it was fun to see big names lend their voices to evergreen characters in the Indian psyche. If only the visual feel lived up to the mark of the actors voices! If at all!

Nonetheless, since it is an animation film, much of its merits would be analyzed against what is seen on screen. While they have attempted the use of rich colors, the use of movements and shadows is too tacky. If you remember playing decade old versions of action games like Counterstrike, you would know what I'm talking about. The visuals have an overall substandard feel and seems like a cheap TV show.

With animation, comparisons are inevitable too. While it would be unfair to compare it with Hollywood, does it stand up to homegrown cartoons? It doesn't. In fact, they could have done better by sticking to simpler styles, much like the old-world comics and give life to a simplistic style of animation. They couldn't have emulated the 2011 Tintin film, but could've at least emulated Chota Bheem.

Background score and songs are not only bad; but they are also poorly timed. It is understandable that the screenwriters have used songs to convey the passage of time based events; however, this was not effective. The editing too is so hopelessly lost that one background tune suddenly cuts into another.

Verdict: Earlier this month, a news report said that the film has been insured for INR 50 crore. Going by the lack of interest by audiences and empty movie halls, surely, the insurance companies have something to worry about. Doesn't that say enough already? If you are still keen on it, save your money, wait till it comes on TV.
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Dhoom 3 (2013)
Slick stunts but a boring overdose of Aamir Khan
22 December 2013
'Dhoom 3' should ideally be named 'Doom' as it is much unlike its predecessors. While the first 'Dhoom', 2004 set the standard as a film with bike stunts, the second film took the plot international in 2006 and reached new heights with Hrithik's villainous role and super-svelte Aishwarya Rai. The third edition takes the franchise downhill into the depths of boredom and seems like modeling portfolio of Aamir Khan.

For a wafer-thin plot that it has, here's the summary: Angered at the suicide by a circus owner (Jackie Shroff), his son Sahir (Aamir Khan) seeks revenge against the bank that mercilessly closed the circus. Since the thief scribbles 'tere aisi ki taisi' in Hindi after robbing banks, Chicago cops seek the help of Mumbai police to solve the crime.

And then enter ACP Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) and his funny side-kick Ali (Uday Chopra). It is worthwhile to note that the son of the angry- young-man still hasn't got a promotion in nine years since the first Dhoom film. The story then has a suspense (not revealed in the review) which isn't actually interesting and loads of action.

Aamir Khan's perfection lies exposed as nothing more than a publicity stunt and a sham. Throughout the film, he wears one of these two expressions: One, "I'm soooo serious", Two, "I'm soooo smart" with that trademark smug smile of his. If you only see the actor and not the character he plays, I'd surely brand that as bad acting. And if you gave the star a benefit of doubt, one can say, he was miscast for the role.

Bachchan Junior and Uday Chopra are nothing more than mere props in the film As the popular internet humor goes, they're there, thanks to 'Yash Raj Rozgar Yojana'. Not only the boys, the leading lady Katrina Kaif hardly has any role, barring a gratuitous strip-tease in 'Kamli' to please Aamir so that he casts her in his 'Great Indian Circus'.

The only man who has any role in the film is Aamir Khan who is present in almost every frame of the film. In a way, it reminded me of some Kamal Haasan's films where the self-obsessed star who is not much unlike Aamir has to be present in every scene. There is a sheer overdose of Aamir Khan, bordering on narcissism.

Another major irritant in the film is the oft repeated lines, sometimes with a tune, 'Bande hai hum.. ' that is supposed to bring out some sentimental connection with the antagonist's past. The only effect that is has on the audience is that of annoyance. The songs are extremely disappointing and the film suddenly breaks into a song when it is not needed at all. And yes, Aamir's tap dance is outright stupid.

Okay! the circus was supposedly closed down by the bank and auctioned. But how is it that it is still there so that our star can visit the place and relive the pains of his childhood? And how does he take revenge? By stealing the bank? C'mon, just before the sub-prime crisis, he could have just made them lend some ninja loans and invest in toxic assets and they would have gone down the drain anyway. Touché!

Dhoom 3 also happens to be very lengthy and tiresome. In fact, everything in the film after the interval is a waste. To some of my friends who said they got up and left mid-way, they surely didn't miss much. There's hardly anything enjoyable in the dialogs either, and it just some pathetic piece of writing in a predominantly action film.

What salvages Dhoom 2 are some well done stunts, although each stunt is needlessly slowed down. Cars blowing up in chase sequences are a staple and there's the usual Hollywood style helicopter chase. The transformation of the bike into a boat is cool, although somewhat inspired. Stylish stunts and the special effects are the only saving grace and the only thing worth something in 'Doom', err 'Dhoom 3'.

Verdict: The movie's plot involves stealing. Yes, they steal your money with expensive tickets. I can only sympathize with those who may have paid 900 bucks per ticket at IMAX. What a rip off, seriously! If you still want to watch it, catch a morning show and cut your losses. You may just enjoy your popcorn more than the film.
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Besharam (2013)
Average fare saved totally by Ranbir Kapoor
2 October 2013
Ranbir Kapoor seems to have comfortably established himself as the next biggest superstar after the sun sets down on the Khans who are nearing their fifties. A natural actor that he is, most of his movies have been well received; even in those that didn't make money, his acting was appreciated.

Well, here is his new offering 'Besharam' that has a lot of masala: there's comedy, romance and action and directed by Abhinav Kashyap of 'Dabangg' fame. Predictably, some references and parodies from his earlier film are seen here; the lead character being someone who does wrong stuff but has a heart of gold or naming one of the key supporting characters as 'Chulbul' after Salman's old character.

'Besharam' begins with an introduction to Bheem Singh Chandel (Javed Jaffrey) a hawala kingpin in Chandigarh who needs stolen luxury cars for his business. His need gets him introduced to Babli (Ranbir Kapoor), a mechanic who is also a car thief. And since the hero ought to be a good guy, he is seen donating all his earnings to an orphanage he grew up in.

Wait: Babli is referred to as a smooth criminal and the first car theft that we see of his involves a massive chase drama with cops! And that's supposed to be super smooth, huh! Nonetheless, the chase sequence is used to introduce us to the cop-couple, who are also Ranbir Kapoor's real life parents, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor, who are childless and eventually think of adopting someone.

One day, Babli's eyes fall on Tara Sharma (Pallavi Sharda) who is a middle-class girl with big dreams of living a big life and marrying into money. On one occasion she also insults Babli who has been trying to woo her. But it so happens that the Merc she bought to show off to her friends gets stolen by Babli, who doesn't know it's hers and delivers it to Chandel. But then, there's a twist in the tale.

As such, the story has nothing new. Some of its situations are so flawed and are a throwback to the 80's. Silly chase sequences, preposterous plot situations that are simplistic extensions of some weirdly idealistic scenario. And then there's the forced love angle between a lead pair that has no chemistry whatsoever. Of course, there's toilet humor too. Still, some of its better jokes are quite funny.

The film's weakest link is its lead actress. Pallavi Sharda, an Indian- Australian and trained dancer does not have the looks or acting skills or even screen presence to play a lead role. Also, despite the high heels she is seen wearing, she is way too short to be paired with Kapoor. The only plausible reason being casting an unknown girl would've been to keep the focus solely on their superstar!

But despite the weak plot and songs lacking punch, the only saving grace for the film is its lead actor Ranbir Kapoor and his ability to carry off any film; although that didn't apply to his debut film. His antics convince you to believe in his character and feel for him and also laugh at his lines which he delivers with an accent that only makes him seem more authentic.

Nonetheless, no heroic charm can save 'Besharam' unless it makes its money using the hype that surrounded its release and the news that it is being released on 3600 of screens, tad more than 'Chennai Express'. But if audience reactions to simplistic comedies are the way to go by, there is no reason to believe why 'Besharam' won't do well. After all, it has a big star and it's a comedy!

Verdict: Well, there's nothing much to expect as a story and some of its funny scenes are actually similar to old movies. If you are in a mood for masala entertainment and random humor, 'Besharam' would suit your funny taste buds. If you are slightly more discerning, you won't really like it. But, if you are a huge Ranbir Kapoor fan, none of these reasons apply anyways.
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Prague (2013)
A cerebral tale in an interesting backdrop
30 September 2013
Writing a review about 'Prague' will be quite a task. The key factor being that the movie takes a while to sink in. It has all the elements that make it fit the bill of a film that would be well received at film festivals. It's a psychological thriller shot at an interesting location and some brilliant acting by relatively unknown faces.

Chandan (Chandan Roy Sanyal) is an architect who bags a project at Prague and he is to be accompanied by Gulshan (Mayank Kumar), his carefree buddy. Chandan's constant companion happens to be a mysterious Arfi (Arfi Lamba). But, what lies beneath is Chandan's battle with schizophrenia and his struggle with relationships.

Early on, during the openings credits, the movie sets the tone on what to expect in the Czech capital. Prague is shown to be a place with architectural wonders. And this turns out to be so for Chandan who is working on finding an idea for his project.

One evening, he chances by Elena (Elena Kazan), a danseuse and very soon, the two develop a bond. By the way, it's so convenient that she had spent some time in India, that too in Chandan's hometown of Kolkata and knows a bit of Bengali.

The rest of the story which includes a series of flashbacks, is better not discussed, for it could reveal the suspense. Nonetheless, despite it seeming like a 'thriller', it was possible to predict what the twists could be. Although, there are this cannot take anything away from the fact that it is a well-written film and the dialog has clever lines.

Most of the writing effort seems to have gone into development of its characters. Noteworthy among them is the role of Gulshan who is seen 'living his life to the fullest', a spirit that Chandan admires, but fails to emulate to due to other issues that hold him back. Elena on the other hand is beautiful and caring, but has a strong desire to give meaning to her gypsy roots, a reference to the Roma tribes of the region.

The scenes on the screen are shaded by dark undertones, the heady mixture of cigarette smoke, drugs, alcohol and women. Those that involve Prague's architecture are shown well. One scene that is exceptional is Chandan clicking pictures of his muse in a gypsy avatar where Kazan looks stunning.

Prague does have a few flaws. Despite it meaning to be a suspense, the plot can be worked out. It also has moments where it gets too involved into its characters that it is distracting at times. There are some repetitive moments which can be defended as having dramatic value. In all fairness, its genre is challenging in itself.

Made on a small budget and actors with no name-recall, the film is a bold experiment. Director Ashish R Shukla, who is also credited with the story, needs to be applauded for the effort. The newer breed of directors pushing creative limits is a positive trend that must be encouraged. It's a pleasant break from Bollywood's blockbuster culture.

Verdict: Don't shy away from 'Prague' because it isn't a star-studded big budget flick or that it lacks item numbers, if you are keen about those, then stay away. 'Prague' is a serious film and a bold attempt by a débutant director. Despite some of its shortcomings, a film connoisseur will be happy he watched this film.
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Elysium (I) (2013)
Stupid film with one-dimensional characters
30 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Going by the standard Neill Blomkamp set in the Academy Award nominated 'District 9', his new offering 'Elysium' is a massive let down. While the earlier film had the powerful undercurrent of racism in South Africa, Elysium's attempt to take on the rich-poor divide comes across as flawed and executed without much thought.

Since, I really don't predict many people watching this after reading this, I thought of using some liberty to include spoilers in the review. Here it goes:

In the year 2154 (incidentally the same year that 'Avatar' is set in), Earth has become overpopulated, polluted and disease ridden. The elite have since escaped to a space-station style colony leaving the poor in a state of appalling health-care and sanitation standards while they dream of illegal immigration to 'Elysium'.

The protagonist of the story is Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), ex-convict on parole works for a company that makes robots and dreams of saving up to buy a ticket to Elysium. Things get rough after he is exposed to radiation while at work and has only five days to live. He then urges Spider, someone who arranges illegal ships to get him there, in exchange of one last con job, that turns out to be the keys to the kingdom.

Meanwhile on Elysium, Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) rules with an iron hand, much to the disapproval of the rest of the administration. That includes using illegal agents to shoot down spacecraft intruding into Elysium air-space. She then urges a corporate honcho Carlyle to build an illegal program that will install her as President. It is this very program that Max unwittingly ends up stealing from Carlyle.

The film tells us very little about the people in Elysium except that they are on a perpetual holiday. The film makes it appear as if anyone having access to the main program running the system, runs the Elysium and concordantly, all human population. Preposterous! And does it take only a computer program to bring down an administration? So, you see, the audience wouldn't care a damn about Elysium folks.

What about earthlings then? That too, hardly evokes sympathy! In Max's neighborhood, he seems to be the only who cares about working in a proper job. So, what were the others doing? Busy enhancing the population? The view from space shows that the land surface of the planet had lost its greenery. So, how were the people still alive? Didn't the climate change affect the weather or crops?

Sometimes, the portrayal of earth, with the burgeoning population and issues like crumbling health-care & sanitation shown in the film, in some way would remind you of how India could look like within a few years if the population kept growing at the current rate and with the rich-poor divide continuing to widen. Shocking nonetheless!

The film is so poorly written that one hardly feels for any of its characters or care about what they seek to represent. Our hero's only motivation to reach Elysium is to fulfill his dream and the urgency comes because he is about to die. And what was Alice Braga's silly role in it? One can remember her equally pointless role in the futuristic 'Repo Men'. And Max's conversation with Braga's kid seems forced.

There are numerous other inconsistencies, like how Max recovers from his injuries, and then the exoskeleton being bolted to his body using big screws and then being stabbed by a knife during fights. He seemed more like Terminator rather than a real human. And he carries the program in chip attached to his head. Duh!

Joining Foster & Damon in the wasted actors list is Sharlto Copley who played the lead actor in 'District 9'. He plays the mercenary, Kruger. His character seems to have a sudden transition from an illegal, later disavowed mercenary to a President hopeful. What a sudden transition! Surely, this bit could have done with some improvement.

The only thing a movie like this can brag about is special effects and some cool gadgets. The car-like space shuttles are so quick, compact and convenient, powerful weapons that are exceedingly compact. But this is hardly adequate to save the film.

And lastly, let's talk about the ending: The reprogrammed code now considers all Earthlings as citizens and the system dispatches them medical facilities so that they too can live forever, and that too disease free! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the film ends! Seriously, that's their hare-brained plot. What a waste of time and money!!

Verdict: Elysium may have bagged good ratings; but, please don't get carried away by it. Even if you are in the mood to leave your brain back home in the refrigerator, this film can still irritate you and make you feel like walking out in between. Avoidable!
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Like a trip to the loo with humor & romance thrown in
25 September 2013
The latest trend in Bollywood are films with a small-town flavor. Recent examples include 'Raanjhanaa' set in Varanasi or 'Ishaqzaade' whose characters and story are set in a UP town. The days of the typical Mumbaiyya theme in Bollywood are gone for good. Maneesh Sharma's 'Shuddh Desi Romance' had the promise of presenting a bold take on love and relationships, set in the modern times, away from the metros.

Riding on the success of 'Band Baaja Baaraat' and 'Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl', Maneesh Sharma mixes up both the themes with 'Shuddh Desi Romance'. There is a bit on weddings, in-your-face dialog from his first film and the angle of multiple women from the second. But, unlike his first two films, lead character here, Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) is an under confident, self-doubting and is mostly an aimless guy.

The film beings with Raghu's baaraat (groom's wedding procession) as he is set to marry Tara (Vaani Kapoor). With no real family around, Raghu dabbles with being a paid baaraati for the wedding planner Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) who is his mentor of sorts. During the off season for weddings, he doubles up as a tourist guide in Jaipur.

Included in the fake retinue is Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) whom Goyal masquerades as the protagonist's sister. Enroute, she and Raghu discover that they have a deeper connect for each other and end up kissing, one of the many kisses in the film. Consequently, Raghu abandons his wedding after excusing himself for a loo break.

Thereafter, Raghu starts living with Gayatri, pretending to the world that they are related as siblings, while actually being in a live-in relationship. Gayatri is portrayed as a cigarette smoking girl, who had an abortion from one of her many relationships.

Just as Raghu and Gayatri think of marriage, in come the toilets. Thereafter, Tara enters, complicating the mix and confusing Raghu into a choice between two women. What happens to each of these characters in the triangle forms the rest of the story, which attempts to put its best foot forward to making things comical.

The end result however is underwhelming. The best of 'Shuddh Desi Romance' is in its first half, with many humorous situations and funny lines. The characters too are endearing and there are no villains. But where the writing fails is when it doesn't bring about a connect with either of the characters or let you empathise with any.

For actor Sushant Singh Rajput, this role is markedly different from the passionate coach that he played in 'Kai Po Che' and does a good job as someone finding it difficult to commit. Parineet Chopra faced the prospect of competition from her cousin Priyanka's remade 'Zanjeer' releasing on the same weekend. However, 'Shuddh Desi Romance' seems to have won the initial battle at the box office.

Among the other actors, Vaani Kapoor, a model turned actress is impressive as the smart, uber confident girl who conveniently plays with simpleton Raghu. And by now, we seem to have gotten used to seeing Rishi Kapoor play the father/ uncle/ mentor role played to perfection. The other supporting cast, portrayed among his friends and baaraatis bring in the much needed comic relief to the film.

So, why does the small -town trend work? Most of the Indian populace still lives in smaller cities and towns. Even among the metropolitan city dwellers, a significant number of them are migrants from towns or are, at best, second generation city folk. While the appearances may have changed, many of us in India still retain a 'desi' flavor. On top of it all, it is they who bring in the bucks for movies and malls.

Verdict: Despite its promise, the film fails to impress as the plot gets derailed mid-way and so does its comedy. The film's lead women are deliciously written for cinematic charm rather than to reflect anything real. The most unpardonable of the plot blunders are the seemingly endless trips to the toilet, a hallowed venue for intense reflection on life's big decisions! Seriously, the movie could've been so much better.
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Cocktail (2012)
Average fare romance flick with shallow characters
25 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Although 'Cocktail' was peddled as a movie for the those in their 20s, there was nothing in particular that pertained to the youth. In fact, if the writers thought that the 20's something generation was as shallow as their characters, they are surely mistaken. 'Cocktail' is just your average Desi romance flick with some good songs.

The film opens with Gautam Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan) flirting with a flight attendant on the way to London, something he repeats with many girls in the film. On another flight is a newly wedded conservative girl Meera Gupta (Diana Penty) on her way to meet her husband of a sham wedding. And then there is the carefree Veronica D'Costa (Deepika Padukone) for whom partying is a way of life.

Circumstances lead to a helpless Meera finding shelter in Veronica's home. The two soon become close buddies. Gautam who is in a casual relationship with Veronica moves in with them. Later, after a run in with his mom and uncle who may not be approving of Veronica, he pretends that Meera is his girl. The two don't like each other much, but as the movie progresses, sparks fly between them.

While we are accustomed to seeing Saif in yuppie playboy roles in 'Hum Tum', he must realize that many years have now passed since he did them. And his age now shows. Although his mom in the film Dimple Kapadia says he is 32, he surely looks a decade older, closer to his actual age, 42. Despite this glaring drawback, some of his Casanova antics are funny although some others are way overboard.

There was a quite a bit of noise about Diana Penty's debut but there is nothing remarkable about her. She is overshadowed by Deepika, both in the looks department and acting. In fact, Diana Penty was the first choice to play Ranbir's love interest in 'Rockstar' which eventually went to Nargis Fakhri. After watching cocktail, it was evident that if Penty was cast in Rockstar, the film wouldn't have had as much impact.

Deepika Padukone, for one, has actually learned some acting skills. Compared to what she was in 'Om Shanti Om', she has come a long way. Also, she carries off her designer wear with aplomb. Amidst all the gloom, her acting is an asset to the film.

Where the film fails are with its poor writing and shallow characters who are seen partying around most of time as if they are on an unending holiday. None of them have must depth to their personality. Boman Irani & Dimple Kapadia contribute to some funny moments, but isn't enough to keep it going.

The worst thing about cocktail is that it aligns with the hypocritical Indian moral view where Veronica, the promiscuous party-girl is a bad girl while a god-fearing and docile type casted Meera is supposedly virtuous and gets the guy in the end. All this when our hero manages to 'patao' every other girl around except Meera. Maybe it's only the hunt that gets him interested in her rather than anything else.

Songs like 'Tumhi Ho Bandhu', 'Daaru Desi' are already runaway hits. But with Pritam being the Music Director, we would never know the source till one looks up YouTube with the search string 'pritam songs + copy' . As far as the Punjabi folk song 'Jugni' is concerned, the movie makers have purchased rights for its use.

'Cocktail' comes across as a confused film. Did they want to show a purely romantic flick like 'Love Aaj Kal' exploring urban relationships? Or did they want to play safe with some 'homely girl vs. party girl: who gets the boy' theme? Or was this meant to be a comedy? In fact, it is a cocktail of these three, with the recipe gone awry.

Now for the verdict: Don't be fooled by its name coz this cocktail isn't going to get you intoxicated. Probably, one can call it a mock-tail instead. Don't even watch it on TV.
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Dabangg 2 (2012)
Crass movie, but doesn't give you a headache!
25 September 2013
Dabangg 2 is another one among the many of the south-style flicks that are raking in the big bucks these days in Bollywood. Specifically the genre is Telugu-Tamil mainstream style which is usually about unrestrained machismo, a homely looking damsel in distress, some Newton- defying stunts and an odd item number.

Per se, I'd avoided the first 'Dabangg', presuming it to be a mindless film. But, this one happened more because it was with a large group, where any movie becomes bearable. After all, one goes to movies like these expecting absolute garbage.

So, the movie is about the Robin Hood Cop, Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) who has now taken a transfer to the big city, Kanpur. There, he runs into the local goon and politico Bachcha Bhaiya (Prakah Raj). One thing leads to another and Chulbul kills Bachcha's brother who has threatened a local girl, sending these two on a warpath.

Chulbul's wife Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha) is now pregnant and his well wishers, including his perpetually hungry foodie boss (Manoj Pahwa) convince him not to engage in a tiff with Bachcha Bhaiyya as he is now a family man and has lot to lose. But, Chulbul can't be talked out of it so easily. When Bachcha hits it below the belt, Chulbul vows revenge which forms the rest of the story. How these movies end is an easy guess!

Talking about Acting, Salman Khan still can't act and director Arbaaz sleepwalks in his role as Chulbul's brother Makkhi. And all that Sonakshi Sinha had to do was to look homely. And then, what's the obsession with Prakash Raj as the villain? As good an actor that he may be, it has become too tiresome actually!!

What sucks is its woeful editing, one scene cuts from the other suddenly. Seems like a hurriedly packed up jumble of scenes placed in the following order: there is a joke, followed by a stunt, followed by a song; and the cycle repeats over and over.

The much talked about item song 'Fevicol Se' has Kareena Kapoor gyrating to some Desi beats and hinglish lyrics. But, it lacks the zing that 'Munni Badnaam' had created in the earlier Dabangg. But, silly as it may be, the song stays in your mind.

In short, Dabangg 2 is a film that you can watch if you leave your brain in the car park, not expecting the least bit of logic from it. If the current trend is to be believed, the day is not far when there will be hardly any difference between Telugu-Tamil movies and Bollywood flicks, barring language and the lead star hailing from the Hindi belt.

As such, Salman Khan's name is enough to draw crowds. So, the mantra seems to be: 'who cares about logic as long as people laugh & producers make fast buck!!'
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Murder 3 (2013)
A watchable suspense in the second half
25 September 2013
The Bhatt camp has off late done good business with formula movies. 'Murder' series eponymously concerns murder mystery, 'Raaz' that has something to with the supernatural and 'Jism', well the name says it all. One common factor is skin-show and songs that go on to become hits. And there's the Emraan Hashmi factor.

First time Director Vishesh Bhatt is believed to have said that their films are "succeeding backwards". True, the quality is depleting but this hasn't really affected their business. So, is this movie a game changer for Bhatt camp or not?

An official re-make of the 2011 Spanish film "La cara oculta", the film is about a successful model photographer Vikram (Randeep Hooda) who finds his girlfriend Roshni (Aditi Rao Hydari) suddenly gone missing and the events that follow thereafter. One drunken night in a bar gets Vikram close to a hostess Nisha (Sara Loren) who soon start a romance. But Vikram's house seems to have some dark secrets.

The dullest part in the movie is the first half, which seems like a series of songs with a bit of story thrown in and is exceptionally boring. At first we are told how Vikram met Roshni in Cape town, and then dealing with his romance with Nisha. The hero is shown to be living alone in a palatial home on the outskirts of Mumbai. Wondering how on earth did he manage to commute everyday in a self-driven car! Phew!

And if you can manage to sit through this for an hour, then comes the surprise! The whole story goes into a different tangent from there on. Although a bit contrived, you soon accept it and flow along with the story. As with any suspense film, you are better off not knowing it till you actually see it. Then, the problem is that, by the time the film starts to get better, it may have alas, lost its audience already.

Randeep Hooda, who looks more a goon than an actor makes a sincere attempt to act, in a role where he is brooding and mysterious. The girls on the other hand outshine him. Sara Loren, who earlier made a debut as Mona Lisa in 'Kajraa Re' with Himesh Reshammiya is here with a changed name. And there's Aditi Rao Hydari playing the kind hearted girl who leaves everything behind to travel with her lover to India.

The biggest blunder is that the set hardly looks realistic. The home, which we are made to believe that it is from the pre-independence era doesn't remotely look like one. It is difficult to describe the lacunae further without discussing the suspense. Hence, leaving it at this so that you can figure it out. But for their own good the Bhatts need to pull up their socks rather than stay in the 'succeeding backwards' comfort zone.

Given the kind of movie that 'Murder 3' is, it is an outright verdict is difficult. If you are looking for Emraan Hashmi style sleaze and songs a la Bhatt camp style, this movie doesn't have those. If are looking for edge-of-the-seat thrills throughout, then look elsewhere. Instead, if you are willing to sit through and daydream till interval time, your immense patience would be rewarded with a watchable suspense.
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Rush (I) (2013)
Dramatic tension and Authenticity of F1 in the 70's
24 September 2013
Making films about real life characters always presents a challenge; more so if one of them doesn't live to see the day his tale is made into a film. Coming from director Ron Howard, known for films like 'Apollo 13', 'A Beautiful Mind', 'Da Vinci Code', 'Rush' is about two great personalities in the high adrenalin Formula 1 racing.

The story begins on the start line where Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) narrates the story of how James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) influenced his life and the days of Formula 1 in the 1970's where it was not uncommon for drivers to die in accidents.

James Hunt, who in real life was known as a playboy is appropriately portrayed on screen. There's a scene from his early days where he walks into at a hospital to get his injuries treated and lo behold, he seduces the nurse in James Bond style! Then, we are introduced to his career in Formula 3 where he drives for Lord Hesketh's team.

Although the film marks the meeting of Lauda and Hunt in the F3 race on a sour note, it is believed that the duo were actually friends and shared an apartment during their early days. Was this an error? Or was it deliberately avoided to bring about dramatic tension between its lead stars right from the start? We wouldn't know.

The character of Niki Lauda starkly contrasts with Hunt as he is cool, calculating, working with the team on developing the car and isn't bothered about partying or popularity. In real life too, it is believed that Lauda never let the achievements get into his head and he gave away his trophies to a local garage in exchange for car wash.

Discussing the story itself isn't necessary for the review as most of the critical elements of the plot are based on actual, well known events. Its most poignant moment is how Lauda returns to track merely six weeks after a near-fatal crash with bandages on his wounds and leads the championship till he pulls out of the season's last race at Fuji when the treacherous weather conditions made the race too dangerous.

'Rush' does a wonderful job in recreating the F1 races, the imagery of powerful engines, tires ready to zoom as pedal hits metal, and the infamous Nürburgring crash of 1976. In fact, Niki Lauda in his interviews has praised the filmmakers for portraying the crash and his treatments in a realistic manner and that the scenes 'shocked' him.

Reportedly, the actors weren't allowed to drive real Formula 1 cars. So, the film makers are said to have used F3 cars with the bodywork of F1 cars of that era to make them look like the real deal. Still, they drove some mean machines. Wow!

The actors have done a good job and look like their real life counterparts. Chris Hemsworth still seems like Thor with the long hair, but less bulky. Daniel Brühl, an acclaimed German actor embodies the role of Lauda, Olivia Wilde as Suzy Miller, Alexandra Maria Lara as Marlene Knaus and Pierfrancesco Favino as Clay Regazzoni have done a neat job and there's not a moment where it feels inauthentic.

What works for the movie, other than the stunningly recreated visuals is the emphasis on its characters. At its soul is the portrayal of how Hunt and Lauda influenced each other's lives and careers. Although the two champions were very different by their outwardly lives, they shared a common passion for racing and winning and looking at each other to seek the much needed challenge and why you need enemies!

Verdict: if you are one of those who like Bollywood family dramas branded as racing films, like Ta Ra Rum Pum, let me assure you that 'Rush' isn't for you. But, if you are a Formula 1 fan, don't even think twice; just go for it.
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The Lunchbox (2013)
Simple story, elegantly told
23 September 2013
The trailers were so appetizing! Who wouldn't have been hungry enough to watch one of the most awaited films around this time of the year? 'The Lunchbox' seems to have it all to be a good film: actors like Irrfan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the appeal of seeming like a well told story.

The story of this film is a no-brainer. Someone's lunch box gets delivered to someone else and eventually sets off a love story, of two people who never met. Exchanging notes simply seems like technology that pre-dated stories of chat room friends eventually in love like 'You've got mail' which came at the turn of the century. But the simplicity in its storytelling makes it effective and worthwhile.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a housewife juggling tasks, like preparing her kid for school, cooking up lunch for her husband before the dabbawala arrives and chatting up with an old lady in the neighborhood who share stuff over a basket that is passed on between their homes. On the other hand is a widower Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), who works in an insurance company and is on the verge of retirement. After a good day at office, his only pastime is to smoke cigarettes in the balcony of his old Bandra home.

Irrfan Khan is a phenomenally talented actor and he delivers yet another gem. However, despite all the make-up he looks too young to convincingly play a guy approaching sixty. Nawazuddin Siddiqui does a great job in a supporting role, delivering the witty lines with precision. Nimrat Kaur, who can be seen in the recent Dairy Milk Silk Commercial, seems like an apt choice for the role she played.

There are elements of lazy writing that the writer-director Ritesh Batra has chosen when one of the lead characters is looking for an outlet to convey her thoughts to the audience. Ila then communicates with a neighborhood Aunty (Bharati Acherekar) who is never seen on screen. Both these ladies seem to discuss everything that happens with each other the whole day. After a while, when you hear Nimrat Kaur's character say 'aunty' for the umpteenth time, you would burst into laughter.

Although the film, at times, seems slow-moving, one must give it a benefit of doubt because it wouldn't have been possible to display loneliness and to use quiet to portray disquiet in the characters' lives, each of whom has lost his soul running the hamster's wheel in Mumbai. Had its pace been any faster, the film would have lost all charm and would have been a soulless 45 minute film instead.

Its essence is mostly that of a short story told on the big screen. It brings forth questions such as: Would you fall in love with someone you never met? And also breaking the barriers of age and how the society would look at it. Or rather, is love a mere form of escape from stark realities, such as that of a bored housewife and an aged widower who both have issues as to how life turned about to be for them?

Verdict: If you are the kinds who likes movies made about common folk, tales of love and hope amidst the loneliness drowned by the din of the city that never sleeps, this movie is for you. Nonetheless, don't expect the film to be a perfect ten on the scoreboard either. 'The Lunchbox' is worth watching.
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Grown Ups 2 (2013)
A funny pastime flick with tons of actors but without any real plot
18 September 2013
Three years after the first 'Grown Ups' movie, Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler) has joined his old friends Eric Lamensoff (Kevin James), Kurt McKenzie (Chris Rock) and Marcus Higgins (David Spade) after moving back to his hometown along with his wife Roxane (Salma Hayek) and kids. Soon, they need to deal with funny situations involving their old friends and the local college frat boys.

Looking at it critically, the film could have just begun anywhere and ended up nowhere! Wait, no story? Are you kidding me? How can a movie exist without a central plot or a conflict that works itself out in the end? Well, they do it in 'Grown Ups 2' which credits Adam Sandler as one of the writers!

The movie has numerous themes, like the issues of teenage kids of the lead characters who get into funny situations, a couple of them involving dating. Then, there are some gags involving accidents, baldness, farts, etc. which are not entirely unusual. And the kids and the grownups have a run-in with some college boys over the use of a secluded lake. And there's a scene involving a funny car-wash!

'Grown Ups 2' has a massive star-cast. Along with those already mentioned here, there's Twilight's Taylor Lautner playing one of the frat boys, the tall basketball star Shaquille O'Neal playing a cop and there is wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin who has been cast as a former school bully with a sizzling girlfriend (April Rose) who doubles up as a ballet teacher to one of Lenny Feder's kids.

The movie tries hard to be funny. Take that incident involving a heavily drugged bus driver using the bed and toilet on display at a K-mart. Another one involves Lamensoff's lame gag that combines a burp, sneeze and a fart. A scene of a deer pissing on Sandler is extremely lame brand of humor. When you know that the film has Adam Sandler in it, you know the sort of humor that the film would have.

Nonetheless, 'Grown Ups 2' also has its funny moments too. Some of its original but adult humor involves the faux exercise routine for the film's women. Also, the fact that Salma Hayek can pull of a glamorous role in her late forties is noteworthy! And the scene showing the attack by the Frat Boys led by Lautner, one tends to ask 'Hey, why isn't he turning into a werewolf?'

Verdict: Movies like 'Grown Ups 2' are those that are lazily made; imagine a movie without even a real plot. As such, it won't make it worthwhile to visit to visit the big screen and pay big bucks. It has its share of fart jokes, but guess what, watching this film isn't altogether regrettable either. You could as well enjoy this on a lazy weekend when there seems nothing better to do.
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Grand Masti (2013)
Rated down only because it lacks originality in its humor
18 September 2013
Looks like adult comedies are here to stay! 'Grand Masti' happens to be the successor to the 2004 comedy film 'Masti', although the only link between the two films is its three male leads. While the first film was more about clean entertainment and played on typical clichés of marriage jokes, 'Grand Masti' resorts to a host of adult jokes, mostly drawn from forwarded funnies for a plot.

The film starts off with college seniors Amar (Ritesh Deshmukh), Meet (Vivek Oberoi) and Prem (Aftab Shivdasani) briefing the newbies on the A-B-Cs of college life. Just when one of their batch-mates Hardik (Suresh Menon) tries to hit on a girl, their new principal Robert (Pradeep Rawat) publicly shames him.

Cut to six years later, our three heroes seem to be having marriage woes. While Meet's wife Unnati (Karishma Tanna) doubles up as his ambitious boss at work, Amar is mostly ignored by his wife Mamta (Sonalee Kulkarni) who showers all her attention on their newborn. Prem on the other hand has to deal with Tulsi (Manjari Fadnis) who seems to be more devoted to her extended joint family at the cost of her husband. Note the names used for each of the wives are according to the roles they play!

Just while they are blaming their fate for their lives being stuck in a rut, they get a call from their old college (with a funny name when used as an acronym) about an alumni meet and week-long fun. But they are surprised to find that the college isn't what it was back then. Under Principal Robert, it seems to have degraded into a Talibanized regime with over-conservatism and fear of punishment.

Things just seem to look brighter when the trio meets up with their old teacher Rose (Maryam Zakaria), Marlo (Kainaat Arora) and Mary (Bruna Abdullah) and the prospect of a fling with them. Again, note the names of the three girls and its link with a popular joke that goes around the internet. But, it's all not easy as they have an obstacle to deal with – Principal Robert.

As such, 'Grand Masti' is a fun film, an amalgam of all the jokes usually forwarded on social media or on cell phones or funny internet videos. The only credit it can get is for putting them all together into a film, but none for any original creativity whatsoever. But then, for those people who have issues with adult humor, they better keep away from the film rather than criticize it for those jokes.

Among its three male leads, adult comedy specialist Ritesh Deshmukh does well, while the other two are already past their sell-by date. The film's six glamor girls do a good job of being pretty and an average job at acting. After a while, you wouldn't really care to remember who played what role! And, Pradeep Rawat, don't you remember him from 'Ghajini'? He plays the bad guy yet again!

Verdict: Going by the success of the genre of adult humor, looks like these jokes are here to stay. Indian moviegoers seem to be more accepting of it now, rather than living in denial as they had done for decades. But, since the film lacks originality and made from forwarded humor, you exactly know what to expect. So, those of you who enjoy movies like these don't wait till it is aired on TV because it would obviously be censored. Finding some cheap tickets would help instead.
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Lucia (I) (2013)
Psychological thriller that blurs the line between dreams and reality
9 September 2013
Move over Christopher Nolan, India has its own top-notch dream based psychological thrillers. While Nolan's 'Inception' was widely acclaimed, there has hardly been anyone who understood the film in entirety; reason being, the story was inherently flawed. The latest Kannada film by Pawan Kumar, 'Lucia' plays around the concept of dreams and the blurring between reality and dream states; without the pizazz of special effects, but with better storytelling and editing.

The film begins with a patient, Nikki (Satish Neenasam) in a coma and a debate around euthanasia. Cut to flash back, Nikki is an average Joe, unnoticeable in the Bangalore crowd. He works at his uncle's decrypt movie hall as an usher and suffers from insomnia. The love of his life is Shweta (Sruthi Hariharan) who works at a local Pizza outlet who seems to want more from life than poor Nikki.

He is soon introduced to a wayside drug 'Lucia' that promises to cure his sleeplessness, but with other side effects that let him dream about the life he seeks. And lo, he turns into a movie star Nikki who also seems to have issues with a newbie actress Shweta; the track played out in monochrome. How Nikki deals with his life in both worlds forms the rest of the story, a suspense best left undisclosed.

The concept of lucid dreaming, in a way, reminded me of 'Vanilla Sky' where Tom Cruise's character who loses touch with reality and is lost under the dreamy skies like in the famous Monet painting. But the similarities end there. Another semblance is with Nolan's 'Memento' with two tracks, one in color and the other in Monochrome that merge into a logical ending. The editing in "Lucia" is as good as in 'Memento' and keeps the audience hooked; truly world-class editing there!

'Lucia' is a landmark film in the Kannada filmdom as it is the first crowd-funded independent film in Kannada. The opening credits show more than a hundred people who responded to Pawan Kumar's facebook post. The film was made with only INR 50 Lakh, a pittance as compared to the usual big budget blockbusters with top stars, foreign locales and cars blowing up in action stunts.

To its credit, Lucia doesn't have any stars but each of them did well. For Satish Neenasam, it was his first as a lead actor and convincingly plays the regular local dude who may be seen in a down-market movie hall having big dreams. Sruthi Hariharan who is said to have had origins in dance and then moved on to films, does a decent job, both as the simple neighborhood waitress and as a budding actress.

Apart from the drugs and dreams, the underlying story in 'Lucia' deals with the needs and wants of its various characters who have two roles, one in the real world and then another one in the dream world with its own set of metaphors. What plays out includes the inherent conflicts in romance, class, language and other issues as well as an investigative undertone that begins with the first scene.

Songs from the film come with entertaining everyday lyrics composed by Poornachandra Tejaswi, a software engineer turned music director; and this is his first attempt. While some like 'Helu Shiva' come with a very modern touch, 'Thinbedakami' is funny and has a rustic feel.

So, does 'Lucia' lack anything? There is nothing that is grossly amiss as such. The only element of finesse which is left wanting is the dubbing, which seems mismatched in a couple of scenes.

'Lucia' premiered at the London Indian Film Festival this July and won the Best Film Audience Choice award. Already, the film is drawing enough attention in screens nation-wide as it has been released with English subtitles. So, even if you don't know Kannada, the subtitles are there to assist you.

Verdict: Those of you who may have given up on Kannada films, or others who think that all South Indian movies are about fat, dark actors dancing with fair skinned babes, prepare to get overwhelmed. 'Lucia' will keep you occupied with its story, every single second of its screen-time.
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Satyagraha (2013)
Genuine cause at heart but fails to pack a punch
2 September 2013
Prakash Jha's films have are usually about strong themes, and have something to do with Indian politics or hard hitting issues facing the nation such as caste based reservation, dynastic politics, or social issues such as kidnappings, custodial killings, bonded labor, etc., common in certain regions. This time, the subject is corruption.

Following the apparent accidental death of Akhilesh Anand (Indraneil Sengupta), an upright officer working for the Highways Authority, Minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) announces a reward. Predictably, his grieving widow Sumitra (Amrita Rao) has a tough time dealing with the local administration to get the check released. Enraged at this, patriarch Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) slaps the Collector.

With the intervention of Akhilesh's childhood friend and business magnate Manav Raghavendra (Ajay Devgn), the arrest soon snowballs into a massive social media campaign against the high-handedness of the administration. Manav ropes in popular television journalist Yasmin Ahmed (Kareena Kapoor) to cover the event.

Somewhere in the film, the story follows the India Against Corruption's 2011 fast unto death campaign by Anna Hazare. Here, Bachchan turns into Anna; Manav who is the brain behind it, apparently seems like Kejriwal; an altruistic lawyer is like Prashant Bhushan, a cop gives up his job and joins the group, a possible likening to Kiran Bedi.

The film also flirts with a sub-plot on what could've been Akhilesh's expose on irregularities in highway construction contracts, remember the whistle-blower's murder case? With the main plot itself being a handful, Jha hardly had any time to touch upon the matter. Maybe it was only used as a plot element that could explain his death.

'Satyagraha' also suffers from Too many people being cast in the film. End result? They hardly get time to establish the characters they play. The angle of the opposition leader played by Vipin Sharma could have been better used.

Amidst all of this, what was Arjun Rampal doing? Except for being there as a seasoning in a dish. His meager role failed to justify his persona or his commanding voice. Kareena Kapoor's casting hardly mattered in the film. Even if a newbie or a second grade actor was cast, it would have not had any impact on the film.

Another passable creature was Amrita Rao, playing her typical typecast avatar as the quintessential good girl. If anyone noticed, there is a picture of hers from her film 'Vivah' pasted on to a bulletin board in the Anand household. Ah, how creative!

Having said that, some good acting by Manoj Bajpai, Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn salvage whatever that is left of the film. Nonetheless, it looks like we have gotten too used to seeing Bachchan play the idealist and Bajpai the antagonist.

Music isn't impressive barring the exception of the title song 'Satyagraha' on the tunes of a modernized 'Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram'. Another song which has a some potential to become a youth anthem in any anti corruption protest is 'Janta Rocks'.

Given the gravity of the subject, 'Satyagraha' really had the potential to make its mark, which it somehow falls short of. Maybe, we have gotten too used to the same ensemble cast being re-cast time and again in predictable roles. And what to say about the plot losing itself somewhere, without coming up with radically creative solutions.

Verdict: Going by the films Prakash Jha has made and given the fact that the movie posters and promos make a clear reference to the Anna Hazare fast against corruption, you know what to expect. If you don't mind a movie that only scratches the surface on the subject of corruption, watching the film won't really hurt.
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Over-The-Top Shah Rukh Khan minus the headache
22 August 2013
The days of Shah Rukh Khan being the king of romance are clearly behind him; the failure of 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' bears testimony to this fact. As he inches closer to fifty, he is still busy gyrating to masala numbers with actresses half his age. But, guess what, with 'Chennai Express', the masala formula seems to have worked in his favor.

After 'Om Shanti Om' and 'Ra.One', this is the third of Khan's films where he plays the regional card to generate humor. Nonetheless, his role in 'Chennai Express' is less inane; at least, he doesn't eat spaghetti with curds as in Ra.One. As with any Rohit Shetty film, there are cars flying before they blow up into pieces.

Rahul, naam toh suna hoga, as SRK is called in many of his films, is required to travel to Rameshwaram to immerse his grandfather's ashes. While he plans to get off the train mid-way and scoot with his friends to Goa, fate has other plans for him. Incidentally he helps Meena (Deepika Padukone) and a few goons to get on-board a running train in DDLJ style, played repeatedly to make it hilarious.

Following the funnily remixed Antakshari sessions with Meena, attempting to converse in Hindi so that the Tamilian goons don't understand it, Rahul understands that she is being Kidnapped. It turns out that Meena's father Durgeshwara Azhagusundaram (Sathyaraj) is a Don and wants his daughter to marry another goon, Tangaballi (Nikitin Dheer) and all that stands in between is the common man, err, Rahul.

The story is extremely weak and relies upon SRK's histrionics to make it funny. The many parodies to Khan's old films and popular dialogs evokes laugher. His popular pose with outstretched arms now comes with the self-deprecating line "Don't underestimate the power of the common man". It is axiomatic not to expect logic from its wafer-thin plot made like a formulaic Telugu/ Tamil commercial blockbuster.

Obviously, being a high budget film, the sets and locales look impressive on screen. Dudhsagar falls, portrayed as the train stop for Meena's village is shown in its monsoon majesty. The locations for Tamil Nadu have mostly been re-created in Panchgani & Wai with some scenes filmed in Munnar and a lake in Kerala where the village set makes it look idyllic. Visually, there is nothing to complain about.

The film's weakest link is Deepika's awful accent. She sounds neither like a Tamilian she portrays nor her native Kannada accent which is evident in television interviews. To confirm the awfulness, I did check up with a few Tamilians who watched this film and each of them expressed disgust at the way she mouthed those lines. Adding to the mess was her overdone facial expression, must have been a rub-off from SRK.

Other actors like Sathyaraj or Nikitin Dheer, who played the towering villain in Jodhaa Akbar did a reasonable job. The goons are very typical of any of Bollywood's typecast portrayal of south Indians as being dark and fat. But, going by the trend of south-style flicks raking in the moolah and being lapped up so lovingly by movie going public, Bollywood junta has lost its bragging rights about being better than southern films.

The film's humor is worthy of a special mention. Along with parodies of SRK's movies, which we have now got used to in many films, the song- humor is well done. One joke that stands out is when Deepika innocently asks SRK if he were fifty years old; and when he expresses shock, she asks if he is actually older than that!

Music is about average. Songs like 'Titli', 'Kashmir Main Tu Kanyakumari' and the title track are bearable. Fast paced '1-2-3-4 Get on the Dance Floor' could potentially join the Tamil flavored 'Chinta Ta Chita Chita' or 'Dhinka Chika' as dance floor favorites.

Verdict: An over-the-top film by SRK as usual with tons of overacting. The only thing that saves the film is the fact that it doesn't give you a headache and you can get out of the movie hall smiling, either mocking at the stupidity of the film or having enjoyed jokes in a brain-dead mode. Commercially though, the film has been successful.
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Befitting Finale to the trendsetter theme
5 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The Wolf Pack is Back! Four years after the 2009 film "The Hangover" that set the trend of bachelors party gone awry, which was in turn copy- pasted in a Bangkok sequel in 2011; now comes the grand finale to the trilogy!

Contrary to what one would expect, the story has no bachelor parties, no one gets drugged or goes missing and there are no tigers or monkeys. Just the good old bunch of three best friends reprising their roles and the amusingly criminal Chow.

The film opens with Chow staging a prison break in Bangkok. Cut to Alan who off his meds and letting his mind take off on its own as he grabs headlines for causing a highway accident. His stressed father passes away and his family decides to put Alan into a rehab in Arizona. Obviously, the duty falls on Phil, Stu & Doug to drive him there.

Enroute, they are intercepted by a drug lord Marshall and Doug is taken hostage. In return, they are told to find Chow and retrieve the gold that the latter stole from Marshall. The film then turns into an adventure-comedy as they find Chow and participate in a heist, which predictably goes wrong.

Since we know that the other films in the series have happy endings, the third one too ends with everyone being happy. But, it is the journey that makes the film interesting. While not being an outright comedy, it dabbles with deliberate drama to deviate from the predictable styles which marred the second film. And they succeed at that.

Shock value, which was the key theme in the series has also been toned down. There are no mind-numbing 'Oh My God moments' like the photographs in the credits we are used to either. By the way, if it is not much of a spoiler, Alan finds his true love in the end! But well, yeah, be prepared for one surprise from Stu in the end.

With the same star cast, the acting efforts are the same and convincing enough. Zach Galifianakis is definitely the funniest of them all, playing the man-child we are so used to seeing him as. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms & Ken Jeong as Phil, Stu & Chow do a good job. But, it would have been a nice experiment a bigger role for Justin Bartha and allow his character to develop. And, Heather Graham makes a brief appearance.

Verdict: The second film had definitely disappointed us by aping the first. But the film makers have shaped up their act with the third installment. 'The Hangover Part III' is not extremely funny as one would have wanted but still qualifies as a decent finale.
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Typical gangster tale, a mass entertainer
8 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sanjay Gupta and Balaji Telefilms are back with another Shootout. After their 2007 film that was based on an incident of 1991 that took place in Lokhandwala, this time, they portray the 1982 killing of gangster Manya Surve. An incident which is known as the first ever 'encounter' by Mumbai Police, which triggered a series of them.

Based on the book 'Dongri to Dubai', the film tries to bridge between fiction and real life incidents and attempts to make it as real as possible. However, barring the lead character, the rest of the names have been changed for obvious reasons! Also, since the title itself reveals what the movie is all about, there is no suspense there.

The story starts off with a scene in Kirti College, Mumbai where a studious Manohar Surve (John Abraham) is writing his exam paper and refuses to show his paper to his girlfriend and classmate Vidya (Kangana Ranaut), thus establishing him as an honest-to-the-core character. He is keen to avoid the murky past of his father and his step-brother and seeks to make an honest living after completing his studies.

However, a freak incident changes it all and Manya is falsely implicated in a murder case along with his step-brother who actually committed it. With dreams shattered, and a hard time in prison, he bulks up, learns to fight and Manohar turns into Manya. While serving his sentence, he teams up with a fellow convict Sheikh Munir (Tusshar Kapoor) and the duo stage an escape after having done time of around nine years.

Manya returns to the Mumbai and seeks employment with the Haksar brothers Zubair (Manoj Bajpai) and Dilawar (Sonu Sood) who are seen as a challenging force to the Pathans. When he is denied entry, Manya decides to form his own gang and challenge them to the supremacy towards proclaiming himself as the 'Baap' of the city.

On the side, his love tale also evolves, since Vidya is now a widow and the couple rekindle their romance. And this eventually proves to be his Achilles heel when a cop Afaaque Baaghran (Anil Kapoor) along with his colleagues Tambat (Ronit Roy) and Shinde (Mahesh Manjerekar) chooses to eliminate Surve and his likes.

The movie attempts to portray the dark days of Mumbai when gangs ran the show and how an innocent college lad turned into a fearsome goon, thanks to the pathetic justice delivery mechanism and the corrupt establishment. The story shows how cops wait on the sidelines as one gang tries to eliminate the other. And when it comes to picking a target for an encounter, they obviously pick the easier one.

What stands out in the film are some good performances. John Abraham looks the part as the goon who was once held the title of 'Mumbai Shree' as a professional Bodybuilder and delivers an honest performance. Manoj Bajpai does well as usual while Sonu Sood delivers a powerful performance. Anil Kapoor is good enough too.

Among other actors, Kangana Ranaut readily fits the bill of the 70's and 80's look and acts reasonably well. Tusshar Kapoor does OK and his character does bring out occasional laughs. Shakti Kapoor's son Siddhant makes his debut as one of Manya's gangsters. Bollywood's noted yesteryear villain Ranjeet, who was last seen in Housefull 2, makes an appearance as Bhaskar Dada, who has a skirmish with Manya.

The songs aren't memorable, except that they are played repeated on television. The oft repeated ones are its three item numbers, one each by Sunny Leone in 'Laila', Priyanka Chopra in 'Babli Badmaash' and Sophie Chaudhary in 'Aala Re Aala'. Well well, no prizes for guessing which of these three is better!

Verdict: When a movie has good acting and item songs, and yes, dialog loaded with swear words, there is a tendency of such movies to gravitate towards mass appeal. Nonetheless, for all that it offers, 'Shootout at Wadala' is a decent watch.
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Bollywood's Centennial deserved a better tribute
7 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
May 03, 1913 marked the day when motion picture was born in India, the day that Dadasaheb Phalke's silent film 'Raja Harishchandra' was released. A bit of trivia there is that the female roles in the film were also played by male actors, and the acting talent was drawn from theater.

Till date, the influence of theater, and especially the roots from Sanksrit drama still play up in Bollywood's films. Surely, we love all the extra drama, sometimes characters yelling out lines as if they were on a stage before mikes were invented and the truly inimitable song and dance.

And a film that is supposed to pay a tribute to a century of celluloid adventures of Bollywood that have enthralled not only Indians but even those abroad, ought to have been better. What was supposed to have been an extravagant celebration of cinema merely ends up like a moist firecracker.

'Bombay Talkies' is about four independent stories, directed by four reputed Bollywood directors, Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap. Any analysis of the movie would have to be broken up across each of these four short stories, rather short films of 30 minutes each.

#1 Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh by Karan Johar has an urban couple Gayatri (Rani Mukherjee) and Dev (Randeep Hooda) whose lives go for a toss when a young gay intern Avinash (Saqib Saleem) enters their lives. The very predictable ending and the men kissing each other has a shock value and the story has actually no connection to the overarching theme of cinema or the centennial anniversary.

#2 Star by Dibakar Banerjee is probably the better one of the lot. It has Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Purandar who has failed at business and employment. Just then, out of the blue, comes an opportunity to act as an extra where he shares screen-space with a big star. This brings out the inner theater actor in him that had starred in a couple of plays after his father, also an actor had passed away. The animated enactment that he performs for his daughter at the end is indeed very touching.

#3 Sheila Ki Jawaani by Zoya Akhtar is about a little boy called Vicky (Naman Jain) who is attracted to the idea of dressing up as a girl and yearns to be a dancer a la 'Sheila' from 'Tees Maar Khan'. His father (Ranvir Shorey) is obviously annoyed at the idea. Nevertheless, the boy is supported by his sister. This segment has a cameo by Katrina Kaif who extols the idea of following one's dreams. Still can't really figure out whether there was even the remotest possibility of it being linked to the centennial.

#4 Murabba by Anurag Kashyap is quite decent. A young man from Allahabad, Vijay who, as per his ailing father's wishes visits Mumbai to feed a Murabba to Amitabh Bachchan. He hangs around his Bungalow like many others who stand there for hours for a fleeting 'darshan' of the super-star. His money is drying up and he needs to hurry! On a stand- alone basis it would have made a good short film that on one hand, exalts the stars and then in the end, exposes the pointlessness of all fan-dom.

Did you know? There was a real studio called 'Bombay Talkies' in Mumbai from 1934 to 1954 and produced 102 movies. It was a public limited company that was listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. Founded by actor Himanshu Rai and financed by Rajnarayan Dube, some of the names associated with this marquee include Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Mehmood Ali, Madhubala & Dilip Kumar.

The movie itself, however is absolutely underwhelming and leaves you a feeling of why did you even choose to watch this film. Some of the situations in some stories are so contrived, convenient and at times inappropriate too. One striking example of the absurdity comes from the first story, where an intern has the gall to make a first conversation loaded with innuendos to the assistant editor in his office. That is just one of the many things that won't fit into any reasonable logic, outright.

Verdict: 'Bombay Talkes' is your typical pseudo-intellectual film. So, if you have a thing for parallel cinema, this is just the film for you. But, in the context of the occasion, it just not a film that pays tribute to a hundred years of Indian cinema. Only for that reason, I rate it as film that struggles to even make it to 'average'. The montage of all the stars in the end, which is actually a bunch of green-screen stuff put together, doesn't help either. So, don't waste your money on this one!
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Iron Man 3 (2013)
Not overwhelming but entertaining enough
28 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
After Batman, Iron-Man is probably the coolest one among super-heroes not just because the suits and gadgets, but because of the attitude with which they carry on their tasks of being vigilantes. Incidentally, the films made on them in this decade have had intriguing villains and have been enormously successful and have been visually stunning. Super-heroes and all the swashbuckling action is here to stay!

In the third edition of 'Iron-Man', the focus is mostly on Tony Stark rather than the antics his suit can perform. It's more an effort to portray that Iron Man is more about him rather than the suit. To that extent, they have succeeded but, as a result, the movie seems rather bland as compared to the stylized effects we'd previously seen.

The film flashes back to Switzerland to the New Year's celebration at the turn of the Millennium where Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is busy hanging out with botanist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) that he ignores a crippled scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce). An unexplained blast briefly disturbs their night; but this is soon forgotten.

Cut to present day, America seems to be haunted by a new villain who calls himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) claiming responsibility for blasts that seem to be occurring just about anywhere. And, a new version of Killian, now well built and suave approaches Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) at Stark Industries seeking a partnership to advance his genetic technology called Extremis, which she refuses.

A turn of events leads to Tony Stark challenging the Mandarin to a fight, at his home, to which the villain promptly responds by destroying it. Stark and Potts barely survive the attack and the former now seeks to get to the bottom of this.

Some spoilers; we are told that the genetically modified bodies heat up to three thousand degrees before blowing up. And while everything around them is vaporized, their clothes are only slightly tattered. Fire resistant clothing, huh? And there is no real clarity on what can actually destroy the genetically modified villains.

The most annoyingly boring scenes include those in Tennessee. Did Stark really have to go there? And what was so significant in that file that he tries to retrieve? And what was that precocious kid doing out there, all by himself! If at all an Indian film maker came up stuff like this, the audience and critics would have ripped it apart.

Putting this aside, the visuals effects are spectacular. If Iron-Man 2 sported a suit that comes out of a briefcase, Iron-Man 3 has a Mark 42 suit whose parts are programmed to remotely fly down towards him and get attached to Stark. Also in the movie is Colonel Rhodes' War Machine branded as Iron Patriot in Red-Blue-White.

The villain is menacing and makes Iron-Man's life difficult. He is not only physically strong but is also smart enough to be manipulative. Nothing more can be disclosed in a review without disclosing the details. Just one mention; since the villain is named the Mandarin, he is shown sporting Chinese tattoos and also breathes fire.

Acting performance is on par with the previous versions with Downey Jr, Paltrow and Don Cheadle reprising their roles. Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley do well in their respective roles while Rebecca Hall didn't have enough screen time. Some info, Gwyneth Paltrow actually has six- pack abs. How cool is that!

The Verdict: Okay, granted that it has some failings and does get boring in parts; but the sheer star-power of Robert Downey Jr and some cool action keeps it alive. The post-credit scene also shows Stark meeting up with Dr Bruce Banner a.k.a Hulk. Is an Avengers movie lined up? Never mind what's in the pipeline; watch 'Iron-Man 3'.
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Ek Thi Daayan (2013)
New kind of thriller with a couple of nice songs
28 April 2013
For an audience that has gotten used to spooky flicks that range from scary to sorcery, flying ghosts, witches, sudden shock element, etc., it is incredibly tough to come up with something new. This is especially true of Bollywood that has seen an overdose of Ram Gopal Verma flicks. Amidst all the gloom comes a refreshing 'Ek Thi Daayan' with a gripping story, although the climax goes tad haywire.

Magician Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) is a successful magician who suddenly is being troubled by strange visions. When hypnotized, it is revealed that he holds a dark secret to how his sister and father died and the story being the spooky elevator in the building where he lived as a child. The more he seems to dig into the past to unearth its antecedents, the deeper he gets into the mystic world. Not any more should be revealed about the story because it is a worthy suspense.

The first thing I did after watching 'Ek Thi Daayan' was to Google out the difference between a 'Chudail' and a 'Daayan'. As it turns out from a random web page, a 'Chudail' is an ugly demon that emerges when a woman dies during childbirth and lives in remote areas. A 'Daayan' is a beautiful enchantress that has become one on account of harassment during her lifetime and therefore attacks men and usually lives in urban areas. Whoa, who could ever guess that!!

Some of its songs are impressive. The best of those is 'Yaaram' that's performed at the housewarming hosted by Lisa, followed by the eerie 'Lautungi Main' but Punjabi flavored 'Totey Ud Gaye' sounds lame. A few more impressive numbers could have carried 'Ek Thi Daayan' even further.

The choice of locations is impressive. The opening scenes are filmed at Gurgaon's "Kingdom of Dreams" which stages an extravaganza of sound and light with impressive transitions, a must see for those visiting the region. The locations for the eerie home and the lift are neat too. The hypnotic background in the psychiatrist's office is an interesting piece of decor and serves as a backdrop to some key scenes.

Talking about acting performances, Emraan Hashmi does what is best at. It's amazing that despite such type-cast roles and similar performance in all films, his movies still work well at the Box Office. But, Konkona is the better actor in this film. Kalki and Huma Qureishi also do reasonably well.

The Verdict: Unfortunately, not much of the story can be discussed in a review without revealing a bit of the suspense. So, if you want to know what it is, it is better to catch it while it is still in the cinema halls. This is surely not a movie that you could wait till it comes on TV. Although one shouldn't watch it with exalted hopes, since it fizzles out towards the end, you wouldn't regret watching it at all.
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