I would like to start this review by saying that Neeraj Pandey is one of my favorite directors in Indian cinema today. I love almost all his previous films including the Bengali film that he merely wrote and produced (Royal Bengal Tiger). M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story was supposed to be one of my favorite films of the year. It was supposed to redeem the lost pride and grandeur that films like Azhar had spoiled for the Sports/Bio-epic genre. There was little said about the film and the marketing campaign too didn’t give a lot away. There were speculations about the cast and also about the issues that the film was going to raise. However, after sitting through this 3 hour long film I can safely say that all of that and a lot more has been put to death, nail shut in a coffin that is this film.

The film starts with M.S. Dhoni being born in a hospital where the doctor nearly mixes him up with a girl. The story progresses and we are introduced to a young Dhoni who is much more into football than cricket. His coach played by Rajesh Sharma inspires him to pick up the gloves but keeps him away from batting. Dhoni starts playing and in a matter of years makes it to the senior teams. His game gets bigger by the day and is soon selected to play in the elite league. Inspite of his numerous great performances, he is unable to break out into the national league. Soon something happens which makes him give up his current job and join the Railways. Joining the railways doesn’t bring him any solace either as there too he meets with little success on and off the field.

This portion of the film drags unpardonably. It’s an endless drudgery from the moment he grows up till the point he gets the Indian cap. The film feels repetitive and forced in every sequence. Dhoni meets with success. Dhoni fails. Dhoni meets with Success. Dhoni fails. The same keeps happening just with the change in the style of the wagon wheel. There are endless situations and scenes that lead nowhere. There are prolonged scenes of him going through his daily chores, his practice sessions, his not so significant matches and journeys that should have ended in a blink. If that was not boring enough, the film doesn’t show any sense of urgency or energy in these portions. The characters simply walk through their performances and so do we as the audiences. It has to be given to the director that he did a good job with the sequences in Ranchi, wherein little Dhoni is growing up. This is the only time in the film when you feel a warmth in the performances and are actually interested in the proceedings.  But whatever he gains in these sequences he loses terribly in the ones which follow, where a clearly morphed Sushant Singh Rajput portraying a younger Dhoni is shot terribly. These portions look so fake and abnormal that I couldn’t look at them.

The story continues and Dhoni leaves his job at the railways after an oddly done surreal sequence and comes back to concentrate fully on his cricket. He soon makes the cut to the national team and then the film jumps from him scoring his first big score to him falling in love, to him becoming the captain, to him losing his love, to him trying to fire the big trio, to him finding his to-be wife, to him scoring the winning runs in the World Cup Final and blipppppp. The film ends. Yes! it is that sudden. I got a feeling as though the director had got tired of teh story and wanted to just wrap it up. This half of the film is also affected by an age old cliché of Bollywood films to show its protagonist as the one and only. This whole segment is just an absurd fan-homage to Dhoni. You will feel as though there was just one cricketer in the whole team as all the victories are just attributed to him.

Real footages of matches are shown with Sushant’s face morphed over Dhoni’s. I felt cheated in these sequences primarily because now I knew that they didn’t even bother to shoot a single cricket match on their own. Atleast that’s something we got in Azhar.  Also they try to con us by showing the footage of the board meeting wherein he tries to fire the big trio in the trailer. No one ever mentions their names. These characters are never shown for real apart from the stock footage and the discussion that happens is extremely superficial. This proves that the director had the intent of going to that place but didn’t have the courage to go all the way. So he took a path half way between. That was just disgusting. Again Dhoni is shown as some sort of a messiah who single handedly won the World Cup. As far as I remember, the World Cup victory was a collective effort. All the big matches shown are for minutes and that too are stock footages with only the initial low-level matches shot on actual camera. In a film like this, we expect to have a feel and gusto that would make us roar for the protagonist. How can your blood boil when the sequences are so insipid. I have seen most of the matches shown here and I didn’t need to see the highlights of these matches again with Sushant’ face replacing Dhoni’s.

The only saving grace of this film is Sushant Singh Rajput’s spirited act. He really does well and gives you a feeling that if dealt with better, he could have been a great Dhoni. Unfortunately the poor writing, very little meat in the role in terms of twists and turn, character development and drama leaves him stranded. Anupam Kher plays his father and his is as stereotypical as one could get. Kumud Mishra has s smallish role and he shines as always. Kiara Advani and Disha Patani play his two beus and their role is too small and insignificant to pass any judgment on.

Overall, Dhoni is a mammoth disappointment for me. It had the potential to be a rousing tale as the drama, conflict, romance and sporting action was all there in the tale. It can even be sighted as India’s greatest underdog story. But what we get instead is 3 hours of pointless and under cooked fan-service of Dhoni.  It’s too lengthy, it’s too preachy and makes you think that Dhoni is Indian cricket. It’s not even bold enough to point fingers at the people that it wants to. Above all it’s just boring. M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story neither entertains nor enlightens.

Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

Raaz 4 or Raaz Reboot as it is horrendously called, is by far the weakest film of the franchise and it’s not difficult to imagine why. The name of a film is by which the audience connects with it, to start with. When you call a film Raaz Reboot, it just goes on to show how less you actually care for it. The rest of the film is just an assemblage of every tried and tested motif, character and formula that the Raaz franchise had to offer over the year. The fc*k ugly CGI crow from the first Raaz film makes a comeback. It was at this sequence, for the first time, in a horror film in my life that I burst into a laughter. The smile came back again when the pretty heroine of the film, Kriti Kharbanda twisted and elevated her hip and turned her face square as a sign of being possessed.

The story revolves around a married couple who arrive in Romania on an official assignment. The husband Gaurav Arora starts acting strange once they reach Romania. The wife, Kriti Kharbanda tries to reach out to him but he shuns her out. Kriti soon starts getting psyched about the terrorizing manifestations that lurk around every corner of the that house they are staying in. Gaurav is oblivious to her repeated complaints. Kriti’s ex-flame, Emraan, comes back to her life at this juncture and tells her that he can help her deal with the manifestations in her home. He also tells her that her husband is hiding a secret from her. Gaurav leaves on a two-day trip and by the time he comes back, Kriti is totally possessed by an unholy spirit. Now he has to find a way to save her life, free her of the evil and also rekindle their long lost love.

The director tries to play with the timeline to keep the story interesting and also to lead the audience away on a wild goose chase while the real plot is cooking someplace else. If the film had stuck to a straightforward narrative, it would have been an even bigger debacle. The back and forth in the timeline helps keep some interest in the narrative. The only other plus of the film is Gaurav Arora’s act. The man tries to play his character with gusto and is somewhat believable in his act. His performance adds some credence to a faltering film. The music too is bearable.

Coming to the negatives, the film is not at all scary. It’s made so poorly and the tricks and scares are so redundant that at many junctures it turns out funny. The worst thing that can happen to a horror film is that it can tickle your funny bones. You connect with none of the characters and never for once feel a thing for their tragedy. That takes away the tension and also totally liquidates the drama. Once that is out of the way, the film only appears as a shallow assemblage of set pieces. The set pieces too are boring and have been done before so many times that they leave absolutely nothing for you to take notice of. Emraan Hashmi’s character is as irritating as he is a douchebag. From the very first time that he makes an appearance you know that he is up to something and being the noble helper of girls that he is, you want him to get pummeled. But that takes almost the complete runtime of the film.

Kriti Kharbanda is cute. I will give her that but that’s all about her. She is unable to extract any emotions from her audiences and her fear and acts of insanity feel totally out of place. For that, I will blame the director more than her but as an actor, she never does anything to help the matter. She is just a show piece and she remains that way all the way through. Interestingly enough, this is the first Raaz film that gets boring somewhere in between. I never found any of the previous Raaz films to be boring but this one took me by surprise when I found myself checking my watch atleast a few times throughout the screening. Every previous Raaz film had a thrilling or at least interesting story to tell that unfolded in the midst of the horror. After the screening of this one, the audiences are bound to ask themselves, “That’s it? That’s what it was all about?” Frankly speaking, I felt cheated after the “Raaz” was revealed.

I saw Raaz Reboot two days ago and I was just unable to get myself to write this review as I felt bored even to write about this terrible film. Then I thought that between me writing this review and the people who read my reviews before watching a film, many an innocent soul would fall prey to this monstrosity unless I kept my willingness aside and did something for the people who read my reviews. So here is my review for this film. Guy, if you are to take my words, please don’t watch this film. It will save some valuable time and money of your life. Watch Pink twice instead.

Rating : 1/5 (1 out of 5 Stars)

There are two distinct ways to deal with a striking cultural issue, political or social issue in Bollywood. If we are talking about courtroom dramas then you can either go “Jolly LLB” or “OMG” about it or you can go “Pink”. The latest offering from the man who brought us films like Antaheen and Buno Haansh is a striking portrayal of a stark reality that for very long has only found a voice in the social media alone. It’s a sad truth but Delhi is still the Rape Capital of this country and that is only because women here cared to report. If places, where they are subjugated and not even given a chance to report the torture, was to be unearthed maybe it would have been some other state too. Pink is an important film of our times and it is so because of a plethora of reasons.

Meenal (Taapsee Pannu), Falak (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang) are three women living together in Delhi. As the film begins we see them reach home with spots of blood and anxious looks. The visuals intercut with two boys carrying a friend to the hospital who has been brutally hit on the head with a bottle. We gradually learn that this boy was hit by Meenal after he tried to force himself on her. As the story gradually proceeds, the boys start tormenting the girls. They try to get them thrown out of their house, they molest Meenal after picking her up from a park and also follow Andrea. The girls fight back in their own ways and decide to book a complaint with the police but before they can do that, the boys put charges of assault and attempted murder on Meenal and get her arrested. A court case ensues in which the girls are represented by Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), a bipolar lawyer who was a star in his prime and knows the three girls as they live in his vicinity.

Pink is a tense affair from start to finish. The moment the story starts there is a feeling of uneasiness in the narrative. The girls hold strong for a while but you always know at the back of your mind that they are vulnerable. The assault on Meenal towards the end of the first half is like a blow to the solar plexus. The reason why this sequence is so affecting is because, from the outset, Meenal is shown as a self-sure and strong individual. Seeing her beg to be released really makes you uneasy. What follows after that is even more shocking. Post interval, the film becomes a courtroom drama and an extremely engaging one at that. The case builds up through the time and the passage of time is shown through the motifs and the changes in the men and women involved in the case.

The film maintains a very stark and realistic feel in the visuals and there is no unnecessary fluff or oomph factor in the way the story is presented. That is incidentally the best way to present an issue like this. However, what really mattered here were the performances and each and every one of them is sensational. Amitabh Bachchan as the aging lawyer breathes fire. His every dialog commands authority and even his silent gazes convey meaning and depth. He is someone in the film who has given up practice and that shows in his initial moments in the case but as he gets into the groove, his performance brings out the essence of the matter and through his expressions you can actually feel his angst and disagreement with the thought process of a big chunk of people.

Taapsee Pannu has been doing quality work of late but Pink will go down as one her toughest challenges. The manner in which Meenal acts when one of the boys threatens her, the way she fumbles when asked intimate questions and her break down feels Oh! So real. There were moments when one could actually feel her pain. The way in which she speaks her mind in the court is brilliantly done too. Kirti Kulhari’s Falak is the sanity of the three. She is calm and composed and yet displays an organic range of emotions. The most heartbreaking scene of hers is when she admits having taken money from the boys for sex. This is a pivotal scene of the film. Andrea Tariang plays a girl from the northeast and in her essay is able to flawlessly showcase a simple and sweet girl who is unjustly judged plainly on the basis of the place that she comes from. She even says that during her deposition. The bad guys are brilliant too. Vijay Verma is the pick of the lot. He is perfectly hateable. My only regret is that the film doesn’t have him getting bashed up after what he does to Meenal. Mamta Malik plays a Haryanvi cop with élan. Her final cross examination by Amitabh Bachchan is quirky to watch. Piyush Mishra is superb as he always is.

Pink points a finger at two important predicaments. First is the social judgment of Women based on their lifestyle choices and the second being the use of power and reach to bypass a system that is only too willing to be bypassed. The film thunderously roars in favor of famous and now repetitive statements like “don’t judge me by my skirt’s length” or “I may be promiscuous but that doesn’t mean its ok to rape me”. Having said that, the film is still not without its flaws. The third act specially starts crumbling logically towards the end, and the climax is pure wish fulfillment ignoring the rather somber and almost realistic approach that the film takes for the rest of its runtime. However, every time it hits a roadblock, the performances rescue it. Pink is film that should be watched and hailed. It is easily one the better and realistic courtroom dramas to have come out of Bollywood (ignoring the finale). It has brilliant performances and has an important message to share. It is tense and well envisioned. What’s more! It’s highly entertaining. What more can we ask for?

Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Akira is A.R Murugadoss’ latest offering and stars Sonakshi Sinha as the titular character. The film happens to be a remake of a Tamil film which I haven’t seen and would not be able to comment on. Akira was marketed as a kickass action film which has Sonakshi throwing more punches than Bruce Willis did in the Die Hard films. Thankfully that’s not true and that is exactly why I liked this film. It is safe to say that the trailer is a sum total of all the action sequences of the film and hardly gives you an insight into what the film is really about. Let’s dwell deeper into the pros and cons of this film and as we do it let us also try to find out why this film isn’t as much of a wish fulfillment as it should have been.

Akira as a young girl witnesses an acid attack on a beautiful girl that turns her grotesquely disfigured. She is the only witness to the incident and when she identifies the culprits, she faces their ire. He father decides to train her in martial arts and make her self-sufficient to at least protect herself. Akira takes to martial arts as if her life depended on it and within minutes becomes so powerful that she beats up the guys who wronged that girl and also smears acid on one of their faces. She faces a 3-year long case to prove her innocence and has to spend the duration in children remand home.

This portion of the film, though appealing and relevant is probably the weakest. The reason for it is the half-hearted physicality that the child artist playing Akira’s younger self-brings to it. She doesn’t look the part. It never for a second feels that she can beat up those guys so comfortably and the manner in which she moves makes it look very amateurish. She is good in her expressions and but not so much in the action sequences. The fact that her father, played by Atul Kulkarni, coolly watches as she takes up such risks is another dampener. The man shows no tension which really renders the whole scene unbelievable. The cinematography doesn’t help either. When the guy has acid smeared on his face, Akira’s hand is in the line of the spill. Yet somehow she doesn’t get a drop of acid on her hands while the boy is burnt.

Akira grows up to be Sonakshi Sinha who has forcefully calmed herself down. She is studying in a college and lives with her mom. Her brother who had married and left with his wife for Mumbai comes back to take back her mother and Akira to Mumbai. She unwillingly agrees to her brother’s plea and arrives at Mumbai. Studying in the Holycross College she immediately starts getting heat from her seniors who don’t actually appreciate her free-spirited attitude. In the meanwhile, a corrupt police officer played by Anurag Kashyap lands his hands on a huge sum of money lying in the trunk of a car that met with an accident in his presence. He kills the survivor of the accident and takes the money dividing it among his three other compatriots. However, he makes a mistake talking about it on the phone in his keep’s house who films the whole thing in her camera.

The camera is then stolen from her by a student of the Holycross College who then starts blackmailing the cop. On a fateful night, when there is no one else in the hostel, Akira comes back to find a bag full of stolen items from the hostel girls in her room along with the Handycam  which  has the tape of the cop. Before she can react, two cops arrive and arrest her. On the orders of Kashyap’s character, they take her along with two others to kill her off. When they are about to pull the trigger, they realize that they had picked up the wrong girl. Situations swivels in such ways that they are forced to put Akira in a mental institution sighting the fact that she was insane. No one believes her and she is left to find a way out of the mess on her own. She has helped only from another fellow inmate.

The second act of the film is the buildup. It’s thrilling and as the story progressed I couldn’t actually see which way it was headed. I couldn’t predict how they would put the character of Akira in the midst of the mayhem. In the end how they did it was superb and totally believable. Anurag Kashyap is not only a great director but a stupendous actor. Here he single-handedly pulls the sequences that he is in with such style and swagger that you are hooked to his essay. His character is believable and hateable and I cannot praise enough of it.  One aspect of the character that went really well was the confusion and idiocrasy that it had associated with it. He may be a cop but he was vulnerable and made mistakes. He tried to cover his mistakes with acts that resulted in another mistake. His team members soon grew tired of him and that resulted in some more interesting drama. Konkana Sen Sharma plays the cop who is investigating the murder of Kashyap’s keep who he had killed in a fit of rage. As she gets closer and closer to the real culprit, Kashyap, and his men become more and more vulnerable. It’s thrilling to watch how the story progresses.

However, all the wonderful buildup in the second act really fizzles out to a large extent in the third act. I was really looking forwards to Akira going all Yakuza on the cops but what we get instead is a petered out and somewhat censor board instructed redemption which really doesn’t satisfy out appetite. The action is limited, the cops remain on top for most of the while and a knife in the butt is hardly punishment enough for all that they did. Konkana Sen Sharma’s character also proves to be strangely meek in the last act and I terribly missed some serious fireworks especially on the cops. Having said that, the escape from the Mental Institution is filmed with finesse. It’s very stylized with a great background score that would give you goosebumps.

Akira is by far, Sonakshi Sinha’s best film till date after Lootera. She can really act and the problem is she is constantly given below par roles. This here is a character that had a lot of meat and purpose and she does exceedingly well to bring it to life. She also has the kind of physicality that is required to render a part like this believable.  She looks crisp in the action sequences and does exceedingly well in the dramatic moments. It’s her and Anurag Kashyap’s performances that catapult the film to a much higher level. Technically speaking the cinematography, editing and background score are in keeping with the mood and feel of the narrative. The stunt choreography and editing deserve special kudos. I only wish there was more of it. Overall, Akira is a thrilling watch in parts. Some minor tweaks in the first act and a more “all-guns-blazing” finale would have made this film great. Still, Akira is a very worthy watch.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)

In the 2006 film Click, a workaholic architect played by Adam Sandler finds a universal remote that allows him to fast-forward and rewind to different parts of his life. Complications arise when the remote starts to overrule his choices based on the decisions he made in the past. This was an intelligently scripted and fun film with the trademark Adam Sandler humor. Baar Baar Dekho has an uncanny resemblance to Click with Sidharth Malhotra playing a Mathematics Professor instead of an architect and Katrina Kaif playing an art-person with the screenplay going exactly the same way as Click. There is, however, no remote here and it’s just the “dhaga” (thread) that the panditji tied which does all that happens to Sidharth. Panditji has his own reasons for doing what he did as Sidharth questions the sense of all the holy rituals and that surely pisses him off as that’s his bread and butter right?

Sidharth downs a bottle of champagne after having a serious fight with Katrina over marital woes and how he doesn’t want to get married even though he was complying up till that point with her. Kat is distraught and leaves him saying that she will never come back again. Sidharth downs the champagne and dozes off. When he wakes up he finds himself already married to Kat and enjoying a honeymoon in Thailand. He sleeps that night and wakes up again the next day to find that 2 years have passed and he is now a father to be. The next jump is even longer and this time, he flashes forward 10 years in life. Then he meets the Panditji again who sort of explains the predicament. Sidharth understands but we the audience don’t. Then he travels back in time. Then again he moves forward. Then again he revisits time to fix everything. Blah! Blah! Blah!

That is what the problem is with this film. It is not coherent. The story was unbelievable to start with but that doesn’t mean that the makers wouldn’t even try to make it believable. While Click maintained coherence and had the remote to lay back to for everything, Baar Baar Dekho has no explanations for the time jumps apart from the “dhaga” which frankly speaking doesn’t serve the purpose. A lot is attributed to the divine, who seems to be teaching Sidharth the importance of relationship and how it’s not always about you but balance. The portions of the timeline where Sidharth arrives feels randomly chosen and why only those parts you ask yourself? If that was not enough, the revisiting of the timelines is plain inexplicable and stupid. That’s where the film lost me completely. They could have easily followed a chronological order of the events, had something in the narrative that would explain the time travel but they don’t do that here. The result is a narrative that is exhausting, confused and tries to do too many things but ends up unconvincing and confusing.

Sidharth plays the protagonist sincerely. He looks the part and tries hard to keep the emotional scenes from crumbling. The good news is for a large portion, he is able to just that. But the problem with the character is that it’s too close to what he played in Hasee Toh Phasee. There are multiple scenes where memories of that film are revisited even though it’s a different character with different motives. It still strange feels right up the same alley. The makeup towards the end when he has to play an old man ruins the show further. It’s uproariously funny. Katrina Kaif plays what she plays every time, Katrina Kaif! This time, they give her an English mother to justify her accent. It has to be agreed that dubbing for her own voice helps her cause as her character feel a tad bit better in her own voice. She comes out okay in the initial emotional scenes but as the film progress, her character gets more and more annoying. The annoyance level is the highest in the scenes where she is shown pregnant.  The terrible makeup towards the end makes her as laughable as Sidharth.

On the brighter side, the film is well shot and has some terrific locales to please your eyes. The music is good and interestingly the songs though forced don’t seem that much of a torture. I loved the “Nach De Ne Saare” track which was both well-timed and well scored. The film could have done better in the editing department. It goes beyond saying that it is probably 20 minutes too long. It could have been edited tighter with a shorter runtime to make it more tolerable. Some of the supporting acts are good too. Ram Kapoor as the father-in-law having an uncanny resemblance to Vijay Mallya is funny in many scenes. Rajit Kapur in a special appearance as the panditji is good.

If you choose not to watch Baar Baar Dekho this week, you will not miss anything. However, if you really want to see it, I would advise you to watch Click instead which is much more coherent, funny and effective. Interestingly Click gets the marital issues dealt with much better than Baar Baar Dekho. That’s a sham if you ask me considering the fact that we Indians have a lot more meat as compared to our western counterparts in terms of marriage and its importance in our life and society.

Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

I have a colleague in my office who is known for his poor jokes (PJs). It all started with very few actually understanding them and many ridiculing the sheer insanity of the jokes. But with time we came to adore his PJs and as of now they make us laugh almost every day. Freaky Ali is like those PJs that we have come to love. It’s insane, it’s over the top and it is stupid but there is something in its core that will definitely make you laugh. The performances by almost the entire cast are so endearing that the loopholes in the narrative, of which there are innumerable, are somewhat covered up. What is left is two hours of quirky family entertainment that is an absolutely harmless watch.

The story revolves around a lad Ali (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who is down on his luck. He needs money to survive and his friend Maksud (Arbaaz Khan) takes him under his wings and down to the underworld to earn a decent living. However, a chance encounter with a golf coach turns his life around. Ali realizes that he has the potential to be a pro-golfer and goes all out to achieve this goal. Standing in his way is Vikram Rathore (Jas Arora), a five times national champion who looks down on him terribly and has a unique animosity with him. However, he has the support of Megha (Amy Jackson) who falls for his simplicity and quirky charms.

As you read this premise you must be thinking of the thousands of other such similar films that you might have seen over the years. We like to call them underdog stories here in Bollywood. You would be right in judging it to be one but what you will not be able to judge from this premise or the trailer is the amount of fun that this film exudes through its many set pieces. Just imagine a girl asking you “are you sick?” after you have passed a lewd comment on her and you reply, “no I am Muslim”. That’s the level of jokes in this film and frankly speaking, it’s not going to appeal to one and all. You have the choice of deciding whether it is your type or not? If it is, then you will have a rip roaring time with this film. If not then you will probably not last an hour.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is great as always. People say that he is getting typecast. Maybe he is. But as long as he freaky-ali-1is giving such terrific performances in roles that may be similar, I am not going to complain. His comic timing is impeccable. There was a line where Arbaaz Khan’s character tells a person referring to his age that “you were a boy when Amir Khan wore his trousers up on his chest” (a direct reference to the dressing sense of the 90s). I found this line hilarious and the manner in which it is delivered is, even more fun. The film is peppered with numerous such references that will find takers only among the Indian masses. Nawaz shares a great chemistry with Arbaaz Khan who is actually good in this film. The role suits him wonderfully and he does well to render the character believable and likable. Amy Jackson is the only sore thumb. Firstly she has nothing to do and secondly she is done in by some terrible voiceover which feels utterly fake and almost pasted on the visuals. Jas Arora is an able baddy and does what he needs to do. Seema Biswas is overtly melodramatic and unnecessarily loud. I never liked her in any other film except “Bandit Queen” and I still don’t like her.

On the flip side, apart from being stupid, done to death and extremely predictable and corny, the film also has absolutely no surprises coming your way. The subject matter is approached in the most generic way possible and with absolutely no swagger whatsoever. It is only rescued by the gags and the performances of Nawaz and Arbaaz. The music is a stickler as always and pops up at many junctures bringing the screenplay to a screeching halt. This was a film which should have been ideally ninety minutes long. That way the proceedings would have been tighter and much lighter on the senses. That is not the case.  Overall, Freaky Ali is an entertaining one-time watch for those who enjoy the kind humor I have discussed above. Get into it knowing what this film is and chances are, you might just come out entertained.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

A Flying Jatt is the kind of film that has the potential to put to grave the superhero film genre in India altogether. It is a film that is so stupid, cheesy and above all, so very disrespecting of the audience’s intelligence that watching it will give you brain damage and make you allergenic to Bollywood Films all together. If you ask me what could be worse than Punnet Issar cast as Superman and Dharmendra playing Jor El, I can now safely and almost instantaneously say that it’s “A Flying Jatt”. A film that will be hated even by the kids if they survive it. A film that would make Abhishek Bachchan’s Drona feels like Nolan’s The Dark Knight. A film that is an insult to superhero films even if you call it a spoof.

Everytime I try to review a film, I always try to find out its positives first. Even the worse films have some a positives to take home. Here however, I was unable to find a single positive. May be one could say that Tiger Shroff made a spirited show. But even his heroics aren’t enough to resurrect a script that was dead coming out of the pen/keyboard whichever of it it came out of. Let us now dwell on the negatives. Every superhero film has to show us the inception of the superhero. How he came into being. The reason may be scientific, genetic, wealth, training or lineage. The Flying Jatt becomes a superhero after an awkward orgy between a tree, lightning and Nathan Jones who is hilariously called Raka. The very inception makes you laugh and there goes the believability.

The powers of the superhero are another important aspect and it goes on to show what he is capable of and what are his limitations. Here our hero can touch a Sunny Leone DVD and the next moment he breaks into a “Baby Doll” dance routine when he is faced with men who are threatening his life. Even if that was meant to extract laughs, it was distasteful. His source of power is perhaps that one holy tree and that’s about it. The antagonist spends many days in the toxic waste dump of a factory and turns into a super villain.

He gets the ability to absorb pollution and get stronger. Again no explanations of how that happened. It’s laughably amateurish. The worst part is that the villain has absolutely no motive, rhyme or reason for what he does and yet he does it with all his heart. He is controlled by a businessman who interestingly has no reason to have such power over him. Yet he does, right till the end. When Raka finally realizes that he needs him no more and literally evaporates his authority and the money that he was being offered to stop his pollution.

Amrita Singh plays an alcoholic mother to the superhero and you just feel like breaking her neck. She is just so irritating. Every now anda then she would go all blah! blah! about the Sikh legacy which, by the way, doesn’t appeal one bit. Her character is so shrill that she gets on your nerves everytime she opens her mouth. Jacqueline Fernandez is disguised as a de-glam diva. I use the word disguised because there are atleast two songs in which she shakes her booty in clothes that flaunt her body and assets and which, by the way, are totally out of context. She gives Amrita Singh strong competition in being the most annoying character but falls short for obvious reasons. Kay Kay Menon did this film for one reason only, money!

The visual effects of the film are some of the worst you will see these days. Every action sequence, every wire work, every green screen is so obvious that you feel like gouging your own eyes out. The climax, which unfolds in space with two humans fighting out without oxygen, takes away the cake. Some of the sets and even the matters they hurl at each other feel fake and cardboard-ish. The flying sequences made me cringe. The 70s Superman had better flying effects. Shaktimaan looked cooler in his “fuck fuck fuck – sound making ” revolutionary movements. In today’s time when Hollywood is spending in billions on visual effects and we are catered the best of the best in terms of technicalities, it was plain stupid to go after a project of this sort without the necessary financial backing to bring a shred of credibility to the settings and characters.

In a film that has a runtime of 150 minutes, there is almost 30 minutes of song and dance routine. Most of it happens in the second half. I have always had issues with songs and dances in films but here the already excruciating pain of sitting through this farce is further made worse by the screeching halts that the songs bring to the proceedings. A Flying Jatt is cinematic kryptonite for the masses. It is the kind of film, that will make you fear the theater and has the ability to single handedly destroy a genre. It is one of the most shameless and pointless assemblage of every known and cherished scenes from Hollywood blockbusters ranging from Superman to X-Men : Days of Future Past.  Stay away from this torture.

Rating : 1/5 (1 out of 5 Star)

Mirzya is based on one of the popular tragic romantic folklore of Punjab. The story is that of Mirza and Sahiban who fell in love and were doomed owing to their cultural differences. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra tells a tale very similar in style to his smash hit, Rang De Basanti where he showed us the stories of Indian revolutionaries in the yester years and the emancipation of the young generation in the image of the revolutionaries as they face similar situations of torture and  wrongdoing. In Mirzya too Mehra runs two stories parallel to each other. While the tale of Mirza and Sahiban unfolds in bits and pieces, a tale exactly similar in nature unfolds in present day Rajasthan.

Mohnish (Harshvardhan Kapoor) and Suchitra (Saiyami Kher) are childhood friends in Jodhpur growing up together. Suchitra’s father played by Art is a Shakespeare chanting high-ranking police officer while Mohnish is from a humble background. Mohnish is madly in love with Suchitra and in an unthinkable incident ends up murdering a teacher who rebuked Suchitra. He is sent to a children remand home but he escapes from there ending up in the colony of blacksmiths where he is eventually brought up & gets a new identity of that of Adil. Suchitra is sent away to study as she finds it difficult to bring her life back on track after the incident and Mohnish’s sudden departure. Years later both meet again but under very different circumstances. Suchitra, who seem to have forgotten it all, is about to get married to a prince Karan (Anuj Choudhry) while Mohnish now known as Adil is a mere stable boy at the prince’s stud farm. He is given the task to train Suchitra to ride.

The story of the film doesn’t have a lot of meat. We known exactly which way the narrative is headed and anyone who has heard or read about the Mirza-Sahiban tale knows exactly what to expect. The performances are consistent. Both the leading actors do much well than what I was expecting. Harshvardhan Kapoor may not be a natural like his father, who came to attention from his very first film, but it is abundantly clear that he could be polished into a brooding leading man. He has the calm demeanor that the heroes of today lack. He holds his own in the dramatic sequences of which there are many and looks apt in the elaborate action sequences.  Saiyami Kher is good too. Even though she is pipped by Kapoor in the dramatic sequences. Her essay remains consistent and expressions lucid. I have to admit that I liked her Sahiban act more than her portrayal of Suchitra. She doesn’t have a single dialog in that part and yet beautifully conveys her feelings through her expression. She does look stunning in that darkish red dress with elaborate makeup and highlighted eye lines.

Where Mirzya scores greatly is in its visual splendor and poetry. The film has some of the most stunning visuals that we have seen in an Indian film this year. Be it the battle Sahiban through the snowy locales or the elaborate courtyards of the Rajwadas, the visuals consistently thrill you.  I loved the initial fight which by my interpretation is a la-Swayamvar. The visual effects in these sequences are stunning. Following this, the little portion involving the kid Mohnish and Suchitra is beautifully filmed. As they mature and meet each other once again, the mood and style of the visuals change. The cinematography is so to the point that you can’t help but marvel at it. The editing too is refreshing. I was expecting a 3 hour long epic from Mehra but Mirzya is just about 2 hours 10 minutes. That really helps sustain the interest in the film.

No review of this film can be complete without a mention of the music and the songs. The soundtrack is composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. There are 15 tracks in the album, including 6 short songs on the character of Mirzya, composed by Daler Mehndi. If you watch the film without the dialogs, it will still hold pretty good as the songs work as threads to interweave the two timelines and the inner lying feeling of the characters and the tale. The only problem with the songs is that it will only be comprehensible to those who understand the language. Use of subtitles in this regard will rob the film completely of its charm. I don’t say this often, but I feel that the songs in this film are an absolute necessity. They are well done and actually help forward the story from one point to another. That fact that they are sung so well only makes them that much more appealing.

Having said all that, does it mean that Mirzya is the best romantic/musical of Indian cinema ever made? Absolutely not. The film has some issues which I would like to point out here.

    The performances, though worthy, fall short at many junctures.
    You don’t actually fall in love with the principal characters; especially that of Suchitra.
    Her inspirations are muddled and the manner in which she elopes with Mohnish raises a lot of question considering the fact that this segment is based in contemporary times and she looked a lot in love with Karan.
    If she was so madly in love with Mohnish then why did she get into a relationship that went all the way to marriage?
    The character of Zeenat is atrocious. She is poorly written and envisioned. They had to take that queue from the original tale but it just didn’t make sense in this time. The fact that she commits suicide is even more unbelivable. Why would she do that when she had a child to live for?
    The characters of the Suchitra’s father and Karan’s father are extremely weak.
    The tale gets tedious if you don’t enjoy the many song and the enchanting visuals associated with it.
    There is no froth in this romance and it is overtly serious. Hence it will only appeal to niche audience.

Mirzya has visual poetry, music and flamboyance on its side. It is much shorter and may be just short enough to not lose your attention. But the shortcomings mentioned above make it fall short of it’s mark.   It uses a formula that worked well in Rang De Basanti but here the tale doesn’t have that kind of meat to sustain the interest of the audiences. It’s still a very worthy one time watch. If you are to watch a film this week, Mirzya should be your first choice.

Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

Mohenjo Daro is at heart a love story and a revenge drama which has only one USP. It unfolds in the city of Mohenjo Daro in 2016 BC. Thus the only things special about this film are the settings, the visuals, the costumes, the rituals and the overall feel. The moment you are out of that awe, the film becomes extremely pedestrian. Here is a story that has been done to death in Bollywood in every manner possible. After the first trailer was out, I had a feeling that this film would turn out short of the epic we all want it to be. I even did a trailer review for it wherein I expressed my doubts about the film. Unfortunately, the film has turned out to be exactly what I expected it to.

The story revolves around a simple farmer Sarman (Hritik Roshan) who has extraordinary strength and is a born leader. That much is made clear in the first 15 minutes of the film. He lives away from the city of Mohenjo Daro but dreams of traveling there. He is able to convince his uncle to send him there for trade purposes and it is here that he meets Chaani (Pooja Hegde). He falls in love with her and wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Chaani, however, is destined to marry Moonja (Arunoday Singh), the son of Maham (Kabir Bedi) who happens to be the king of Mohenjo Daro.

As the story progresses, Sarman learns that he is the son of Surjan, the previous head of Mohenjo Daro who was betrayed and executed by Maham when he tried to foil his plans of blocking the Sindhu river by building a dam and excavating gold from the river’s bed. Maham is not Sarman’s only challenge. He must now find a way to save the town as an imminent flood approaches the city that threatens everything that Sarman has come to love dearly. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative. Will Sarman be able to save it all? Will he and Chaani be together? What will happen of Maham? These are some of the questions that drive the narrative of the film.

For all those of you who have seen the trailer, the plot is already known to you. They even show the finale of the climax in the trailer. The fact that the story is done to death and we can practically predict each and every scene right to its end doesn’t help the film’s cause. The action sequences are also extremely ordinary. The much-hyped crocodile sequence is the weakest and lamest of them all and that is practically the first scene of the film. It sets the tone for the rest of the film and that I mean in a bad way. The Gladiator- esque action sequence with Sarman fighting two huge adversaries is something that we have seen better off and frankly speaking, a bit too much off before.  We know exactly what will happen in the end and that too because of the trailers. Thus that’s another sequence that goes unnoticed and quite obviously un- appreciated.

The CGI of the film toggles between being good and plain bad. While some of the song and dance sequences are captured with flair, the overhead shots and most of the long takes and destruction showed using CGI looks utterly fake. I am no expert on the Mohenjo Daro architecture but the buildings and some shots of the city do look the part. There has been widespread criticism of the muddled historic correctness of the film and I will not dwell on it much as I am no expert but the costumes and the feel of the film do feel very contemporary at times and thus hits its novelty. Pooja Hegde’s wardrobe is the best example to prove this point. Also, the “smooch” proves to be too much to fathom.

Coming to the performances, Hritik leads from the front and he is great. He is the only thing watchable about this film. It’s his act that holds the whole film together and doesn’t let it crumble altogether. If it hadn’t been for him, this might have just been an unwatchable film. Pooja Hedge suffers from a lack of acting range. She really suffers in the dramatic sequences involving her wish to be with Sarman and the fact that she will be married off to Moonja. She is also exposed in the dramatic sequence where her father dies. Her character is also constantly in the shadow of Hritik’s character and that doesn’t help her cause.Kabir Bedi is an able bad guy. He has done these sort of roles before and he does well to make an impact. But his character is so one-dimensional and poorly written that he cannot do much to save the film. Arunoday Singh is barely there. The rest of the cast can be left unmentioned.

Overall, Mohenjo Daro is a huge disappointment. It is painfully slow, tedious and boring. The flair in the last 20 minutes and another 10 minutes of action right after the interval cannot save a film that is almost 3 hours long. Too many songs, too much of unnecessary mush and practically no challenge for the protagonist liquidates the film more than the giant flood in the climax. If you are going in to watch this film then brace yourself to be bored to sleep.

Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)

I would like to start this review with a mention of Rustom’s intriguing trailer. The trailer really quipped my interest for the film. I knew for a fact that the movie was a murder mystery more than anything else. The fact that Neeraj Pandey, the man who brought us films like A Wednesday, Baby and Special 26, was producing this film only added to my interest. However, it was being directed by Tinu Suresh Desai who made the atrocious 1920 London. That was a matter of concern which was however quickly negated by the presence of Akshay Kumar, the man who hasn’t taken a single wrong foot for a long time now.

The film declares that it is a work of fiction to start with. Even with the obvious relation to the KM Nanavati case, the film adds some mystery and added scandals to its screenplay to make it even more accessible and relatable to the entertainment seeking audiences. The director is able to maintain suspense and doesn’t give up his cards right till the end. This is something that serves the film really well. I for once was intrigued by the case and just wanted to know what was actually happening. Let’s try to find out through this review whether the film is able to keep up with its promises or not.

Rustom Pavri is a dedicated and brilliant Navy Officer who comes home early from a tour to find out his wife in an illicit relation with another man. He shoots the man and surrenders to the police. As the case begins, Rustom shocks the whole country when he pleads not-guilty of murder. As the case proceeds, the police investigator tries to uncover the true reason behind his act and also answer some of the unanswered questions about the Navy that pop up from time to time. Rustom receives unprecedented support from a media house and also the public who want him acquitted of all his charges. On the other hand, Preety, who happens to be the murdered man’s sister leaves no stone unturned to have Rustom hanged. What happens next forms the story of Rustom.

The film is intriguing and doesn’t give up its plot right till the end. There are spates of scenes where you have a feeling that Rustom might not be the patriot that everyone thinks him to be. These scenes add to the charm and mystery of the film. It’s difficult for a film to show the killer in the first fifteen minutes of its runtime and then hold on to the attention of the audiences for the rest of the narrative. Rustom successfully achieves that. Akshay Kumar plays a charming Rustom Pavri with such élan and confidence that you can’t help but fall in love with him. He is mysterious, speaks less and is rock steady in his mannerisms. The best thing about his act is to see him in that uniform.

The rest of the cast members do their parts as well. Esha Gupta, Kumud Misra, Sachin Khedekar, Ileana D’Cruz, Pavan Malhotra and Usha Nadkarni are all apt in their acts. Kumud Misra is a comic relief and he does well to make an impact. His one to one with the judge is extremely funny. However, at times you feel that his character could have been developed a tad bit more and that way his crusade for Rustom would have acquired more significance and importance. Esha Gupta is a prototype vamp of the sixties and she exudes confidence but has very limited range in terms of expressions. Pavan Malhotra is a fantastic actor and his act is in keeping with his repertoire. His one on one with Akshay Kumar’s Rustom is great to watch. Usha Nadkarni is too loud for the liking. Arjan Bajwa as the evil womanizer who has the better of Rustom’s wife is perfectly hateable.

Having said all that, Rustom still has a few major problems. The biggest of its problems is the fact that the narrative tries to make a caricature of the whole story. It makes fun way too often and in sequences that needed seriousness. The courtroom sequence, for instance, is laced with jokes and over the top comedy from Sachin Khedekar when he should have been a no-nonsense lawyer trying to nail Rustom. The film in the act of trying to keep the narrative chirpy and not letting it get darker (which it should have been) infuses a lot of comic and light moments which hit the seriousness of the story terribly and doesn’t let the film raise up to a level from where it can be respected. Also vital plot points like the one involving Akshay Kumar asking for money from the Navy, the naval corruption and why he made such a fuss of the murder are never convincingly explained. In spite of being fiction, the film needed to resolve each of the plot points properly to make an impact which it fails to do. There are loads of questions that remain unanswered and that hurts the narrative and the charm of the film immensely.

Once the mystery and the prime plot points are uncovered, the audience is forced to ask the question “was this what it was all about?” Therein lies the film’s greatest weakness. It doesn’t deliver on its promises of thrill by the time it resolves the mystery. It also takes a lot of time in the first half to get to the point. In the second half, it makes a mockery of the legal proceedings which in no way helps its cause. Last but not the least, no matter how charming Akshay’s act may be, he doesn’t sell for a Parsi.  Having said all that, Rustom is still a very watchable fair. The fact that it keeps you engrossed and has a great performance from Akshay is enough to merit a view at least. If you can keep your expectations low, you may just love it.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars) 

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