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Qarib Qarib Singlle - Movie Review

[Image: qareeb-qareeb-singlle21.jpg]

Director: Tanuja Chandra
Cast: Irrfan Khan and Parvathy

Qarib Qarib Singlle, starring Irrfan Khan and Parvathy, revisits that familiar premise of a romance kindled over a road trip. To be fair though, it’s done with some degree of flair and much levity. Featuring a winning performance from its leading man, the film corroborates the popularly held view that just about anything is considerably improved by the presence of Irrfan in it.

He’s a real hoot as Yogi, a 40-year-old bachelor and self-styled Urdu poet, who has a story for every occasion, and always ready with a quip. He’s the sort of chap that takes a little getting used to.

Jaya (Parvathy) has been married before, but it’s been a while since she was with someone romantically. So long, in fact, that her friends joke she might turn into a virgin again. Reluctantly she signs up with an online dating site through which she meets Yogi. Unsure what to make of him, she treads carefully, but subsequently agrees to travel with him to visit three of his ex-girlfriends, whom he’s convinced continue to pine for him.

Sure it’s an improbable scenario, but co-writer and director Tanuja Chandra creates authentic, charming leads that aren’t hard to connect with. These are real people, adults with life experience, past relationships, and a mature worldview. They’re a joy to spend time with as they journey to Varanasi, then on to Jaipur and Gangtok, all along the way revealing more of themselves to us and to each other. There are laughs, there is squabbling, there are charming conversations about food, and a running joke about him falling asleep mid-conversation on the phone.

The film benefits enormously from crackling dialogue by Gazal Dhaliwal, and Irrfan’s gift for delivering lines as if he came up with them in the moment. He’s in excellent form, playing Yogi both as a relentless joker, and when required as a man with considerable depth. It’s one of his loosest, most relaxed performances.

He’s complemented nicely by Parvathy, who plays Jaya as real, complex, and occasionally selfish. It’s a refreshing change from your average Hindi film heroine, and Parvathy invests her with an irresistible Everywoman quality. The few occasions that the film pushes her to play ‘cutesy’ don’t ring true, and a long scene in which she becomes unhinged and insecure while high on sleeping pills is excruciating to witness.

Nevertheless, these are minor speedbumps. The film employs honesty and humor to make important observations about letting go of the past and about making a real connection with someone. Yogi and Jaya won my heart, and I wouldn’t have minded spending more time in their company. I’m going with three out of five for “Qarib Qarib Singlle”. Give it a chance.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana - Review

Director: Ratna Sinhaa
Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Kriti Kharbanda

Ratna Sinhaa’s directorial has all the elements one’d expect in a typical ‘masala’ entertainer- song, dance, drama, romance, and revenge. Just that they aren’t in place and Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana ends up being an extended television saga and a wedding that you’d perhaps consider attending without a ‘sagan’.

Aarti Shukla (Kriti Kharbanda) and Satyendra Mishra (Rajkummar Rao) are set for an arranged marriage meeting by their respective families. Both despising the idea of deciding on a spouse in one meeting, fall for each other in the first few minutes itself. All seems well until the wedding night when just before the ceremony, Aarti flees leaving Sattu at the altar. Cut to 5 years later, and their cheesy tale now becomes a story of revenge with a heartbroken Sattu seeking personal vengeance on her.

The first thirty to forty minutes manage to keep you involved with mushy exchanges like “Tum pink mein Juhi Chawla lagti ho” and “Aap toh har rang mein Shah Rukh lagte hai”. Soon talk about dowry, higher studies, and work after marriage begins. While the makers perhaps aimed at igniting ongoing debates on the above-mentioned issues, by the end, they end up normalizing the very subject of dowry.

[Image: shaadi-mein-zaroor-aana-1.jpg]

Both Rajkummar and Kriti are able performers and their performance in this film is testament to that. Because despite the shoddy script, it’s the acting that provides for any kind of investment. Rajkummar plays an adorable Government ‘clerk’ and an amicable lover in the first half, and a thorough high-grade officer with strong beliefs against the constitution of marriage and love in the second. His transformation is commendable but at the same time, one feels a hangover of certain past films. Like Behen Hogi Teri for Rajkummar’s performance and Badrinath Ki Dulhania for the idea.

Kriti, too, delivers a decent act but the lines don’t give her enough space to bring out the best in her. Rajkummar and Kriti make a fine pair and on some levels, they complement each other- for instance, there are scenes wherein Rajkummar’s blushing smile balances out Kriti’s wide-eyed expression or when Rajkummar tries to kiss her and she responds with a cheeky line.

Nayani Dixit, Navni Parihar, Govind Namdev, Manoj Pahwa, Vipin Sharma and KK Raina are all dependable names who continue to save films, including this one, from falling flat. Except the casting, the makers also get the entire Kanpur set-up right which feels as if it's straight out of real life. Some scenes make you ponder over the ways arranged marriages are finalized and the aftermath (profit and losses) of it all. But the idea never hits you like it really should.




While the first half makes you smile at the small town love story, the second half derails, trying to incorporate too many things at a time and starts feeling a bit aged for a 2017 release. The thoughts which should’ve been spoken out loud are kept under wraps and the ones which could’ve done without words, come right at you.

So while the film gets you chuckling at times, it disappoints you for being a mixture of familiar works and for not justifying the issues it supposedly deals with. Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana is an invite that you may decline or attend without a gift perhaps.

Rating: 2/5

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Aramm - Movie Review

[Image: nayanthara.jpg]

Time was when woman-centric cinema was common in Tamil Nadu, and legendary directors created classics in this genre. I can never forget K Balachander's Aval Oru Thodarkathai – where Sujatha portrays the angst and agony of a woman who has to sacrifice marriage, because she has to take care of a large family, her father having renounced the world and her brother being a perennial drunk. This was one of the many films of Balachander where women held centre-stage.

Director Bhagyaraj was as powerful as Balachander. Bhagyaraj's Antha 7 Naatkal (later made in Hindi as Woh Saat Din) also had a woman who pines for her lover, but decides in the end to remain married to a widower, because she grows fond of his child and ageing mother.

And Balu Mahendra's Moondram Pirai had Sridevi as a woman who loses her memory, and the actress stole the show from one as brilliant as Kamal Haasan.

But somewhere in the years that followed the active careers of Balachander. Bhagyaraj and Balu Mahendra, Tamil movies veered off this course, and rolled into the arms of men like Rajinikanth and Haasan and Vijay and Surya and so on – actors who gave little space or scope for actresses. Take, for instance, any Rajinikanth film, and women there are reduced to being beautifully painted dolls. Ditto, Vijay's latest Mersal, and so many of Haasan's works.

So, I was impressed to see Nayanthara as a no-nonsense District Collector in the just-opened Gopi Nainar's Aramm. The movie is all about her, and Aramm deals with a huge present-day problem, that of deep, unused borewells, which are bone-dry and left uncovered by callous contractors. The openings of these wells are at ground level, and that is what makes them so dangerous.

One fine morning, Nayanthara's Madhivadhini (an IAS officer) gets a phone call about a four-year-old village girl, Dhansika, having fallen into such a pit, about 90 feet deep. The officer rushes to the spot to be confronted by what looks like insurmountable problems: a broken-down fire engine blocking the only narrow road to the village, hysterical parents of the girl, angry villagers baying for the blood of the guilty, ruthless politicians and an insensitive media.

We have seen such journalists before. Remember the way some photographers behaved in the Paris underpass when Princess Diana was dying after a car crash. In Aramm too, we see several television crews shooting a volley of questions -- distracting and wearing out the patience of Madhivadhini and the others, desperately trying to rescue the girl with a volley of questions.

What is most remarkable about Aramm is its ability to stay on track for those 10 or 12 hours when Dhansika lay trapped in the dark well – although I did at times feel the background score a little too disturbing. No costume change for Nayanthara, who was seen throughout the film (except for brief periods when she is answering to a chargesheet in a Chennai office) in the same sari. Subtle and subdued, she goes about taking one risky decision after another (in the end, Dhansika's brother is lowered into the well to get her out) most stoically, and I am sure the actress has certainly carved a fine niche for herself with this movie. Indeed a performance that she will be remembered for a while.

And, who knows, Aramm may be just about the beginning of a series of Tamil films that will transform heroines into heroes. In short, Nayanthara has been given a chance to step into a man's shoes, and she has done this with style and substance.

There is also a sense of controlled helming, and Nainar appears to have avoided the pitfalls of exaggerations often seen in Tamil pictures, although I did feel something lacking in those scenes which show us crowd going berserk. But some lovely shots by cinematographer Om Prakash are something to take home. I was particularly fascinated by the scene where we see the reflection of men and women walking along a water body.

What is equally important, Aramm focuses on the perils of leaving deep borewells open, a sure invitation for the death of kids. In recent years, there have been dozens of such cases in rural India. Sometimes, children have been lucky. Sometimes, they have died.

Believe it or not, on Deepavali night, a friend's nine-year-old son fell into a borewell in Chennai that had water and had been carelessly left open. The stars must have favoured him that day, for he held on to the edge of the well and extricated himself!

Well, then, Aramm is a must watch for all those – especially in villages – who care for human life, and who could perhaps help herald a new chapter in Tamil cinema.




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Justice League - Movie Review

[Image: justiceleague.jpg]

"Hope is like car keys, you think you've lost it but if you look for it it's always nearby..." these are the lines by none other than Superman which opens Justice League and half an hour in the film you get to know why. Throughout the film you keep the faith that the grandeur which was promised is 'somewhere near' and it does show up, just not in the manner you expected.

DC has been building up to this gathering of superheroes since Man of Steel (2012) and gave a rather sad glimpse of it in Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and later in its most successful film Wonder Woman. However, the build-up fails on many levels ranging from character introductions to the script and the big, CGI mayhem that they like to call a climax.

However, despite it jaded treatment of 'good over evil' and a predictable storyline, the film isn't a complete failure. Justice League lies somewhere between Dawn of Justice, DC's first multi superhero starrer that became a meme of how not to make a comic book adaptation; and ceiling-breaker (of notions and box-office) Wonder Woman.

The film has an adequate amount of high-spirited larks: no more, no less. If fans get excited about it, that's mostly because they’re excited about getting excited. Yet the movie can't be called a cheat as it provides enough entertainment for a viewer enjoy this lighter, funnier, high school-ish reunion. However, hardcore comic fans will feel the pang of disappointment while laughing at Flash's (Ezra Miller) goofy antics.

The film can be called an act of franchise penance. It gathers up around half a dozen comic-book immortals and lets them figure the threat out and form a team with bombastic action and old-school 'great men' humour.

The director, once again, is Zack Snyder, though Snyder parted ways with the project in March following the tragic suicide of his daughter. About four-fifths of principal photography had been completed, and the post-production process (including the rest of shooting) was overseen by Avenger's helmer Joss Whedon —an unusual choice, given that the Avengers from MCU series competes directly with this one.

Key moments from the film includes a soft-rock rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, all as a way of dramatizing how badly America has been doing since Superman was killed. From there, it’s on to Batman fighting off an alien metallic beast, which turns out to be one of Steppenwolf’s army of Parademons — and Wonder Woman foiling a terrorist attack by slowing herself down to bullet time to knock away dozens of shots, as Gadot maintains her rock-steady killer gaze.

Now that Superman is no longer around, it’s fallen to these two to assemble a league of superheroes, even if, by now, we’ve been through these ritual assemblages once too often — in every Marvel film that you can name.




There's Cyborg (Ray Fisher), the haunted man-machine, a former athlete who was rebuilt by his father (Joe Morton) after an accident into a cybernetic weapon who appears in a hood (literally and metaphorically). There’s Aquaman (Jason Momoa), the tattooed Neptune with attitude who’s an amphibious master of the oceans, as well as the group’s token roughneck brother. And there’s The Flash, who can move at lightning speed and is the group's youngest entertainer who bears a certain burden of keeping the tempers of others in check by his millennial intelligence and innocence.

Steppenwolf, who threatens to achieve total dominion over everyplace and everyone, has gathered three ancient boxes of pulsating energy known as Mother Boxes. They are boxes. Bursting with light. And great power. It all plays as more than a bit arbitrary, given that their power, like Steppenwolf’s, is metaphysical, while the climactic battle is more rooted in the corporeal — lots of gut punches and swinging broadswords and limb ripping.

It's a disappointment that despite being the most critically celebrated superhero of them all, makers fail to utilise Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman to its full potential. Maybe it's time they realise that only this fierce woman has the caliber to take the franchise ahead without much help. Also, a standalone Flash film is going is anticipated after the hilarious debut of Flash. This man can give DC's it's very own Homecoming.

Overall, Justice League is like a baked cheesy- potato dish, which has no nutrition but you can't resist its temptation. A decent follow-up to disastrous Batman vs Superman, the film still has hope to get better, only if they let Wonder Woman to lead and not any other way around. Watch it for all the five years of excitement and to see the team standing against the sunset- a scene that will definitely bring the cartoon series nostalgia back in some form. Oh and also for the 'promised hope', that is lying somewhere inside the series; we just need a Patty Jenkins to find it and execute in next one.

Rating: 2.5/5

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Tumhari Sulu - Movie Review

Director: Suresh Triveni
Cast: Vidya Balan, Manav Kaul, Neha Dhupia

In Tumhari Sulu, Sulochana couldn’t pass 12th standard and couldn’t even manage a bank job like her twin sisters Aaradhna and Kalpana, but Suresh Triveni’s directorial debut passes with flying colors as Sulu soars higher. There's much to love and little to complain about the film that runs like a slice of life narrative and balances the laughs and weeps well.

The story is of Sulochana (Vidya Balan), a happy go lucky housewife who embraces and endures situations with a distinctive laugh (and jokes that are barely funny but end up making you laugh because her laughter is so infectious). Her interests change by the day- she plans to start a taxi business one day and wishes to be a radio jockey the next. Her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) encourages her whims and feeds her fancies while their teenage son is mostly amused at his parents’ antics.

Things take an interesting turn when she wins a radio contest and is asked to collect the prize from the office. On meeting her favorite RJ Albeli Anjali, played by real-life RJ Malishka, Sulu chances upon an RJ vacancy. Thinking it to be a contest wherein she can win a TV (and not a pressure cooker), she meets Maria (Neha Dhupia) who heads the FM station. Impressed by her voice quality, Maria asks Sulu to give her a call. Back home, she begins nurturing her “sexy” and husky voice.

The first half builds both Sulu and her dream, the second shifts focus on the aftermath of it. As Sulu finally gets hold of something she’s good at, her personal life begins to dwindle. Her career zenith clashes with Ashok’s office troubles and her son’s school woes and that’s when a comedy switches gears to drama.

[Image: tumhari-sulu-1.jpg]

Right in the beginning a scene, wherein Sulu takes time to balance her lemon on a spoon before beginning the race and then sneakily poses for a photograph on the winner’s pedestal, says a lot about the person she is. She doesn’t have many achievements to boast of but is happy flaunting her little victories- like a colony contest or a lemon-spoon race or several radio contests, even a job interview per se; she is content within the comforting confines of her family. Sulu’s little joys are reflective of the little joys in the lives of housewives.

And just like Sulu never loses sight of her family, director Triveni never loses the sharp gaze at her life. Her transformation from a bubbly housewife to a late night spunky RJ with a sexy voice is interesting, to say the least. She has remedies for a broken heart and a song for a lonely soul. Even as she shells peas, Sulu offers listeners (and the viewers) food for thought along with some mimicry and old tracks.

Vidya Balan as Sulu is a delight! She charms her way through with alluring laughter and a voice quality that should’ve been tapped by Bollywood long back. She lets it flow and you can’t help but join in laughing. Throughout the film, Sulu keeps on insisting “mai kar sakti hai” and towards the end, you’d truly believe that Vidya can pull off anything and everything. Her presence is enough to illuminate the screen and when she’s in frame, it’s hard not to palpitate with emotions.

Manav Kaul leaves plenty of room for Vidya to shine. As a supporting partner in the first half and an insecure husband in the second, his act is bang on. Plus, the oven-fresh pairing of the two comes as a welcome move. Meanwhile, Neha Dhupia’s boss lady act, Vijay Maurya’s revolutionist poet-cum-producer act, and RJ Malishka’s RJ act fit the bill just right.

In the year 2017, many films have emerged from the middle-class milieu, but Triveni’s take on it is an uplifting sight. Tumhari Sulu is a slice of life film, but for the most part, it’s a slice of life comedy with women leading from the front. The film is a feminist tale in a middle-class setting, featuring empowering characters such as a housewife with dreams soaring higher than the sky, a woman cabbie, a lady constable, a boss lady heading a media organization, an encouraging RJ and airhostess neighbors who don’t demean others.

[Image: vidya-5.jpg]

The easiest thing to take away from a woman is her work. And the second easiest perhaps is to blame everything wrong in a family on a woman's profession. And this is another point that Triveni gets right in his simplistic film.

However, for the many things he gets right, he also goes haywire with the overtly dramatic climax and some moments that could have been done away with. While most parts of the film feel real, some scenes - wherein she bags an interview (and a job) instantly or when Maria spends time listening to her list of achievements or when the headmaster asks if the three of them live under the same roof - are far from plausible. But these are just minor patches in a film that in its entirety is well worth your viewing time.




From start to finish, Sulu resembles someone we have all seen in our life. Someone that Vidya brings to screen like no other could have and someone we’ll see in a different light now onwards. If English Vinglish gave housewives an identity, Tumhari Sulu breathes life into their existence.

Rating: 3.5/5

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