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General News Film Reviews
Pretham movie review: Jayasurya excels in this horror film without chills

Pretham movie review: This may be a horror comedy but the scare factor is not high. Watch out for Jayasurya as a mentalist who again proves his versatility.

Renjith Shankar’s movie Pretham, supposedly a horror comedy, keeps you waiting for a twist which never comes. What you get instead is a pretty ordinary climax, which is neither memorable nor scary.

Thanks to Jayasurya’s character John Don Bosco, the movie is engaging in parts though. The actor again proves his versatility as he plays a mind reader who is out to find the truth of a haunted resort. The actor is casual yet restrained and his inspired performance actually reminds one of Mohanlal’s iconic role as a psychiatrist Sunny in the epoch-marking Malayalam movie, Manichitrathazhu.

A sea-side resort run by three carefree youngsters, Benny (Aju Vargheese), Shyam (Sharaffudeen) and Shibu (Govindpadmasurya), forms the backdrop of the film. The trio has quit their boring past to enjoy a relaxed life. Just when the three bachelors think their life is sorted and they only have sun-lit sea view and girls dancing zumba to look forward to, they meet their nemesis — a ghost haunting their resort.

Desperate to find a break, they meet mentalist Don Bosco who offers help. At many points in the movie, the director shows a canny understanding of what the viewer would be thinking. The characters voice what we as viewers are concerned about. For instance, the moment we start believing that the ghost is actually a hoax, a la In Ghost House Inn, Aju’s character is seen expressing the same doubt.

Despite this understanding of his viewers, Renjith fails on one important point — the failure to present anything new. We have seen ghost stories like this time and again where electronic gadgets and night is used to scare people. The climax is a huge let-down, given that the movie works so hard on keeping the surprise element going.

The flow of the movie gets clobbered by some sloppy editing with many shots ending in abrupt cuts. However, Ranjith needs to be credited for capturing the visual ecstasy of sea in its different moods. The director plays on darkness, sound effects and worried faces to build the horror quotient. However, a dead giveaway in the film waters down the whole effect.

Other than some slapstick moments starring Sharafudheen, which felt as an extension of his famous character ‘Girirajan Kozhi’ from the movie Premam, Pretham’s humour is also disappointing. Aju Vargheese is a promising actor who works hard to reinvent and improvise on the roles he is offered, but unfortunately, the actor is on a path of getting stereotyped by doing characters in the same genre time and again. Govind Padmasoorya and Pearley Maney are better off the big screen.

The only think that rescues Pretham is Jayasurya’s performance and some quality camera work.
Disclaimer: “Views expressed by the author are personal.”

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Director: David Lowery
Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford

Do not expect anyone to breathe fire in Pete’s Dragon. It’s that kind of a town, in that kind of a Disney film, in that kind of a remake.

The dragon doesn’t singe, it sneezes; it ain’t scaly, but furry; it isn’t reptilian, more leonine. It still does fly, but magically, it can also just disappear. When the dragon and a boy (Oakes Fegley) it adopted after his parents died in a car crash in the woods are discovered by the world, it reacts more with confusion than anger.

And yet, the dragon is the star with the widest range of emotions in this film. The rest just look upon it in wonder, and when he comes into their midst, with even more wonder.

There was scope here of telling the story of a town that changes when it manages to capture a dragon, but the film isn’t interested in it. There is a conservation message, but it is only feebly delivered by the consistently bright-eyed Bryce Dallas Howard. It’s left to Robert Redford to do the film a huge favour and appear as the grizzly man with advice such as “keeping eyes open” and “because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist”.

Golden words, but that this advice needs to be given at all says everything.

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Happy Bhag Jayegi- Movie review

Cast: Abhay Deol, Diana Penty, Momal Sheikh, Ali Fazal, Jimmy Shergill, Kanwaljeet, Piyush Mishra
Director: Mudassar Aziz

What if an Indian girl wakes up in Pakistan one fine morning? And what if she finds, gasp, the one she’s looking for across the border?

The premise of Happy Bhag Jayegi, promises you some good chuckles because, well, who doesn’t like the idea of a pretty girl on the run in search of her Prince Charming? And the Pakistani locations—the scenic spots around Lahore– should inject some freshness, right?

We smile in the beginning. Spirited Amritsar kudi Happy’s (Diana Penty) heart beats for Guddu (Ali Fazal) but the path of true love is strewn with stern fathers (Kanwaljeet), local bad boy rival Bagga (Jimmy Shergill) and an accidental Pakistani gentleman named Bilal Ahmed (Abhay Deol).

But all too soon, the pleasures of the film dwindle, and we are left to fend for ourselves, looking for something that will make us laugh, even if it is weak laughter. There is some of it, but it is far too intermittent.

The film spends a substantial amount of time in Pakistan, and a whole bunch of colourful characters trying out their Urdu. Fervent Pakistani cop (Piyush Mishra) who loves some things Hindustani (Taj Mahal, Yusuf saab), Bilal’s father (Javed Sheikh) who wants him to join politics, and his beautiful betrothed (Momal Sheikh) who looks askance at this new girl: is the Indian Happy about to sink her hooks into her all-Pakistani Bilal?

Done well, Happy Bhag Jayegi could have been a rollicking comedy. But despite its occasional throwaway lines, and nice touches, it never comes together. If you want me to suspend disbelief and buy into your wholly contrived plot, you have to be able to write your way past the contrivances. This doesn’t happen.

Some of the casting choices are suspect. Penty has a wide-eyed appeal and an infectious smile but she is not a good fit for a Punjabi ‘pataka’. And some are too familiar. Fazal has a thankless part and never lifts off the screen: imagine being termed a musician and never getting to play or strum or sing. No, really.

And some are too familiar: Fazal has a thankless part and never lifts off the screen; Shergill has some funny lines but he is essentially doing a repeat of his Tanu Weds Manu part. In fact, the film has several striking resemblances to TWM, which makes sense because Happy Bhag Jayegi is an Anand L Rai production too.

Good to see Abhay Deol back in the groove after his disastrous previous outing One By Two, and the very pretty very swish-in-her-designer-threads Momal Sheikh (a popular TV actor who also happens to be Javed Sheikh’s daughter) gives him something to work on. The third angle in this triangle is touched upon but its potential is never fully realised. And that goes for the film as a whole. When will our films be better written?

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A Flying Jatt - Movie review

Tiger Shroff film looks like a Swachch Bharat promo

Tiger Shroff plays the bumbling, fumbling superhero with perfection. Had it not been for the unnecessary song and dance, this could have been a rollicking film.

Cast: Tiger Shroff, Jacqueline Fernandez, Gaurav Pandey, Amrita Singh, Kay Kay Menon, Nathan Jones
Director: Remo D’Souza

A Jatt superhero who bumbles and fumbles? Who behaves like a little boy around his formidable ‘bebe’, and is all shy and tongue-tied around a hot babe? Who has, haha, a fear of heights?

Sounds like a barrel of fun, no? The first half of A Flying Jatt is not afraid to be silly and is very enjoyable. Tiger Shroff plays a martial arts teacher in a school where he strives lamely to catch his students’ eye, as well as a pretty colleague whom we know is interested in the environment because she clutches a couple of books on the subject to her bosom. No one ever goes to class: it is that kind of film.

The Environment, capital E, we soon learn is Enemy No One, riding on the back of the greedy capitalist Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon, camping it up madly) and the evil monster-dipped-into-the-vat-of-chemicals Raka (Nathan Jones, boasting an old-fashioned Bollywood name for a modern-day ‘gora’ villain). When the Flying Jatt’s mum sends him off with the classic ‘jaa, duniya ko bacha’, we laugh out loud. Because, you know, that’s what superheroes do: once they are in costume-and-cape and armed with their super-powers, we know all will be well.

Tiger Shroff is a thing of beauty when he flexes his splendid, impossibly toned muscles. He dances like a dream. And because he is still a work-in-progress actor to whom fumbling and bumbling and being awkward comes naturally, he is a good fit for his character, even if it’s cobbled together from familiar caped crusaders: bits of Superman and Spiderman and our own home-grown Krrish.

He gets able support from Singh as the proud Sikhni with superpowers of her own: no baddie ever invented can be a match for Bollywood moms. And from Gaurav Pandey as his brother-cum-best-pal. Fernandez has to jump up and down and squeal girlishly, when she is not dancing alongside the Jatt, or not being taken on an aerial survey, all of which she delivers on.

The second half goes south. The film starts getting preachy and heavy. A bad guy who fattens on pollution is a great stroke, but to keep belabouring the point is pointless. Except for a couple of effective scenes, the enormous Jones is a bore. And without the funny bits which kept the pre-interval parts afloat, the faults start glaring. The song-and-dances, bunged in just to show off Tiger’s limber moves, are a drag: Bollywood superheroes can save the world only after the ‘naach-gaana’ is over.

Our Jatt Singh-Is-King-of-Kings superhero needs nothing but his ‘kada’: kryptonite is so last century. Nice touch. But he also needs a plot to help him fly all the way.

This could have been such a rollicking film, especially for kids —it had all the ingredients, and an engaging start, fronted by a hero who is light on his feet. Too bad it ends up being a promo for Swachch Bharat.

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Mechanic:Resurrection - Movie review

Jason Statham returns as the hitman but fails to keep track with its prequel

Cast: Jason Statham, Jessica Elba, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: Dennis Gansel

An African warlord who eats his rivals’ hearts, an Australian mines magnate who once trafficked children, and an American arms dealer who now deals in Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles. Arthur Bishop (Statham) has a lot more on his plate this time than the 2011 prequel. And then there is the real dish: Gina (Alba). She is a former American “Special Military Operative” once posted in Afghanistan, who now runs a shelter for trafficking victims in Cambodia. She falls for Bishop over two lingering glances and several states of undress, and then spends her role waiting for him to rescue her.

Bishop, a trained assassin who went into hiding after putting up an act of being dead last time, is hauled back into business by former friend-turned enemy Craine. As Craine tells Bishop, patiently, there are many ways to track people down these days, such as “facial recognition” tech and “satellite tracking”. This to a man who wields a vernier calliper to plan the breach of a jail. Later, Bishop also mixes two chemicals in test-tubes to cause the glass base of a swimming pool to crack (the film’s most impressive shot).

Craine wants Bishop to make three kills or Gina dies. Three becomes somewhere closer to 300, and Gina never puts her American military training to any use.

Michelle Yeoh is a gypsy-esque woman running a hotel on a Thai coast wielding “Eastern Medicine” and uniting souls such as Gina and Bishop by tying them together at a dance.

Lee Jones strolls in towards the end, in red glasses, striped pajamas and fluffy flipflops, for a vague disposition on Communism, and “small people firing slingshots”.

By then, action has moved overnight, on a boat that Craine never gets off, from Indian Ocean to Black Sea. Precisely, 8,664 nautical miles separate the Bulgarian and Australian coasts.

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Nine Lives - Movie review

The Tom-cat game becomes too vague to hold the plot

[Image: nine-lives-movie-review-759.jpg]
Walking into a pet shop manned by Christopher Walken, on a cloudy evening with dark cats purring, has something to do with it, for sure.

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Melina, Weissman, Christopher Walken
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

It is a bad time to ask us to root for a guy whose ambition is to build tall towers, with his name and face stamped on them. Particularly when the only political statement sought to be made is a cat throwing ink on a photograph of George Bush Junior.

Maybe Clinton-friend Spacey sought that pound of flesh, for agreeing to spend this film — which manages to be more boring than your average cat-doing-things video — trapped in a feline’s body. Meanwhile, Spacey himself spends almost the entire film in coma, in a kind of body-swap that the film wisely leaves unexplained.

Walking into a pet shop manned by Christopher Walken, on a cloudy evening with dark cats purring, has something to do with it, for sure. But Walken’s Perkins needs a bolt of lightning striking Spacey’s Tom Brand to push things forward.

Tom has dealt with that shock for the most-abused trope in movie business: being a multi-millionaire who can’t make time for his family, particularly, good heavens, his daughter’s 11th birthday. He goes to Perkins to make amends, as the daughter, Rebecca, has sought a cat for present. Outraged at his brusqueness, Perkins decides to teach Tom a lesson by reducing him to a pet cat.

How any of that makes any plausible sense is the least of the film’s problems, which struggles to find funny lines to help this premise stand on the wobbly feet of its Tom-cat. Garner, as Tom’s long-complaining but ever-loving wife Lara, smiles through it all, perhaps hoping the dimples will distract. Once Tom is in the hospital, Rebecca and Lara don’t let a coma disturb their waking hours.

The film even has a side story involving Tom’s tower-raising business, and the attempts to take it over by a subordinate. The one standing in the way is Tom’s son from a previous marriage, and the cat.

However, the one with the sharpest claws in the film is none of the above. It is Brand’s first wife, played by Cheryl Hines to blonde perfection. She is enjoying both the divorce and Tom’s alimony.

The fact that Lara keeps her around, at all times, is telling. A cat would know.

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Don't Breathe - Review

It Grabs Your Attention and Refuses to Let Go

Cast: Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang
Director: Fede Alvarez

For most part of its 88-minute running time, the terrific (and terrifying) home-invasion thriller Don't Breathe grabs your attention and refuses to let go. I can't remember the last time I got through an entire film without once looking at my phone.

The movie follows a trio of teenage burglars – Rocky (Jane Levy), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) – who break into the home of a blind war veteran, believed to be sitting on the pile of cash he received as a settlement over the death of his daughter in an accident. As it turns out, the man (Stephen Lang) isn't as helpless as the invaders had imagined. Having served in Iraq in his glory days, he knows his way around a gun and puts up quite the fight.

The cat and mouse chase that follows, largely within the confines of this house, is ripe with tension and relies in equal part on jump scares that you can see coming, and many moments of unexpected shock. Just when you think you know where things are headed, co-writer/director Fede Alvarez throws a creepy twist your way…and then another, until you're sucked right back into the suspenseful plot.

That's about all you need to know about the film going in, besides the fact that the script expertly flips your initial feelings about both the young criminals and the blind guy they set out to rob. It all unfolds briskly, unfortunately at the cost of character depth. But that's a small price to pay for a relentlessly thrilling film that seldom lets up.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Don't Breathe. Make sure you empty your bladder before the lights go down.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Kidaari - Movie Review

Sasikumar's Film Makes for an Interesting Watch

Director: Prasath Murugesan
Cast: Sasikumar, Vela Ramamurthy, Nikhila Vimal, Suja Varunee.

Kidaari is something all the members of the film can be proud of.

Kidaari is a fine example of a dog-eat-dog world. The characters that populate the movie are really interesting. ‘Interesting’ is not an easy word to use in a film like Kidaari. The actors, leading and supporting, are so excellent that it kind of feels like we're living in a bad place.

Sasikumar has become a master in playing a village man. His long hair, beard, and kadaa (bracelet) add weight to the principal character he plays (Kidaari). The story of Prasath Murugesan’s directorial debut can be smelled from the trailer itself. The voice-over does a good job in the film, as well.

Kombaiah Pandiyan (Vela Ramamoorthy) is a cruel man who wouldn’t hesitate to do anything. He is concerned about his rise to popularity, and his safety. Nothing else matters to him. His enemies are afraid to touch him as he’s guarded by Kidaari. The simple looking Kidaari has the strength to put men to death in no time. He’s not a Balakrishna and doesn’t kill people with his stares. He uses a knife / machete and never misses his target.

Vela Ramamoorthy previously played a one-note villain in Sethupathi which released earlier this year. If that was a dampener, hop onto Kidaari for a ride, where Ramamoorthy reveals his different sides to the audience. His face shows a variety of emotions – anger, frustration, relief, fear, etc. Sasikumar, who falls on the other side of the grass, wears signs of sarcasm, romance, and confidence. Sasi won’t let a fly sit on Ramamoorthy’s shoulder. That’s what being loyal means to him.

Nikhila Vimal eyes Sasi with a romantic intention. Their love story doesn’t hamper the proceedings in any manner. It is sort of a minor achievement as a film such as this could have, without doubt, gone down as an average outing had the romance portion disrupted the flow of narration. A strong character is essayed by Suja Varunee. She is both: a scheming vamp, and a poor mother. It’s hard to sympathize with her as what she does to take revenge against Ramamoorthy and Sasi baffles us. Her character will turn into a point of discussion in the future for sure.

Prasath has to be given a few pats on the back for giving tough and wonderful sketches to all his characters. Even minor characters make a mark. Sample this: an old man keeps talking about his ‘disciple’ (Kidaari). It works neatly as a comic relief. Another stretch of fascination occurs in the latter half. A tensed up Kombaiah’s family awaits the arrival of Kidaari after a brawl. Kidaari coolly walks in with a gentle smile denoting that all is well. It’s a suave scene which tells us that the man in the driver’s seat is knowledgeable.
Also, Darbuka Siva’s score ups the tension at many important points. Minus Siva’s score, the film would, perhaps, feel empty.

There’s a strange connection between the 2010 Telugu film Prasthanam and Kidaari. Prasthanam is a political thriller, and Kidaari is a rural drama, but both of them involve two ruthless men, and two young men who wouldn’t cross a line drawn by their masters. Giving away the connection here would mean spoiling the fun of watching Kidaari. One can easily say that Prasthanam's Saikumar and Kidaari’s Ramamoorthy are two sides of the same coin.

If Sasi continues to produce and act in films set in villages, he’d have no ‘able competitors’. Does his magnifying glass help him find riveting actioners? I’d like to know.

Ratings: 3.5/5

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Akira - Review

Akira promises but fails in executionAkira promises but fails in execution

MUMBAI: Akira ventures into the woman-oriented action genre where few have dared to tread. There have only been a few films where a woman lawperson takes on the underworld, with Dimple Kapadia, Vijayashanti, Rani Mukerjee et al. The trend has been more popular with the southern filmmakers.

In Akira, the remake of a Tamil film, Mouna Guru, there is a sort of role reversal in that, Sonakshi Sinha, playing the protagonist, Akira, gets into a situation where she is pitted against a bunch of corrupt, unscrupulous policemen led by Anurag Kashyap.

Kashyap is corrupt to the core and does all the unlawful things he is actually supposed to stop. He drinks while on duty, smokes weed and randomly kills footpath dwellers with his rash driving. He is the typical South brand of evil film baddie. Kashyap is smart enough not to dirty his own hands and makes the three stooges under his command in the force pull the trigger when needed.

Sonakshi is introduced in the film with the meaning of her name, Akira is derived from Sanskrit and mostly used as a girl’s name in Indian languages. The word denotes Graceful Strength. And, to live up to her given name, she is enrolled into a martial art institution by her deaf and mute schoolteacher father, Atul Kulkarni.

A mentally tough Sonakshi moves to Mumbai where her brother works. Seeing that her bhabhi is not comfortable with her presence, Akira decides to stay at the school hostel. Here, as happens in all schools in films, she meets with a hostile group which likes to torment and rag freshers. Having had enough of the bunch, Akira takes them on. This part consumes unnecessary footage in the film just to demonstrate Sonakshi’s prowess with martial arts and toughness.. And that she won’t take injustice.

Kashyap and his cronies come across a big cache of money from the car of an accident victim. Their greed takes over and instead of taking the dazed accident victim to a hospital, Kashyap speeds up his demise by hitting him with a jack. So far so good since Kashyap is adept at wiping his footprints. But, unknown to him, his paramour shoots a video of Kashyap discussing the crime with his stooges.

The handycam is stolen and finally ends up at the door of the hostel room of Sonakshi. The typical south brand scheming and plotting start from here as Sonakshi goes through all sorts of torture and deterrents to keep her from leaking the content of the video. She is consigned to a mental asylum while her family as well as friends are convinced that she has lost her sanity. So much so that Sonakshi is totally isolated, with just about everybody believing in her traits and ailment.

As the film deals with all this drama, it loses its main purpose of showing a strong woman protagonist. It borrows heavily from old films when it comes to props and ploys as per the convenience of the next scene. Even her martial arts background becomes secondary and gets very limited exposure in the climax.

Akira has a grossly depressing story. It is a crime story the likes of which you watch on crime-based TV serials on a regular basis, but stretched beyond comfort with not an iota of relief from the negativity. Direction has an all-South touch and is predictable, the director AR Murugadoss’ record of Hindi hits, Ghajini and Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty besides over a dozen South films, notwithstanding. Songs have no place in the film and, thankfully, they are avoided. Dialogue is routine. Editing is weak.

Sonakshi Sinha does better than her previous films; this being an author backed role. Anurag Kashyap does not have to do much to look evil, otherwise, he does okay. Konkona Sen Sharma is good in a small role. Rest just fill the bill.

Akira has had a poor opening and the word of mouth is not expected to help it pick up either.

Producer: AR Murugadoss.
Director: AR Murugadoss.
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Amit Sadh, Atul Kulkarni.

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Baar Baar Dekho: Review

Stuck in a time warp

Passionless performances and cardboard characters mark this much awaited directorial debut by Nitya Mehra

Just like perennially happy people, there is something about totally sorted individuals that makes one very wary of them. These are people who seem to have figured out not just themselves, but their relationships, life, future, everything; who are seemingly content with what life has to offer and comfortable with the regular and the accepted. Then there are the eternally restless souls — constantly questioning, eternally claustrophobic, wanting desperately to break free, at times even from themselves.

Of late, a clutch of Hindi films has been playing on these binaries and eventually making the one at a tangent fall in line. Nitya Mehra’s Baar Baar Dekho is the latest in that list. Only it moves a level up from the theme of recklessness and commitment phobia in films like Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani to have its protagonist smacked into accepting the importance of family over professorship at Harvard and Cambridge. It’s all about making him learn to love his family than mathematics.

If it’s a Dharma and Excel combine then the film doesn’t just have to be about looking good, but doubly so. However, the fetching frames, the element of time travel, futuristic mobiles, homes, cars and gadgetry and the advanced prosthetics and makeup can’t quite take away from the familiar, time-worn take on relationships. So we have a maths genius, Jai Verma (Sidharth Malhotra) travel ahead (10 days, two years, 16 and then 30 years) and later a bit back in time to get a second chance at mending his marriage with Diya Kapoor, aka DK (Katrina Kaif) and learning that it’s the small moments together that count more than his own big ambitions. Though to be fair to him not once in the unconvincing film does he come across as the one neglecting his relationship and family. That is, unless wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with “Roamers and Seekers” and surfing a website called is enough to stamp him as selfish. In fact, my heart reached out to him when, on the eve of his wedding, he asks the domineering DK if he doesn’t even have the right to think for himself.

The film is structured around small vignettes, or, as Jai himself puts it, the highlights of his life — wedding, honeymoon, children and more. There are no layers to the characters, no complexity to the warp and weft of urban relationships. So the parents, siblings, friends and progenies are more like frame fillers and props rather than full blown people. The couple itself is cardboard flat and dull. Neither do the two reach out to each other on screen nor does their love work any magic on the viewers. The opening credits — showing the birth and growing up of the lead pair — has more romance packed in it than the entire film itself.

There are no standout performances, no scenes that can pack in an emotional wallop and the conversational dialogue turns banal beyond a point. Kaif very consciously focuses on making the audience concentrate on her impossibly well-toned midriff. But she displays no such commitment and motivation towards acting, goes ahead and botches up the emotional scenes and gets way too shrill and hysterical for comfort. In the midst of all this, it gets relatively easy for Malhotra to make his presence felt. However, just as it is way too hard to believe a passionless Kaif to be a painter of modern art, it is impossible to think of Sidharth as a mathematician.

The film makes a case for emotions over mathematical equations, problem solving and logic and yet doffs its hat to Vedic mathematics. That is, how it helps in figuring space travel and how all the problems of today can be solved with the help of ancient Indian sciences. Add to that, a holy thread and panditji that fill in for a time machine. If in K3G the Britishers were made to sing the national anthem we have one of them recite the Hanuman Chalisa here.

Who says our popular cinema doesn’t know how to keep in tune with the changing times and the

Director: Nitya Mehra
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif, Sarika, Ram Kapoor, Rohan Joshi, Sayani Gupta, Rajit Kapur
Run time: 141.19 minutes

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