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General News Film Reviews
Rock On II....Rock Bottom!

Rock On II has a different director in Shujaat Saudagar, the first one, Rock On (2008) having been directed by Abhishek Kapoor. The lead actors, however, remain the same. After all, there has to be some identification with the original for it has been eight years since the original.

Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal and Purab Kohli, the members of the band Magik, remain friends though the band has been disintegrated. Farhan, married and father of a son, has moved to Meghalaya helping the local farmers with his cooperative movement as well as running a school. He has left his wife, Prachi Desai, and son behind. Arjun Rampal owns a club leaving behind his deprived childhood. Purab Kohli runs a studio composing jingles for his clients.

The wherewithal of the characters having been established, the film now moves towards reuniting the band, Magik, and regain its past glory and the happier times. Arjun, Purab and Prachi pay Farhan a visit on the eve of his birthday and, soon enough, he is convinced to return to Mumbai to give their band a second chance.

If that were the purpose of making the sequel, the film would have been fun with the help of some good tunes. But, the film now opens up multiple tracks: a boy who is an exponent in playing Sarod Shashank Arora, a reluctant song writer and singer, Shraddha Kapoor, her father, Kumud Mishra, a classical Indian music maestro who desists pop music as also its fusion with Indian music.

Then there is a track of an aspiring musician whose suicide haunts Farhan, besides the exploitation of the farmers under Farhan’s cooperative by a cartel. To add to all these tracks, there is one where the farmer members of Farhan’s movement are victims of a forest fires, all their crops destroyed leaving them starving.

The muddled bunch of stories never connect with each other and the film jumps from one thread to another leaving loose ends in the process. For some substance during gaps, the story goes into flashbacks of the earlier days of the group keeping the present events aside.

After a number of forced incidents, the band is now ready to relaunch and the cause is found; it will perform in Shillong to raise funds for the fire affected farmers. Even while this is being planned a few more side tracks play the villain to ruin the concert. But once the mood is set by Usha Uthup rendering the opening number of the concert, crowds from all over swell the venue.

The writing is disjointed and twisted and turned on whim. Shraddha has a partner in Arora but just to link her with Farhan, one fine evening, Prachi comes and declares to him that they are no more compatible. This paves the way for Shraddha to keep eyeing Farhan with suggestive looks! The concert venue along with the sound system is ransacked by local goons but, magically, replaced by a chela of Arjun. The film is full of such fillers inserted as per convenience.

The idea to bring back the band story with middle-aged actors looks passé as even on English music scene, groups are now limited to rock; it is mostly solo performers topping the charts. Even the musical score required for such a film is a let down here. This is a tough film to edit and it shows all over. Dialogue is mediocre.

There is nothing much to the performances as Farhan seems to monopolize the footage. Arjun makes his presence felt though. Shraddha’s part is about carrying a sad face through most of the film till she singles out Farhan for her smiles and meaningful looks. Prachi and ShahanGoswami have little footage. Shashank does well.

Rock On 2 fails to qualify as a musical as well as a feel good film. Too slow and heavy on head, it has had a very poor opening and the public reports will only add to its misery.

Producers: Farhan Akhtar, RiteshSidhwani.

Director: ShujaatSaudagar.

Cast: ShraddhaKapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, PurabKohli,Shashank Arora, Prachi Desai, Shahana Goswami, Kumud Mishra.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Dongri Ka Raja….No dons please!

Looks like every aspiring or new director worth his salt wants to make a film on underworld folk stories set in the once famous “Mumbai-3” as it was known, or the Dongri area. No matter that these stories and their imagined versions have been done to death. There is no Deewaar to be made anymore as many recent Mumbai underworld films have proved.

The director, Hadi Ali Abrar, and writer, M Salim, come up with an emotional love saga about a Dongri don, his excuse of a wife, their adopted Hindu son and the son’s love story. Things get complicated and repetitive but here is an attempt to decode it:

Ronit Roy is the dreaded don who operates from Dongri. He seems to have married a woman, Ashwini Kalsekar, out of some compulsion and there is no love lost between the two. The don’s two-man army consists of a Hindu Man-Friday and his adopted Hindu son, Gashmeer Mahajani. Mahajani is much loved by Ashwini, just like her own son. This equation takes time to come through and fathom.

Gashmeer is Ronit’s most trusted sharpshooter who usually wears the uniform of a known police inspector, Ashmit Patel, when shooting a rival. As is the tradition with love stories which went on to become folklore, Gashmeer falls in love with Richa Sinha, who, it turns out, is the sister of inspector Ashmit.

Her romance with Gashmeer -- is it just a ploy, or real?

It is surprising that the police, instead of targeting Ronit, the force behind all the illegal activities, is chasing his shooter! The rest of the film is about Richa’s merry-go-round; when she is not with her brother and his cause, she is with Gashmeer, her love. She betrays Ashmit and Gashmeer in turns. Gashmeer and Ashmit play chor sipahee through the film leaving Ronit out of contention to be never seen again even as the film ends.

Dongri Ka Raja is a contrived, amateurish don story living by the stereotype that a don has to be a Muslim, dreaded by all just because you are told so. The story idea, scripting, direction, dialogue are all poor. Performances are stagey and even Ronit Roy does not bother to vary his single expression. Gashmeer Mahajani is good in parts.

Dongri Ka Raja is as passé as once upon a time stories.

Producer: PS Chhatwal.

Director: Hadi Ali Abrar.

Cast: Ronit Roy, Gashmeer Mahajani, Ashmit Patel, Reecha Sinha, Ashwini Kalsekar, Sachin Suvarna, Gulshan Pandey.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise Of Banda Singh Bahadur (3-D: Animation)….Limited appeal

Chaar Sahibzaade: The Rise Of Banda Singh Bahadur (3-D: Animation) comes as a sequel to the maker Harry Baweja’s earlier film, Chaar Sahibzaade (also 3-D: Animation-2014), about the martyrdom of four young sons of the the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. The earlier film dealt with the Sikh community’s various battles with the invading Mughals and their harsh ways of meting out justice as well as about Sikhs’ defending the religion against forcible conversion.

This film tells the story of the Sikh religion and its warriors post Guru Gobind Singh.

The Sikhs are fighting a valiant battle against the tyranny of Mughals, especially the sadist subedaar of Sirhind, Wazir Khan. Wazir, who had killed the two older sons (aged 18 and 14) of Guru Gobind Singh, imprisons the two younger sons (aged 9 and 7) of the Guru, to suffocate them to death.

The fights have now taken the form of deceit. The Sikh army is small but impenetrable and Wazir Khan wants Guru Gobind Singh dead. He deputes two of his men to sneak into the Sikh camp and assassinate Guru Gobind Singh. Guru Gobind Singh is hurt and survives only to die a slow death of blood poisoning.

Guru has no heir apparent left and he does not want the Sikh faith to suffer the same fate as the Caliphate did. He declares the end of Guru System, declares Guru Granth Saahib as the ultimate and perpetual Guru of the Faith. He appoints one of his trusted disciples, Banda Singh, to settle scores with Wazir Khan with five selected wise Sikh men called Panj Pyare, as the deciding council to help and guide Banda Singh as well as to check on him.

Banda Singh and his five-man council go on to tackle Mughals, help their victims and build an army to finally take on the might on Wazir Khan.

The story is about Banda Singh and how he succeeds in sustaining and furthering the Sikh religion. But, Harry Baweja takes his time in coming to that part as he uses most of the first half of the film in retelling the story of four sons of Guru Gobind Singh which has already been the story of the previous film. This stretches the duration to 140 minutes, which is rather lengthy for a community-based animation film.

The narration is like a bedtime story, too much detail in a linear manner creating no interesting moments. There is no conclusion to the Banda Singh story leaving an option open to carry on the saga further. Dialogue and rest of the approach is monotonous. The musical score is inspiring. Om Puri does the narrative voiceover as he did in the earlier film. Animation and the 3-D effects are okay.

Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise Of Banda Singh Bahadur is aimed mainly at the Sikh community which appreciated the first film. The returns with the sequel are likely to show diminishing returns because of a huge part of the film being a repeat of the original.

Producer: Pammi Baweja.

Director: Harry Baweja.

Voice: Om Puri and others

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Force 2.....Of forced action...

MUMBAI: Force 2 is the sequel to the 2011 movie, Force, which, in turn, was based on the 2003 Tamil film, Kaakha Kaakha. Force was about John Abraham, an ACP level cop, a loner who refuses to marry because that would hamper his work of chasing dreaded criminals. His department is always at war with the narcotics trade, and his life is always at risk.

However, love happens: he falls for Genelia D’Souza and marries her, only to lose her in his battle with the drug mafia. The rest is about how he avenges her death.

In Force 2, John the narcotics cop goes international. He is deputed to assist a RAW agent, Sonakshi Sinha. John’s childhood friend, Freddy Daruwala, a RAW agent along with two other colleagues has been eliminated by the Chinese while on duty there. John receives a book from his friend and concludes that his friend’s cover was blown by one of his own compatriots.

John takes it upon himself to avenge his death.

It is for John and Sonakshi to identify the traitor from among their own and then to neutralize him. Sonakshi does not think much of John, he being a cop while she represents the elite espionage force. She does not take John’s contribution seriously as she would rather go about singling out the traitor in her copybook style.

The equation changes once John pinpoints the culprit while Sonakshi is still marking the probable suspects. But, much to John’s discomfort, the hierarchy is established. John is supposed to take orders from her even though her bumbling ways and reputation of failing to pull the trigger when needed makes her look more like the hero’s funny sidekick

The villain, Tahir Bhasin, is identified but nabbing him is not easy. After all, he is also a trained spy. What follows is a chase which lasts through most of the first half of the film. The traitor is smart, always well-prepared and a step ahead of his pursuers. He has backup help from the Chinese to whom he is leaking the names of Indian agents in their country!

As John and Sonakshi catch up with Bhasin, he is always saved by his handlers. Whenever that happens, John and Sonakshi are sitting ducks for them but they, it seems, want to chase to go on!

Why would an Indian and a RAW agent at that be leaking information? He has his reasons on which the whole premise of the film is based. He is seeking revenge from someone high up in the Indian establishment. And, that is where the finale shall take place.

The film starts off on an exciting note in the backdrop of China where three agents’ cover has been blown and the way they are killed. But, no, the fight here is not with the Chinese, they are just incidental. It’s all about the enemy within and that takes away some fun to start with.

After that the action shifts to Budapest for rest of the film but, besides the change of scene as far as the location is concerned, the chases and the one-upmanship game have been seen before and get repetitive. The concept, as mentioned earlier, is based on a premise that is not familiar. Nowhere is the public privy to life of a RAW agent, let alone it being flashed on media like a local incident.

While the pace is swift as most of the footage goes to action and chases with none wasted on romance or singing and dancing, it also means the film has no distractions as in variety. The script is on predictable lines. The direction, in such an event, is all about sticking to action with little attention to script.

The climax takes the audience for granted. Dialogue, especially the lines penned for Tahir, is good. The action is well executed and John, to his credit, makes them look plausible. John also looks sincere about his role of a cop on a rebound. Sonakshi shows little variation in expressions whether she is talking about her mistake which cost five cops their lives or in any other situation. The background score is effective.

Force 2 is a below average action thriller.

Producers: Vipul Amrutlal Shah.

Director: Abhinay Deo.

Cast: John Abraham, Sonakshi Sinha, Tahir Bhasin, Adil Hussain, Raj Babbar.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Tum Bin 2….Old wine gone flat

Tum Bin 2 is a sequel to 2001 film, Tum Bin, a musical love triangle. The sequel, also directed by Anubhav Sinha, comes rather late as far as sequels go, as the idea seems to be to cash in on the current trend of sequels and also to put to use a successful franchise. Tum Bin 2 follows almost same storyline as the original.

Ashim Gulati and Neha Sharma are a pair and live an eventful life full of fun. On one of their days out skiing, Ashim meets with an accident. After attempts to trace him, all hopes are given up on his survival. Neha is devastated and withdraws from the world outside.

This is when Neha meets Aditya Seal through Ashim’s father, Kanwaljeet Singh. Aditya gets busy helping Neha out of her grief. He also gets her involved in her work. Neha gradually starts living a normal life while also getting attracted to Aditya. Just when lives of all connected seem to be hunky-dory, it takes a turn to bring in the ever so popular and old-fashioned twist.

Ashim is not dead after all. It is now a love triangle and Neha is faced with her past and present loves.

There is nothing new to the story about the past catching up and the one in a quandary is always the woman. Tum Bin 2 does not vary from its original and retains the same glitches in the script as well.

The forte in the original was its soundtrack which worked in the film’s favour. Here, the music falls short of expectation. Retaining an old Jagjit Singh number from the earlier version is not much help.

Direction is fair. Dialogue is routine. Cinematography makes the viewing pleasant. Performance wise, Neha Sharma and Aditya Seal do well. Ashim Gulati has little to do in the first half; he is okay.

Tum Bin 2 faces some tough challenges. It comes at a time when demonetisation has affected box office collections all over; the film needed stronger musical score and, the length of 141 minutes (shortened by six minutes from the original censored length of 147) is too lengthy for a love story without any known faces.

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Anubhav Sinha.

Director: Anubhav Sinha.

Cast: Aditya Seal, Neha Sharma, Ashim Gulati, Kanwaljeet Singh.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Dear Zindagi

Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shah Rukh Khan, Yashwasini Dayama, Ira Dubey, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi
Director: Gauri Shinde

When we meet Kaira aka Koko first, she is working. On a set. Looking at the world through a lens, constructing pretty images. We know, from her smile, and from the appreciative comments of her co-workers, that she is good at what she does.

To have a female lead presented as possessing a profession from the get-go, and excelling at it, still feel like a significant step for a Bollywood movie. And to have Kaira (Alia Bhatt) declare to a current love that she has had a fling with another feels nothing short of a revolution.

Right there, within a few minutes of the opening of ‘Dear Zindagi’, director Gauri Shinde has us intrigued. We want to know more about Kaira, about what makes her tick, what she wants to do, because she wants to do something, be someone.

And then, just as suddenly, the film gets becalmed. It stops moving. It becomes, instead, a sea of words, where Kaira and her besties — played by Ira Dubey and Yashwasini Dayama (last seen in ‘Phobia’), and her potential romantic interests (Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar, Angad Bedi) — chat up a storm, in living-rooms, bars, parties, cars. And nothing happens slowly as we get to know that the confident Kaira is actually just a sorry mess, and underneath all that bluster lives a scared little girl, dealing with childhood trauma and abandonment issues.

What could have been a solid drama with emotional heft—the qualities that made Shinde’s debut ‘English Vinglish’ such an engaging watch–built upon the exploration of the fact that our adulthood is shaped by our childhood in ways we don’t really understand, turns into a kitchen sink talkathon, where all the characters are given lines which are meant to be deep, but come off mostly banal and obvious.

The vehicle through which, or should we say whom, Kaira Learns Life-Lessons, is a dishy shrink played by Shah Rukh Khan. Dr Jehangir Khan has her sit across him in his cosy consultation room, takes her off for long walks on the beach, and teaches her that playing with waves is not just a game. It is Life Itself.

Real-life therapists might gape when they see Dr Khan brushing off rules, dimpling his way through his sessions, while giving Kaira, and us, lectures on the virtues of finding the right chair only after experimenting with several (for chair, read relationship, and roll your eyes).

More eye-rolls are caused by the dialogues which are straining to be natural, but end up being far too many for much too little. Finally, despite Alia Bhatt’s clear and present spark ( she keeps disappearing into the construct of the Fragile, Vulnerable Little Girl, coming up for air only once in a while) and Shah Rukh’s raffish charm ( he keeps reaching out for the right `sur’, a mix of gravitas and lightness, and catches it only occasionally, letting us notice the white in his beard : hey, look, there’s a superstar playing his age!), ‘Dear Zindagi’ comes off as a film which could have done with less preciousness, and more plot.

Given the potential of the theme—growing up pains, and walking past the past– and the attractive leads (both Bhatt and Khan work well together, she with her gamine grin which falters when she remembers something troubling, and he with his twinkly come-to-me-and-it-will-all-get-better vibe, making sure we notice how being grizzled becomes him), ‘Dear Zindagi’ should have been a much better film. What we get instead, in spades, is bumper-sticker self-help notes which are strictly boiler-plate.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Moh Maya Money - Review

As the title explains, Moh Maya Money is about lure of money. A middleclass dream but not easy to attain and, hence, leading to a quick-fix moneymaking idea ending in a scam.

Ranvir Shorey's character, working for a real estate broker in Delhi, dreams big and has a devious mind to give shape to his dreams. His job at a real estate firms pays him a pittance besides what he can make from skimming from deals. But he watches big monies change hands all the time. His wife, Neha Dhupia, a news channel producer, does not support with him but he decides to carry out the scam anyway.

Ranvir borrows from toughies and buys a plot but the deal backfires. The goons are after him to recover their money and Ranvir has no place to escape. Though unwilling, Neha also gets involved in the mess.

Ranvir now devises a plan to dodge his debtors but he needs Neha to cooperate. Neha also has her own secrets and a motive to help Ranvir.

The film shows the murkier side of the real estate business in Delhi which, actually, is the same all over. The film has an interesting idea and an enjoyable first half. But, as it proceeds into the second part, it loses grip as it trudges towards a predictable end.

Ranvir as a typical smooth-talker is thoroughly convincing. Neha Dhupia gives a good account of herself. The direction is good in parts. The film has no scope for songs and dance and have been skirted. Moh Maya Money has no box office prospects.

Producer/ Director: Munish Bhardwaj.

Cast: Ranvir Shorey, Neha Dhupia.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Kahaani 2 - Durga Rani Singh......Predictable story

Sequel is a misnomer for films using a similar or the same title as an older film including, surprisingly, not always successful ones. The use of an old title and, if possible, the protagonist from the earlier film seem to suffice. In Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh, the common factor as in Kahaani (2012) is the lead actor, Vidya Balan, and the film’s West Bengal backdrop. Rest has no connect with the earlier.

Kahaani 2 deals with the much-debated issue of child abuse.

Vidya Balan’s character has a paraplegic daughter, Tunisha Sharma, in her early teens who she has promised to protect till she is alive. Both lead a quiet life in a distant village in West Bengal. Her time is divided between her job and looking after her daughter. Her only wish is to take her daughter to the US for treatment so she can start walking again as she did earlier.

Tunisha also has a past that gives her nightmares. Tunisha has been a victim of child abuse when she was six (played by Naisha Khanna).

Arjun Rampal, the newly transferred cop from Kolkata, enters the scene. As Arjun delves into Vidya’s diary it emerges that Naisha is an orphan in care of her uncle and granny. And, there is something about her family that is making her uncomfortable. Vidya takes it upon herself to rescue the girl.

Rampal has a reason to keep the case away from police record and his seniors.

Kahaani 2 is thoroughly a script of convenience. It is predictable and leaves a few things unexplained at the end. Since it uses the title Kahaani, the comparison is inevitable and, to say the least, this one falls way short of the original.

It is a VidyaBalan film but she is not seen doing any daring-dos here as would be expected Naisha Khanna is impressive. Tunisha does not have much to do and passes muster. Rampal is good. Jugal Hansraj and Tota Roy Chowdhary are okay in support.

The film keeps the viewer engrossed through its first half, but it tends to get repetitive in the later half. What works to some extent is the film’s ‘please all’ climax. With a solo release and coming as it does following a trail of poor films recently, Kahaani2: Durga Rani Singh was expected to take a decent opening which has not happened. In absence of initial curiosity, the film stands poor chances at the box office.

Producers: Kushal Kantilal Gada, Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Aksshay Jayantilal Gada and Sujoy Ghosh.

Director: Sujoy Ghosh.

Cast: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Tunisha Sharma, Naisha Khanna, Tota Roy Chowdhary, Jugal Hansraj.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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MUMBAI: Aditya Chopra directs a film once every few years. His latest, c, his fourth film as a director and in 21 years, comes eight years after his last essay at direction, Rab Ne Banadi Jodi. What looks obvious in this film is Aditya’s determination to stay with times and the now-generation. While attempting this, he seems to assume a lot about the now generation.

The story has a Paris backdrop and the Indian love story gets the French treatment. The titles of the film are devoted to people kissing, from young to old and even kids locking lips as if wanting to make it to some sort of record book. After that, it pits a typical Delhi boy, Ranveer Singh, against an Indian girl, Vaani Kapoor, who claims to be French in that while her parents are Punjabi Indian, by virtue of her being born and brought up in France, she is French.

Ranveer's character is a standup comedian who has been invited to France by a friend to help salvage his pub. Ranveer is expected to draw the Desi crowd to the place with his antics. The whole of Paris seems to drink, sing and dance and, during his off time, Ranveer loves to visit these soirees and ogle at girls. He has heard about free flowing love in France and is keen to score and make the most of the free love.

After rebuffed by a few, he meets Vaani who seems to be the girl about town, knows everybody around. She is a tourist guide, works at her father’s restaurant during her day off and believes in living it up. She is also off boys just having come out of a relationship. Ranveer, however, charms his way through and wins a date with her.

The duo go around town and end up in the bed by the nightfall and, come tomorrow, Vaani decides to move in with Ranveer much to her parents’ dismay. Their understanding is tacit: No 'love shuv,' emotions or attachment; only companionship and sex. The film starts with the couple fighting and parting ways.

What follows thereafter is the narration alternating between when they met and their time together and the present moment. There is no story to tell. But, as the script would have it, they both keep bumping into each other. They continue to have fun. The problem here is that, their idea of fun does not coincide with viewers’ idea of fun. The proceedings are loud for no reason till louder still songs popup.

As if as an afterthought, the maker seems to realize that this is no fun and there is a need for some notion of a story. Hence, though they are officially separated while also doing things together, a third angle comes in. Vaani has dated a young banker, Armaan Ralhan, also of Indian origin. After a couple of dates with Armaan, Vaani decides to tie the knot and settle down. As if in a rebuff, Ranveer instantly finds a French girl, Julie Ordon, to marry her.

Befikre has nothing in the name of a story or script. Events and songs happen at random. Direction is mainly about visuals, though mostly night shoot, the festive spirit is captured well as all of the Paris seems busy indulging. There is little of romance as in traditional way and all the fun on screen fails to reach the viewer. The editor has no scope here. Songs are good and peppy but placed without creating situations for them. Cinematography is very good. Choreography is excellent.

Ranveer Singh has created a considerable fan following because of his couldn’t care less public image and here he does the same but goes overboard with diminishing effect. The one time the audience reacts to his antics is when exhibits his bare backside. Vaani Kapoor is not quite cut out to be a heroine, less so in a romantic film. With her lanky, odd figure the femininity falls short. Rest in the cast are incidental without scope.

Befikre could have been a wholesome youth oriented musical fun film with a better script. Instead, it is a banal and loud tomfoolery. The film has garnered a fair opening at select multiplexes in metros which is not expected to carry on.

Director-Producer: Aditya Chopra.

Cast: Ranveer Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor.
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Dangal - Review

Cast: Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Sheikh, Sanya Malhotra, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Ritwik Sahore, Aparshakti Khurana, Girish Kulkarni
Director: Nitesh Tiwari

There comes a time when a star gives in to the demands of a role which he knows will make him not-pretty: as a wannabe wrestler past his prime, Aamir Khan is squat, with a heavy belly, a deliberate gait, and a grizzled beard in Dangal. Only his jutting ears are familiar: the rest of him is pure character.

We are going to have to measure Aamir Khan’s future performances with this one: as Mahavir Singh Phogat, failed wrestler, rough-hewn authoritarian, but caring husband and father of four girls, he scales it up to a point where you can see the star take on a character, try it for size, and make it his own.

That was crucial for us to believe in Dangal, which borrows several elements from the real-life Haryana wrestler who trained his older two daughters, Geeta (Fatima Sana Shaikh) and Babita (Sanya Malhotra), in the art of wrestling, and turned them into winners.

Dangal works on the twin parameters it sets up for itself. One is a straight-forward film about a popular sport and those who play it: we feel and smell the `mitti’ of the `akhara’, the `daanv-pench’ (moves) that truly skilled wrestlers use to face down formidable foes. We see the blood, sweat and tears that go into the making of champions.

The other is a strong feminist statement about girls being the equal of boys, if not better, in an area they’ve never been seen, let alone accepted. When Mahavir steps into that tricky arena, he is derided and ridiculed: so are his young female charges, as well as their mother (Sakshi Tanwar) who could not bear sons.

In the Khap-ridden state of Haryana, where baby girls are still murdered at birth, and ‘honour killing’ is practiced with impunity and condoned (you may be over 18, but you have no right over your life), there cannot be a more important statement, especially when it comes from a big star.

The grizzled wrestler has to work his way to believing in his daughters, and in the fact that his ‘chhoris’ are no less than ‘chhoras’. It echoes the belief the real-life Phogat showed in his girls, as they went on to win medals and prizes in national and international arenas ( gold and silver medals in Commonwealth games, Olympic qualifier).

The actors who play the young Geeta and Babita (Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar) do a competent job of turning into eager combatants from young-girls-who-just-want-to-have-fun. And both Shaikh and Malhotra carry it forward, especially when they spend a lot of the second half on the mat, learning how to lose, and, above all, to win.

You know how this will end. And that makes many of the beats predictable. There are times when the film feels flat, and gets into repetitive loops. Those are times you feel like it should have been tighter. But you end up being impressed by the authenticity of the milieu, both in the sporting arena, as well as the domestic one: the girls jousting for that precious medal are not just going through the motions — they are fighting.

Some near-pedestrian bits are offset by the performances. The first-timers — as little girls, and young women learning to gauge their opponent and beating all comers; no silver medals, only gold — all come off well. So does their cousin who is the funny-bone-cum-sutradhar (the boy is Ritwik Sahore and the young adult, Aparshakti Khurana): both are spot on in deportment and accent. Tanwar, as Khan’s wife, is a good choice, just familiar enough, and yet new enough. The sole iffy element here is the usually excellent Girish Kulkarni, who plays the ‘official’ coach happy to settle for less, so different from Papa Go-For-Gold-Phogat : he never seems to get his limbs dirty, and spends his time smirking.

But Aamir makes it all right. The film wouldn’t have been made if he hadn’t green-lit it, and he brings to it the sincerity of purpose which makes it not just a starry vehicle, but a film which is about something, which has meaning, with a message which doesn’t overwhelm the telling.

It could have easily turned into a vanity project, which is a clear and present danger when it comes to anything involving big stars. It could have been made more polished than required. In places it is stolid, and could have done with some lift, but it is solid all the way through. And, most crucially, it stays real, because the star ratchets it up when required, and lets it go in the rest.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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