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General News Film Reviews
Sarkar - Movie Review

[Image: Sarkar.jpg]

Cast: Vijay, Keerthi Suresh, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, Radha Ravi
Director: A R Murugadoss

Indian cinema has often doubled as a platform for promoting social, cultural and political causes. It has often been preachy and pedantic, as we have seen in some of early Raj Kapoor films and later Manoj Kumar's efforts – which got so blatantly and invariably patriotic and boring that he was named Mr Bharath. Today, we seem to be having another Mr Bharath in Akshay Kumar's latest outings, like Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Padman.

But unlike Kumar, Tamil cinema's Vijay turns into an unbelievable Superman. While Kumar went through a more-or-less realistic script, playing a very ordinary and down-to-earth common man in Toilet.. and Padman, Vijay will do nothing of the sort. He has to be the conquerer, the one man who can sort the problems of his home State, Tamil Nadu.

In his earlier Mersal (2017), Vijay was a doctor. This time around in A R Murugadoss' Sarkar, he is all set to take over the administrative reins of Tamil Nadu. Given the political leadership vacuum in the State after the death of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December 2016, actors like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and Vijay have been nursing political ambition.

It has been time and again debated whether an actor can become an effective political leader, nay the Chief Minister of a State. While those who feel that they can and cite the examples of M G Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, who transformed themselves from silver screen stars into political luminaries, forget that they worked in the political arena for years, firmly establishing a base at the grassroots level before taking on the chief ministerial mantle. Ramachandran worked with political stalwarts like C N Annadurai and M Karunanidhi for a long time before approaching the people. Jayalalithaa was part of Ramachandran's team.

Vijay has had no such experience, and he probably hopes that he can find a mass base for fulfilling his political dream through the big screen. And Sarkar is unashamedly a propaganda vehicle for Vijay. And Murugadoss (third collaboration with the actor) plays along making sure that Vijay is all important in every frame that walks into. Ironic as it may seem, while Sarkar purports to celebrate democracy, what we have instead is a one-man army. Vijay can do no wrong, and he is projected as a messiah for all of Tamil Nadu's ills. It is more dictatorial than democratic.

At once a playboy and a corporate leader who can win single-handedly fighting dozens of goons, Vijay's Sundar Ramaswamy flies hundreds of miles to cast his vote in Tamil Nadu elections. But when he finds out that someone else has voted in his place, Ramaswamy gets into the act to cleanse the corrupt political system. He urges the people of Tamil Nadu to rise in revolt, and he deploys all kinds of methods to facilitate this. And into this quagmire, steps in characters like Komalavalli (Varalaxmi Sarathkumar), devious to the core. Incidentally, Komalavalli was the original name of Jayalalithaa, who headed the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Produced by the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's Sun Pictures, Sarkar all through its 163 minutes of run time, does not hide the fact it hates the AIADMK.

While Sarkar cannot be faulted in direction or mounting with some great action sequences, the plot has been written only for Vijay. There is really no place for a second character. Even Keerthi Suresh, who was excellent as the South Indian actress Savithri in the biopic, Mahanati, is reduced to essaying a wide-eyed admirer of Ramaswamy. Others like Radha Ravi have also been relegated to the background.

If Vijay and his director assume that movies like Sarkar will propel the actor to starry heights of political existence, they may be just about a tad off the mark. Fan craze, tickets being unusually priced and sold in the blackmarket and a lot of glee and noise during the shows are no indication that all these will translate into electoral votes. I think Indian masses today are much more savvy to be talked into believing that an actor who can deliver under the arc lamps will also be capable of doing justice to a political seat.

Rating: 1.5/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Thugs Of Hindostan - Movie Review

[Image: Thugs.jpg]

Cast: Aamir Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Sana Fatima Shaikh
Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

In one of the scenes meant to bring intensity to Thugs Of Hindostan, Amitabh Bachchan tells Aamir Khan, “Baat suna ke hi maaroge ya koi hathiyar bhi laaye ho (Have you brought weapons too or you’re planning to kill me by words?)” To this, Aamir simply smiles. Well, this is what happens in most of the film. The actors are so obsessed with their characters that they forget the audience is waiting for engaging content, a spectacle they haven’t ever seen before. However, all they get are characters with a penchant for smiling.

It all begins in Raunakpur, which literally means a place full of wealth and glitz, full marks for imagination. Local king Mirza’s (Ronit Roy) voice-over introduces us to English Captain Clive (Lloyd Owen) and his ruthless tactics. He is out there to conquer India in the garb of a merchant but soon finds himself face to face with Khudabaksh aka Azaad (Amitabh Bachchan), a local rebel. Azaad has an accomplice in super-archer Zafira (Fatima Sana Shaikh), the apparent heir to the throne.

Because the East India Company can’t catch Azaad, they seek assistance from Firangi Mallah (Aamir Khan), a notorious thug who proudly mouths lines like, “Dhokha swabhav hai mera (To con is my nature).”

So far, so good.

But what happens after this is nothing short of watching an opera by jazz performers. Disguised as the story of a hoodlum who aims to impress everyone with his rustic charm, Thugs Of Hindostan is actually a collage of clichéd sunset shots and plot twists that every second person in the cinema hall can anticipate.

It’s understandable why Aamir Khan chose to do this film though. Firangi’s is a role that must have shown him glimpses of brilliance. And he sure is the best of the lot, bringing quite a lot to the table. He understands the graph, the ups and downs and the trajectory that might have given Thugs Of Hindostan a satisfactory resolution, but the other principal characters totally fail him. One could argue that the absolute focus on Aamir’s ruffian has dimmed everyone else’s scope, however, that aside, Thugs Of Hindostan doesn’t offer anything new either. It is a bad rehash of films we have seen too many times.

And then there is a falcon hovering over all the time. At one point, ridiculous as it may sound, Aamir even starts talking to it. Had the film been stretched longer by even a couple of more minutes, the audience would have done the same. And this is when I haven’t even discussed how Fatima and Amitabh start singing lullabies in the middle of a battleground. Wait, did I mistakenly watch Kranti (1981) again? Or was it Khuda Gawah (1992)?

However, there is one character that shows a lot of promise when it lights up the screen for the first time—Katrina Kaif’s Suraiyya. She is an unapologetic courtesan who talks about her sex life and keeps slapping Firangi. There’s a hint of love between the two, but you already know why she is in the film—to dance. And so she enters, dances her heart out, invokes whistles and fades in the dark only to repeat the drill after a few minutes.

Essentially, Thugs Of Hindostan is all about Aamir’s antics. However, among the few who have some substance left for them is Amitabh Bachchan. But he is also the most exasperating of them all as he delivers dialogues like, “Ab iske pariwar ki zimmedari bhi hamari hai (Now, we have to take care of his family),” after slicing a mole’s epiglottis.

It would have done the film some good had the makers realised that making a film based in the early 19th century doesn’t necessarily mean that you use storytelling techniques as ancient.

For the first few minutes, you are taken into Firangi’s world. He would fill you up with personal anecdotes and thereafter you’re pretty much on your own, left to figure out whether information adds anything to the story. Sometimes it does, but mostly not.

Thugs Of Hindostan builds up a larger-than-life narrative and then loses ground. Just when you begin adjusting to one kind of tonality, it changes into another film. Holding a film together for 165-minutes is anyway a daunting task, but with the stellar star cast, it should have been nothing short of a spectacular party. But it isn’t.

Thugs Of Hindostan may satiate your need for entertainment this Diwali, but overall, it’s a solid case of great boast, little roast.

Rating: 2/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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2.0 - Movie Review

[Image: Pakshi.jpg]

Cast: Rajinikanth, Akshay Kumar, Amy Jackson
Director: S Shankar

We may not realise it but the nature and attitude of the sci-fi films has changed dramatically in last eight years, since Enthiran (2.0’s prequel) released. In all this time, we have seen quite a bit—the Transformers franchise lose its sheen and films on humanisation of AI-powered robots evolve (Ex Machina, Bladerunner 2049). Unfortunately, 2.0 is still stuck in a time-zone where robots deliver punchlines and act funny, that too unprovoked.

Director S Shankar’s 2.0 begins with a massive bird made up of smartphones killing network chiefs and corrupt ministers who gave the chiefs permission and power.

Turns out, it’s an ornithologist named Pakshirajan (Akshay Kumar)—who is also called Akshay Rajan at one place. He is on a revenge spree after the world doesn’t pay heed to his advice of saving birds. There is a long sequence that has him advocating for bird rights. It is probably the most thought-out part of a film otherwise bogged down by Rajinikanth’s superstardom and a thin storyline.

No points in guessing that Dr Vaseegaran (Rajinikanth) calls his rogue humanoid Chitti (also played by Rajinikanth) back from retirement to stop the evil birdman in a war, which sometimes appears as juvenile as Chhota Bheem fighting Kalia, except that it’s not meant to be that way.

Then there is Nila (Amy Jackson), another humanoid who literally donates her master control unit to Chitti. Talk of love stories in the modern world!

It all begins on a good note—fantastic 3D, probably the best in an Indian film till date, humour as popular in Tamil films and a distinct tone. You look for high points before reaching that one final noisy assault, which has the power to make or break a science fiction action film. However, you never get there as everything is served cold without much motivation or justification.

Moreover, the film is saddled with Rajinikanth’s legacy as he simply refuses to talk without delivering punch dialogues.

It is Akshay Kumar’s monster bird that excites to some extent. In fact, he does his best to balance a film that keeps giving extra attention to spectacles than its plot. By the climax, you are convinced that he is not going to win despite his best attempts. In spite at the cost of reliability, it is totally a Superstar Rajini show.

In the 150-minutes, 2.0 dedicates a major chunk in making Chitti fight Pakshiraja as Vaseegaran sits inside a van. The same visual keeps playing throughout the film to an extent that you want to get into the driver’s seat and collide into a tree.

Not that the film hasn’t been visualised well, but the final product is terribly repetitive. What made Enthiran endearing was the surprise quotient brought in by Chitti and how humans react to it. Plus, it was mostly a scientist versus scientist story before the big war. The new film follows a reverse trajectory and loses grip in the process.

Shankar’s film is a let-down. His characters haven’t evolved the way the world around them has. ​

Rating: 2/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Kedarnath - Movie Review

[Image: Kedarnath-Stills-2.jpg]

Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan
Director: Abhishek Kapoor

A pilgrimage to Kedarnath in June, 2013, turned out to be the last trip for thousands of people. One of the most devastating disasters of this decade left the world stunned and buried in immeasurable grief. Director Abhishek Kapoor (Rock On, Kai Po Che) chooses this historic catastrophe as the background of his latest film Kedarnath, and immediately faces the most obvious challenge—how to believably recreate the natural calamity in its entirety?

So he decides to tackle it late in the movie, and in the process, becomes heavily dependent on performances, making the build-up and the climax predictable.

In Kedarnath, Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput) is a porter (piththoo in Hindi). Well aware of the local geography and religious customs, he doesn’t refrain from shouting Lord Shiva’s name on top of his lungs. Though he believes his work is a way to serve the almighty, he doesn’t hide religious identity while at it.

Kullu (Nishant Dahiya) is the representative of the local priests. Hot-headed and young, he understands the social dynamics that is tilted in favour of the Hindus and wants to exploit it for more lucrative business opportunities. He gets heartbroken and vengeful after finding out about his fiancée Mukku’s (Sara Ali Khan) affair with Mansoor, knowing little about the nature’s plan for them all.

Tushar Kanti Ray’s breath-taking shots welcome the audience into Mansoor and Mukku’s world that’s all about sparkling rivers and shining mountain tops. While the contrast of green and silver soothes your eyes, Sara’s rebellious attitude catches your fancy. She is fierce, sharp tongued and in control of her surroundings. For a debutante, she appears confident.

On the other hand, Sushant eases us into noticing the societal layers and how he represents the generation that doesn’t put religious beliefs over everything else in life. He is natural, charming and nuanced. He isn’t your typical ‘hero’ who would flex muscles at the slightest provocation. He sometimes downplays emotions and that surprisingly serves the film.

Pooja Gor, who plays Sara’s elder sister, confronts Mansoor for courting her sister but fails to get any reply. He is well aware of his social conditions. Later, he breaks into tears while cleaning his horse. It’s a remarkable shift for small town leads whose primary trait so far has been nonchalant masculinity.

More than anyone or anything else, it is Sushant who brings out Abhishek Kapoor’s vision in Kedarnath as a lower-middle class Muslim boy in love with a Hindu priest’s daughter in one of the most revered pilgrimage points. His understated and layered performance adds gravitas to this predictable tale of brat girl-humble boy love story.

Though Sushant and Sara do their job, Abhishek Kapoor fails to add enough intensity to this love story. Kedarnath suffers from lack of distinct tonality and flat writing. Though the film is only 120-minutes long, it feels much longer. Even Amit Trivedi’s music fails to lift the film. The characteristic soulfulness in Kapoor and Trivedi’s last outing together—Fitoor—is missing here.

Kedarnath totally banks on its leads and they deliver. Sushant brings calm and Sara a breezy freshness to it. They give the film what its average VFX fails to—a purpose.

Kedarnath is watchable and strikes a chord when needed.

Rating: 3/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Zero - Movie Review

[Image: Zero-Teaser-5.jpg]

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma
Director: Anand L Rai

Bauaa Singh (Shah Rukh Khan), a vertically challenged 38-year-old man in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, likes to see himself as a cowboy in recurring dreams. Bauaa’s father Ashok is almost always the enemy in them. Bauaa shuts up Ashok while speaking French and flashing guns. Apparently, this is because of Bauaa’s subconsciously channelled anger towards his father—Bauaa blames Ashok for his short height. At one point, he says it has happened because his father chews ‘gutakha.’

This opening act shows promise and Shah Rukh seems he belongs in Anand L Rai’s (the man behind Tanu Weds Manu, Raanjhanaa) scheme of things—small town set-up, quirky dialogues, carefree attitude and a possibility of bizarre romances. Hope is a dangerous word as a scientist with cerebral palsy would later explain in the film. So, you hope this all goes in the right direction and the dust settles down to finally push Shah Rukh forward with a memorable character. Unfortunately, these are the only 10 minutes worth remembering in Zero, a film laden with flat jokes and ill-planned scenes.

And so begins a series of absurd encounters between Bauaa and the scientist, Aafia (Anushka Sharma). We are told she is half-Afghan, half-Punjabi, and has a never say die attitude. Her love story, for the lack of better word, with Bauaa involves another dimension—a broken film star Babita Kumari (Katrina Kaif). Bauaa manages to get in the good books of Babita only to be torn between the two. At least, this is what Rai’s intentions look like.

However, what transpires in reality is a different story altogether.

What could have been a terrific narrative about how people with special needs deal with societal pressure and conventional ignorance turns into a caricature of science and logic. You’ll see wheelchair-bound Aafia zooming forward on American roads while she could have taken a car or Babita staging a scene to make Bauaa realise his mistakes about love. The problem is that all of this takes place in seriousness—had it been projected as another gag, it would have been understandable, but no, you have to take them seriously, what else a romantic hero is supposed to do!

Himanhsu Sharma, the writer of the hilarious Tanu Weds Manu films, is completely out of form and doesn’t know how to tame the beast that grew bigger within minutes. Zero just keeps getting more inexplicable in the never-ending second half.

Then there is a talk about normal people, how they feel and how incomplete the characters of Zero are. Nobody seems to realise that the whole conflict of Zero was about feeling ‘normal’ and not differentiate on the basis of physical differences. But that’s Zero’s least of the problems.

Things escalate real quick—actually that’s the hallmark of Zero. Anything can happen anytime. In one moment, you’ll see a crowd of Bollywood actresses, including Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Sridevi, making fun of Bauaa at a party, and in the other, Salman Khan dancing with him on the stage. These 20 minutes kept especially aside for an Om Shanti Om style Bollywood parade, has no contribution what
soever in the film. It’s probably an afterthought to add more luster. By then, the audience already gives up on any new development.

Out of the 165-minutes duration, Shah Rukh uses a major chunk in walking with only ‘kachcha-baniyan’ on, and it can happen abruptly. He wouldn’t mind if it’s a NASA party or a private party, he would simply throw his clothes away while everybody else is dressed up. What do I say? To each his own.

Zero is a fantasy ride that ends up nowhere. From writing to direction and editing, everything has failed the project. If given a chance between Jab Harry Met Sejal and Zero, I would probably go for the former. Yes, it’s that uninspiring.

But you know what? The best was saved for the last. Anushka Sharma says, “Tu bhaaga nahi Bauee (You didn’t run away Bauaa)?” All I can do now is to blame it on occupational hazard, and you thought watching a Shah Rukh Khan film is always fun.

Rating: 1/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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The Accidental Prime Minister - Movie Review

[Image: Accidental-PM.jpg]

Cast: Anupam Kher, Akshaye Khanna
Director: Vijay Gutte

It is a universally acknowledged fact that as far as it concerns political biopics, Sir Richard Attenborough raised the bar exceptionally high with Gandhi, his ode to Mahatma Gandhi. And thus far, no political film from India has come close.

When the trailer of The Accidental Prime Minister first appeared, there was hope that we may finally have a credible political film that represented actual events with the cinematic flourish that it deserved. That the film, bases it on a memoir by Sanjaya Baru, senior editor and former media advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh, only fanned the perception.

Unfortunately, first time director Vijay Ratnakar Gutte’s shot at mounting a political drama showcasing the trials and tribulations of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, fails to rise beyond mundane minutiae. Its linear and sequential narrative does not help nor does the fact that all efforts in detailing --costume, make-up and styling are restricted to the key players-namely Akshaye Khanna (Sanjaya Baru), Anupam Kher (Manmohan Singh) and Suzanne Bernert (Sonia Gandhi). The discrepancy between the big three and other characters like Jairam Ramesh, Ahmad Patel (with wigs that best represent a bad hair day) –sticks out like a sore thumb.

Starring Anupam Kher in the title role, what The Accidental Prime Minister deserves credit for, is not skirting the issue of naming names of political heavyweights integral to the story.

It also allows a glimpse into the most enigmatic and possibly rather misunderstood Prime Ministers of our times.

In 2004, shortly after Singh was sworn in as the Prime Minister, he had an interaction with members of the Editor’s Guild of India for which I was present. After the routine political questions had been asked by various editors, I got an opportunity to slip in a question about his experience of being in the hot seat. To which Dr Singh replied with a mischievous smile, “Well, there is never a dull moment.”

There is a fleeting glimpse of that quiet sense of humour in the film. There is a lot more about Dr Singh’s hands being tied on most occasions preventing him from being a strong PM.

For the most part, it casts a cursory glance at the series of events since Singh took over as the PM in 2004 till 2014 when the UPA was voted out, but rarely goes beyond skimming the surface. A significant chunk of the film is dedicated to his interactions with Baru and Baru’s observations on the proceedings in the PMO.

Vijay Gutte, Mayank Tiwari, Aditya Sinha, and Karl Dunne’s narrative does not delve too deeply on Dr Singh’s perennial dilemma of “To be or not to be”. Cinema allows characters to look inward and juxtapose it against external circumstances, establishing unique binaries, something that is, unfortunately, missing in The Accidental Prime Minister.

Of course, it is Anupam Kher’s transformation into Dr Singh that stands out in the film. He certainly looks the part-- altering his voice as also the walk, which is something of an uncertain glide. His hand movements resemble that of a puppet and if it is political symbolism the Gutte is attempting, it’s effectively conveyed.

Unfortunately, despite his stellar efforts, the script offers little scope for the actor to go beyond impersonation. As far as actors are concerned, all biopics involve impersonation but the truly remarkable ones leave room for actors to bring their own interpretation or style to the characters. In a film that settles for broad strokes instead of nuance, the odds are already stacked against a memorable performance.

Akshaye Khanna plays Sanjaya Baru, Singh’s media advisor till 2008, speaking to the audience (quite like Kevin Spacey’s Francis Underwood) about the world of politics plays the narrator smoothly. Suzanne Bernert as Congress President Sonia Gandhi bears a striking resemblance to the real-life Mrs G but is not given enough screen time to establish her character.

Unfortunately, despite all the good intent, The Accidental Prime Minister, quite like its protagonist, fails to deliver on the promise.

Rating: 2.5/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Uri - Movie Review

[Image: uri.jpg]

Cast: Vicky Kaushal, Mohit Raina, Yami Gautam
Director: Aditya Dhar

We meet a very motivated major Vihaan Singh Shergill (Vicky Kaushal) in the beginning who leads a covert operation across the Myanmar border. He is much loved in his unit and thus his decision to get back to a relatively peaceful life in Delhi headquarters surprises many. We, of course, know that he will be back in the game soon, and the retaliation plan of Uri attacks gives him exactly the chance he was looking for.

Director Aditya Dhar has no confusion about the tonality of Uri. It’s a revenge film from the word go. High-end artillery, choppers and night vision goggles, you discover many new techniques of modern warfare within ten minutes. There are gun battles, hand to hand combat scenes and precisely planned drones. Dhar successfully amuses us and keeps engaged. It’s probably the best result any director can expect from a film based on real life events until you’re still looking for proofs.

You also realise how differently Uri has been shot. Shaky handheld camera takes you inside the battle ground and lets you remain there long enough to comprehend the true nature of the dangers a soldier faces. Absence of slow motion shots restrict the characters from becoming larger than life. This is the point where Uri strikes a connection with the audience beyond certain limits.

Then it falters. It deviates to inducing drama. This strategy gives the viewers a chance to focus on possibilities that new characters could bring. Thankfully, it goes back to the original idea in time.

It’s one man show and he understands the delicacy of his character. He can’t go over the top but also has to channel all the right emotions. Here’s an army personnel who is as vulnerable as any of us but is willing to risk everything he has got for a reason that’s deeply personal yet related to all of us. Vicky Kaushal has hit all the right notes, to say the least. Grim yet determined, he charges with vigor. Uri totally belongs to him.

Though you’ll meet Paresh Rawal as Govind, an Ajit Doval lookalike and Rajit Kapur as the Indian Prime Minister, it never presents a lopsided view. A retribution plan can have many parties and they’re just that—partners in a programme led by Kaushal.

Uri The Surgical Strike has many exciting moments. Don’t be surprised if you hear whistles all around when Indian paratroopers blast terrorist camps inside Pakistan.

Rating: 3/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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Why Cheat India - Movie Review

[Image: Cheat-India-2.jpg]

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Snighdhadeep Chatterjee
Director: Soumik Sen

The film starring Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary and Snighdhadeep Chatterjee takes up a subject that is novel and immediately strikes a chord with practically anyone in India who has appeared for competitive exams.

As we all know, India is a country where clearing and scoring in competitive entrance exams of one or the other institute is the ultimate litmus test of a person’s worth. For many youngsters, it is the only shot at a decent life, so it is no surprise to see students buckle under pressure and take extreme steps.

Set in Lucknow, Why Cheat India is based on several real-life incidents culled from news reports about the rampant exam-cheating across India. The film gives us Rakesh or Rocky Singh (Emraan Hashmi), an education-shark who preys upon the insecurities of students under pressure and makes exam centers his happy hunting ground. It is also here that he finds his young recruits that are the foundation of an impressive evil empire. Rakesh, a medical entrance exam reject-turned-entrepreneur thus avenges his failure by loading the dice against a faulty system. The film attempts to hold a mirror to how deep the rot has set in and tries very hard to make a searing commentary on the state of education and lack of opportunities in the country. Also, the film aims to showcase India’s entrepreneurial reality at the ground level.

Rakesh tables questions that could well be one that several Indian students incredulously ask themselves, but have no answer to—how can one entrance exam determine their merit as students? What if they don’t clear the entrance exam?

The film’s other protagonist is Satyendra ‘Sattu’ Dubey ( Snighdadeep Chatterjee), one of the many youngsters on whom is pinned his family’s hope for a secure future. Sent to Kota, the IIT clearance capital of India for coaching Sattu is one among thousands of aspirants for whom clearing the entrance exam for top league engineering college is a ticket to heaven. A voiceover fills you in on Sattu’s background –he is the chosen one, being prepared to pay off the education loan his father has taken. And of course, there is a sister to be married off too. The stage is set. A young and impressionable Sattu clears the exams and at least briefly, becomes a local hero. But Rocky has other plans for him.

Unfortunately, though Director Soumik Sen, who’s also the writer of the film, does better than his last film Gulab Gang, he fails to turn all this wonderful material into a compelling film. Why Cheat India’s Achilles heel is its inability to infuse a powerful premise with the dramatic heft it required.

Unfortunately, the script does not rise above the research points and the writing is clumsy in parts. More often than not, there are easy and simplistic resolutions to tricky situations. The screenplay attempts to go in many directions and ends up going it goes nowhere. While trying to make the film something of a commercial potboiler and satire, Why Cheat India falls between the two stools it tries to stand upon.

This was also a story that allowed for a range of interesting and nuanced characters to perhaps bring in a breath of fresh air to the film and help add gravitas. But, most characters in the film like the upright cop, the politician, the touts are the stock characters we see in most Hindi films. For a commercial film, the dialogues are weak and you barely notice them.

In the acting department, Hashmi who can display angst and humour with a poker-faced indifference is convincing in the role of Rakesh who is shaken but never stirred. Shreya Dhanwanthary as Sattu’s sister Nupur holds her own and Chatterjee as a fresh-faced student, turns in a credible performance.

The producers, clearly have a knack of picking on interesting and intriguing subjects –their last venture Neerja and Tumhari Sulu were outstanding films but this one- alas, just about makes the grade.

However, because the film’s heart is in the right place and its observations astute, Why Cheat India is worth a watch.

Rating 3/5

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Gully Boy - Movie Review

[Image: Gully-Boy-Feature.jpg]

Director: Zoya Akhtar
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz

That Zoya Akhtar is a fine director with a flair for sensitive storytelling has been common knowledge for a while now but equally, she has always been perceived as one enamoured with tales of the elite and their charmed lives. Well, her new film --Gully Boy, is set to challenge and change that perception.

Akhtar spins an inspirational story from the dark reality of underground rappers Divine and Naezy.

That art and artistic talent can come from misery and darkness of Dharavi—Asia’s largest slum –is uplifting. There have been enough films dedicated to the rise of gangsters from urban ghettos but to see youngsters fuel their creative dreams with teenage angst is reassuring to a society constantly at war with itself. Apna Time Ayega with lyrics by Divine and Ankur Tewari is sheer brilliance in the way it captures young India’s dreams and aspirations and is picturised with equal finesse.

Good and powerful storytelling often opens one's eyes to new experiences, exposes one to different worlds and Gully Boy does precisely that. Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s writing is nothing short of marvelous. Vijay Maurya packs in the punch with his dialogues, which are not verbose, but land smoothly.

Ranveer Singh’s Murad is intense, endearing and sensitive. Singh doesn’t miss a beat in the film alternating between rebellious and reticent with a felicity that we have come to expect from him. As Murad, Singh, even without the excesses of his Khilji or Simmba, is both sincere and riveting. The son of a driver (Vijay Raaz) and Razia (Amruta Subhash), Murad, confined within the narrow squalid tenements, where every square inch is put to good use, struggles to spread his wings and fly. Should reality determine the size of one’s dreams is a question that would resonate with everyone and one that Murad keeps pondering. He eventually finds his deliverance in music. It truly sets him free.

Every actor even in minor parts is pitch perfect be it Vijay Verma, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raaz, Amruta Subhash or Sheeba Chaddha. Siddhant Chaturvedi is quite a find and an actor to watch out for. Alia Bhatt gets a smaller part but she remains an audience favourite. The cheering and laughter that greeted her repartees were telling. Bhatt’s smart pick of films is certainly holding her in good stead. But this film belongs to Singh for making Gully Boy come alive.

The technical side to film quite evidently, goes beyond the brief- sound design of the film is noteworthy as is Nitin Baid’s editing that helps the story go back and forth with its music sequences. The pacing of the story is also good. Kagti and Akhtar let scenes breathe and their import sink in, but just about. The narrative never feels rushed or excessively languorous.

Several times Bollywood films based on music don’t get their music right but Gully Boy has an impressive track. Dedicated to a single genre, it serves both as dialogues as well as narrative voice, never ho-hum. It throbs with rebellious energy compelling the audience to sing along, echoing the sentiment, making them at one with Murad.

Predictably, the response to Gully Boy so far at Berlin International Film Festival and on home turf has been rousing. With its evocative true-life story, it could well be the best modern fairytale film to come out of Mumbai.

Rating: 4.5/5

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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