JUDWAA 2 – Who said remakes cannot be fun

I mean they’re making remakes of my films and I am not even dead yet – Norman Jewison

 

INTRO

 

#TWINDRAGONS, a little known film of Chinese actor #JackieChan released in the year 1992 to a lukewarm response and that would have been the end of the story but for a filmmaker from Tollywood aka Telugu film industry who felt that the story of two identical twins had potential. He was right. The rehash, HELLO BROTHER which starred Telugu matinee idol #Nagarjuna smashed all box office records. Not to be left behind Bollywood came up with it’s own version simply titled JUDWAA. Starring Salman ‘Bhai’ Khan in a rare double role it also raked in the moolah. That was 1997. Now a full two decades later the same makers (producer #SajidNadiadwala & director #DavidDhawan) deem it fit to come up with (yet) another remake – JUDWAA 2.

 

STORY

 

Nothing new here. Two identical twins (Raja & Prem) separated at birth grow up living different lives. So you have Mister suave who has lived abroad all his life and the other is a #Tapori (Mumbaiyya slang for Slumdog) Till one fine day they accidentally end up swapping places and all hell breaks loose.

 

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

 

Over the last decade brothers and writers #Sajid-Farhad have built a reputation as the go-to men when it comes to penning comedies so much so that makers like Rohit Shetty (the #GOLMAAL franchisee) and Sajid Khan (the #HOUSEFULL franchisee) swear by them. And while watching JUDWAA 2 it is not difficult to see why. Even if you are a Bhai fan and might crib that Varun Dhawan is nowhere in comparison ten minutes into the film you will actually find yourself chuckling. And at slightly less than 150 minutes JUDWAA 2 is a breeze to sit through.

 

TECHNICAL CREDITS

 

That director David Dhawan is an ace editor has always been an added advantage and it is no different with JUDWAA 2. Though the credits do mention Ritesh Soni the stamp of David all over is unmistakable. DOP Ayananka Bose’s pleasing work shows that David has grown as a technician. And like all Nadiadwala productions this one is lavishly mounted. The soundtrack credited to Sajid-Wajid uses a couple of tunesĀ  from the 1997 film which is a good thing. One wishes they had used ‘East or West India is the Best’ which was a personal favorite back then.

 

PERFORMANCES

 

Like it’s predecessor JUDWAA 2 has several comic actors (Anupam Kher, Johnny Lever, Upasana Singh, Rajpal Yadav, Ali Asgar) but none of them really leaves a lasting impact and they are all strictly average. But it is a little disappointing to see the very talented Pawan Malhotra in a role that could have been essayed by any lesser actor. Those who have seen the earlier JUDWAA would know that the heroines had precious little to do and so it is with this one too. All through the film Jacqueline Fernandes seems to not know whether she is coming or going.

The very talented #TaapseePannu who wowed one and all with her bravura act in PINK makes the transition to what is a hardcore commercial film seamlessly. From wearing itsy-bitsy bikinis to full-on jhatka-matkas she does it all unflinchingly (After all the temptation to go through the motions must have been immense) Proving that a good actor is a good actor is a good actor. #VarunDhawan is the star of this enterprise. He knows it and revels in it. Though his father David would like to think that his son is #SalmanKhan & #Govinda rolled into one that is hardly the case. He is even all right in the role of the street smart ‘tapori’ but brings nothing to the other role. Yes he is very comfortable in front of the camera with all the trappings of a star not necessarily a good actor.

 

DIRECTION

 

David Dhawan has been the ‘King of Comedy’ when it comes to directors in apna Bollywood and his association with actor Govinda (they have done a mindboggling 17 films together) is the stuff of legend. Sadly with the actor’s career nosediving in the last decade David has also struggled. Not surprising then that his last big hit, #PARTNER was a decade ago. With his favorite actor, Govinda (who else) Hopefully with JUDWAA 2 this talented director has found his ‘mojo’ again. With son in tow. This is not nearly his best but the (imminent) success of this film might just do the trick.

 

VERDICT

 

#JUDWAA2 is designed to be a full-on timepass film and to that extent it succeeds. This low brow comedy will not appeal to the discerning audience but it never was meant for them anyway. You will smile a lot throughout and occasionally break into a laughter even. Expecting anything more is foolhardy. This one is a sure shot for the 100 crore club.

 

RATING

2.5/5

 

Is Dravidian politics on the verge of a tectonic shift?

Last week, actor & filmmaker #KamalHassan created a flutter in political circles (and outside it) by making his intentions of getting into politics, presumably on a full time basis. That he chose to specially meet with #DelhiCM #ArvindKejriwal and bonded over their common peeve, that of corruption made things so much more dramatic. After all his colleague and fellow actor #Rajnikanth had only gone public a month ago with his own announcement of taking the political plunge. The grapevine had suggested that since Rajnikanth was close friends with #RSS idealogue #Gurumurthy he would join the saffron fold. With Kamal Hassan seemingly evincing interest in what is considered the other end of the political spectrum the stage is set for a mouthwatering contest. Between two of the biggest matinee idols of #TamilCinema. The kind that any scriptwriter would be proud of.

It all began with the unexpected demise of CM #Jayalalitha in December of last year. The actor turned politician had been a dominant force in Tamil Nadu politics for almost three decades. Affectionately referred to as #Amma (Tamil for mother) Jayalalitha served a staggering six terms in this period as the Chief Minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu. What makes this state different from all the others is that since the 1960s only two parties have ruled the roost here, #DMK and #AIADMK (the one which Amma was heading) Neither the Grand Old Party of India, #Congress nor the right leaning BJP or even the communist parties of India have been able to gain a foothold here. That Jayalalitha’s death coincided with the fading away (due to old age) of DMK’s tallest leader #Karunanidhi from the limelight has left a huge political lacuna right at the top.

Strangely enough for someone who was thought of as politically astute, Jayalalitha never groomed anybody to be her successor. As a result post her death there was bickering among senior AIADMK members regarding the person who should replace her. Similarly in the rival camp (read DMK) Karunanidhi’s son #Stalin has been unable to inspire confidence both within the party and among supporters. Which is why for the first time in almost half a century the people of the state are looking beyond the two parties and at the possibility of a #ThirdFront emerging. Clearly #Dravidian politics is at a crossroads and the two southern superstars sense it too. After all rumors of Rajnikanth entering the political arena have been going around for several years now.

A brief look at their long, distinguised careers will tell one that though both the actors command a huge fan following of their own they have chosen (and willingly) to chart different paths. Rajni has always held sway over the masses whilst Kamal has been preferred by the discerning audiences. One only has to look at the former’s choice of roles from the last many years to understand that there has been a political subtext in them. But always. So while the entry of Rajnikanth is more or less on expected lines it is the possibility of his compatriot Kamal Hassan joining the party that has proved to be the proverbial twist in the tale. And what better place than Tamil Nadu? After all this is the same state that has had no less than three Chief Ministers who were all from the film industry.

There are several questions that remain unanswered. Will the duo join hands with any of the national parties or decide to go it all alone? Can their on screen persona translate into electoral dividends off it? Is there a chance (however remote) of them both coming together and forming a new party? Perhaps we will have more clarity on all this in the forthcoming weeks. One thing is for sure. The addition of these two tinseltown demigods to the mix will have massive implications, nationwide. Expect fireworks.

The Blue Whale Challenge – Here is clear and present danger

When no one can hear you, what are you screaming for?
We can be silent, we can sing
Stay or run away, but we still we burn
A big blue whale can’t break the chain

These innocuous sounding lines are from a song called #Burn, composed by Russian alternative rock band #Lumen. Rumors abound that this very song was behind the name #BlueWhale given to an online game that has been linked to the mysterious death of several teenagers around the world. In fact reports suggest(unconfirmed) that in #Russia alone about 130 young boys and girls who took up the Blue Whale Challenge have tragically ended their lives. Last summer these reports first appeared in the Russian investigative newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

It was while trying to understand the alarming number of child suicides (for the record about 1500 teenagers all between the age group of 14 to 18-19 commit suicide in Russia every year) all unrelated that #NovayaGazeta inadvertently learnt about this diabolic online game. There had been whispers for long. Several support groups, local communities and journalists had been alleging that on popular social networking sites like #VKontakte (Russia’s very own #Facebook) there existed these closed groups, even murderous cults and pro-suicide groups that were known simply as ‘Groups of Death’

The Blue Whale Challenge requires a participant to perform certain tasks which are assigned to them by administrators (referred to as #Curators) and post pictures/videos to ascertain that these have been completed. Thus begins a conditioning of young, impressionable minds by getting them to watch #Psychedelic videos, depriving them of sleep (thus disorienting their senses) and increasingly cutting them off from the world at large. #SelfHarm in case tasks are not completed is encouraged and slowly the image of a Blue Whale is reinforced on the subconscious.

Why a Blue Whale, you ask? Well it is due to the strange phenomenon of this species tending to swim ashore (called #Beaching) and thereby killing itself. Somewhere the perverse minds behind this game decided that since killing oneself was the final aim (read task) of this game this name was apt. Before long the Blue Whale Challenge spread it’s tentacles all over the world with reports of teenagers killing themselves in similar circumstances (jumping off roofs, stepping in front of trains) pouring in. But when renowned fact checking (and rumor busting) site, #Snopes tried to get to the bottom of this here is what they found. Precious nothing.

Firstly there is no clarity about how kids (now worldwide) are able to get access to these groups. For there surely is no such App that is available to download and play. Some say that you simply update your status with relevant hashtags(like #F57 which is supposedly the group that started all this) and ‘someone’ will get in touch with you themselves. Sure sounds creepy but highly implausible too. In the middle of all this melee one suddenly heard that a 22 year old psychology student in Russia, who confessed that he was indeed the inventor of the Blue Whale Challenge, had been apprehended by authorities. All of this news sounding very murky and incredible.

In the end as we debate whether the #BlueWhaleChallenge actually exists or if it is all mere hoax it sure serves a wake up call. For adults and parents around the world to take notice of the dangers that lurk on the internet. And to ensure that their wards get due love, care and attention. So that they do not spend an unhealthy number of hours with virtual strangers. And have a normal childhood like we did. That is not asking for too much, is it?

NEWTON – This dance of democracy is mesmerising

The ballot is stronger than the bullet – Abraham Lincoln

INTRO

Politics lends itself well to #Satire and that some of the best black comedies, like Charlie Chaplin’s #TheGreatDictator, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb were all rooted in politics is only further proof of the same. In apna Bollywood such films are few and far in between partly because successive regimes have been less tolerant of such films. After all it has been over three decades since that rare gem called JAANE BHI DO YAARON released. But in the last few years films like #AnushaRizvi’s PEEPLI LIVE, Sourabh Srivastava’s OH MY GOD and #SubhashKapoor’s JOLLY LLB have shown that things are changing. In that sense Amit Masurakar’s #NEWTON could not have released at a better time.

STORY

A story is something of a rarity in most Bollywood fillums. But this one actually has one. Newton is the story of this honest (to a fault) guy called Nutan Kumar (Rajkumar Rao) who along with his two colleagues is given the risky assignment of presiding over polls in the Dandakaranya forests. The job is risky because the area is #Naxal dominated. What happens on election day is what NEWTON is all about.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

NEWTON is penned by the director himself along with writer Mayank Tewari (the lead actor with dishevelled hair who spouts the ‘Ganja Mangoge Coke Denge, Rishwat Mangoge Thok Denge’ line in Masurkar’s debut slacker film, SULEMANI KEEDA) Tewari is there in this one too but in a blink-and-you-miss role as a scribe. The best part about the writing here is that NEWTON touches upon several issues (democracy, the Naxal problem, woman empowerment, conditions of tribals) all at once but without ever feeling the need to hammer home the point (which was the case with PEEPLI LIVE) At one point during the film, Rajkumar’s character asks a polling booth officer whether she is a NIRASHAVADI (meaning pessimist) To which her terse reply is ‘Main Adivasi Hoon’ That one line sums up NEWTON. And at less than two hours (109 mins) the film has no flab that it needs to shed.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

There are no songs in NEWTON really but for the inspiring ‘Chal Tu Apna Kaam Kar’ that appears towards the end and it really does give one goosebumps. The background score by Benedict Taylor is minimal and is in keeping with the subtle style of narration that the film has. The DOP #SwapnilSonawane seems to have a thing for films that are ‘hatke’ what with his other film being the 2015 feminist fillum ANGRY INDIAN GODDESSES. Though the temptation to use the vast forests of #Dandakaranya as a character in itself must have been immense, in keeping with the ‘less is more’ ethos of NEWTON Sonawane refrains from getting self indulgent. Special mention must be made of Shweta Venkat Mathew (of GANGS OF WASSEYPUR fame) whose crisp editing ensures that NEWTON never slips into docu-feature mode. And one cannot praise enough #DrishyamFilms who have consistently backed quality independent films like AANKHON DEKHI, MASAAN, DHANAK and now NEWTON.

PERFORMANCES

In it’s scope, style and canvas NEWTON bears a slight resemblance to the #AamirKhan production PEEPLI LIVE and Amit Masurkar acknowledges this by casting the lead actor of that film Omkar Das Manikpuri in a minor role (he even has a funny scene where he tries to pitch network marketing to the character of Rajkumar Rao) But it is the other actor from that very film, #RaghuvirYadav who shines in the role of Loknath who has done his masters in Hindi but regrets not having learnt English. The scene where he has to attend to nature’s call in the forests is quite superb. #PankajTripathi follows his superb act in BAREILLY KI BARFI a few weeks ago with the role of CO Aatma Singh here. His role is in ways the anti thesis of everything that Rajkumar’s character stands for. He is manipuplative, shrewd and will circumvent rules just so that he has his way. Sanjay Mishra is so good in a delightful cameo that one actually wishes there was more of him.

#AnjaliPatil who has won praise on the international circuit for some of her previous work sinks her teeth into the role of a school teacher who hails from the local community. Whether it is while acting as the go-between for the villagers and Rajkumar Rao or while admonishing the hero for being unaware of the ground realities she is in ways the moral compass of NEWTON. For some strange reason #RajkumarRao in the role of Newton (a name that he confesses choosing only to avoid ridicule) kept reminding one of what is arguably Hrishida’s finest film SATYAKAM. And more specifically of Dharmendra’s character in the film. Like in that film Rajkumar Rao is an idealist but not without flaws of his own. (What Sanjay Mishra quite interestingly terms ‘Imaandari ka Ghamand’) And it is this very arrogance that almost gets him killed in the tense climax. With this role Rajkumar Rao again reaffirms that he is the best thing to have happened to Hindi cinema in recent years.

DIRECTION

#AmitMasurkar who made his debut four years ago with the part-silly-part-funny SULEMANI KEEDA has upped his craft a few notches with this second film #NEWTON. He deals with a subject as tricky as that of the Naxal problem with rare maturity and never allows the film to become too grim. In fact there are several scenes in NEWTON where one laughed out loud only to become quiet realising how hapless the situation is (for the characters involved) Now that is an emotion that one has rarely experienced at the movies, certainly not in a Hindi film. And just for that one doffs one’s hat off to Masurkar.

VERDICT

2017 has been the year of small films. Films shorn of stars, hype, hoopla and songs. Films that actually boast of memorable characters, great writing and solid acting. NEWTON exemplifies all this and more. One fervently hopes that it reaches it’s target audience. Not really for the sake of the producer or the director but for those wanting to see good cinema come out of Bollywood. And NEWTON is clearly the best film one has seen so far this year.

RATING

4/5

 

Mubarakan – And how Singh is still King

There’s nothing more demonic than two bored twins

– Signed Tamaki

INTRO

Almost all Bollywood films revolving around identical twins take inspiration from two seminal works. Alexander Dumas’s Corsican Brothers and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Incidentally the Bard himself had twins in real life. And be it #DilipKumar (RAM AUR SHYAM) #DevAnand (HUM DONO) #SanjeevKumar (ANGOOR) #RajeshKhanna (ARADHANA) or #AmitabhBachchan (DON) they have all done these roles. The leading ladies are not too far behind either. From #Nargis (ANHONEE) to #SharmilaTagore (MAUSAM) #HemaMalini (SEETA AUR GEETA) and #Sridevi (CHAALBAAZ) to the recent #KanganaRanaut (TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS) playing two roles is a temptation they clearly cannot resist. Films with mistaken identity as the theme are generally considered a safe bet as long as they are written well. Writer & director #AneesBazmee is another filmmaker to try his hand at this genre with his latest offering, MUBAKARAN. Will it sink or swim?

STORY

Karan & Charan (Arjun Kapoor) are twins who lose their parents at a young age. Their uncle Kartar Singh (#AnilKapoor) decides that one should grow with a sister (#RatnaPathakShah) in London while another grows in sadda Punjab with a brother (#PavanMalhotra) Don’t ask why though. Cut to when they grow old enough to be married. Their uncle messes up things (One has a pagdi and yet confusion reigns. Don’t ask how) by getting the boys engaged to the wrong girl. From which point all hell breaks loose.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Marriage is a recurring theme in all the recent films of Anees Bazmee (NO ENTRY, WELCOME, SINGH IS KING). And #Mubarakan is no exception. And if you have suffered the ignominy of watching his previous films there is actually a set formula to the madness. Though one cannot quite understand why Bazmee who is no lesser writer of slapstick himself(SHOLA AUR SHABNAM, BOL RADHA BOL, AANKHEN, RAJA BABU, DEEWANA MASTANA) has left the writing to others. Having said that relatively unknown Balwinder Singh Janjua who is credited with both the story & screenplay (23 March 1931:SHAHEED,AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYO ?) and dialogue writer #RajeshChawla (DELHI HEIGHTS, WARNING, SHARAFAT GAYI TEL LENE ??) seem to work well under Bazmee’s tutelage. The scene in which all three Kapoors come together (Sanjay Kapoor as the ghost in a friendly appearance) is inspired writing. And though the film is over two and a half hours long it has enough to keep the masses entertained. There are too many songs (almost all of which are loud, garish and strictly average) and like most films of Bazmee the wheels start to come off by the time the film stumbles it’s way to a botched up climax.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Like in most slapstick comedies the music of MUBARAKAN by Amaal Malik, Rishi Rich & Gourov-Roshin is passable (but only just) The background score that goes from loud & louder to are you nuts? (Sorry Michael Jackson) can be jarring to begin with but after a while your ears gets adjusted to the noise. The DOP Himman Dhamija (I,ME AUR MAIN, CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA, DAWAAT-E-ISHQ ???) does what is expected of him – make every frame as bright & larger than life as possible. Veteran editor Rameshwar Bhagat (SULTAN, BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, DHOOM 2) does a good job of keeping a tight lid on things, especially in the pre interval portions.

PERFORMANCES

One thing that Bazmee knows is the value of good actors and however inane his films might be the one thing that salvages them and makes these farcical comedies bearable are the actors. MUBARAKAN is no different. Where Ratna Pathak Shah does what is expected of her as the sophisticated caretaker aunt of the London bred Arjun, Pavan Malhotra hams away to glory as the uncle bringing up the Punjabi Arjun. Rahul ‘The Body’ Dev is wasted in a silly special appearance. Of the three heroines #NehaSharma is strictly average. #AthiyaShetty clearly has inherited her father’s acting genes and is as wooden as wood itself. Ileana who has a meatier role is somewhat better.

Arjun Kapoor has already done a dud called AURANGZEB where he played two roles before. Bazmee saves him the blushes here by giving a ‘pagdi’ to one of the twins. Here is a non actor who has neither the acting chops nor the looks that his uncle had and still does. And his weight issues show that he does not have the discipline either. But hey this is Bollywood where blood is thicker than talent. As expected all the heavy lifting in MUBARAKAN is done by the ageless wonder Anil Kapoor. If you have seen him in Bazmee’s previous ventures like NO ENTRY & WELCOME you know exactly what to expect. And that is exactly what you will get in MUBARAKAN. A jhakaaass performance.

DIRECTION

Anees Bazmee has been doing #Slapstick for so long and been making a success of it that one should probably anoint him the ‘Master of the Absurd’ To his credit he knows his audience and sticks to what he is good at. Making life very uncomplicated for himself and those watching his films. And with MUBARAKAN he again scores. The first half itself has enough punches to do the needful. Though he falters in the second half he uses his trump card (read Anil Kapoor) well to keep the viewer hooked.

VERDICT

MUBARAKAN is not for those who like to ask stupid questions about the absence of logic in the film. Nor is it for those who ask smart questions about the stereotyping of a race like the Punjabis. In fact MUBARAKAN is not for those who ask any questions. If you can resist the temptation to do so you might actually find yourself breaking into a smile every now & then. This one is sure to rake in the moolah and knowing Bazmee that can only mean one thing. A sequel.

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha – Bollywood succumbs to political propoganda

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

– M.K.Gandhi

INTRO

For the last couple of years the going has been good for the ‘Khiladi’ Akshay Kumar in Bollywood. His choice of films (AIRLIFT, RUSTOM, JOLLY LLB2, BABY) have found resonance with the masses and the discerning (to a lesser extent) even garnering him his first National award. That it has created it’s own share of controversy is another matter. With his latest venture TOILET: EK PREM KATHA he joins hands with ace editor Sree Narayan Singh on a subject of great importance to our country. #OpenDefecation. Understandably expectations are high. Does the film meet them? Read on.

STORY

36 year old cycle shop owner Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is desperate to settle down (read get married) but his extremely orthodox family headed by the patriarch, Keshav’s father (Sudhir Pandey) and their age old beliefs are a big hindrance. As luck would have it he falls in love with Jaya (Bhoomi Pednekar) a fairly well educated girl from a neighbouring village and woos her in typical Bollywood style. But their joy is short lived for soon Jaya discovers that her husband’s home does not have a toilet. The young bride gives Keshav an ultimatum – Biwi paas chahiye toh ghar me sandaas chahiye and leaves his house. How Keshav brings her back forms the rest of the narrative.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

The writer duo of Siddharth Singh & Garima Wahal whose claim to fame is the work that they have done for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s hit ventures (GOLIYON KI RAASLEELA RAM-LEELA & BAJIRAO MASTANI) have written this film. Frankly a subject as complex as this required deft handling which is clearly missing. Also that the film unabashedly pays an ode to the beloved #SwachBharatAbhiyaan campaign of our Prime Minister is annoying. Not only is it preachy but seeks to put the onus of tackling this problem on us, the people. There are parts which are actually well done but at over 150 minutes of running time the film seems too long and has too many songs that could have been chopped off.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

The music of #ToiletEkPremKatha is scored by Vickey Prasad, Manas-Shikhar, Sachet-Parampara all newbies and inspite of a couple of them being rendered with great earnestness by singer Sonu Nigam they are far from impressive. At best they are average and that is about it. The DOP Anshuman Mahaley who showed great promise in Jolly LLB, GIPPI is all right here. Shree Narayan Singh who is an ace editor himself gets a tad self indulgent with his directorial debut.

PERFORMANCES

The film is salvaged to a great extent by it’s performances. Veteran actor Sudhir Pandey is excellent as the regressive minded patriarch who is outraged at the very thought of having a toilet in the same vicinity as the #Tulsi plant (that is worshipped by Hindus) Divyendu Sharma who showed some promise in his debut film #PYAARKAPUNCHNAMA is very likeable as Akshay Kumar’s younger brother here. Another person who lives up to the promise of her first film is actress #BhumiPednekar. Having lost loads of weight and looking quite fetching she is very good as a wife who is unafraid to speak the truth.

The role of Keshav is tailor made for actor #AkshayKumar who exudes just the right amount of sincerity that is required to pull it off. His choice of roles (of late) which seem to suffer from a overdose of patriotism makes one fear he might just be reduced to becoming a poster boy of the current government and TOILET: EK PREM KATHA only reinforces this. One only hopes that the Khiladi Kumar does not yield to this and spoil what is clearly the best phase of his acting career.

DIRECTION

Considering that this film is the directorial debut of editor Shree Narayan Singh it is a laudable effort. He has been able to extract good work from his actors and the film does have an important message. What is not laudable but rather worrying is how he has left himself and the film be used as a vehicle to wax eloquent about the present government. There is no attempt to delve deeper into issues like #Casteism in the Hindu community or the shocking practice of #HumanScavenging. Instead a wishy washy solution is provided and the government is absolved of any wrongdoings. Worse the film even sings paeans to #Demonetisation which is hard to digest. And if this film makes big bucks at the box office which seems very likely it might just set an unhealthy trend.

VERDICT

In the end TOILET:EK PREM KATHA is an all right one time watch with enough moments to keep the masses entertained. And it is sure to rake in the moolah. For those expecting a satire or a black comedy (on the lines of a JAANE BHI DO YAARON) this one will disappoint.

Will the real Nitish Kumar please stand up?

The year was #2000 and it was on March 10th that the #BiharAssembly witnessed unprecedented scenes when Nitish Kumar the CM of a seven day old government put in his papers on the floor of the house. His minority government had been given a week by a generous Governor to cobble up numbers, which in Indian politics means just one thing – horse trading. But Nitish being Nitish did nothing of the sort in the bargain clinching the high moral ground. Cut to 2017. Something equally dramatic happened a few days ago when the same Nitish Kumar once again resigned from the post of CM. But this time circumstances were totally different. Nitish’s government in alliance with the man, who was his bete noire for most of his political career, #LalooPrasadYadav was in a majority. Before one could fully grasp the implications of this move came another salvo from Nitish. Within 24 hours he became the CM again. But this time with support from the opposition party, BJP. It was a double whammy.

In the year 1956 the then railway minister (and future Prime Minister) #LalBahadurShastri resigned after a tragic train accident in Tamil Nadu claimed over 140 lives. In the 70 years of independent India there have been several such unfortunate incidents and yet, of all the 43 ministers who have handled the #Railway ministry in this period only one another person resigned taking moral responsibility. No prizes for guessing who that was. In 1999 a ghastly train accident in Assam led to over 290 deaths and #NitishKumar promptly put in his papers. The loss was entirely of the railway ministry for while in charge of affairs Nitish had brought in some pathbreaking reforms. It was he who ushered in the era of railway ticketing over the internet. And who can forget his masterstroke, the #TatkalScheme which allows passengers to book train tickets at a short notice.

For 15 years (from 1990-2005) Bihar was in the grip of what observers liked to call the #JungleRaj where the ruling party #RJD was alleged to be corrupt to the hilt with the CM himself being accused of several scams. So much so that in this period kidnapping had become like an industry in itself. Nitish inherited what was a state in terminal sickness. The son of a freedom fighter, an engineering graduate and a product of the #JPMovement, Nitish took up the challenge and over the next decade changed the face of Bihar. From cracking down mercilessly on criminals to sprucing up primary health care centers throughout the state, electrification in villages, building roads and encouraging literacy in women he did it all. Of course his proudest achievements were in the education sector. Getting hundreds and thousands of teachers jobs, meal programs for the underprivileged and gifting cycles to girls who attended school. While he was doing all this the political landscape in the country had changed.

For someone who has elevated resigning from plum posts into a fine art and always emerged stronger from the experience this latest episode has not gone down well, even with staunch supporters of Nitish. The trouble for Nitish and his party has been the inability to win enough seats to make the government on their own steam. So be it the opportunist #Congress, the corruption tainted RJD or the right wingers from BJP Nitish has had to rely on one or the other to stay in the reckoning. This realignment with the ruling party BJP comes at a terrible expense. In all probability Nitish will never become the Prime Minister. Something which seemed possible when his alliance (read #Mahagathbandhan) won handsomely in 2015. But for Nitish Kumar Bihar comes first. Everything else is secondary. All said and done one cannot help but feel that this saga is far from over. Watch this space for more.

Dunkirk – Nolan’s stirring ode to the indefatigable human spirit

War does not determine who is right – only who is left

– Anonymous

INTRO

Still remember thinking that this bloke has finally lost it on hearing that auteur filmmaker #ChristopherNolan was next making a war film. Not that his last few films were not good. DARK KNIGHT RISES, INCEPTION or INTERSTELLAR were all very good, extraordinary in parts even. But then with MEMENTO, PRESTIGE and THE DARK KNIGHT, Nolan had set lofty standards. Nolan’s competition was Nolan himself. And why, pray a #War film? From #DavidLean (BRIDGE ON RIVER KWAI) and #Coppola (APOCALYPSE NOW) to #Kubrick (FULL METAL JACKET) and #Spielberg (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) not to forget #Tarantino (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) the greatest in Hollywood had explored all there was to. What new perspective could Nolan possibly bring to this genre? The English-American director answers this emphatically with DUNKIRK. And then some.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

Sir #WinstonChurchill is regarded as one of the tallest leaders in world history and not without reason. He became the British #PrimeMinister an year after the Second World War began in the year 1940. And the #BattleOfDunkirk that took place almost as soon as he assumed power was a trial by fire for Churchill, so to speak. Nolan’s film is about the evacuation of more than 3,00,000 #AlliedForces holed up in the French port of Dunkirk. If the Germans who had succeeded Europe would have fallen and who knows, the War itself would have perhaps taken a whole different course. To this day the British take inspiration from what is referred to in local parlance as the #DunkirkSpirit.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Remember the final act in THE DARK KNIGHT? Where multiple tracks (of the two ferries, Two-Face and the #Joker) all run parallel to each other building up to a deafening crescendo in the climax? Nolan uses this very edgy style of narration throughout the one half forty minutes duration of DUNKIRK. Here the nerve wracking real life incident is told through three different stories. The land, the air and the sea. Here is the catch. The battle on the beach lasts a week while action in the sea got over in a day and the air battle? That got over in an hour. The locations and the time frames are also completely varied. But Nolan, the master of the #NonLinearNarrative weaves all three so seamlessly into the narrative that you would need to pay real close attention to notice. For those who haven’t watched Nolan’s films he is considerate enough to put up the various locations & time frames on the screen.

On top of this Nolan chooses to move away from the standard template when it comes to films in this genre. One, there are no back stories told (It is only in the very end that you learn that the sailor Mr Dawson’s elder son died in battle) Instead Nolan simply air drops the audience right in the middle of the action. Two, there are no pitched gun battles, no body parts flying, no blood letting. Heck you don’t get to see the enemy even once. Three, there are no heroes or villains here. All you see is a bunch of men desperately trying to escape death. And finally the minimal dialogues compensated for by a soundtrack that is a character in it’s own right. #HansZimmer, take a bow. The result is a uniquely immersive viewing experience of the kind that one has not had at the movies. Since James Cameron’s AVATAR. Minus the #VFX. 17 years after writing MEMENTO, Nolan finally has written something that has matched up. In thought, ingenuity and execution.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

It was in the extraordinary 2008 Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that one first came to know of the half Dutch half Swedish lensman #HoyteVanHoytema. And his work in Nolan’s last film INTERSTELLAR was magnificent too (remember the stunning visuals of the new planet where the astronauts led by Matthew McConaughey land?) But without a shred of doubt DUNKIRK is Van Hoytema’s finest hour. The aerial scenes of the fighter planes skimming the surface of the sea are itself worth the price of your cinema ticket. Or the horrifying scene where a ship deck filled with soldiers happily tucking into food attacked by a torpedo and meeting a watery grave. Hoytema’s expert lens is intimate when needed and sweeping at other times. The German maestro Hans Zimmer whose best work till date is arguably THE DARK KNIGHT (though it was a collaboration with #JamesNewtonHoward) has ably shouldered the responsibility given to him by Nolan. In a film where very little is spoken it is the haunting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer that spooks audiences creating a sense of foreboding rarely seen before at the movies.

PERFORMANCES

Nolan’s films usually boast of a stellar cast and have featured some of the greatest actors of our times from #MichaelCaine, #RobinWilliams, #GaryOldman & #MorganFreeman to #HeathLedger and Christian Bale. This time Nolan opts for a relatively new cast of lesser known actors. The only big name here is the Irish actor #KennethBranagh as a Commander of the #RoyalNavy. Watch the scene at the end where looking at the hundreds of small fishing boats (famous in history as the little ships of Dunkirk) arriving to rescue his men, a despondent Branagh becomes hopeful at the chance of being able to get home. And gives the film one of it’s only emotional scenes. Poignant! Tom Hardy does not count simply because there is only so much acting you can do with most of your face covered in a plane’s cockpit. What is it that Nolan has against Hardy, one wonders for this is twice in a row (after DARK KNIGHT RISES) this has happened. English theatre veteran #MarkRylance who won an Oscar a couple of years ago for Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES is rivetting as the sailor determined to play his part in rescuing as many soldiers as possible.

DUNKIRK really belongs to a bunch of newcomers who all shine. Ex boyband singer Harry Styles is surprisingly good in a role with grey shades and comes into his own in the scene where he is holed up in a trawler used by the Germans for ‘target practice’ Nolan regular Cillian Murphy is effective as a on-the-edge soldier rescued at sea by Mr Dawson and his son but his role is limited. Tom Glynn-Carney is solid as Rylance’s son Peter who must show maturity beyond his years in the face of great adversity. The surprise package of the film is the duo of Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard. In many ways it is through the eyes of these two young lads that the whole action unfolds before the audience. From the incredibly scene right at the start of DUNKIRK where the two carry a wounded man on the stretcher on to a ship about to leave, the narrative follows the various attempts by these two to escape only to end up in a bigger mess. Barnard as the French soldier posing to be a British one named Gibson in order to get to safe shores is outstanding. Inspite of having almost no dialogues in the film you can always sense from his demeanor that something bad is about to happen. Like in the scene where he is monitoring the deck for an escape route while the others are helping themselves to food & drink. The heartbreaking scene where he drowns in the end stays with you long after the film has ended.

DIRECTION

Christopher Nolan has a body of work which other directors can only dream of. His films have grossed upwards of $4 billion in box office receipts. At the same time they are visceral enough to appeal to the most harsh of critics even making him unique in Hollywood. For all those who felt that his last three films did not match up to the gargantuan expectations that a Nolan creation generates DUNKIRK should prove to be a thoroughly invigorating experience. Is this his best film? That is difficult to say given that his films have all traversed a variety of genres but must say that this is his most assured work till date. Watch the way he weaves Winston Churchill’s stirring speech into the narrative at the end and you know that you are watching a master at the peak of his powers. Will end this review with a few lines from that very speech.

” We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets
We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ”

VERDICT

DUNKIRK is by far the best movie of this year and will be a difficult act to match let alone surpass. It is also among the TOP 3 films of Nolan and it might just get him the nod at the Oscars at the end of the year. If you can, watch it on an IMAX screen for a truly epic viewing experience.

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL – This rom-com is a colossal letdown

Travelling – it leaves you speechless,then turns you into a storyteller

– Ibn Battuta

INTRO

Hollywood is replete with #RoadMovies, so much so that it has become a genre in itself. From the cult #Biking film EASY RIDER to the stunning #Biopic THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, from the #Dystopian adrenaline fest that was MAD MAX – FURY ROAD to the very #Feminist THELMA & LOUISE and of course the bitter-sweet tale of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE road movies are aplenty. Not so with our #Bollywood. Though in recent times with films like ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA, PIKU, NH-10 and FINDING FANNY this is all set to change. Imtiaz Ali whose own road movie HIGHWAY saw the breakthrough performance of actress #AliaBhatt is in familiar territory with JAB HARRY MET SEJAL.

STORY

The central character in the whole film is actually this engagement #Ring which a girl called Sejal (Anushka Sharma) has lost on her trip to Europe with her family. Enter Harinder Singh Nehra aka Harry who gets coerced into joining Sejal in this quest for the ring. Thus begins a long and arduous (for the viewers)journey during which they fall in love (Surprise!Surprise!) with each other.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

As a writer #ImtiazAli has oscillated from the sublime (SOCHA NA THA, JAB WE MET, HIGHWAY) to the
ridiculous (LOVE AAJ KAL, ROCKSTAR, TAMASHA) with alarming regularity throughout his career. Sadly JAB HARRY MET SEJAL falls under the latter. In fact for most of the 144 minutes of it’s running time, the writing in the film is strictly pedestrian. The basic premise (of the lost ring) itself is flawed and so are the two lead characters of this enterprise. While Shahrukh’s Harry seems like a caricature of what he has played for the last two decades and more it is Anushka’s Sejal who is a huge letdown given that Ali is known to write strong female characters in his film. And the big reason is her overdone ‘Gujju’ accent that annoys and irritates in equal measure. Surely the director & the actress knew this one was going awry. To make matters worse the situations evoke a strong feeling of #DejaVu. The only saving grace are the songs. But after a point even they seem one too many.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Imtiaz Ali’s movies always deliver when it comes to the soundtrack, the stunning locales and the
fantastic production values. And JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is no exception. The music by #Pritam is the one silver lining and regardless of how the film does songs like SAFAR will be on your playlist for some time yet. KU Mohanan has captured #Amsterdam (and other parts of Europe) extremely well making each song worth a watch on the big screen. The editing by Aarti Bajaj is all right considering that bad films are not particularly easy to cut, chop and snip.

PERFORMANCES

In the 2011 movie ROCKSTAR the writing by Imtiaz Ali was not great either. But it got saved by a
stunning performance by #RanbirKapoor in the lead role and of course, a rousing soundtrack by maestro A.R.Rehman Here there is no such luck. At least as far as the performances go. While the starlet Evelyn Sharma is forgettable in a minor role, it is actor Chandan Roy Sanyal in a negative role who is terrible in a track that could have been edited out of the film even. Sad to see this very talented actor (who wowed us all in KAMINEY and D-DAY) in such inane roles.

Actress #AnushkaSharma who is good even in bad films (and she has had her fair share of them with
BOMBAY VELVET, MATROO KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA & JAB TAK HI JAAN) looks like a million bucks. Where someone like Deepika Padukone was able to pull off her Tamilian accent character with aplomb in CHENNAI EXPRESS, Anushka’s interpretation of her Gujarati character falls flat on it’s face. For superstar #ShahrukhKhan this film is a setback he could have done without. Especially when it seemed like he was turning things around with his last three films, FAN, DEAR ZINDAGI and RAEES all indicating a resurgence. JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is sure sign that the audience has had enough of the serenading.

DIRECTION

Imtiaz Ali has always made romantic albeit quirky films and that he writes them too gives him a measure of control over how the final product will turn out. So there is no excuse really for the half baked, under cooked enterprise that JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is. To use cricketing analogy it is like an opening batsman getting out to a lazy shot on a belter of a pitch where runs are there for the taking. After his last film TAMASHA turned out to be debacle one expected Imtiaz Ali to pull up his socks for this one. Clearly that was not to be. Bollywood can be a cruel place for those who squander opportunities and one only hopes that this director realises this. Before it is too late.

VERDICT

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL has no redeeming features that can be prove to be a saving grace at the box office. It is a very ordinary film with average performances and above average music. As both the audiences & critics have unequivocally given the film a thumbs down, it’s failure is inevitable. Avoidable.

Jagga Jasoos – Make no galti se mistake, this one is special

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact

– Sherlock Holmes

INTRO

The last #Detective film that one saw was Dibakar Banerjee’s #DetectiveByomkeshBakshy! where the
otherwise brilliant filmmaker was constrained by having to stick to a set template and as a result was a colossal letdown. Which is a shame really because there are hardly any notable Hindi films in this genre. Unlike in the west where you have the #SherlockHolmes and the #AgathaChristies who have enthralled us for long. The makers of #JaggaJasoos mentioned in a recent interview that the film was really a #Musical with as many as 29 songs in all. That set the alarm bells ringing. And it is with trepidation that one entered the theatres screening Anurag Basu’s latest offering.

WARNING:SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

Jagga Jasoos is the story of an orphan (#RanbirKapoor) with a stammering problem who comes across a stranger quite by chance. The stranger who is only known as Tooti-Footi to the kid grows close so much so that they become like father and son. But one day this man goes away just as suddenly as he had appeared. Every year on Jagga’s birthday he sends a videotape to the kid until one day the tape does not come. From there begins Jagga’s incredible journey to find this stranger.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Jagga Jasoos is co produced by #Disney and is the maiden venture of director-actor duo Anurag Basu-Ranbir Kapoor’s production house called #PictureShuru. And sure enough the film starts with that very memorable credit rolls song from #Barfi. Before you know it you have all characters singing out their dialogues and dancing (which for some strange reason reminded me of Disney’s classic #MaryPoppins) All of this is a little overwhelming and it takes about five minutes or so to get a grip on things. After which the next hour is an exhilarating ride the kind of which one has not experienced in years.Using the real life incident of the 1995 #Purulia arms drop case as a thread around which the whole screenplay is woven, Anurag Basu’s writing is brilliant. For most parts.

Human relationships are Anurag Basu’s forte and even in Jagga Jasoos the best parts are the emotional scenes. Like this whole father & son track. Scenes where characters break into song are especially well written (credit to the very talented #AmitabhBhattacharya) The clock tower mystery song, then the scene where Ranbir barges into Katrina’s house, the post interval Nimboo-mirchi number (which is a sarcastic take on the divisive times we live in) and the unexpectedly delightful singing at Katrina’s dead boyfriend’s birthday party are all inspired writing. Then there are the little touches – like the father curling his toe when lying, #Buddha’s theory of #TheRedCircle and Katrina’s clumsiness which results in many laugh-out-loud moments.

What does not work is the adventure bit. The action scenes seem half heartedly written & executed and do not really make your hair stand on end. The role of Jagga’s arch nemesis who is supposed to be this two headed freak does not intrigue the way it should have (even after the last scene where it is revealed that #NawazuddinSiddiqui is this villain) The whole thread of the international arms race is so-so and the only reason you play along is to know what happened to Jagga’s father. Then there is a lot that defies logic. Like Ranbir & Katrina breaking into a song while they are being hounded by authorities. Then there is this huge build up made about a mixed up video tape that is conveniently forgotten in the end.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

This is a bit of a mixed bag. While the DOP #RaviVarman makes sure that each and every scene be it set in the North East or #Morocco is straight out of a post card the action sequences, the post production work and the CGI are all strictly average. The music by Pritam is very good but Barfi will still remain the best from the Anurag Basu-Pritam duo (who also gave us Life in a Metro & #Gangster) The editing by Akiv Ali is excellent in the first half of the film which has a running length of 160 odd minutes.

PERFORMANCES

The actor who plays the local cop is quite good and the scene where he gets a phone call in the station is quite funny. #SaurabhShukla is one of the finest actors we have and was truly memorable in his last film Barfi. Here his role is sketchy and half baked. Same goes for #KatrinaKaif who is supposed to be this investigative journalist but is mostly playing sidekick to Ranbir’s Jagga. All she does is fall and hurt herself at the drop of a hat. Though it has been used well as a plot device especially while reuniting Jagga with his father.

Though Barfi is a tough act to follow Ranbir Kapoor is quite superb in the title role of Jagga Jasoos. Whether he is sauntering through an empty boy’s hostel on his unique design bike or solving a seemingly tricky case Ranbir is the soul of this film. Watch him break down in a stammering fit in front of the friendly, neighbourhood policeman and you know this man can really, really act. The scene stealer of this enterprise is Bengali actor #SaswataChatterjee who gained immense popularity back home playing Topshe the loveable side kick of the legendary Bengali detective #Feluda (created by #SatyajitRay) Last seen in Hindi films playing a brilliant cameo in Sujoy Ghosh’s #Kahaani he is quite extraordinary in every scene that he appears in. Such is his impact that you as an audience hope fervently that he has not died.

DIRECTION

What to make next ? This is the question that has vexed some of the best directors of Bollywood. Ramesh Sippy made #Sholay when he was 27 and could not make anything half as good afterwards. #AdityaChopra made his debut with the smash hit #DDLJ but has made nothing of significance since. Similar thoughts must have run through director Anurag Basu’s mind after making a sublime Barfi. That was five years ago. Jagga Jasoos is a brave film that attempts to use the whole theatre-like musical format to tell a story and almost succeeds. It is not a perfect film but that is perhaps because Basu has too much on his plate. Yet if Jagga Jasoos works and (it does for most part) all credit must go to him. For sticking his neck out and taking such a huge risk. And to think that we had almost lost this man to cancer in the year 2004. After which is when he has made all his best films. More power to you, dada.

VERDICT

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Jagga Jasoos with it’s unique musical style of narration makes for an invigorating watch. It has great performances, good music and is very entertaining for most parts. It falters at places in the latter half but only just. May be it will not appeal to the masses but the gentry, one suspects will love it. Do yourself a favour this weekend. Go watch Jagga Jasoos.