Super Cassettes Industries Ltd.’s Creature (UA) is a horror film made in 3D. Ahana Dutt (Bipasha Basu), whose father had commited suicide due to pressure put, and unfair means adopted, by a builder on him to sell him his property, indeed sells off all the property to the builder and leaves Bombay to settle in a forest area. She starts a forest hotel, Glendale, in the jungle, by taking a bank loan. The opening of the hotel goes off well as several guests have already checked into the hotel. Among the guests is Kunal Anand (Imran Abbas Naqvi) who poses as a celebrated author. Soon after the inauguration, a strange creature kills one of the hotel guests when he goes into the jungle with his newly-married wife. Soon, the creature also invades the hotel and kills a cook. The forest officers, who have not seen the creature, are perplexed because the killings don’t look like the work of known animals. Then one day, the ferocious creature once again enters Glendale Hotel and runs riot, killing guests and staff members. The living guests this time get a glimpse of the entire creature which is huge in size.

Prof. Sadana (Mukul Dev), a Zoo­logy professor who has done research on such creatures, lands at the hotel. He asks Ahana to shut down the hotel immediately and vacate it. While all the guests leave instantly, Ahana has a change of mind and decides to stay back and fight the creature. Kunal Anand, who has by now fallen in love with her, also stays back. Soon the bank chairman visits Ahana and hands her papers seeking control over the hotel as she isn’t able to pay interest. As per her loan agreement, Ahana is to be given 10 days’ notice before she is asked for control of the hotel, and she asks the bank’s chairman for 10 days’ time. She has now to put an end to the creature menace in just 10 days if she is to save her hotel and keep its control with herself. Ahana, Kunal and Prof. Sadana meet the forest officer (Capt. Bikramjeet Kanwarpal) who is not too sympathetic towards them. But he comes around when they threaten to have action initiated against him. His deputy (Deepraj Rana) is more helpful and wholeheartedly extends his support. Anyway, the trio and the two forest officers set out to kill the creature but fail. In the process, the senior forest officer is killed by the creature.

Prof. Sadana, Ahana, Kunal and the surviving forest officer now learn that the creature is a brahmarakshas (neither a human being nor an animal) which has no place in heaven and hell. They also get to know from Dr. Moga (Mohan Kapur) that the brahmarakshas can be killed only with a weapon cleansed in neem water in a special pond on Guru Poornima. As Guru Poornima is many months away and as Ahana doesn’t have too much time, Dr. Moga gives them the gun (duly cleansed) and seven bullets left by his late father.

Are Ahana and group able to kill the brahmarakshas? Or do they get killed by it?

Vikram Bhatt has written a story which is quite routine except that there is a creature (computer-generated) involved this time. The creature is quite scary and its killings do send chills down the viewers’ spines but once they become repetitive, the fear element reduces. The screenplay, written by Vikram Bhatt and Sukhmani Sadana, is not as smooth and free-flowing as it ought to have been. The first half is quite interesting as the suspense about what the creature on the prowl looks like keeps the audience’s interest alive. The post-interval portion is stretched and loose. The romantic track is weak. What’s worse is the angle of Kunal’s identity – it looks silly and contrived. The track of the weapon needing to be cleansed in a typical style only, will not find much favour with the multiplex-frequenting and city-based audiences.

The songs come like speed-breakers in the film because they often serve to spoil the fear-filled tempo of the drama. Had the music been hit, even that drawback could’ve been overlooked but because the songs are not hit or very popular, they tend to become irritants. Comedy is conspicuous by its absence and that’s a minus point. Emotions fail to touch the heart. The plus point, of course, is the creature and its killings. Girish Dhamija’s dialogues are commonplace.

Bipasha Basu does fairly well but that’s not enough in a film of this kind where the viewers are expected to often break into cold sweat. Imran Abbas Naqvi makes a very ordinary debut. His acting is average, at best. Mukul Dev has his moments but he doesn’t have a very substantive role. Capt. Bikramjeet Kanwarpal is alright although his track does look over the top. Deepraj Rana is suitably restrained. Shireesh Sharma is okay. Mohan Kapur lends decent support in a tiny role. The rest of the actors are ade­quate.

Vikram Bhatt’s direction is fair. The horror scenes provide chills and thrills but the other scenes are lacklustre. The computer-generated creature looks creepy enough to evoke fear and hatred. Mithoon and Tony Kakkar’s music and lyrics serve a functional purpose more than anything else. No doubt, a couple of songs in the film are well-tuned but they are not hit and they don’t have haunting melo- dies. The best song, ‘Saawan’, comes in the end rolling titles, thereby reducing its impact. The choreography (Raju Khan) of only the ‘Saawan’ song deserves mention and even that is just about okay. Raju Rao’s background music needed to be much better. Praveen Bhatt’s camerawork is alright. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunt choreography is nothing to shout about. Jayant Deshmukh’s sets are okay. Editing (Kuldeep Mehan) could have been better and sharper. The 3D effects are fairly good.

On the whole, Creature has novelty for the Hindi film-going audience and the fairly nice 3D effects, but a dull second half will limit its box-office prospects. It can hope to do fairly well in single-screen cinemas and in small centres, but business in multiplexes and big centres will be below the mark. In the final tally, it will prove to be a loss-making venture.

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(Dubbed &English)

Fox Star Studios and Maddock Films’ Finding Fanny (UA) is the story of five dysfunctional people who live in Pocolim in the interiors of Goa. Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah) is the village post-master and the main soloist in the church choir. Angie (Deepika Padukone) is a sweet girl who was widowed minutes after her marriage. Rosie Eucharistica (Dimple Kapadia) is a bossy lady who thinks, she is the Lady of Pocolim. She is Angie’s mother-in-law and is very protective about her daughter-in-law. She herself is a widow. Savio da Gama (Arjun Kapoor) is a car mechanic, bitter about not having ever expressed his love to Angie because of which she had married his friend. Angie also loved Savio but didn’t know about his feelings for her. Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur) is a temperamental artist who, on meeting the rather plump and sexy middle-aged Rosie, is obsessed about painting her on his canvas.

One day, the old Ferdie receives a letter which he had written 46 years ago to Stefanie Fernandes (Anjali Patil) whom he lovingly called Fanny, proposing marriage. It turns out now that the letter never reached her but Ferdie lived all these 46 years thinking that she had rejected his proposal. Angie convinces Ferdie to try and track Fanny down as she may also be waiting for him all these years.

Ferdie and Angie get ready to set out in search of Fanny and request Savio to drive them in the car owned by Don Pedro who also joins the group. Rosie, with nothing better to do, accompanies the four and she takes her cat, Nereus, along. The journey makes the five discover a strange sense of solace and new purpose in life.

Does Ferdie meet Fanny?

Homi Adajania and Kersi Khambatta have penned a quirky story with characters which are interesting. Their screenplay is as quirky and crazy as their story which is also wafer-thin. To set out in search of one’s beloved 46 years after one had expressed his love for her looks like a very far-fetched proposition but that’s the main story. The sub-plots are more believable and more interesting but not the main story. However, it must be added that both, the main story and the sub-plots, are very class-appealing in nature for several reasons: for one, the story and sub-plots are far from the usual ones seen in Hindi films; secondly, all the characters are dysfunctional, which is not what the usual Bollywood film buffs are used to seeing in films; thirdly, a lot of rules of Indian cinema are broken – like, for instance, the hero/heroine is not always right; and the good characters don’t always conform to acceptable norms, etc. The film’s main plus point is the unusual humour. The class audience in the big cities will enjoy the jokes, smiling at many, and laughing at several of them.

The first half is better than the second half which gets slow and appears lengthy. Also, the pre-climax is a bit depressing. Dialogues, penned by the duo, are earthy and often evoke laughter.

Naseeruddin Shah plays the character of Ferdie so convincingly that it is a delight to watch him. Dimple Kapadia is splendid. She gives her all to the character of Rosie and emerges a winner. Pankaj Kapur is stupendous as Don Pedro. His loud style of acting is truly entertaining and he makes every scene of his remarkable. Deepika Padukone looks pretty and deli­vers yet another sensational performance. She acts without inhibitions and is so natural that one can’t help but marvel at her talent. Arjun Kapoor is good as Savio. Ranveer Singh adds star value in a very brief appearance. Anjali Patil is adequate.

Homi Adajania maintains the quirki­ness of the script in his narrative style also. His direction does justice to the script. The good point about his direction is that he doesn’t unnecessarily try to cater to the non-target audience and instead remains true to the target audience and his script. On the other hand, it must also be added that the script and his narrative style restrict the film’s appeal very much. Mathias Duplessy’s music is interesting. The Goan tunes and songs may be very class-appealing but they are also cute. The ‘Fanny’ and ‘Bootiya’ songs are also good. Picturisation of the ‘Bootiya’ song is interesting. Manisha Khandelwal’s production designing is nice. Sreekar Prasad has done a fine job of the editing. Dubbing is very good.

On the whole, Finding Fanny is a cute entertainer but it has appeal for the class audience only, that too, in the big cities only. It will do well in very select multiplexes of the major cities mainly. But its business in lesser multiplexes, single-screen cinemas and in centres other than the big cities will be very dull. Overall, the film will garner critical acclaim but its economics will not bring a smile on anybody’s face. The English version will fare far beter than the dubbed version.

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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Bhansali Productions’ Mary Kom is a biopic. It traces the journey of a little girl from a small town in Manipur, who dreamt of becoming a boxer – and became one, making India proud by becoming the world champion a number of times.

Mangte Chungne Zang (Priyanka Chopra) loved boxing right from childhood but her strict father (Robin Das) would hear nothing of the girl taking to boxing. Still, Mangte Chungne Zang registers her name with the boxing coach (Sunil Thapa), of course, unknown to her father.

Mangte Chungne Zang’s father learns of her boxing bouts when she first wins a competition and her photograph is published in the local newspaper. By then, she has been rechristened M.C. Mary Kom by her coach. The father is so angry with her for taking up the sport that he gives her an ultimatum, asking her to choose between boxing and him. Saddened by her father’s ultimatum, she chooses boxing.

Mary Kom now starts preparing for the next competition and wins that too. The coach is very impressed with her and is confident, she can be the best in the world. Indeed, Mary Kom becomes the world boxing champion and, by now, her father has also forgiven her.

Onler (Darshan Kumaar), an admirer of Mary Kom and himself an accomplished football player, proposes to Mary Kom. She accepts his marriage proposal but her coach is absolutely disgusted with Mary’s move to get married as he is sure, she would never be able to pursue boxing after marriage. However, Onler has promised Mary that he’ll let her continue boxing.

Soon, Mary and Onler become proud parents of twin boys. Days pass and Mary gets busy in household chores and in looking after her kids. Then, one day, she decides to take up boxing again. Her husband, Onler, is her pillar of strength and prods her on to pursue her passion, offering to look after the children.

Mary Kom trains again but is the comeback easy? She faces defeat in a boxing match but she accuses the jury of favoritism as she feels, she deserved to win. Mary is suspended for her bad behaviour. She is forced to apologise. Now, Mary goes to her erstwhile coach for further training. Does the coach agree to train her again despite the fact that she had disobeyed him when he had asked her to not get married?

Mary Kom has to face a lot of hardships before she reaches the finals of the world boxing championship. But her biggest problem is yet to come! What is it?

Is Mary Kom able to participate in the world championship? Is she, as her coach in Manipur always told her, able to focus?

Saiwyn Quadras has penned a story and screenplay, based on Mary Kom’s life, with so much feeling that the film turns out to be an exhilarating human drama. The first half has some light moments and a fair deal of drama too. The Manipur locations, the local language, costumes, the boxing training and the boxing championships – they all entertain the audience amply.

Post-interval, Saiwyn Quadras’ screenplay becomes more emotional as the family drama of Mary Kom’s parents’ home is replaced by the family drama of her own home with husband and kids. The humiliation Mary has to face before the Federation’s official, Sharma (Shakti Singh), is so effective that the audience feels hatred towards him. The same official’s taunts and barbs for the Indian participants, including Mary Kom and the others, at the world championship after Mary’s comeback, creates such a dis­turbing impact on the viewers that they would start clapping when Mary Kom revolts. In fact, there would be a thunderous round of applause in the auditorium when Mary Kom’s colleagues come out openly in her support and actually warn the official. From this scene onwards, the film is outstanding and will evoke claps and whistles. The entire climax is so nail-biting and emotional that it would be difficult for many to control their tears. There would be whistling and clapping and tears of joy at a couple of places in the climax too. The inter-cutting of the boxing match with another sequence in the climax is fantastic.

All in all, Saiwyn Quadras has penned a screenplay which is fabulous. Karan Singh Rathore and Ramendra Vasishth have written very realistic dialogues which touch the heart.

Priyanka Chopra lives the character of Mary Kom and proves that she was born to play the role. She has put in tremendous effort to essay the role and all the hard work seems to be worthwhile because she shines with a mind-blowing performance which is absolutely award-worthy. She scores as a boxer, daughter, wife, mother and even as the daring student. Her special efforts to get the language right and her costumes, look, makeup – they all add up to make this one of her most memorable performances. Darshan Kumaar makes a truly impressive debut, remaining secondary to the principal character played by Priyanka, as required by the script. Not once does he go overboard or try to overpower the main protagonist. Sunil Thapa is marvellous as Mary Kom’s coach. He conveys his emotions of hope, despair, fear, frustration, anger at different times, all so wonderfully. Shishir Sharma also leaves an indelible mark as Mary’s new coach. Robin Das is supremely natural as Mary’s father. Shakti Singh does an excellent job as the Federation’s evil official. Rajni Basumatary (as Mary’s mother) and Kenny Basumatary (as Onler’s friend, Jimmy) lend fabulous support. Ritika Murthy (as the journalist at Mary’s home), Raghav Tiwari (as Mangi), Binud Kumbang (as Lalboi), Pabitra Rabha Jalah (as Asong), Ramendra Vasishth and Rajesh Nigam (both as the Federation official’s assistants), Deepak Kumar Singh (as Alberto), Bijou Thaangjam (as Naobi), Rajesh Khatri (as the fight official), Deepak Bhandarkar, Saiwyn Quadras, Umber Jafri, Deepak Tokas and Garry (all five as commentators), Poonam Ingram (as the pediatrician), baby Mridul Satam (as young Mangte Chungne Zang), Daksha Sharma (as the doctor at the maternity hospital), Kedar Sharma (as the government officer), Lhanze (as the girl in the bus), Kawaljeet (as the girl’s father in the bus), master Amit and master Akhil (as Mary Kom’s children) and the others are all more than adequate. A word here about the casting (by Shruti Mahajan and Parag Mehta). The actors, cast in the various roles, seem so perfect that one can’t help but praise the casting. Although al­most all the actors are unknown faces, the film still holds the audience’s attention and fancy as much for the scripting and making as for their acting.

Omung Kumar’s direction deserves distinction marks, with credit also due to creative director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Omung’s mature handling of the drama belies the fact that this is his maiden attempt at direction. He needs to be lauded for extracting great work out of his actors and in recreating the perfect ambience. Shashi-Shivam’s music is not outstanding or very popular but the songs blend well with the film. ‘Ziddi dil’, ‘Salaam India’ and ‘Sukoon mila’ are melodious and uplifting songs. Prashant Ingole and Sandeep Singh’s lyrics are truly appropriate. Rohit Kulkarni has done a marvellous job of the background music. His extraordinary score increases the impact of the dramatic scenes manifold. Parvez Shaikh’s action and Rob Miller’s boxing choreography are superb. Keiko Nakahara needs to be lauded for his lovely cinematography. Vanita Omung Kumar’s sets and pro­duction designing are unobtrusive and very realistic. Rajat Tangri and Isha Mantri deserve special mention for their costume designing. Rajesh G. Pandey and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s editing is superb. The opening sequence, showing two different time-periods, is so seamlessly done that one can’t help marvel at the editor’s job. Similarly, the climax sequence, oscillating between two different places, is brilliantly edited.

On the whole, Mary Kom is a box-office champion. It may have started slow but fantastic word of mouth will see collections soaring and the film proving to be a hit at the box-office. Tax-exemption in Maharashtra and Rajasthan will help its business in these states. Other state governments should follow suit and grant tax-exemption to the deserving film.

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UTV Motion Pictures’ Raja Natwarlal (UA) is the story of Raja (Emraan Hashmi), a con man who wants to become rich fast. Raja makes a living by fooling and cheating people and aiding him in this is Raghav (Deepak Tijori) whom he treats as an elder brother. Raghav lives with his wife (Prachee Shah) and child. Raja loves Zia (Humaima Malik) who is a club dancer.

One day, Raja and Raghav steal a bag containing a lot of money. Just as they feel, they’ve struck gold, Raghav realises that they’d not be able to escape as the people from whom they had stolen the bag would trace them soon. And that’s what exactly happens. Since the money belonged to the very influential, Cape Town-based Varda Yadav (Kay Kay Menon), his men soon reach Raghav’s house in India. Although Raghav returns them his share of the loot, he refuses to divulge the name of Raja, his partner. After taking the money from Raghav, Varda’s men kill him right on the spot in front of Raja’s eyes.

Raja now swears revenge. He contacts Yogi (Paresh Rawal) who lives in Dharamsala and asks him for help. Yogi is Raghav’s brother and although he is reluctant to help Raja initially, he soon becomes ready as Varda Yadav had killed his very own brother. Yogi and Raja reach Cape Town and so does Raja’s lady love, Zia. Raja brings Zia to Cape Town as her life is in danger in India, with two corrupt police officers constantly blackmailing her.

In Cape Town, Raja somehow manages to touch base with Varda Yadav who is a cricket buff and loves to collect cricket memorabilia of cricketing legends. Of course, Varda is not aware that Raghav’s partner-in-crime is none other than Raja himself. The paths of Varda and Yogi cross at an auction. Anyway, Raja gets close to Varda by promising to get him to own a cricket league team which actually does not even exist. Yogi and Raja play a big con game to fool Varda into believing that he would soon own a cricket team. Do they succeed in their plan? Or does the super-sharp Varda Yadav call their bluff? Does Raja stay put with Yogi or does he ditch him or vice versa? Why were Raghav and his elder brother, Yogi, estranged? Does Raja get to know the truth about the relationship between the two brothers?

Kunal Deshmukh’s story is full of twists and turns because of which the audience’s interest does not wane as the drama progresses. Parveez Shaikh’s screenplay complements the story and it is very fast-paced, especially after interval. However, it must be added that there are so many con games played by Yogi and Raja on Varda Yadav that the audience wonders whether Varda is an ass. And, mind you, Varda is shown to be a super-sharp person. It is this which makes the drama rather difficult to digest. Also, the drama gets confusing at places but that’s more because of the many twists and turns in it than due to any flaws or defects in the screenplay. In fact, the con games Yogi and Raja play on Varda are so novel that the audience enjoys them. Nevertheless, the drama at places does look stretched. The romantic portions are very weak, and this is a major drawback. The climax, in which the details are revealed, is truly enjoyable. Sanjay Masoom’s dialogues are effective and add to the drama.

Emraan Hashmi is endearing in the role of Raja and does a very fine job. He makes the character believable and impresses with his performance. Pakistani actress Humaima Malik makes a fair Bollywood debut. She looks average. Her acting is alright and her dances are sexy and graceful. Kay Kay Menon is extraordinary as Varda Yadav. He delivers a restrained, memorable and award-winning performance. Paresh Rawal is also very good in the role of Yogi. His cool demeanour is enjoyable and entertaining. Deepak Tijori leaves a mark in a brief role. Prachee Shah lends effective support as Raghav’s wife. Ashiesh Roy (as Kashi) is lovely. Rohit Pathak (playing Hanif) and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (in the role of the hitman) perform splendidly well. In the role of Walia, Shakti Sinha does a fine job. Sumit Nijhawan (as police inspector Singh) and Prasad Oak (as police inspector Salvi) lend terrific support. Rajeev Yadav (as Pratap), Haresh Panchal (as Ghanshyam), Namit Shah (as Vicky), Vish­wanath Chatterjee (as Bhaskar Bose), Pathy Aiyar (as the host of the auction), Narendra Jetley (as the fake HDMC Bank manager), Geeta Singh (as HDMC Bank manager), Ashish Bhargav (as the hotel manager) and the others provide the required support.  

Kunal Deshmukh’s direction is mature. He has handled a complex script effectively enough to make it comprehensible and enjoyable. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music is good but the absence of hit songs is a big drawback for two reasons – the love story in the drama appears weak in the absence of hit music, and secondly, the audience has come to associate Emraan Hashmi starrers with hit music and would, therefore, feel cheated. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are lovely. Choreography (Raju Khan, Brinda Gopal and Remo D’souza) is nice. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background music is fairly good. Raaj A. Chakravarti’s cinematography is of a good standard. Action and stunts (by Parvez Shaikh and Abbas Ali Moghul) are good. Rita Ghosh’s sets and Mayur Sharma’s production designing are quite alright. Editing (by Anand Subaya and Manan Ashwin Mehta) is sharp.

On the whole, Raja Natwarlal is an entertaining thriller in parts but it lacks in two departments – the love story (which is very weak) and the music (which, in spite of being good, is not at all popular). Also, the con becomes too much to digest after a point of time. The film will, therefore, not be able to make its mark at the box-office.

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Yash Raj Films’ Mardaani (A) is the story of a strong and principled lady police inspector who takes on the people involved in sex trafficking. Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukerji) is a very able police officer, living with her husband, Dr. Bikram Roy (Jisshu U. Sengupta), and niece, Meera (Avneet Kaur). She is fearless and goes about her work with sincerity and diligence. She has adopted a roadside girl, Pyari (Priyanka Sharma), whom she had saved from being sold by her unscrupulous uncle. Pyari lives in a shelter home and often meets Shivani and Meera. Pyari is very excited about her birthday which is due very soon. Even as Meera has made preparations to celebrate Pyari’s birthday, Pyari goes missing from her shelter home. A troubled Shivani investigates and soon realises that Pyari has been sold in the flesh trade.

Shivani now takes it upon herself to reach to the depth of this sex trafficking racket. The path, obviously, is not easy and is laden with dangers. The first ray of hope comes with the arrest of Sunny Katiyal (Anant Sharma) but he is not of much help. A phone call from an unknown person convinces Shivani that the racket is huge. However, there is not much headway. As the drama progresses, Shivani comes to Delhi and, with the help of sub-inspector Sodhi (Mikhail Yawalkar) manages to unearth more facts. She reaches Vakil (Anil George), a key person in the sex trafficking business. Just as Shivani and her team are about to arrest Vakil, he kills himself. Shivani must now reach the unidentified caller but how will she do so? After all, she doesn’t even have his name. Shivani gets lucky when she learns that Vakil had a paramour, Minoo Rastogi (Mona Ambegaonkar). She reaches Minoo’s house and realises something of immense help to her mission but before she can act on that information, she is drugged by Minoo Rastogi.

Does Shivani succeed in arresting the criminals behind the sex trafficking racket? Does she meet the unidentified caller who is another key player in the racket? Who is he and how is he related to the deceased Vakil? Does Shivani meet Pyari ever? Has Pyari been initiated into the flesh trade?

Gopi Puthran’s script, based on a concept and story by Hussain Zaidi and Vibha Singh, is quite weak. The issue of sex trafficking, rape, kidnapping of young girls etc. is so commonly understood that it shouldn’t have been a problem to connect with the audience. However, the script is so half-baked and so predictable that the viewer simply doesn’t feel for the female protagonist’s fight. Worse still, Gopi Puthran is not even able to evoke sympathy in the audience’s hearts for the girls who are being smuggled and sold in the flesh market or initiated into the flesh trade. The writer has tried to present Shivani and her team as normal human beings who, alongside doing their strenuous jobs, lead normal lives like ordinary citizens but all that looks like it is done for effect. In fact, so much footage is given to Shivani’s daily chores in her house and to her behaving normally even while on duty that it often shifts the focus from the more important issue to the unimportant tasks. What was of utmost importance in a film of this kind was to evoke audience sympathy and a feeling of hatred towards the criminals but, unfortunately, that just doesn’t happen. The pace of the screenplay is so easy that the tension never really builds up to the desired level. It is for this reason that the audience never once experiences a rush of adrenaline, which is a must for a film of this kind. In other words, there is just no edge-of-the-seat thrill or excitement. Resultantly, there is no sense of fulfilment which the audience experiences at the end of the show. Gopi Puthran’s dialogues, which could have been hard-hitting and inspiring, are not anything close to that. In fact, except for a handful of dialogues, the others are quite routine. The dialogues in the telephonic conversations between Shivani and the caller whom she doesn’t know are definitely entertaining.


Rani Mukerji is ordinary in the title role. Although one can’t fault her acting, there is nothing in her performance which would excite the viewers or inspire girls to emulate her. Her cool demeanour in the midst of the storm of tension she is going through looks too made up for effect. Jisshu U. Sengupta is more of a functional character which has nothing worthwhile to do. Tahir Raj Bhasin shines in the role of Karan. He acts with style and elan and has the right attitude to carry off the role. Anil George is effective as Vakil. Anant Sharma performs very ably as Sunny Katiyal. Mona Ambegaonkar is first-rate as Minoo Rastogi. Aman Uppal makes his presence felt in the role of Mattoo. Priyanka Sharma has her moments as Pyari in the initial reels after which she doesn’t quite impress. Mikhail Yawalkar is alright as sub-inspector Sodhi. Avneet Kaur (as Meera), Digvijay S. Rohidas (as Jafar), Ashish Warang (as More), Sanjay Taneja (as Taneja), Gautam Babbar (as Tandon), Peter Manuel (as Mbosa), Eddie Teel (as Mbangwa), Rio Kapadia (as joint commissioner of police Sinha), D.V. Vivek (as joint commissioner of police Iyer), Sahanand Verma (as Kapil), Habib (as Bob), Manik Puri (as Prakash), Prashant Sutra (as Mushtaq), Kanchan Pagare (as the goggle seller) and the rest lend fair support.

Pradeep Sarkar’s direction leaves something to be desired. His narration neither has the fire required for the drama nor the excitement needed to tackle an issue-based film of this kind. Also, he has kept the pace of the film very easy and, at times, even unnecessarily slow, whereas the need of the hour was a faster pace. Salim-Sulaiman’s music and Kausar Munir’s lyrics are functional. Julius Packiam’s background music is fair. Artur Zurawski’s cinematography is good. Manohar Verma’s action and stunt scenes lack the thrill one waits for in a film of this kind. Sets (by Bhawani Patel) and production designing (Madhu Sarkar Kuriakose) are okay. Sanjib Dutta’s editing ought to have been sharper.

On the whole, Mardaani is too ordinary a film for an emotional and disturbing issue like sex trafficking. It leaves the viewer unaffected and fails to inspire the women to revolt, which is what the film ought to have done. At the box-office, it will not be able to make its mark. A section of the evolved and women audience will like it for the intention behind the film but that won’t be enough for the film to succeed at the ticket windows.

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Reliance Entertainment, Ajay Devgn Ffilms and Rohit Shetty Productions’ Singham Returns (UA) is the sequel to Singham. This film tackles the problem of black money being hoarded by the rich people and by politicians even as the poor in the country continue to become poorer. It also shows the nexus between evil politicians and Godmen.

Police officer Bajirao Singham (Ajay Devgan) is posted in Bombay and goes about his job of cleansing society diligently. He has a team of like-minded and honest police officers who support him. One day, his trusted subordinate, Mahesh Jadhav (Ganesh Yadav), is found killed in an ambulance stacked with crores of rupees. The media blows up the accident issue and casts aspersions on the honesty of the deceased policeman, much to the horror of his mother (Sarita Joshi) and wife, Usha (Smita Tambe). Bajirao Singham, who used to have immense faith in Mahesh’s honesty, is convinced, there is foul play involved in the accidental death of his deputy.

The needle of suspicion points to Satyaraj Baba (Amole Gupte), a wily Godman who loots people and is known for the crores of rupees he has in black money, and also to Prakash Rao (Zakir Hussain), an alliance partner of the chief minister, Adhikari (Mahesh Manjrekar). However, Singham and his team as also the principled police commissioner, Shiv Rat­hod (Sharat Saxena), can do little without strong evidence to prove that Satyaraj Baba and Prakash Rao are involved in the crime. Bajirao Singham is confident, he would find evidence to nail them. He is also sure, the evidence would expose their other criminal activities too.

Even as Singham is trying hard to nail the culprits, Guruji (Anupam Kher), a principled politician and leader of a rising political party, is attacked and killed in cross-firing between policemen and goons. Singham is distraught and resigns from the police force, owning responsibility for the death as he was unsuccessful in saving Guruji. Singham and his girlfriend, Avni (Kareena Kapoor Khan), now go to their home­ town to meet their parents.

Singham and his team get lucky when they learn that the black money of the Godman and the evil politician are stacked at Vadhavpur. Singham catches hold of Altaf Khan (Pankaj Tri­pathi), who is the paid stooge of Satyaraj Baba, and arrests him. He is confident of nailing the duo with confessions from Altaf Khan. But Altaf is injured grievously and he slips into coma. Will he come out of the coma? Will Satyaraj Baba and Prakash Rao let him remain alive? Will Bajirao Singham be able to prove to the court that Satyaraj Baba and Prakash Rao are criminals? Or will the two use their influential positions and the power of money to go scot-free? What is the truth about Mahesh Jadhav’s death? Why was he driving an ambulance stacked with black money? Who killed Guruji? Are the perpetrators of crime exposed before the public? Does the court punish them? Or does Bajirao Singham have to bite the dust?

Rohit Shetty’s story tackles a problem which is relevant to every citizen of India. The story may not have much novelty but he has selected one which the audience can easily identify with and has penned incidents which are fresh. Yunus Sajawal’s screenplay is replete with mass-appealing scenes and he, too, concentrates on giving the audience high-voltage drama with a number of fresh scenes. There are many scenes and sequences in which the audience will be excited enough to clap, whistle and scream in sheer delight. Why, viewers will also cheer for the good characters in the film! The entire sequence in which police officers take off their uniform and march in vests and trousers is outstanding and will meet with a thunderous round of applause. The scene in which a poor woman incessantly fires Bajirao Singham for beating up her son who has accepted money from politicians is outstanding and shakes the audience. A number of scenes between Bajirao Singham and Satyaraj Baba are highly entertaining and the same can be said of the scenes between Singham and Prakash Rao, the best being the one in which Avni slaps Prakash Rao in front of the public even as Singham is on duty and refuses to arrest her, quoting sections of a relevant Act. These and several other sequences ensure that the masses get their full quota of entertainment. Even the light and comic scenes are interesting and entertaining and engage the viewers, making them smile and laugh. A couple of scenes will make the weak-hearted cry too. All in all, the story and screenplay may not be as shocking as Singham because that film had immense shock value but, having said that, it must be added that the story and screenplay of the sequel are hugely entertaining despite not being as novel. Farhad-Sajid’s dialogues deserve the highest praise because they are extraordinary and will evoke deafening rounds of applause. Their lighter dialogues are cute and funny.

Ajay Devgan breathes fire into the character of Bajirao Singham. He looks the character, having worked hard on his physique, which makes his breathtaking action scenes seem real and believable. He performs like a master player and uses his eyes and body language to great advantage to convey his emotions. Kareena Kapoor Khan is cute and endearing and plays the loud Maharashtrian mulgi with conviction. Her penchant for eating is a lovely punch which will evoke laughter in several scenes. Amole Gupte shines as Satyaraj Baba. Although comparisons are bound to be made with Prakash Raj, the villain of Singham, and the audience would miss him, it must be said in all fairness that Amole Gupte is truly terrific. Zakir Hussain acts with admirable ease and leaves a fine impression. Anupam Kher is natural to the core and makes his character of an honest politician very believable. Sharat Saxena has his moments. Mahesh Manjrekar is suitably subdued as the chief minister. Pankaj Tripathi is supremely natural. Ganesh Yadav makes his presence felt in a brief role. Sarita Joshi, as his mother, and Smita Tambe, as his wife, are both first-rate. Dayanand Shetty (as Daya) plays to the gallery. The scene in which Singham asks him to break open the door will be met with a loud round of applause as he is similarly asked to open doors in TV serial C.I.D.. Govind Namdeo leaves a mark as Bajirao Singham’s father. Ashwini Kalsekar makes her presence beautifully felt as TV news reporter and reader Meera Shorey. Her transition is wonderfully portrayed by her. Chhaya Kadam shines as the slum-dweller who fires Singham for having beaten up her son. Uday Tikekar (as Avni’s father), Shubhangi Latkar (as Avni’s mother), Meghna Vaidya (as Bajirao Singham’s mother), Sonali Kulkarni (as Menaka), Jitender Joshi (as Menaka’s boyfriend), Vineet Sharma (as police officer Dev Phadnis), Deepraj Rana (as Sunil Prabhat), Nattasha Rana (as Sunil Prabhat’s wife), Amit Varma (as Mayank), Sameer Dharmadhikari (as Kishore), Shriswara (as Neeta Parmar), Rakesh Kukreti (as Neeta’s husband), Sunil Godse (as the RTO officer), Uday Nene (as the biker boy), Jiten Mukhi (as the biker boy’s dad), Sandhya (as the lady cop), Sunil Deo (as the dhaba owner) and master … Pawar (as the kid in the ‘Aata Majhi Satakli’ song) lend admirable support.

Rohit Shetty’s direction is extraordinary. He has extracted fantastic work out of his actors, made a fast-paced entertainer and given the film a big canvas. His shot takings are excellent and he makes use of aerial shots tremendously well. He has made a film which will keep audiences of all age groups and all classes very happy. In spite of tackling a serious issue like black money, he has made the film very entertaining with light moments galore. Although he has made liberal use of Marathi in the dialogues, it must be said to his credit that his treatment will ensure that even the audience which doesn’t understand Marathi will find itself applauding the dialogues where necessary.

Music is good but not hit. The ‘Aata majhi satakli’ song (composed and penned by Yo Yo Honey Singh, with additional Marathi lyrics by Sachin Pathak) is mass-appealing. ‘Kuchh toh hua hai’ (penned by Sandeep Nath and Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay, and composed by Ankit Tiwari) is melodious. ‘Sun le zara’ (music by Jeet Ganguli and penned by Sandeep Nath) will be loved by the Muslim audience. The ‘Singham’ song (music: Meet Bros. Anjjan, lyrics: Shabbir Ahmed) is appealing. Choreography of the ‘Aata majhi satakli’ song (by Ganesh Acharya) is lovely. The choreography of the other two songs (by Chinni Prakash and Raju Khan) is fair. Amar Mohile’s background music deserves distinction marks for heightening the impact of the scenes. His use of Sanskrit shlokas in dramatic and action sequences is superb. Rohit Shetty’s designing of the action sequences is outstanding; their execution by Jai Singh Nijjar and Sunil Rodrigues is equally brilliant. The action scenes are bound to evoke huge applause from the masses. Dudley’s camerawork is remarkable. Picturisation of the action scenes, in particular, deserves special mention. Narendra Rahurikar’s sets are appropriate. Steven Bernard’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Singham Returns is entertainment to the fullest. It will turn out to be a huge hit. It may not be as memorable a film as Singham but it is, nevertheless, an immensely entertaining film and its business will be far, far more than that of Singham. It will definitely prove to be the highest-grossing film of Ajay Devgan’s career so far. Business in Maharashtra will be simply stupendous!

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Tips Industries Ltd. and PEN India Pvt. Ltd.’s Entertainment (UA) is the story of a young man whose father has died after bequeathing all his property and assets to his pet dog.

Akhil Lokhande (Akshay Kumar) struggles to make two ends meet and also has a father (Darshan Jariwala) to tend for. Suddenly, one day, Akhil is told by his father that he is not his biological father. Akhil plans to meet his biological father (Dalip Tahhil) in Bangkok but gets the news that his father has just breathed his last.

Akhil, nevertheless, goes to Bangkok and is soon joined by his bosom pal (Krushna Abhishek). To his horror, he finds out that before dying, his multi-millionaire father had willed his entire property to his pet dog, Entertainment (Junior). Akhil now struggles to have the dog killed so that he can convince his dad’s lawyer, Abdullah (Johny Lever), to transfer all the properties and businesses in his name as he is the only surviving heir.

Even as Akhil and his friend are trying to kill Entertainment, they rea­lise that Entertainment is fond of them. Why, Entertainment actually ends up saving Akhil’s life at the very place Akhil and his friend wanted to eliminate Entertainment.

Akhil now becomes friends with Entertainment. Soon, Karan (Prakash Raj) and Arjun (Sonu Sood), who are relatives of Akhil’s late father and who had been serving time in jail, are released. They come to stake their claim in the property. But Akhil, his friend, dog Entertainment and Abdullah do all under their control to not let Karan and Arjun usurp the property.

Does Akhil Lokhande succeed in his mission to oust Karan and Arjun from his father’s palatial mansion? Or do Karan and Arjun prove to be one-up on Akhil?

K. Subhash’s story may not be high on logic but it is, nevertheless, entertaining even if it is very implausible. The whole concept of a dog inheriting property worth crores and crores of rupees, from his master is quite unusual and unpalatable. However, Farhad-Sajid have written an interesting and entertaining screenplay to complement the story. Again, the screenplay goes to ridiculous levels to keep the audience smiling and laughing and because it succeeds in creating fun and laughter, the masses and family audiences will not really mind the ridiculousness of it all. Yes, a size­ able section of the audience will smirk at the proceedings but even that section will enjoy some of the jokes. The writers have tried to infuse a dash of emotions and that will go down well with the audience. Here, special mention must be made of Akhil’s friend who speaks only by referring to names of actors and celebrities to convey his thoughts. The outcome is hilarious! Also, Akhil questioning people about their professions is an entertaining track. Similarly, the track of Abdullah is very funny. In short, several scenes will have the audience in splits because they are so comical! On the other hand, there are some dull moments too, when the scenes appear to have been stretched too much. But the boredom doesn’t last too long for the audience. Climax is entertaining though predictable. Farhad-Sajid have penned excellent dialogues which increase the entertainment value of the drama. In fact, the dialogues are better than the screenplay!

Akshay Kumar does a fine job as Akhil Lokhande. He plays to the gallery and evokes laughter at a number of places. Tamannaah Bhatia is fair. She gets limited scope but does what is required of her. Krushna Abhishek brings the house down with laughter with his crazy dialogues and acting. He is a highlight of the film. Johny Lever is first-rate as the lawyer of Akhil’s dad. He raises laughter at many places. Prakash Raj is terrific as Karan. In the role of Arjun, Sonu Sood is effective. The use of the ‘Yeh bandhan toh pyar ka bandhan hai’ song in the background whenever there is a burst of emotions between Karan and his step-brother, Arjun, is wonderful. Junior, the wonder dog, is cute, endearing and expressive. Mithun Chakraborty is outstanding in a special appearance. Dalip Tahhil is alright. Vrajesh Hirjee makes his mark in a bit role. Ritesh Deshmukh makes his presence amply felt in a guest appearance. Darshan Jariwala, in a brief role, contributes in making the viewers smile and laugh. Shreyas Talpade is alright in a tiny special appearance. Hiten Tejwani is natural in a small special appearance.

Directors Farhad-Sajid have made quite a laugh riot but having said that, it must be added that the drama remains implausible. Considering that this is the duo’s first attempt at direction, the two have handled the film with the ease of a seasoned player. Their narrative style caters to the masses and the family audiences, with special masala for the kids. Sachin-Jigar’s music is very good but the absence of a chartbusitng song is sorely felt. ‘Veere di wedding’ and ‘Johny Johny’ are already very popular songs and are enjoyable in the film. Of the other songs, ‘Tera naam’ is melodious. ‘Teri mahima aparampar’ is fast-paced. Lyrics (by Mayur Puri, Priya Panchal and Ashish Pandit) are in keeping with the film’s mood. Remo D’souza’s choreography is nice. White Noise Production’s background music is effective. Manoj Soni’s camerawork is very nice. Sham Kaushal’s action and stunt scenes are good. Vinod Guruji’s sets are appropriate. Steven Bernard’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Entertainment is an entertaining fare but with sectional appeal only. Its ridiculous story-line is a major drawback and will make its appeal restricted. It will be enjoyed by the masses, families and kids. Although it will keep the target audience in splits, its business will be less than its merits because it has just a week-long window, what with eagerly awaited Singham Returns scheduled for release next week. The producers may have made their profit but some of the distributors, particularly those who have paid heavy prices, will not be as lucky.

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