EKKEES TOPPON KI SALAAMI

Nautanki Films, PEN and Shikhar Films’ Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami (UA) is the story of an honest sweeper and his two dishonest sons. Joshi (Anupam Kher) is a very honest sweeper who works for the municipal corporation. He wants his two sons, Shekhar (Manu Rishi Chadha) and Subhash (Divyendu Sharma), to also embrace honesty but they are epitomes of dishonesty because they feel, dishonesty is the best policy. Subhash aligns with the state’s corrupt chief minister, Daya Shankar Pandey (Rajesh Sharma), much to the heartburn of his principled father.

It is now time for Joshi’s retirement and he is looking forward to the certificate of merit his employers will give him on his last day at work. Meanwhile, his sons, afraid that they would all have to vacate the accommodation provided by the municipal corporation, arrange for funds to pay a wheeler-dealer corporator so that the house could be transferred in their names after their father’s retirement.

As bad luck would have it, Joshi’s senior (Anurag Arora) accuses him of fraud and cheating on the last day of service. Why, even disciplinary action is to be launched against him. Joshi is distraught and dejected. His sons, who’ve paid Rs. 10 lakh to have the house transferred in their names, are scared that their bribe money would go down the drain as the flat would never be theirs because of the disciplinary action being initiated against their father. They try to force their father to sign a letter of apology so that their Rs. 10 lakh would not go to waste. However, the principled father is unwilling to sign. When Subhash forces his father to sign the apology letter by promising to do whatever he desires, Joshi asks him to get him a 21-gun salute, which is reserved for VIPs, as he (Joshi) feels, he has been an ideal citizen of the country. In the heat of the moment, Subhash promises to fulfil his father’s wish, knowing fully well that a 21-gun salute is not for common men. Just then, Joshi passes away as he can’t bear the humiliation hurled upon him.

Subhash’s girlfriend, Tanya (Aditi Sharma), now asks Subhash to fulfil the last wish of his father. Just then, news of the chief minister’s sudden death is announced. It is also announced that his last rites would be performed with a 21-gun salute.

Even as preparations are afoot for the funeral of Joshi, Subhash’s conscience is awakened. He suddenly realises the selflessness of his late father and appreciates the ideals and principles he stood for. He now vows to fulfil his father’s dying wish – a 21-gun salute for him. At first agitated at the younger brother’s far-fetched plan, elder brother Shekhar soon becomes one with Subhash.

How the two dishonest sons of one of the most honest persons of the city move heaven and earth to fulfil their father’s last wish is what the drama is all about.

Rahil Qaazi has penned a message-oriented drama with a good dose of entertainment. It is about the victory of the common man and about living life with complete honesty. No doubt, the screenplay, also written by Rahil Qaazi, is a bit too convenient and resorts to a lot of cinematic liberties but the entertainment quotient keeps the film engaging and engrossing for the audience. The first part of the first half is light and relies on witty dialogues to entertain. The second part of the pre-interval portion becomes very emotional and will make the weak-hearted cry a lot. The scenes in which Joshi is humiliated in the office, and the scenes in which his sons realise the sacrifices made by their father are indeed heart-wrenching. So also are the scenes in which the two sons force their father to sign an apology letter although he has done no wrong!

The post-interval portion becomes a bit too lengthy and long-drawn as also somewhat convenient. Yet, the climax has its share of emotions which are heartwarming. Rahil Qaazi’s dialogues are absolute gems and add to the fun quotient in the light scenes and the emotional drama in the serious scenes.

Anupam Kher does a fantastic job as Joshi and lives the character of the honest sweeper. He is superb. Divyendu Sharma is first-rate as Joshi’s younger son, Subhash. His acting, body language and facial expressions are just too wonderful. Manu Rishi Chadha performs splendidly as Shekhar. He gets into the skin of the character and emotes extraordinarily. Aditi Sharma is supremely natural as Tanya. Rajesh Sharma entertains in the role of chief minister Daya Shankar Pandey. Neha Dhupia is very effective as his mistress, Jayaprabha. Uttara Baokar shines in the role of the chief minister’s mother. Her character as well as acting are entertaining. Supriya Kumari does a truly fine job of Shekhar’s wife. Sudhir Pande provides good entertainment with his natural acting. Bhagwan Tiwari lends very fine support as the security chief at the chief minister’s house. Anurag Arora leaves a mark as Joshi’s senior who is honest like Joshi. Aasif Shaikh is endearing as the television journalist. Anjali Ujwane has her moments as the mother-in-law of Shekhar. Gagan Gupta makes his presence felt as the wheeler-dealer corporator. Others lend great support.

Ravindra Gautam’s direction is excellent. His narrative style keeps the audience involved, engrossed and entertained from the start till the end. Ram Sampath’s music is quite nice. Sandeep Nath’s lyrics are weighty. Pony Verma’s choreography is functional. Ram Sampath’s background music is of a good standard. Sanjay Memane’s cinematography is fine. Wasiq Khan’s production designing is appropriate. Amitabh Shukla and Sanjay Sharma have done a nice job of the editing.

On the whole, Ekkees Toppon Ki Salaami is an entertaining, message-oriented film with a strong emotional base. It has merits but due to its very poor initial, dull promotion and dull pre-Diwali days ahead, it will go largely unnoticed. Even positive word of mouth will not help much so that the film will turn out to be a resounding flop.

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HAIDER

UTV Motion Pictures and Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures’ Haider (UA) is based on Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. It is set in the picturesque Kashmir. Haider Meer (Shahid Kapoor) is distraught because his father, Dr. Hilaal Meer (Narendra Jha), has been taken captive by the army for harbouring terrorists in his house as one of them was in urgent need of surgery. On hearing the news, Haider returns from Aligarh, where he has been studying. Haider believes, his father would return but he is in for a terrible shock when Roohdaar (Irrfan Khan), claiming to be with Dr. Hilaal Meer in prison, tells him that Dr. Meer is no more and that the one responsible for his father’s death is none other than his own paternal uncle, Khurram Meer (Kay Kay Menon). As if that weren’t bad enough, Haider is already feeling miserable that his doting mother, Ghazala Meer (Tabu), is now in love with Khurram Meer. The two even get married later.

Is Khurram Meer really responsible for the death of his brother? Is Ghazala also hand-in-glove with Khurram as regards the death? Has Haider been misinformed? Does Haider avenge his father’s death by killing his uncle, Khurram Meer? Does Haider’s mother stop him from seeking revenge?

The story of Hamlet is adapted and set against the backdrop of Kashmir. The political climate of Kashmir also, therefore, becomes an intergral part of the story. The screenplay, written by Basharat Peer and Vishal Bhardwaj, moves at an extremely leisurely pace. While this will appeal to the evolved audience, the masses will find the drama excruciatingly slow and of the kind which tests their patience. The first half moves very slowly and remains quite boring (for the masses) till just a little before interval when Roohdaar comes on the scene. The film gains momentum from that scene and raises hope of a fast-paced second half. However, the post-interval part is also very slow. Yes, it has more drama but the whole dilemma of Haider and his mental state after he learns about his uncle’s alleged involvement in his father’s death is very class-appealing. Again, while the classes and evolved viewers would love the subtleties and the nuances in the proceedings and the various characters, the masses would not care much for them. Questions like whether Ghazala Meer was involved in the plan to eliminate her husband and, if so, was it because she was in love with Khurram even before the demise of her husband crop up in the audience’s minds but no effort has been made to address such issues. This is not a fault on the part of the screenplay writers. It is just that they have chosen not to anwser questions like the above. While the class audience will appreciate the fact that the writers have not tried to present everything in black or white, the mass audience will not take such ‘ambiguities’ too kindly. Similarly, a lot of loose ends are not tied up in the end, giving the masses the feeling of incompleteness of the drama because they are used to watching films where everything is clearly concluded in the end. For the evolved audience, however, this kind of screenplay would actually make them happy that the writers haven’t bowed down to box-office pressures.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s dialogues are inspired and realistic.

Shahid Kapoor does an excellent job as Haider Meer. He lives the character and acts with admirable ease, not once going overboard or trying to monopolise a scene. As his girlfriend, Arshia, Shraddha Kapoor is good but that’s about it. Tabu is remarkable in the role of Ghazala Meer. Her body language, dialogue delivery, facial ex­pressions are all so real that she comes out with flying colours. Kay Kay Menon is natural to the core as Khurram Meer, acting with great care. Irrfan Khan shines in a brief guest appearance. He gives the drama a fantastic boost with his presence and brilliant acting. Narendra Jha looks and plays Dr. Hilaal Meer effortlessly. Amir Bashir (as Arshia’s brother, Liyaqat) and Lalit Parimoo (as Arshia’s father) lend very good support. Sumit Kaul and Rajat Bhagat provide the much-needed relief in bit roles as Salman and Salman. Kulbhushan Kharbanda (as Dr. Hussain) and Basharat Peer (as the man with the ‘new disease’) are effective. Anshuman Malhotra has his moments as young Haider. Others are adequate.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s direction is effective but it caters to only the class audience, much like the film’s script. His narration is sensitive. Music (Vishal Bhardwaj) is good but lack of a couple of or even one hit song is sorely felt. ‘Bismil’ and ‘Khul kabhi toh’ are melodious. Lyrics (Gulzar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz) are rich. Picturisation of the ‘Bismil’ song, choreographed by Sudesh Adhana, is fairly good. Vishal Bhardwaj’s background music is extraordinary. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is of a very high standard. The supremely beautiful locales of Kashmir come alive on the screen with his splendid camerawork. Harpal Singh (Palli) and Ravi Kumar’s action and stunts are very good but the womenfolk might find the action too gruesome. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production designing is excellent. Aarif Shaikh’s editing is good.

On the whole, Haider is a class-appealing fare which will do well in premium multiplexes and high-end single-screen cinemas of the big cities mainly. It will be enjoyed by the classes but it will not be liked by the masses. Business in lesser multiplexes and lesser single-screen cinemas as also in ‘B’ and ‘C’ class centres will be rather dull. Overall, average.

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BANG BANG!

Fox Star Studios’ Bang Bang! (UA) is an action-packed love story. Rajveer Nanda (Hrithik Roshan) steals the Kohinoor diamond from London and returns to India. He makes it amply known to underworld don Omar Zafar (Danny Denzongpa), through his (Zafar’s) men, that he has the expensive Kohinoor diamond, the intention being to meet Omar Zafar. Although Rajveer pretends that he wants to sell the diamond, he doesn’t actually sell it, making Omar Zafar’s men follow him for it. Hot on Rajveer’s trail are Omar Zafar’s men on the one hand and the police on the other.

In trying to meet Omar Zafar, Rajveer has to escape, both, the police and Zafar’s men while securing the Kohinoor diamond. Quite early on, he meets Harleen Sahni (Katrina Kaif) in a chance encounter. Harleen, who works as a receptionist in a bank, is on a blind date and mistakes Rajveer for her date. The two hit it off well and start enjoying each other’s company. Harleen, of course, can’t fathom why so many people are after Rajveer and why he keeps gunning down people. Anyway, she learns part of Rajveer’s reality even as their romance blossoms.

And then, Rajveer gets a chance to meet Omar Zafar. What happens thereafter? Why was it so necessary for Rajveer to meet Omar Zafar? Is there some back story? If so, what is it? What is the whole truth about Rajveer? Is he a thief or a noble soul? Does Rajveer and Harleen’s love culminate in marriage?

The film is an official remake of the Hollywood film, Knight And Day. The screenplay for the adapted story is written by Sujoy Ghosh and Suresh Nair. At the outset, it must be said that the story and screenplay offer hardly anything by way of novelty. But frankly, the other things that the film offers are so, repeat, so overpowering that the audience doesn’t even think about the lack of novelty in the subject. Among these ‘other things’ are the presentation, the action and stunts and the dances but more about them later. The screenplay is very fast-paced and keeps the audience engrossed and involved throughout. Yes, the more discerning viewer may question how Rajveer can do just about anything and that too, so easily, but the masses will not even get time to think on those lines. And when the reality of Rajveer is revealed in the end, the questions do get answered to a large extent.

The romance between Rajveer and Harleen is very cute and heartwarming. Actually, the actors playing these two characters are so good-looking that half the job is done with the casting itself – the audience roots for the two, right from the word ‘go’. There are a number of light moments in the first half and they are truly enjoyable. Action takes over in the post-interval portion and that will more than satisfy the masses. Emotions, of course, could have been far more pronounced. Abbas Tyrewala’s dialogues are very nice.

Hrithik Roshan looks like a Greek God. He has taken off his shirt in a number of scenes and his bare torso is to die for. He acts wonderfully, dances excellently and is unbelievably agile in the action sequences. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he has surpassed himself in the two song-dances. Katrina Kaif looks very pretty and also delivers an excellent performance. Her sense of timing in comic scenes is lovely. Danny Denzongpa stands out in a role which isn’t too lengthy. Pavan Raj Malhotra is very effective in the role of the secret service agent. Javed Jaffery makes his presence felt in a brief role, in a special appearance. Jimmy Shergill has his moments, also in a brief role, in a special appearance. Kanwaljit Singh, Deepti Naval, Vikram Gokhale and Ankur Vikal provide adequate support in guest appearances. Kamlesh Gill is cute as Harleen’s grandmother. Partha Akerkar (as Robert) and Pradeep Kabra (as Big Man) are effective. Pratik Dixit shines in the role of Karan. Others lend the desired support.

Siddharth Anand’s narrative style caters to all classes of audience. His direction is very good and he has succeeded in keeping the viewers involved, right from the start till the end. He doesn’t let the audience’s thoughts wander anywhere. Vishal-Shekhar’s music is already hit. ‘Tu meri’ and the ‘Bang Bang’ song are very fast-paced numbers. ‘Meherbaan’ has lilt and melody. Lyrics, by Vishal Dadlani, Anvita Dutt and Kumaar, are perfectly in synch with the film’s mood. Choreography of the ‘Tu meri’ and ‘Bang Bang’ songs (both by Bosco-Caesar) is truly mesmerising. Special mention must be made of Hrithik Roshan’s outstanding dance movements in both these songs. Ahmed Khan’s choreography in the ‘Meherbaan’ song is eye-filling. Salim-Sulaiman’s background music is wonderful. Sunil Patel’s cinematography, with additional cinematography by Vikas Sivaraman and Benjamin Jasper, is extraordinary. The film looks like a Hollywood film, thanks to the camerawork, can­vas and action/stunts. The foreign locations are heavenly. Parvez Shaikh’s action and stunts (with action consultant Andrew Armstrong) takes one’s breath away. Action of this kind has not been seen on the Hindi screen. The water action sequence is out of this world. The chase sequences are just too lovely. Dipankar Dasgupta’s production designing is veritably superb. Editing, by Akiv Ali, is sharp.

On the whole, Bang Bang! is a super-hit because it offers entertainment galore and has something for everyone. It will break a lot of box-office records and could end up joining the Rs. 200-crore club.

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CREATURE

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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FINDING FANNY
(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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MARY KOM

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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RAJA NATWARLAL

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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