RSVP and Guy In The Sky Pictures’ Kedarnath (ua) is a love story set against the backdrop of the Hindu pilgrim place in 2013 when floods ravaged it.

Mandakini, also known as Mukku (Sara Ali Khan), lives in Kedarnath with her father (Nitish Bharadwaj), mother (Sonali Sachdev) and elder sister, Brinda (Pooja Gor). They are Pandits and run lodges in Kedarnath. Mukku is to be married to Kullu (Nishant Dahiya) who was actually first scheduled to marry Brinda. However, Mukku hates Kullu and does all under her command to irritate him. Even otherwise, Mukku is a brash girl who doesn’t hesitate in speaking her mind.

Mukku develops a fondness for the local pitthu (porter), Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput). She finds him simple and honest as also helpful. She often travels to and fro her lodge on Mansoor’s horse, Rustom. At times, Mansoor himself carries her on a cane chair which he uses to ply pilgrims to the holy shrine. Mukku and Mansoor’s friendship soon turns into romance. All hell breaks loose when Mukku’s orthodox Hindu family learns about her affair with the Muslim boy. Why, Kullu and his men even beat up Mansoor mercilessly.

Even otherwise, Kullu does not like Mansoor because he had raised objections to permission being granted to construct a two-star hotel in Kedar­nath for which some Pandits and some pitthus, including Mansoor, would have to demolish their shops. Among other things, Mansoor had feared that the ecological balance of Kedarnath would be disturbed.

Anyway, once Mukku’s affair comes to the knowledge of her family, her father gets her married to Kullu. When Mansoor does not come to rescue Mukku from the wedding ceremony, she attempts suicide soon after the marriage is solemnised. But she is saved by her family members.

Immediately thereafter, torrential rains cast a pall of gloom over Kedarnath. The scene appears catastrophic. The family lodge, in which Mukku and her family as also many others take refuge, gives way due to the floods. Mukku’s mother and sister are killed in the accident alongwith several others. Unable to stop himself, Mansoor tries to reach out to save Mukku.

What happens thereafter? Does Mansoor reach out to Mukku? Is he able to save her? Do the two unite and live happily ever after?

Abhishek Kapoor and Kanika Dhillon have written a fictional love story against the backdrop of the actual floods that wreaked havoc in Kedarnath in 2013. While an inter-faith love story is not novel, what differentiates it from other inter-faith love stories is the Kedarnath backdrop. As such, the story is quite interesting.

The screenplay, penned by Kanika Dhillon, is interesting in parts only, because it suffers from some major flaws. For one, the romance looks hurried and, therefore, not very convincing. Why Mukku falls so madly in love with Mansoor is not clear. In other words, what qualities of his has she been bowled over by is not clearly explained or spelt out. Since the romance is not very convincing, the hearts of the audiences do not weep for the lovers when they are forced to separate. In other words, the emotional connection between the characters and the viewers is not as solid as it ought to have been. Another minus point: although Mansoor speaks about the ecological balance being disturbed if the two-star hotel is allowed to be constructed, the floods ravage the pilgrim place much before construction work begins. That is to say, the writer had a golden chance to make Mansoor appear like a visionary but she fritters away that chance for no apparent gain.

The first half has some entertaining and enjoyable light moments but none that can make the audience laugh out loud. The post-interval portion has drama and melodrama but the emotional appeal is lacking. This could also be partly because Mansoor’s character is not very endearing. Also, the climax becomes more about saving lives than about two lovers uniting. Differently worded, the climax is about such a big natural calamity, in which lives of thousands are at stake, that the viewers are bound to be equally, if not more, bothered about the lives of the people. So, for the audience, the coming together of Mansoor and Mukku does not seem as important as it ought to have been. In other words, the focus shifts to a more solid cause – if only because it’s the question of the lives of not just the two lovers but of thousands of human beings.

Kanika Dhillon’s dialogues are very good at places.

Sushant Singh Rajput does a fine job, underplaying beautifully. But the fact remains that his character is not endearing – which is a minus point in a love story. Sara Ali Khan looks pretty and makes a supremely confident debut. She is an excellent actress and shines with a free-spirited performance that belies that she is a debutante. Whether in light scenes or dramatic or melodramatic or emotional, she is first-rate. The girl has a superb future ahead of her. Nitish Bharadwaj plays Mukku’s father with conviction. Sonali Sachdev, as Mukku’s mother, makes her presence felt. Pooja Gor stands her own in the role of Mukku’s sister, Brinda. Nishant Dahiya leaves a mark as Kullu. Alka Amin does a fine job as Mansoor’s widowed mother. Mahinder Mewati (as the mad Baba), Vinamra Panchariya (as Afzar), Mir Sarwar (as Bashir), Sunita Rajwar (as Daddo), Arun Bali (as the chief priest), Basu Soni (as Gullu), Tarun Gehlot (as Kailash), Faiz Khan (as Hemchand), Sharad Vyas (as Himalaya Tyagi), Akshay Bhatt (as Debu), Arav Malhotra (as young Mansoor), Priyadarshan (as Tarang), Shahab Ali (as Mansoor’s father), Hitesh Bhardwaj (as the helicopter co-pilot), Varun Buddhadev (as the kid in the helicopter), Abhash Makharia (as the young pandit), Anuradha (as Kullu’s mother) and the rest provide decent support.

Abhishek Kapoor’s direction is good. Credit is due to him for creating the right atmosphere through the film and for extracting good work out of his actors. But he should’ve paid more attention to the script and plugged the loopholes. Amit Trivedi’s music is nice but not hit. The ‘Sweetheart’ song is catchy and popular. The other songs, especially ‘Kafirana’ and ‘Namo Namo’, are melodious. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are weighty. Adil Shaikh’s choreography is fair. Hitesh Sonik’s background music is impactful. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography is appealing and deserves good marks. Computer graphics are nice. Dave Judge and Sunil Rodrigues’ action and stunts are exciting and thrilling. Mayur Sharma’s production designing is of a good standard. Chandan Arora’s editing is suitably sharp.

On the whole, Kedarnath is a well-made film but which lacks the excitement of a love story. As such, it will not be able to make money at the ticket windows – and this, also because the investment in the film is more than the project deserved.

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2.0 (Dubbed)

Lyca Productions and Karan Johar’s 2.0 (dubbed from the Tamil film of the same name) is a sequel to Robot.

A strange phenomenon occurs one day. Lakhs of people talking on their cell phones or using them are shocked when their cell phones are snatched away from their hands and sucked towards the sky. The phenomenon is inexplicable because nobody seems to be manoeuvring the movement of the mobile phones. Some users get calls from an unknown number before the cell phone disappears. Soon thereafter, cell phone company owners, dealers and even delivery boys of cell phones are killed in mysterious circumstances. The telecom minister also dies under strange circumstances. After his death, his cell phone comes out of his stomach.

The home minister (Aadil Hussain) is scared to death and he immediately asks scientist Dr. Vaseekaran (Rajinikanth) to put robot Chitti (Raji­nikanth) on the job to understand what’s going on and to put an end to the phenomenon. Dr. Vaseekaran revives Chitti and also sends his PA, robot Neela (Amy Jackson), to investigate.

It turns out that Pakshikaran (Aksh­ay Kumar), a strange-looking giant bird, is behind the weird happenings. Pakshikaran has got his powers from the birds he had protected since his childhood. In fact, Pakshikaran was still-born as a human, but a sparrow had made him come alive. Since childhood, Pakshikaran had developed a strong liking for and a special bond with birds. He had studied orinthology and had been pained by the dwindling population of birds due to radiation emitted by cell phone towers and indiscriminate use of cell phones. Seized of the contribution of birds in maintaining the ecological balance, he is nervous that the ecological imbalance would finally prove detrimental to the interests of mankind. Pakshikaran’s research has shown that cell phone companies have been flouting TRAI rules for personal gains, further adding to the radiation problem. Pakshikaran had been waging a lone battle against radiation but had faced failure at all levels including the court due to the manipulations of interested parties. After losing on all fronts, he had committed suicide by hanging himself in sheer frustration. He had reappeared in the bird-like form after his demise. The bird-like Pakshikaran had then sought to correct the situation by rendering all users phoneless.

Chitti and Neela give Pakshikaran the bird a tough fight and finally succeed in killing him by neutralising him. But a rival scientist (Sudhanshu Pandey) who is extremely jealous of Dr. Vaseekaran, deneutralises Pakshikaran the bird. In this way, Pakshikaran comes alive again and, in a bid to beat Dr. Vaseekaran at his own game, enters his (Dr. Vaseekaran’s) body. Pakshikaran now wreaks havoc on mankind in a bid to save the bird population. Dr. Vaseekaran has no option but to order his own elimination in a bid to have Pakshikaran killed. But Chitti refuses to obey Dr. Vaseekaran’s orders. Before long, Chitti is defeated by Pakshikaran and rendered useless and powerless.

What happens thereafter? Does Dr. Vaseekaran win the battle against Pakshikaran? Or does Pakshikaran prove one-up on Dr. Vaseekaran? Is Chitti revived again? Does Dr. Vasee­karan survive? Does Pakshikaran survive?

Shankar’s concept of radiation from cell phones and cell phone towers harming the ecological balance and killing birds is unique, novel and fantastic. His story, woven around the concept, is both, interesting and engaging. The first half has its share of light moments and a good degree of intrigue value too. The second half is stretched a bit and gets boring in parts but the last half an hour is a visual delight. Yes, the fight-to-finish between Dr. Vaseekaran and Pakshikaran does look a bit unjustified if only because none of them is a villain in the true sense of the term. For, although Pakshikaran is now a threat to humankind, he is doing what he is doing for the good of the bird population and the ecological balance. A better and more solid reason for the ultimate fight would’ve made the drama more interesting and worthwhile. But the fast-moving screenplay (by Shan­kar) keeps the audience interest alive, and expectations, high. The visual eff­ects and computer graphics quite make up for the few lapses in the script. As mentioned above, the climax may not be cent per cent convincing (script-wise) but the sheer presentation is mesmerising. Yes, the screenplay does not afford the usual and ultra-popular Rajinikanth antics – and that’s a minus point. Also, the screenplay is low on emotions. But the back story of Pakshikaran’s birth is so outstanding that it acts like a superb foundation for Pakshikaran’s actions. Abbas Tyrewala’s dialogues are good but not as punch-packed as they ought to have been.

Rajinikanth, minus his antics this time, is very good as Dr. Vaseekaran, Chitti and Robot 3.0. His fans will simply adore him but they will definitely miss his typical stunts and antics. Akshay Kumar does a fine job as Pakshikaran. He is convincing when he is in human form and sober. His bird-like avtaar is excellent and his performance in that get-up is also wonderful. Amy Jackson plays human robot Neela effectively and exudes oomph. She looks very pretty too. Sudhanshu Pandey makes his mark in a brief role. Aadil Hussain lends able support as the home minister. Others provide adequate support.

Shankar’s direction is phenomenal. He has given the film a grand scale and has made it in a way that people will be blown off their minds with the computer graphics and visual effects, both of which are of international standards. The 3D conversion (by Prime Focus) is also terrific. A.R. Rahman’s music is ordinary. Background music is impactful. Bosco-Caesar’s choreography is fair. Nirav Shah’s cinematography is absolutely outstanding. The prosthetics (by Legacy Effects) deser­ve distinction marks. Action and stunts (by Kenny Bates, Nick Powell, Steven Griffin and Silva) are thrilling and exci­ting. Production designing (by T. Muthuraj) is of an excellent standard. Anthony’s editing is sharp. Dubbing is lovely.

On the whole, 2.0 (dubbed) is a surefire hit and will keep everyone associated with the film as also the audience very happy. It can easily touch the 100-crore mark in the first weekend itself.

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Metro Movies, Hanwant Khatri, Lalit Kiri, Fauzia Arshi, Santosh Bhartiya and Daily Multimedia Ltd.’s Bhaiaji Superhittt (UA) is a masala film.

Devi Dayal Dubey alias 3D (Sunny Deol) is an underworld don. His wife, Sapna Dubey (Preity Zinta), has not been staying with him because she doubts his character. 3D misses his wife and wants her back.

3D comes in touch with popular filmmaker Goldie Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) who gives him the idea of making a film based on 3D and Sapna’s life. He assures 3D that Sapna would return to him when the film would be released. 3D himself plays the male lead in the film while his heroine is Mallika (Ameesha Patel). 3D and Mallika have a night of passion before they start working together in the film which is being written by a useless writer, Tarun Porno Ghosh (Shreyas Talpade). Mallika falls for 3D and tries to woo him. Sapna, who has sent 3D a divorce notice, gets wind of the film being made and often visits the sets to ensure that she is not shown in bad light in the film. Sapna also senses that there is something going on between 3D and Mallika.

One day, 3D’s look-alike, Funny Singh (Sunny Deol), appears on the scene. Since he is an aspiring actor, 3D asks him to act in the film in his place.

There’s another track of rival underworld don Helicopter Mishra (Jaideep Ahlawat). In his endeavour to prove one-up on 3D, Helicopter Mishra routinely threatens and challenges 3D but is invariably shown the door.

Neeraj Pathak’s story is clichéd to the core. It tries to pack in everything in a bid to make the film a masala fare but the lack of freshness in the story is evident in the proceedings. His screenplay is oft-repeated but the only saving grace is that it is laced with some light moments and is fast-moving. All in all, while the story and screenplay may appeal a bit to the masses and single-screen cinema audiences, the classes and multiplex-frequenting audiences would not take kindly to the same. Neeraj Pathak’s comic dialogues – with additional dialogues by Aakash Pandey, Raj Shandilya, Shirish Sharma, Sumit Nijhawan and Raghuvir Shekhawat – are good whereas the others are routine.

Sunny Deol does an average job in the double roles. In the role of Funny Singh, his effeminate voice is an ear-sore. Sunny’s action scenes are mass-appealing. Preity Zinta does well as Sapna Dubey. However, her presence in the cast gives away the fact that the film has taken years in the making. It’s been many years since Preity quit acting. Arshad Warsi does a fantastic job as Goldie Kapoor. He evokes laughter at several places. His comic sense of timing is superb. Shreyas Talpade is also outstanding as Tarun Porno Ghosh. His comedy and timing are praiseworthy. Ameesha Patel plays the vain Mallika decently. Jaideep Ahlawat does a sincere job as Helicopter Mishra. Brijendra Kala delivers a fine performance. Pankaj Tripathi (as Gupta) has his moments. Sanjay Mishra is effective. Manoj Joshi makes his presence felt in a brief role. Mukul Dev gets limited scope; he is alright. Hemant Pandey evokes laughter in a scene or two. Amit Mistry doesn’t get to do much. Ranjeet makes his mark in a special appearance, as Sapna Dubey’s father. Pankaj Jha, Shubhangi Gokhale, Rajeev Mehta, Nawab Shah, Neha Mishra, Hanif Hilal, Rocky Sandhu (in a special appearance) and the rest lend good support. Vijay Raaz’s commentary is nice.

Neeraj Pathak’s direction is okay. Music (Jeet Ganguly, Raghav Sachar, Amjad-Nadeem, Sanjeev-Darshan and Neeraj Pathak) is fair. A couple of songs hold appeal for the masses. Lyrics (Amjad-Nadeem, Kumaar, Shabbir Ahmed, Neeraj Pathak and Raftaar (Rap)) are okay. Ahmed Khan’s choreography is so-so. The background music (by Vijay Verma, Anamik and Leyton) is quite impactful. Vishnu Rao and Kabir Lal’s cinematography is nice. S. Vijayan’s action and stunt scenes will be liked by the masses and front-benchers mainly. Muneesh Sappel’s production designing is alright. Sandip Francis’ editing is reasonably sharp.

On the whole, Bhaiaji Superhittt lacks freshness and will, therefore, not be able to recover its investment. It will fail in the big cities and multiplexes while doing only somewhat better in single-screen cinemas and small centres.

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RSVP and Roy Kapur Films’ Pihu is the story of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who is alone in her house for more than an entire day.

Pihu (Myra Vishwakarma) is two-and-a-half years old and lives with her parents in a flat in a high-rise building. Her father has had a fight with her mother and has gone to Calcutta for a day. Unknown to the little one, her mother, tired of the regular fights, has committed suicide by consuming sleeping pills. The father has, by mistake, kept the iron switch on and he keeps telephoning his wife to ask her to switch it off.

Pihu often answers the telephone calls of her dad as also of others who call on the mother’s cell phone but since she is not even three years old, she is unable to convey the scene which, in any case, even she doesn’t understand.

Pihu feels hungry and sleepy at different points of time, goes to the toilet to relieve herself, and even climbs the railings of her balcony, hanging precariously on her balcony ledge. What happens finally is revealed in the cli­ max.

Vinod Kapri has written the story of a little girl who is alone at home, unaware that her mother is no more. Although the subject has novelty, there are two points which go against the film – firstly, it is very depressing, and secondly, it gets monotonous and repetitive after a while. Vinod Kapri’s screenplay, with additional screenplay by Abhishek Sharma and Myra Vishwakarma (because the filmmaker has let the little girl do what she would do in normal circumstances if the cameras weren’t around her), is engaging but only upto a point. After a while, the screenplay appears to be stretched too much. Yes, there are moments where the audiences miss a heartbeat or two but even such scary moments don’t compensate for the depression that sets in and the repetitiveness. Vinod Kapri’s dialogues are natural.

Baby Myra Vishwakarma is absolutely splendid in Pihu’s role. She is supremely natural – and this, also because she may not even have understood that her actions were being captured on camera. Other actors have done voice acting and they’re all very effective.

Vinod Kapri’s direction is good. He needs to be lauded for making an entire film with just one character – a two-and-a-half-year-old girl – in the cast. Vishal Khurana’s background music is decent. Yogesh Jani’s camerawork is very good. Ashim Chakraborty’s production designing is appropriate. Editing (by Irene Dhar Malik, Sheeba Sehgal and Archit Rastogi) is quite sharp.

On the whole, Pihu is an experimental film but since it is more depressing than entertaining, it will not make any mark at the box-office despite getting critical acclaim.

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Crossword Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and Wisdomtree Productions Creation’s Mohalla Assi (A) is based in Kashi in Uttar Pradesh.

Dharmnath Pandey (Sunny Deol) is an orthodox Brahmin pandit who sits on Assi ghat in Kashi and helps visitors including foreigners. He also teaches Sanskrit. Dharmnath Pandey has been elected president of the Dharm Raksha Parishad, and the other Brahmin Pandits working on Assi ghat are not very happy about it because he is very strict.

Dharmnath is strictly against the local Brahmins allowing foreigners to stay as paying guests in their homes because he considers foreigners unclean and those who can pollute their homes which are abodes of Lord Shiva. Dharmnath is particularly critical of the foreigners because they eat non-vegetarian food.

Kanni Guru (Ravi Kishan) is a tourist guide who is an opportunist. Nekram (Faisal Rashid) is a barber, another opportunist who hooks up with a foreigner, turns a sadhu and goes to the USA. There are other Brahmin pandits who work on Assi ghat. There’s a group of men who meet regularly at the tea shop and discuss politics and religion with the same passion. Since the story is set in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, topics of discussion include the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the Mandal Commission.

There comes a time when Dharmnath Pandey is forced to step down from his lofty ideals and principles because he finds it difficult to make ends meet. He agrees to keep a foreigner lady in his own house as a paying guest when Kanni educates him about the money the lady would be paying him for not just staying in his house but also learning Sanskrit from him. Dharmnath’s wife, Savitri (Sakshi Tanwar), is shocked that Dharmnath is willing to compromise on his principles but he explains to her that there is no alternative if he is to give the family (which includes three children) a decent life.

Dharmnath agrees to change the place where the Shiva linga resides in his home just so that the foreigner can be accommodated. This creates such a sensation in Assi that all hell breaks loose. What happens thereafter?

The film is based on Dr. Kashi Nath Singh’s popular Hindi novel, Kashi Ka Assi, a satire on the commercialisation of the pilgrim place. The story is satirical in nature and would, therefore, appeal to the class audience only. Even otherwise, since it is quite philosophical and allegorical, the story would make sense to the elite audience mainly. Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s screenplay doesn’t do much to increase the drama’s appeal for a wider viewer base. What’s more, since the film is about just one small area of Kashi and the problems faced by some people there, its relevance to the large mass base of audience would be restricted.

Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s dialogues are often in high-flown Hindi and too philosophical for the common man’s understanding. They are weighty, no doubt, but they have limited appeal. Yes, the usage of swear words (by both, male and female characters) is so liberal that it adds tremendously to the shock value.

Sunny Deol does a fair job as Dharmnath Pandey but having said that, it must be added that he is miscast. He has the image of a rough-and-tough hero, which is completely at variance with the educated and soft-hearted character he plays in the film. Sakshi Tanwar is natural to the core as Savitri, wife of Dharmnath Pandey. She is equally at ease in serious, light, dramatic, emotional and melodramatic scenes. Ravi Kishan is delightful as Kanni. Faisal Rashid does a fair job as Nekram. Saurabh Shukla makes his presence felt in the role of Upadhyay. Mukesh Tiwari lends decent support. Rajendra Gupta is pretty impressive; his acting and clear diction are praiseworthy. Mithilesh Chaturvedi stands his own. Akhilendra Mishra, Dayashankar Pandey and Vishwa Badola are all effective. Others provide reasonable support.

Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi’s direction is okay. Like the script, his narration also caters more to the classes. Amod Bhatt’s music is only functional. Gulzar’s lyrics are good. Ahmed Khan’s choreography hardly deserves separate mention. Amod Bhatt and Utpal Sharma’s background music is okay. Vijay Kumar Arora’s camerawork is nice. Sham Kaushal’s action and stunts are alright. Bhupendra Singh’s art direction is so-so. Aseem Sinha’s editing could’ve been tighter.

On the whole, Mohalla Assi is not entertaining enough for the masses and will, therefore, go largely unnoticed. In other words, it will meet with a disastrous fate at the turnstiles.

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Yash Raj Films’ Thugs Of Hindostan (UA) is set in the late 1700s and early 1800s when Britishers ruled India.

Lord Clive (Lloyd Owen) is ruling with an iron hand. He kills little Zafira’s father (Ronit Roy) who is the king of Ranakpur, mother and elder brother, leaving her under the care of her dad’s trusted lieutenant, Khudabaksh (Amitabh Bachchan). Years pass by. Zafira (Fatima Sana Sheikh) is now a beautiful young lady, well-versed in sword-fighting and other forms of warfare. She has been trained excellently by Khudabaksh.

Firangi Malla (Aamir Khan) uses his charm to mesmerise people and then makes thugs loot them. He charges a commission from the thugs for doing so. Although he is an Indian, he has no qualms about betraying and backstabbing Indians and supporting the Englishmen if that translates into money for him. For Fir­angi Malla, it is money and only money always.

Khudabaksh and Zafira lead a team of Indians who want to overthrow the Britishers. Khudabaksh is now popular as Azad and so is each of his team members. Zafira is thirsting for Lord Clive’s blood to avenge the murders of her family members.

The Britishers are on the lookout for Azad (Khudabaksh). Lord Clive’s trusted man (Gavin Marshall) feels, Firangi Malla would be the right man to track down Azad. He, therefore, asks Firangi to trace Azad. In return, Firangi asks for a lot of money and property, which Lord Clive’s man agrees to give on the latter’s behalf, once the job is done. Firangi needs an assistant and asks the Englishmen to release his bosom pal, Shanichar Prasad (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), from jail. The two then set out in search of Azad.

Firangi Malla gets lucky and meets Azad and Zafira. He wins Azad’s confidence but when Azad reaches out to someone for help, Lord Clive’s men surround him. Azad feels, Firangi Malla has betrayed his (Azad’s) trust. Azad has to put up a brave fight against Lord Clive’s men and he is presumed dead while killing a ship-load of British armymen.

It now falls upon Firangi Malla to take care of Zafira who, nevertheless, takes time to start trusting him. Even as Firangi is one day trying to escape from the Azad army, he is reminded of the ideals, philosophy and principles of Azad – and stays back.

Meanwhile, Lord Clive and his men are preparing for celebrations on the eve of Dassera. Zafira seeks the help of Suraiya (Katrina Kaif), girlfriend of Firangi Malla, who is the most sought-after dancer at Lord Clive’s celebrations. Firangi Malla, Zafira and the other Azad armymen join Suraiya in her dance presentation. But Firangi, Zafira and the other Azad armymen are in for a surprise before Suraiya’s dance. What is the surprise?

Soon after the surprise, Zafira and the Azad army personnel are in for a rude shock. What is that rude shock?

Does Zafira avenge the deaths of her family members? Does Firangi Malla support her? Does Firangi Malla remain the betrayer he is or does he have a change of heart?

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s story is set in pre-Independence India and although it is a story about the freedom struggle, it is a fictionalised account. As such, it fails to inspire the feeling of patriotism among the audience. Even fictional stories can evoke patriotic feelings among viewers but that would happen if they are well-written. In this case, the story is so poorly written that there is no question of it inspiring patriotic feelings in the viewers. Frankly, there is no story to warrant a film of the canvas and magnitude as this. If one were to talk of the pillars of any commercial film, well, this one has almost zero romance, zero emotions, zero patriotism (so necessary for a film on India’s freedom struggle), and almost zero comedy and drama. Yes, there are some light scenes but they are few and far between. Also, there are some dramatic moments but again, they are very limited. As a result, the film has no solid legs to stand on.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s screenplay does not seem like a seamless one. It appears more like a patching together of scenes. The screenplay has sev­eral dull moments. Besides, the scenes are lengthy at places and, therefore, boring. Probably, the worst part of the screenplay is that there are no ‘wow’ moments in the film save for one or two. Resultantly, there are no scenes worthy of claps or loud rounds of applause. Everything appears to be sketchy. If the romantic track between Firangi Malla and Suraiya is half-baked, so is the track of flirting between Firangi Malla and Zafira. The writer probably wanted to pack in so much that he has ended up doing justice to nothing at all. Azad’s (Khudabaksh) fight against the Britishers looks so inconsequential that the audience never really gets the feeling that he is fighting for India’s independence. Even if the aim of Azad’s fight against Lord Clive was to have Zafira avenge the murders of her family members, the pain of Zafira is hardly palpable for the viewers to root for her. The interaction between Azad (Khudabaksh) and Firangi Malla are, comparatively speaking, few. Therefore, the thrill of witnessing two important characters confronting one another is almost completely missing. All in all, the screenplay fails to have the desired impact on the audience. Yes, the action drama as also the undercurrent of action may appeal to the masses but the content would not be liked too much by the gentry. Even the mass audience would not consistently love the drama. The portion after the climax doesn’t have the power to sustain the audience’s interest.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s dialogues are good only at places. A few dialogues are weighty but there aren’t any claptrap dialogues.

Amitabh Bachchan looks lovely in his get-up and acts excellently. His in­troduction scene is terrific. Aamir Khan is entertaining but even his superb acting can’t lift the film to a more watchable level because the script is very weak. Aamir looks very handsome with his long, wavy hair, nose pin etc. Katrina Kaif gets limited scope and does well in the few scenes she appears. She looks supremely glamorous and her dances are to die for. Fatima Sana Sheikh does a fair job as Zafira. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub lends excellent sup­port as Shanichar Prasad. Lloyd Owen leaves a mark as Lord Clive. In the role of his assistant, Gavin Marshall also has his moments. Ronit Roy makes his presence amply felt, as Zafira’s father. Ila Arun and Sharat Saxena lend decent support. Deshna Dugad (as little Zafira), Khalida Jan (as Zafira’s mother), Sharad Joshi (as Zafira’s brother, Aslam), Ketan Karande (as Bhima) and the rest are adequate.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s direction is below the mark. Although his narration is not flawed, it fails to engage the audiences enough for them to love the drama or even get completely involved in it. Ajay-Atul’s music does not have a single hit number. The ‘Suraiya’ song is appealing but it is not too high on the popularity charts. The ‘Vashmalle’ and ‘Manzoor-e-Khuda’ songs are fairly good. Amitabh Bhat­tacharya’s lyrics are nice. Choreography of the ‘Suraiya’ song (by Prabhudeva) is outstanding. Katrina Kaif has done such a wonderful job in this song-dance number that it’s sheer delight to watch her moves. Her dance in the ‘Manzoor-e-Khuda’ song (choreographed by Chinni Prakash and Rekha Prakash) is also superb. Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan’s dance movements in the ‘Vashmalle’ song (choreographed by Prabhudeva) are wonderful. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is fantastic and it enhances the impact of the drama. Manush Nandan’s cinematography is terri­fic. His craft makes the film look grand. Action scenes (by Parvez Shaikh, Franz Spilhaus and Lee Whittaker) are exciting. Production designing (by Acropolis – Sumit Basu, Snigdha Basu and Rajnish Hedao) is of a very high standard. Ritesh Soni’s editing is good.

On the whole, Thugs Of Hindostan is a major disappointment. The word of mouth for the film will be bad (despite the fact that the masses may not hate it) and, therefore, collections will drop down fast and furiously after the initial euphoria dies down and after the festive and holiday period gets over. The producers, of course, may make some profits but that’s more because they had sold the satellite and digital rights of the film at phenomenal prices, before the film’s theatrical release. Compared to the scale, canvas and budget of the film, its box-office earnings will be a dampener.

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Insite India and Sanjay Surana’s Kaashi (UA) is the story of a young man who burns dead bodies for a living.

Kaashi (Sharman Joshi) lives in Varanasi and burns dead bodies to make a living. This is his family profession. He lives with his father (Kamalakant Mishra), mother (Anita Sehgal) and younger sister, Ganga (Priyanka Singh). He meets Devina (Aishwarya Devan), a journalist, who has come to Varanasi.

Devina is introduced to Kaashi’s family as she wants to write about him. Devina and Kaashi soon fall in love with one another.

One day, Ganga doesn’t return from college till night. A worried Kaashi and Devina launch a search for Ganga but draw a blank. Then Devina introduces Shruti (Mugdha Meharia) to Kaashi. Shruti, a friend of Ganga, tells Kaashi that his sister was in a relationship with Abhimanyu Pandey (Mehul Surana), son of influential politician Balwant Pandey (Govind Namdeo). Shruti also tells Kaashi that Ganga had been very disturbed of late because she was pregnant with Abhimanyu’s child.

Convinced that Abhimanyu must be the reason for Ganga’s disappearance, Kaashi swears revenge against Abhimanyu. In a heat of moment, he ends up killing Abhimanyu. But he pleads innocence in court after his arrest for the murder of Abhimanyu. Before Kaashi is arrested, he learns that Ganga is dead. He performs the last rites of Ganga before being arrested by the police.

What happens thereafter? Is Ganga really dead? Who killed her? Why does Kaashi plead innocent in court?

There is another track revealed in court. This new track leaves many speechless. What is that track?

Manish Kishore has penned a story that’s not too convincing. The first half moves at a slow pace and ends up testing the viewers’ patience. The suspense angle is interesting but if it still doesn’t have the desired impact, it is for two reasons: firstly, it comes too late, and secondly, the revelation of the suspense makes the drama appear too far-fetched.

Manish Kishore’s screenplay fails to involve the audience whose engagement level is, therefore, minimal. If the love story of Kaashi and Devina is not heart-warming, the emotional quotient is zero. Comedy is conspicuous by its absence. In other words, there is hardly anything to sustain the viewers’ interest in the unfolding drama. Manish Kishore’s dialogues, with additional dialogues by Madhukar Verma and V.P. Singh, are routine.

Sharman Joshi does a fine job as Kaashi, but it’s a pity to see him fritter away his talent on an insipid enterprise like this one. Aishwarya Devan is average as Devina. Her dialogue delivery leaves something to be desired. Priyanka Singh is alright as Ganga. Govind Namdeo lends fair support as politician Balwant Pandey. As Abhimanyu Pandey, Mehul Surana is quite good. Manoj Joshi has his moments as Kaashi’s lawyer, Sinha. Akhilendra Mishra is alright as Balwant Pandey’s lawyer, Mishra. Manoj Pahwa makes his presence felt, as the judge, with a decent performance. Mugdha Meharia is alright as Shruti. Paritosh Tripathi is lovely as Rangeela. Kranti Prakash Jha is fair as Babina. Kamalakant Mishra (as Kaashi’s father) and Anita Sehgal (as Kaashi’s mother) lend dull support. Amit Shukla is good as the psychiatrist. Pushkar Tiwari (as Munna), master Saksham (as child Kaashi), Joginder Tiwari (as Kaashi’s friend, Chunnu), Shahnawaz Khan (as Kaashi’s friend, Murari), Abhimanyu Pandey (as Pappu), Gaurav Chauhan (as Baila), Gauri Shankar (as police inspector Ghanshyam Yadav), V.P. Singh (as Chumman Chacha), Madhu Bharti (as the college dean), Ram Sujan (as the watchman of Balwant Pandey), Vikram (as the hotel manager), Sujit Roy (as the waiter), Rehana Shukla (as Priya), Matroo (as the college watchman), Sameer Pandey (as the sub-inspector), Atharva Verma (as Devina’s brother) and Zara Khan (in an item song-dance) lend average support.

Dhiraj Kumar’s direction is weak. His narration does nothing to uplift the dull drama. Music (BH Music Café, Raaj Aashoo, Vipin Patwa and DJ Emenes) is okay. Although a couple of songs are decently tuned, they are not at all popular. Lyrics (Shabbir Ahmed and Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay) are okay. Vijay Ganguly’s choreography is so-so. Bapi-Tutul’s background music is ordinary. Attar Singh Saini’s cinematography is average. Ramen Das’ art direction is commonplace. Hira Yadav’s action and stunt scenes are nothing to shout about. Parth Bhat’s editing is not very sharp.

On the whole, Kaashi is a flop fare, a non-starter.

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