UTV Motion Pictures and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.’s Baaghi (UA) is an action-filled love story. Ronny (Tiger Shroff) comes to Kerala to the ashram of Guruswamy (Shifuji Shaurya Bhardwaj) to master the art of Kalaripayattu (a martial art) as that was his late father’s wish. Training under Guruswamy are hundreds of students including his own son, Raghav (Sudheer Babu Posani), who is the best. Ronny, at first a reluctant learner, soon becomes serious and picks up the martial art wonderfully well.

In Kerala, Ronny meets Siya (Shraddha Kapoor) whom he had briefly met earlier. Siya has come with her parents to visit her maternal grandmother. Her greedy father (Sunil Grover) wants to make her a film actress.

Ronny and Siya fall in love with one another and soon, they decide to marry one another. But before that, Raghav, smitten as he is by Siya, takes a proposal for marriage to her greedy father who agrees because he (Raghav) is a very rich man. Not just that, Siya’s father creates a terrible misunderstanding between Ronny and Siya so that they break up. Raghav, meanwhile, has killed his own father, Guruswamy, for having dared to warn him not to force himself on Siya. The evil Raghav and Siya’s father even frame Ronny for Guruswamy’s murder.

Fate brings Ronny and Siya together again – in Bangkok this time. Ronny has undertaken, for a handsome fee, the task of securing the release of Siya who is being held captive by Raghav in Bangkok so that she gives her consent to the marriage. By the way, Raghav decides to not even touch Siya till the two get married.

Ronny agrees to save Siya from Raghav’s clutches because he needs a lot of money for the surgery of a little child who can’t speak. The doctor has assured Ronny that the child would be able to speak after the surgery.

What happens when Ronny reaches Bangkok? Does he meet Siya? Is it possible to save Siya, given the animosity between them? Does Siya’s father come in the way?

Sanjeev Dutta has penned a story which is similar to stories which used to be the base of films made in the 1980s and early 1990s. His story offers nothing new except the setting. His screenplay fails to establish things with conviction. Why Siya has been shown to be an upcoming actress, how she falls in love with Ronny, why is it so easy for her father to create a misunderstanding between her and Ronny, why does the unscrupulous Raghav (who has killed his own father) leave Siya untouched rather than raping her – all these questions trouble the viewer as there are no answers given. Because these questions remain unanswered, the audience gets the feeling that the screenplay is one of complete convenience. Even the romance belongs to an era gone by. Comedy is sought to be created but the comedy tracks of Siya’s father as also of Harry (Sanjay Mishra) and Sukhi (Sumit Gulati) fail to evoke the desired laughter. Emotions are conspicuous by their absence as the viewers fail to root for the lovers and pray for their reunion after their fallout. Even the track of the little mute child and his surgery is forgotten in the end. It hasn’t even been used to draw emotions in the rest of the film. In a way, that entire track looks like a waste when the film ends.

In the absence of a convincing and engaging screenplay, what remains for the entertainment of the audience is raw action which is abundant. In fact, the action and stunts are the high point of the film. But a word of caution here: although the dare-devil stunts are breathtaking and will be loved by the masses, they are so excessive that ladies, families and audiences of the top-line multiplexes will not approve of the high dosage. The chase sequence in Bangkok in the post-interval portion may be exciting for the stunts done by Ronny but it (chase) seems never-ending and gets a bit too much for the viewers to digest. Overall also, there is so much action after interval that classes and family audiences may be put off. In other words, the action-and-stunts overdose could have been avoided.

Sanjeev Dutta’s dialogues are good at places but ordinary otherwise.

Tiger Shroff looks good, having worked very hard on his physique, and acts quite well. He is astounding in action and stunt scenes and will be loved for them. He also has a unique style of dancing. However, he needs to get into the skin of the character and speak Hindi in a non-Anglicised style to create a greater impact. Shraddha Kapoor gets limited scope as she doesn’t have much to do in the second half. She has performed well, though. Her dance moves are extremely graceful. She is also good in action scenes. Sudheer Babu Posani makes for a very effective villain. He plays Raghav with complete conviction. Shifuji Shaurya Bhardwaj is alright as Guruswamy. Sunil Grover acts ably as Siya’s father but his comic scenes often lack punch due to weak scripting. Sanjay Mishra and Sumit Gulati’s comedy is ordinary. Sourav Chakrabarthy leaves a mark in the role of Biju. Aryan Jiger Prajapati (as Subbu), Seema Bora (as Siya’s mother), Zarine Viraf Variava (as Siya’s grandmother), Chivpatrick Tang (as Yong) and Alina Ramani (as Biju’s wife) provide fair support. Jagdish Kansara (as the lawyer), Jakkrit Kanokpodjananon (as Kim), Prashant Singh (as Gopi), Madhiyalan Subbaiah (as Guruswamy’s assistant) and the rest are okay.

Sabbir Khan’s direction is lopsided. He concentrates so heavily on action and stunts that he has almost ignored the drama portion of the script. But he does know how to ensure clap-traps. Music (Meet Bros., Amaal Malik, Ankit Tiwari and Manj Musik) is melodious and all the songs are appealing. Lyrics (Kumaar, Abhendra Kumar, Sanjeev Chaturvedi and Raftaar) are of a good standard. Choreography of the ‘Chham chham’ song (by Ganesh Acharya) is the best. Picturisations of other songs (by Ahmed Khan and Bosco-Caesar) are alright. Julius Packiam’s background music is quite nice. Binod Pradhan’s cinematography is excellent. The locations on which the film has been shot are eye-filling. Action and stunts (by Kecha Kham­phakdee and Javed-Aejaz) are breathtaking and unique and deserve a lot of praise. Several action scenes will inspire the viewers to clap in glee. Rajat Poddar’s production designing is appropriate. Editing (by Manan Sagar) is sharp.

On the whole, Baaghi has extraordinary action and good music as its plus points but a weak script as a minus point. It will score with the masses and will, therefore, do very well in single-screen cinemas, masses-frequented multiplexes and smaller towns but its business in the better multiplexes will be limited. Reaching the safety mark (recovery of entire investment and some commission) should not be a problem, also becau­se recovery from sale of satellite rights is sizeable (around 35% of the total investment).

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Krian Pictures Ltd.’s Laal Rang (UA) is the story of the blood mafia.

Shankar Malik (Randeep Hooda) is studying to be a medical laboratory technician. He is a golden-hearted man who helps the needy but in his quest to get rich quickly, he gets into the business of illegal trading of blood. Rajesh Dhiman (Akshay Oberoi) is also studying with Shankar and he soon joins the latter in the illegal business. Since it is a well-organised business, there are many others involved in the racket.

Rajesh falls in love with co-student Poonam Sharma (Pia Bajpai) who is unaware of his involvement in the illegal trade. To make fast money, the blood traffickers also take blood from willing donors without following basic medical rules. One such rash donor, Mithunia (Sanjay Kumar Sah), dies suddenly one day. Police officer Gajraj Singh (Rajniesh Duggal) smells a rat and feels that Mithunia’s sudden death could lead him to the blood-trading scamsters.

Gajraj Singh and his men get lucky when they arrest Rajesh Dhiman one day. But Shankar Malik surrenders to the police and thereby saves Rajesh and all the others involved in the illegal trade. Shankar had had a heartbreak when Rashi (Meenakshi Dixit) had walked out on him due to his involvement with the blood mafia. He doesn’t want Rajesh to have a similar breakup. What happens finally?

Syed Ahmad Afzal and Pankaj Matta have penned an unusual story about the blood mafia, which is interesting in parts. But, by its very nature, so much talk and so many scenes of blood put off the ladies audience. The duo’s screenplay is fairly interesting because it is quite different from what one has seen in the past. However, the screenplay moves at a slow pace. The light moments in the screenplay are the best part of the drama and evoke laughter several times. But, overall, the visuals in the film are not at all happy ones as it is not exciting to see people carrying on the business of buying and selling blood in the black market. Syed Ahmad Afzal and Pankaj Matta’s dialogues, many of them in Haryanvi, are good and entertaining.

Randeep Hooda does a marvellous job as Shankar Malik. He gets into the skin of the character and lives every moment of it. His acting is a major high point of the film. Akshay Oberoi looks handsome and acts quite well. Pia Bajpai is very endearing with her free-spirited performance in her debut role. Her weird English is a good source of comedy. Meenakshi Dixit is natural as Rashi. Rajniesh Duggal leaves his mark as police officer Gajraj Singh. Rajendra Sethi is very natural as Pushpendra. Shreya Narayan has her moments in the role of Neelam Kumari. Ashutosh Kaushik (as Vishnu) is good. Kumar Saurabh stands out as Shani Baba. Jaihind Kumar (as Harnaam), Sanjay Kumar Sah (as Mithunia), Kulvinder Bakshish (as Naresh), Pall Singh (as Prakash), Kimti Anand (as Rajesh Dhiman’s father), Gauri Chakraborty (as Rajesh Dhiman’s mother), Pankaj Matta (as Vijay), Rehan Kidwai (as Dr. Sabharwal), Rajat Bhalla (as Poonam’s father), Vinti Malhotra (as Poonam’s mother) and the rest lend fair support.

Syed Ahmad Afzal’s direction is of a good standard. Music (by Mathias Duplessy, Vipin Patwa and Shiraz Uppal) is quite alright. Lyrics (Pandit Mange Ram Panchi, Kausar Munir, Dushyant, Shakeel Sohail and Vikas Kumar) are okay. Firoz A. Khan’s choreography is functional. Background music (by Mathias Duplessy) is reasonably effective. Dhirendra Shukla’s camerawork is of a good standard. Abdul Salaam Ansari’s action scenes are okay. Vintee Bansal’s production designing is realistic. Shounok Ghosh’s editing is alright.

On the whole, Laal Rang is a well-made film with some fine performances but its box-office prospects are very bleak because the subject is dry and morose and it lacks universal appeal.

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Eros International, Colour Yellow Productions and Jar Pictures’ Nil Battey Sannata is the story of a mother and daughter. Chanda Sahay (Swara Bhaskar) is a single mother who works as a maid and does other odd jobs so that she can earn enough money to educate her daughter, Apeksha (Riya Shukla). But Apeksha, who is studying in Std. X, is not interested in studies as she is convinced that sooner or later, she too would end up as a maid servant. Mathematics is her weakest subject.

Chanda is devastated when she learns that Apeksha is not serious about her studies, only because she feels that even after studying, she would have to work as a maid servant like her mother. Chanda, herself a Std. X dropout, wants Apeksha to study beyond Std. X. She can’t afford coaching classes for Apeksha in Mathematics. That is when her employer, a lady-doctor (Ratna Pathak Shah), advises her to get admitted in Apeksha’s school and in the same class so that she would be able to understand what are Apeksha’s weak points in Mathematics and she could, therefore, help her with the subject. Chanda gets admission in her daughter’s class.

But rather than Apeksha taking this in the right spirit, she throws a fit as she is embarrassed that her mother sits in the same class as her. Understanding her embarrassment, Chan­da makes sure that nobody in the class gets to know that she is Apeksha’s mother. While Chanda, who also finds Mathematics very difficult, seeks help from the brightest Maths student in class, Apeksha sulks and continues to underperform. One day, in a fit of fury, Apeksha asks her mother to stop embarrassing her any further. Chanda promises to do so if Apeksha would outdo her (Chanda) in the next Mathe- matics examination. Now, Apeksha also begins to seek guidance from the same bright student as she wants to outshine her mother. In fact, Apeksha actually fares well in the Mathematics examination, much to the joy of her mother who now wants her to become a Collector.

However, Apeksha doesn’t want to study any further after Std. X. Seeing the defiance in Apeksha, Chanda refuses to quit school. This agitates Apeksha even more and she now starts viewing her mother with suspicion. What happens thereafter? Does Apeksha reconcile with her mother? Does Apeksha fulfil the dream her mother has seen for her? Does Apeksha become a Collector?

Nitesh Tiwari has written a film which has noble intentions. The subject about women’s education is heart-warming and well-meaning. But alas! The drama looks forced and appears to be tailor-made to reach the end which seems to have been the starting point in his mind. In other words, it appears to the viewer that the story and screenplay writers knew how they wanted to end the film and, therefore, went about constructing a story and screenplay by moving backwards. The screenplay, penned by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari, Neeraj Singh and Pranjal Choudhary, is one of convenience. It seems strange that Chanda’s employer, the lady-doctor, should so easily suggest that Chanda take admission in Apeksha’s school and class to solve the problem of Apeksha being weak in Mathematics. And this is the employer’s very first suggestion! Now, things such as these are not so common that someone should recommend a middle-aged lady to get re-admitted in school in the same class as her daughter, as the first option. Not just this! The lady-doctor asks Chanda to seek admission so that she would be able to understand her daughter’s problems and hence help her in Mathematics. But none of these two things happen. Chanda is not shown to understand any better than she already knew what Apeksha’s problems were. Also and because of the above, Chanda is never shown to be solving Apeksha’s Mathematics difficulties. In effect, therefore, the foundation for Chanda’s admission is laid with a lot of fanfare but nothing happens in that direction. So, the audience wonders what happened to Chanda’s reasons for joining school over again. The drama takes a different turn altogether. And, ultimately, when the realisation does dawn upon Apeksha about the fact that her mother was not wrong in asking her to study hard so that she did not need to become a maid servant, the viewer feels that the realisation could have happened even if Chanda had not gone to school over again. That is to say, the novel part of the story also becomes the not-so-useful part, if one may take the liberty of using the term, because the end result could as well have been achieved without that novel part. That is to say, the same realisation could have dawned upon Apeksha even without Chanda going to school. Therefore, the film becomes more of a journey of a mother and daughter in which a very unusual twist raises hopes of the journey becoming unique due to that twist, but that doesn’t quite happen.

This is not to say that there are no plus points. The light scenes in the drama are very enjoyable. They evoke laughter or at least a smile at several places. But the point is not that. What is unfortunate is that the crux of the story does not elicit the emotions while the lighter side of the film entertains.

Dialogues, written by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari, Neeraj Singh and Pranjal Choudhary, are lovely and very real. A lot of the dialogues add a great deal to the humour in the film.

Swara Bhaskar does a fine job as Chanda Sahay. She goes through her role very effectively, giving her cent per cent to the character of a distressed mother who can do anything to see her daughter well-placed in life. Riya Shukla is splendid. She is first-rate as Apeksha and acts with such ease that it would seem, she were born to play this role. Her dialogue delivery is wonderful. Ratna Pathak Shah has, in a way, been wasted as she does not have a very significant role. She appears a bit too frivolous and vain to be a doctor. Pankaj Tripathi plays the school principal very ably. He adds a good touch of comedy to his character, using his body language with élan. Sanjay Suri shines in a special appearance and adds the right dignity to the role of the Collector. Aditi Tailang makes her presence felt in a brief role as the grown-up Apeksha. Neha Prajapati leaves a mark as Sweety. Prashant Tiwari is nice as Pintu. Vishal Nath leaves a mark in the role of Amar. Jugal Kishore has his moments as Prof. Gupta. Shyam Sundar (as husband of the lady-doctor), Avi­nash Shukla (as the Collector’s guard) and the others lend adequate sup­ port.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s direction is good and sensitive but her narration is unable to take care of the deficiencies in the script. Music (Rohan-Vinayak) is fair but there is not a single song which stands out as a hit number. Lyrics (Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain and Manoj Yadav) are appropriate and go well with the mood of the film. Background music (Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor) is quite effective. Gavemic U. Ary’s camerawork is fairly good. Laxmi Keluskar’s production designing is realistic. Chandrashekhar Prajapati’s editing is reasonably sharp.

On the whole, Nil Battey Sannata misses the bus in conveying the message effectively enough. It has a fine one-line story but the journey is not convincing enough. It will, therefore, not be able to score at the ticket-windows.

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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Cinetek Telefilms Pvt. Ltd.’s Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd. (UA) is a comedy about two bumbling men and how they succeed in rescuing a kidnapped official of the government of India, stationed in Fiji.

Shankar Roy (Ayub Khan) lives with his wife, Kareena (Neha Dhupia), in Fiji. He is the high commissioner of India. He is kidnapped one day. The RAW in India sends Santa (Boman Irani) and Banta (Vir Das) to Fiji to trace the high commissioner. Although Santa and Banta are not secret service agents, Arvind Dhariwal (Vijay Raaz), who works for the RAW, passes the duo as agents.

Once in Fiji, Santa and Banta meet Queenie Taneja alias Cutie (Lisa Haydon) and Akbar Allahabadi (Sanjay Mishra), both of who aid them in their mission. At one point, Kareena approaches Santa and Banta and tells them that she fears, her husband has not been kidnapped but has actually himself gone underground. Incidentally, Kareena resembles Santa’s ex-love, Billo (Neha Dhupia).

Sonu Sultan (Ram Kapoor) is a bosom pal of the high commissioner and he is always concerned about the progress in the case. Back in India, Hanumanth (Tinnu Anand) is after Arvind Dhariwal to show results. Ultimately, Arvind Dhariwal comes to Fiji.

Just by chance, Santa and Banta reach high commissioner Shankar Roy and they are shocked to know who has held him captive. Here, Arvind Dhariwal takes millions of dollars of the government as ransom money to be given to secure Shankar Roy’s freedom.

What happens thereafter? How do Santa and Banta save Shankar Roy’s life? What happens to the money taken by Arvind Dhariwal?

There is also a separate track of a terrorist (Johny Lever) in Fiji and his two sidekicks (Vrajesh Hirjee and Vijay Patkar).

Asad Ajmeri and Pawan Soni have penned a kiddish story which is more implausible than it is funny. If it were suitably funny, the implausibility factor would not have irritated the viewers but because the story is so ridiculous while not being appropriately funny, the audience disconnects from the drama soon after it begins. The screenplay, written by Asad Ajmeri and Akashdeep, is rather weak. It is more of an assemblage of scenes intended to create humour than anything else. While some scenes do make the audience laugh, many of them fall flat on their face and end up putting off the viewers. How any two idiots could pass off as secret service agents is not explained. The kidnapping drama, when revealed in the end, looks childish. Even while the rescue operation is underway, the high commissioner is shown to be resting against a car as if he were relaxing in the open rather than being concerned about his own safety. All in all, the screenplay is poorly written. Dialogues (by Asad Ajmeri; additional dialogues by Lawrence John) are good at several places, especially the ones in which Santa-Banta call Sonu Sultan by different names.

Boman Irani does well but even a fine actor like him is able to do precious little to salvage the weak script. Vir Das is suitably funny but again, there’s a limit to the laughter he can evoke, because of the weak scenes. Neha Dhupia is ordinary. Lisa Haydon does an average job. Ram Kapoor is mechanical, and the blame for it would go more to the poor script. Johny Lever, as the Nepali terrorist, evokes laughter at places, especially when repeatedly and frustratedly replying to the telephone caller asking him to do his duty as a security guard. Vijay Raaz is effective. Tinnu Anand makes his presence felt. Sanjay Mishra gets very limited scope and is okay. Ayub Khan lends ordinary support. Vrajesh Hirjee and Vijay Patkar are alright. Sonu Nigam (friendly appearance) and Vik­as Bhalla (guest appearance) add star value in a song-dance. Ranjeet is so-so in a guest appearance. Ravi Dewan and the others provide average support.

Akashdeep’s direction and narrative style as also choice of subject and drama belong to an era gone by. Music (Jaidev Kumar, Jassi Katyal and Nadeem-Amjad) is functional, with a couple of songs being okay. Lyrics (by Kumaar; title song by Shabbir Ahmed) are routine. Chinni Prakash’s choreography is average. Raju Singh’s background music passes muster. Chirantan Das’ camerawork is ordinary. Ravi Dewan’s action and stunt scenes are commonplace. Shailesh Mahadik’s production designing is fair. Nitin Rokade’s editing leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Santa Banta Pvt. Ltd. is a weak fare which will, therefore, neither make the audience laugh nor the concerned persons smile.

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Yash Raj Films’ Fan (UA) is, as the title suggests, the story of a fan. Gaurav Chandna (Shah Rukh Khan) lives in a middle-class locality of Delhi and is a diehard fan of Bollywood superstar Aryan Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan). Gaurav hero-worships Aryan. He even resembles Aryan Khanna but that doesn’t really matter to him. His sole aim in life seems to be to meet Aryan Khanna.

Towards this end, Gaurav comes to Bombay and reaches Aryan Khanna’s house on the latter’s birthday. Unable to meet Aryan Khanna personally that day because of the presence of thousands of fans, Gaurav at least sees his idol in flesh and blood. Gau­rav learns from news on television that a rival star, Sid Kapoor (Taher Mithaiwala), and Aryan Khanna have had a fight. Being the crazy fan that he is, Gaurav sneaks into the set of Sid’s film and reaches his makeup trailer. He threatens Sid and forces him to apologise to Aryan Khanna and records the apology on his phone camera. He uploads the apology and feels, he has done great service to Aryan Khanna.

But Aryan Khanna is far from amused. Sensing that his fan – who he has never even met – had actually got the apology from Sid by tying him up and by force, Aryan asks the police to arrest the fan from his hotel room in Bombay and keep him in lock-up for two days so that he wouldn’t do such dangerous things in future. Not just that, Aryan also meets Gaurav in the lock-up and chides him for his action. Quite rudely, Aryan turns down Gaurav’s humble request to give him five minutes of his time, for which he had come to Bombay and about which he had dreamt all his growing years.

Gaurav now feels scorned and shattered. Convinced that the love and adulation of fans make stars out of actors, Gaurav decides to seek revenge. Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned.

Gaurav sells his cyber centre in Delhi and goes to London where Aryan is. Since he resembles Aryan, he quite easily dresses up like the superstar and reaches Madame Tussauds where Aryan Khanna’s statue holds a pride of place. Once there, he criticises the statue and even tries to damage it – right in front of other visitors, many of whom are Aryan Khanna’s fans. The fans and the security at Madame Tussauds are shocked at the behaviour as they feel, it is Aryan Khanna who is misbehaving. The media in London blames Aryan Khanna for misbehaving and the police even lock him up as Aryan is unable to prove that he wasn’t present at Madame Tussauds.

Soon, Aryan realises that Gaurav is behind this nasty act. Released on bail, Aryan has to rush to Dubrovnik to perform at the wedding of a rich family. But Gaurav has reached there before Aryan and at one point, he even impersonates Aryan, dances with a lady guest and molests her. Once again, as in London, it is Aryan Khanna who has to bear the brunt of Gaurav’s actions. In other words, Aryan is accused of molesting the lady in Dubrovnik. Aryan finally sees Gaurav at the wedding and goes after him. But Gaurav gives him the slip after a long chase. All along, Gaurav wants Aryan to apologise to him for having hurt his feelings, and he even makes this known to Aryan. But Aryan refuses to apologise.

Left with no alternative, Aryan Khanna returns to India. All he wants to now do is prove his innocence and clear his name. Gaurav has also returned to India. Why, Gaurav even manages to enter Aryan’s bungalow and scare the life out of his wife, Bela (Waluscha De Sousa), before Aryan reaches home from the airport.

Aryan now comes to Delhi. Is he able to nab Gaurav? Does he apologise to Gaurav? Or does Gaurav seek Aryan’s pardon? Is Aryan able to clear his name?

Maneesh Sharma has penned an unusual story, loosely inspired by Hollywood film The Fan. It is interesting to watch fan Gaurav behave like and resemble his idol, Aryan Khanna. Therefore, the first half entertains the audience which gets impressed by the novelty in the story and the presence of a look-alike of young Shah Rukh Khan (who plays supertsar Aryan Khanna in the film) of probably 25 years ago. However, the viewers feel let down by Aryan’s behaviour in his first interaction with fan Gaurav. Why Aryan does not explain, with love and care, to Gaurav that what he has done is reprehensible and why, instead, he dismisses him off so curtly is not explained. The argument that a superstar can’t explain to and correct all his fans does not hold water here because Aryan Khanna has already reached out to Gaurav; it is not as if he would have to seek him out of thousands of fans. Had the writer even referred to an earlier interaction of Aryan with a crazy fan, which may have cost him (Aryan) dear, it would’ve been, at least, understandable. In the absence of that, Aryan’s behaviour looks high-handed and the sympathy wrongly goes to Gaurav. In what follows, Aryan often appears to be ‘villainish’ when the need of the drama was to project Gaurav in wrong light. For one moment, even Aryan Khanna appearing villainish may have been accepted by the audience but with superstar Shah Rukh Khan playing the role of superstar Aryan Khanna, even that becomes difficult, almost impossible, to digest. In other words, Shah Rukh Khan’s image and superstardom come in the way of the acceptance of Aryan’s character when it connotes negative shades.

Habib Faisal’s screenplay is interes­ting in the first half but the film gets on shaky ground after interval. This could partly be because the audiences do not get an answer to the question which creeps into their minds – why did Aryan behave rudely with Gau­rav? Besides, superstar Aryan Khanna chasing an ordinary fan, Gaurav, on the streets of Dubrovnik looks far-fetched. Again, Aryan going to Delhi and participating in the Super Star contest in the middle-class locality of Gaurav looks weird. What Aryan achieves by taking Neha (Shriya Pilgaonkar), girlfriend of Gaurav, into confidence is not clear to the audience. The long chase after that, in the streets of Delhi, again looks far-fetched. The climax is a complete letdown and leaves the viewer confused. The audiences don’t understand if they should feel happy at the ending or sad, and also whether they should be happy or sad for Aryan Khanna in particular. A better option would’ve been for the police to take over once Aryan Khanna has proof to show to the police that his look-alike (Gaurav) is behind the actions being attributed to him (Aryan) in London and Dubrovnik. But the way Aryan Khanna goes about it, it almost looks like the superstar wants to seek revenge before even clearing his name. That sounds a bit weird. All in all, the viewers even wonder about what the film is trying to convey. In that sense, the screenplay writer seems to have lost his grip in the post-interval portion.

The complete absence of romance, a heroine and music in the film is a big minus point and that will greatly restrict the film’s appeal. On the other hand, the novelty of the subject and the character of Gaurav are plus points. Dialogues, written by Habib Faisal and Sharat Katariya, are very good but ought to have been more punch-packed.

Shah Rukh Khan does an outstanding job as Gaurav Chandna. He plays a superstar’s crazy fan with such finesse that one can’t help but marvel at his genius. It is also very exciting to see a ‘young’ Shah Rukh Khan playing Gaurav. As Aryan Khanna, Shah Rukh is convincing and effective. Shriya Pilgaonkar makes a fine debut as Neha. She is a natural actress. Waluscha De Sousa is okay in the role of Aryan Khanna’s wife, Bela. Sayoni Gupta is first-rate as Aryan’s manager, Sunaina. Her expressions and body language are fabulous. Deepika Amin and Yogendra Tiku lend good support as Gaurav’s parents. Indraneil Bhattacharya (as Akhtar) and Digvijay Rohildas (as Usman) provide able support. Taher Mithaiwala makes his presence felt as Sid Malhotra. Rian Gupta is nice as young Gaurav. Amarjeet Singh (as the master of ceremonies in Delhi’s Super Star competition), Govind Pandey (as the railway TC), master Mohit Bagri (as Dhruv Khanna), baby Bianca Colaco (as Isha Khanna), Connor Williams (as Tim), James Richard Marshall (as James), Carolina Main (as Cathy), Euan Macnaughton (as Duncan), Jessica Dives (as the manager at the wedding show), Namit (as Mr. Bhutiani), Farah Hussain (as the lady at the Bhutiani wedding), Niranjan Asrani (as the police commissioner in Bombay) and the rest do as desired.

Maneesh Sharma’s direction is good but he is unable to keep the second half of the film as entertaining as the first half. Having said that, it must be added that he deserves praise for selecting an offbeat subject. There is no song in the film and that’s a mistake from the viewpoint of the commercial prospects of the film. The ‘Jabra fan’ song, used in the film’s promotions, is such a huge hit that it would’ve made sense to include it in the film. Nitin Poojary’s choreography for the wedding dance is okay. Andrea Guerra’s background music is good. Manu Anand’s camerawork is lovely. Oh Sea Young and Parvez Sheikh’s action and stunts are exciting but unnecessarily lengthy. Reducing the length of the action scenes would’ve been better. T.P. Abid’s production designing is very nice. Namrata Rao’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Fan is a good entertainer, not an outstanding one. Its first half is enjoyable but the post-interval portion is less entertaining and the climax is a big letdown. It will, of course, make profits but a long run at the cinemas is ruled out. Business in multiplexes and cities will be better than in the single-screen cinemas and small centres. Classes will like the film more than the masses. Of the total investment of Rs. 105 crore, around 60% has already been recovered or committed from non-theatrical sources. Recovery of around Rs. 40-45 crore from India and Overseas theatrical revenues is a left-hand job for this film. Business Overseas will be more exciting than in India where it will not be able to join the 200-crore club.

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T-Series and Vishesh Films’ Love Games (A) is a love story with a difference. Ramona Narang’s (Patralekha) husband dies after falling from his house on a top floor. It is not clear whether the death is a murder, suicide or accident. Soon, it is revealed that Ramona is having an affair with Sam Saxena (Gaurav Arora) who himself is under psychiatric treatment.

One day, Ramona and Sam enter into a pact to play love games. They attend high-end parties and target the most in-love couples. While Ramona tries to seduce the man and sleep with him, Sam targets the lady and tries to get in bed with her. Whoever succeeds in getting physical with the new partner is the winner.

At one such party, Ramona and Sam target Gaurav Asthana (Hiten Tejwani), a well-known and influential criminal lawyer, and his doctor-wife, Alisha Asthana (Tara Alisha Berry). Although Ramona succeeds in taking Gaurav to bed before Sam can sleep with Alisha, Sam and Alisha fall in love with one another. Alisha, whose husband abuses her physically and mentally, finds solace in Sam’s company. Ramona resents Sam’s closeness to Alisha as she is over-possessive about him. She spills the beans about his wife’s extra-marital affair with Sam, to Gaurav. Ramona also threatens Sam and asks him not to get too close to Alisha.

Feeling suffocated in his relationship with Ramona, Sam wants to break free and settle down with Alisha. So he reveals all to Alisha – that he had got involved with her (Alisha) while playing a love game but was now truly in love with her. Feeling betrayed by both, the abusive Gaurav as well as Sam, Alisha wants to kill them. She approaches Ramona with evidence which proves that Ramona had murdered her husband and uses this to blackmail her. She asks Ramona to murder Gaurav while offering to kill Sam herself. She also asks Ramona to take up the challenge, stating that the one caught by the police would end up in jail while the one not caught would go scot-free.

Ramona successfully carries out Gaurav’s murder. But instead of Alisha killing Sam, the reverse happens – Sam kills Alisha.

What happens thereafter? Do Sam and Ramona live happily ever after? Or is there more than meets the eye in the murders of Gaurav and Alisha?

Vikram Bhatt has penned a story which seems difficult to digest because not only do the characters decide what they will do but also seem to know the consequences as if they make the law. Even otherwise, it seems strange that Ramona and Sam should target only the most in-love couple. Their quest for sex could’ve been satiated even if they had targeted couples who aren’t most in love. Actually, one couple which they target is Gaurav and Alisha, who are not even in love, leave alone most in love. If this is just a minor aberration, there are other flaws in the screenplay. For instance, Alisha tells Sam about how she is being tortured by her husband and she gives him the reasons why she can’t divorce him (he is very powerful, influential etc.). But the audience realises that those are the very reasons for which she should not be staying with him. A family court, after all, is open to even the weakest person for seeking divorce. And frankly, Alisha is not even a weakling – she is educated and a successful surgeon. Again, Alisha asks Ramona to kill her husband, Gaurav, while agreeing to herself kill Sam. Why Ramona so happily accepts to be part of this cross-murder plan is not clear because Alisha even tells her that the one caught by the police would have to rot in jail. In the love games Ramona and Sam were playing, they didn’t have to risk their lives but this murder game could cost Ramona her life! Why would a selfish and self-centred person like Ramona get into such a dangerous game so easily? Also, the police are shown to be idiots for not realising what Alisha realises when she gets the video footage of Ramona’s housing society. It is also not clear why Alisha falls in love with Sam after knowing that he inflicts harm on himself by cutting himself with blades. She doesn’t even think that her relationship with Sam could be as traumatic as with Gaurav.

It is weak links like the above which make the screenplay dull, boring and silly. Even otherwise, the whole concept of Ramona and Sam playing love games will be understood by a thin section of the audience only. The large mass base of audience and those residing in smaller centres or frequenting single-screen cinemas will either not understand the concept or not appreciate it. Vikram Bhatt’s dialogues are ordinary and abound in four-letter words in English but the excessive use of the f-word won’t really titillate the viewers. Likewise, there are a lot of lip-locking scenes but even they fail to excite the viewers.

Patralekha fails to impress in a role in which she seems to be miscast. As Ramona Narang, she is unable to deliver and ends up screaming and screeching. Tara Alisha Berry is sincere and earnest in the role of Alisha Asthana. Gaurav Arora is no hero material. As Sam Saxena, he does an ordinary job. Hiten Tejwani is average in the role of Gaurav Asthana. He looks awkward in the lip-locking scene. Rukhsar Rehman provides ordinary support. Dinesh Chaturvedi, Vishnu Sharma, Rinki Singhvi, Anant Kumar, Umar Sharif, Alisha Farrer, B.K. Tiwari, Paras Thukral, Ajay Kumar Singh, Soni Jha, Bhushan and Ajay Sharma do as desired.

Vikram Bhatt’s direction is hardly better than his dull script. He is unable to narrate the far-fetched script in an interesting manner. Although a couple of songs (music by Sangeet-Siddharth Haldipur) are well-tuned, they are not popular. The other songs are dull. Lyrics (by Kausar Munir; English lyrics by Vikram Bhatt) are ordinary. Sangeet-Siddharth Haldipur’s background music passes muster. Manoj Soni’s cinematography is fair. Swapnali Das’ production designing is alright. Anthony Stone’s action scenes are okay. Kuldeep Mehan’s editing could’ve been better.

On the whole, Love Games is a weak fare and will flop at the box-office.

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Eros International and Hope Pro­ductions’ Ki & Ka (UA) is a story about role reversals. It is the tale of a girl and a boy who live in Delhi and who have different aspirations.

Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan) is a very ambitious career woman. Kabir Bansal (Arjun Kapoor) is the son of a very rich builder (Rajit Kapoor). Kabir does not want to join his father in business because he doesn’t think much of businessmen. Rather, he wants to be like his mother who is no more and whom he idolises. His mother was a housewife who had died young, per­haps, because his father had, like many successful men, ridiculed the mother for doing nothing worthwhile in life. According to Kabir, his mother was an artiste who had mastered the art of keeping house.

Kia and Kabir meet quite by chance and hit it off instantly. Kabir is fascinated by Kia’s ambitions and dreams while Kia is flabbergasted to know that Kabir wants to be a home-maker like his mother. Soon, Kabir proposes marriage to Kia.

Kia accepts the marriage proposal because Kabir promises to look after the house as a house-husband so that Kia can pursue her dreams. Kia’s mother (Swaroop Sampat) is also thrilled with the arrangement. Kia and Kabir get married and life is quite hunky-dory.

Quite by chance, Kabir’s role as a house-husband gets some media coverage and slowly but surely, Kabir starts getting more and more popular. He makes several appearances on television chat shows and, at times, is even invited by corporate houses, including the one in which Kia works, to deliver motivational lectures. Kia soon starts resenting Kabir’s popularity, and, sensing her discomfort, Kabir promises to concentrate on their home while shunning the limelight.

Then, one day, Kabir makes an exception and appears on a television chat show for a friend. This also doesn’t go down well with Kia. This last television appearance of Kabir impresses film actress Jaya Bachchan (Jaya Bachchan herself) so much that she asks actor-husband Amitabh Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan himself) to invite Kabir home. Kabir goes to Bombay to meet the Bachchans while Kia is away in the USA for work.

During his absence, a calamity forces Kia to cut short her US trip and return to Delhi. Already upset due to Kabir’s growing popularity, Kia now gives such a terrible piece of her mind to Kabir that he calls it quits and leaves Kia.

What was the calamity? Why was Kia so upset with Kabir? Does Kia make up with Kabir? Or does Kabir apologise? Or do the two go their separate ways?

Balki’s screenplay messes it up at several points. For one, although it sets out to change centuries-old be­liefs and practices, it also trivialises the radical premise by cracking jokes about gender stereotypes. This confuses the audience which wonders whether the film is meant to be taken as a comedy or a serious comment. Yes, there will be a section of the viewers – mainly youngsters residing in cities – who will laugh at the jokes but several among them will laugh for the wrong reasons.Balki has written a story with a premise which seeks to turn some age-old beliefs on their head. In the Indian context, men are supposed to be bread-winners while women, even if they are working women, are meant to be the home-makers. Balki’s story tries to demolish these stereotypes and professes that not only can women be as successful in purely or predominantly male domains but males can also be good house-husbands. While several career women do make it big in real life, one doesn’t hear of too many men opting to be house-husbands. As such, the premise or the foundation on which the film rests is very radically different from what exists in real life and, therefore, despite the novelty factor, the appeal of the subject is very limited. Frankly, audiences outside the big cities will find the premise too bold for comfort and many among them will look down upon a ‘bold’ woman like Kia and actually doubt the masculinity of a man like Kabir. In other words, a good chunk of the audience will sympathise with neither Kia nor Kabir. But the youth in the big cities would definitely find the different and unusual premise of the film quite interesting.

What seems very contrived is the ease with which Kia, Kabir and Kia’s mother accept the unusual arrangement as if it were oh so routine. Perhaps, Kabir’s father is the only dissenting voice – and even his way of showing dissent (the chaddi khol kar dekh le dialogue) is rather repulsive. As if the easy acceptance of the radical thought by the affected people is not shocking enough, everyone around Kia and Kabir also accept the concept of the house-husband so easily that it almost prompts the audiences to doubt their own thinking and assume that they belong to an altogether different era from the one to which Kia and Kabir and even Kia’s mother belong. And the unabashed mention by Kia’s mother of pre-marital sex leaves a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth.

There is not much consistency in the characterisations. Kia is shown to be a go-getter and ambitious to the point of madness but she falls prey to the emotion of jealousy so easily. There would’ve been no harm in that too, had the film not been so radical in its premise. But, for the heroine of a film so bold and so different in its premise to be swayed so easily by a routine emotion of jealousy – which is associated with the stereotypical woman – seems a contradiction. Similarly, Kabir’s father is shown to be embarrassed about his son’s house-husband status but he is also shown to be cracking a joke about the same in front of others. And no, Mr. Bansal is a serious businessman, not a comedian.

Again, it is not clear to the audience why Kia is so upset with Kabir’s popularity. After all, Kabir’s popularity is in no way, repeat, in no way, posing a threat to her ambitions and dreams. Had his popularity threatened her rise as a career-woman, the emotion of jealously would at least have been somewhat justified. The Abhimaan angle, which the writer invokes here in reverse mode (in that film, Amitabh Bachchan resents the growing popularity of his wife, Jaya Bachchan, whereas in this film, Kia is upset about the growing popularity of her husband, Kabir), does not work here because while in Abhimaan, both, Amitabh and Jaya, were in the same field (of singing), the fields of Kia and Kabir are not at all same, similar or even remotely connected. Likewise, it is not clear why film actress Jaya Bachchan compliments Kia so much in her letter. The person who needs to be praised is Kabir, not Kia. Clearly, the letter is a convenient twist in the tale to make Kia have a change of heart – but this looks incorrect. Kabir’s sermon about not wanting to do business – because business people are blinded by the lure of money and ultimately end up in a swanky hospital – is silly and rather stupid. Writer R. Balki, in a bid to justify Kabir’s house-husband stance, goes overboard. He didn’t need to do that.

No doubt, the second half of the film is more interesting than the first half because of the differences between Kia and Kabir, tension and conflict but it must be added that speaking purely from the point of view of screenplay-writing, the conflict in the film is wrong and contrived. All in all, the screenplay looks like a hurried job, done carelessly. R. Balki’s dialogues are good at places but not consistently so.

Kareena Kapoor Khan gives her role a good shot. She acts in a manner that her character looks believable. She looks fantastic. Arjun Kapoor is alright but limited in his acting. He is unable to change his expressions and believes in always rattling off his dialogues in a matter-of-fact manner, whatever the situation. Swaroop Sampat does an ordinary job as the mother of Kia. In the role of Kabir’s father, Rajit Kapur stands his own and is earnest. Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan, both in friendly appearances, are natural. Shonali leaves a mark as Kia’s maid. Purshottam Mulani (as Kia’s landlord) and the others lend able support.

R. Balki’s direction, like his script, would appeal only to one section of the audience. His narration lacks the sensitivity that was needed for a subject of the kind he has chosen. Music (Meet Bros., Ilaiyaraaja and Mithoon) is a plus point. The ‘High-heel’ (Meet Bros.), ‘Jee huzoori nahi’ (Mithoon) and ‘Yeh hai most wanted munda’ (Meet Bros.) are already very popular songs. The placement of the ‘High-heel’ song (right at the start of the film) is not the best one. Lyrics (Kumaar, Amitabh Bhattacharya and Saeed Quadri) are appropriate. Song picturisations (choreography by Bosco-Caesar and Feroz Khan) are alright. Ilaiyaraaja’s background music is good. P.C. Sreeram’s camerawork is of a very good standard. Amar Shetty’s action scene is hardly necessary. Rupin Suchak’s production design is nice. Chandan Arora’s editing needed to be crisper.

On the whole, Ki & Ka has a novel premise but the structure built over the new foundation is not half as entertaining as it should’ve been. It will work in some multiplexes of the big cities mainly but that won’t be enough to make the concerned people laugh all the way to the bank. Business in most of the single-screen cinemas and in mass-frequented cinemas and small and medium centres will be dull.

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