TOILET – EK PREM KATHA

Viacom18 Motion Pictures, KriArj Entertainment, Plan C Studios and Cape Of Good Films LLP’s Toilet – Ek Prem Katha (UA) is an unusual love story with a strong social message against open defecation and about the need to have in-house toilets or at least public toilets.

Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is in his thirties and lives in a small town, Mandgaon, in U.P. with his father and younger brother, Naru (Divyendu). Keshav is still unmarried because his father (Sudhir Pandey), a pandit, believes that a girl with two thumbs on her left hand would be the ideal match for him. He also gets Keshav married to a cow before a suitable girl can be found for him, in keeping with his superstitious beliefs. The moderately educated Keshav falls in love with Jaya (Bhumi Pednekar) and although she is a school topper, he woos her and ultimately gets married to her, hoodwinking his father into believing that her left hand has two thumbs.

All hell breaks loose when Jaya realises the morning after her wedding night that her matrimonial home does not have a toilet and that like the other ladies of the area, she too would have to defecate in the open before the break of dawn to escape being leered at. Since she comes from a family which has a toilet in the house, she is not at all comfortable relieving herself in the open. Keshav tries all the tricks in the book to convince her that he would find a solution to the problem but Jaya revolts and ultimately one day, she leaves Keshav and returns to her parental home. Since her father (Atul Srivastava) and uncle (Anupam Kher) are progressive in their outlooks, they support her stand. Her mother (Ayesha Raza Mishra) does ask her to compromise and return to her husband but Jaya is unrelenting.

Keshav tries to convince his father about allowing him to build a toilet in the house but the orthodox pandit will hear nothing about it. After being reported in the media, the issue of Keshav and Jaya’s separation reaches the panchayat before whom Keshav presents a case for having a community toilet in the town, but even that plea is turned down by the panchayat. It is then that Keshav announces that he would see to it that Mandgaon gets a toilet.

Exasperated, Keshav gets a toilet constructed in his house but his shocked father has it broken down. Keshav is now at his wits’ end as he sees no hope of Jaya returning to him. For, Jaya, with whom he has all along been in touch, has told him in no uncertain terms that no stop-gap arrangements would work for her and that she would return if and only if there was a toilet in the house. Soon, Jaya files for divorce. The media blows up the first divorce case of Mandgaon so much that it unearths the toilet scam involving crores of rupees which had been earmarked by the government for toilets and which had been usurped by the powers-that-be. Slowly but surely, the media coverage influences the thinking of the women in Mandgaon, who revolt against their husbands and demand toilets in their homes.

What happens thereafter? Does Keshav’s orthodox father let Keshav save his marriage by allowing a toilet to be constructed in-house? Does Jaya relent and return to her matrimonial home? Does Keshav succeed in convincing Jaya to withdraw her divorce plea? Does the government act?

Siddharth-Garima have written an unusual story in which a toilet becomes the bone of contention in the married life of a new couple. The story couldn’t be better timed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan programme and anti-open-defecation campaign have got wide media coverage. Thanks to that, the audience is able to identify with the drama and the characters and empathise with Keshav and Jaya.

The duo’s screenplay is interesting and engaging as also novel. The first half is entertaining because of the humour. Whether it is the first meeting of Keshav and Jaya, or the former wooing the latter, or the interactions between Keshav and brother Naru, or between Keshav and his father, the screenplay unfolds in a way that it keeps the viewers involved. The second half has a lot of drama but it does get too long and boring at places, mainly because the arguments put forth by Keshav in support of building a toilet are similar almost everytime he puts his case forward, whether before his father or the panchayat or the bureaucrat or the ladies of the town, etc. The humour quotient reduces post-interval but, thankfully, it doesn’t disappear. Perhaps, the weakest link in the screenplay is that Jaya and Keshav hatch a plan by assuming that matters would move in a certain direction – and all this without having any control on how the government and the womenfolk in Mandgaon would react. In other words, the plan looks like a convenient twist in the tale, once the drama thereafter unfolds. Nevertheless, since the plan itself is one which puts society before self – which is what Keshav has advocated earlier – the audience is prepared to overlook the aberration.

Another drawback is that the audiences do not feel emotionally moved when Keshav makes all attempts to ensure that Jaya comes back to him. The exhilaration they should experience when Keshav puts society before self is also short-lived because the wow factor is missing in what happens when society and the government get involved. While the interval point is excellent, the post-interval part does not live up to it. The climax also lacks the thrill and excitement.

Siddharth-Garima’s dialogues are excellent but at places only. A film of this kind ought to have had clapworthy dialogues, full of punch-lines, in good measure.

Akshay Kumar does very well in the light scenes and raises several laughs. He is good in other scenes. The scene in which he breaks down when his father breaks the toilet does not quite appeal to the viewers. Bhumi Pednekar acts with confidence and impresses with a fine performance. Divyendu is excellent in the role of Naru. His comedy is very entertaining. Sudhir Pandey shines in the role of Keshav’s father. Atul Srivastava (as Jaya’s father), Ayesha Raza Mishra (as Jaya’s mother) and Anupam Kher (as Jaya’s uncle) lend very able support. Rajesh Sharma makes his presence well felt as Mathur. Shubha Khote (as Keshav’s grandmother), Mukesh Bhatt (as Rastogi), Kimti Anand (as Pradhan), Rati Shankar Tripathi (as sarpanch), Gunjan Malhotra (as Anu), Sachin Khedekar (in a special appearance as a film director) and Sana Khan (in a special appearance) are adequate.

Shree Narayan Singh’s direction is fairly good for a debut attempt. But he should’ve ensured more exciting moments in the second half which should’ve been crisper. Music (Vickey Prasad, Manas-Shikhar and Sachet-Parampara) is ordinary. The absence of hit songs is sorely felt. Lyrics (Siddharth-Garima) are weighty and meaningful. Song picturisations (by Rekha Chinni Prakash, Howard Rosemeyer and Ganesh Acharya) are ordinary. Surender Sodhi’s background music is okay. Anshuman Mahaley does a fine job of the camerawork. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action scenes are fair. Udai Prakash Singh’s production designing is appropriate. Shree Narayan Singh’s editing should’ve been sharper.

On the whole, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha is a fair entertainer which will do reasonably good business and keep its investors happy. It deserves tax-exemption.

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GURGAON

M.R. Filmworks, Hashtag Film Studios and Jar Pictures Pvt. Ltd.’s Gurgaon (UA) is a crime story and a family drama.

Kehri Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) is a rich businessman who dotes on his adopted daughter, Preet (Ragini Khanna). But he doesn’t get along with his own biological son, Nikki (Akshay Oberoi), who is good for nothing. Kehri Singh has a younger son, Chintu (Ashish Verma). His wife is Karma Devi (Shalini Vatsa).

Nikki hates Preet because their father gives her all the importance while humiliating him at the slightest pretext. Nikki is also always trying to prove himself to his father but invariably fails.

One day, Nikki loses Rs. 1 crore in cricket betting. Convinced that his father would never give him the money to pay the bookie, Nikki and his friend, Rajvir (Arjun Fauzdar), hatch a plot to kidnap Preet and seek the Rs. 1 crore as ransom money. Preet is abducted with this motive.

However, things don’t move as per plan and rather than matters easing out for Nikki, things begin to go out of control. Kehri Singh is asked to pay a ransom of Rs. 3 crore instead of Rs. 1 crore. Someone else telephones Kehri Singh and asks him to pay a ransom amount of Rs. 5 lakh only. This confuses Kehri Singh, who ultimately finds out that Preet’s abduction was the brainchild of none other than Nikki. So, it is time to question Nikki about Preet’s whereabouts. But the hot-headed Nikki attacks Kehri Singh so badly that he has to be confined to the wheelchair.

Finally, Nikki, Preet and Chintu are driving back home when their car meets with an accident. What happens then? Who survives the accident? And what happens after that?

Shanker Raman and Sourabh Ratnu’s story, based on true stories, is not novel but it has several twists and turns. Films about plans going awry have been seen in the past too, and this one is not very different. The screenplay, written by Shanker Raman, Sourabh Ratnu, Vipin Bhatti and Yogi Sinha, is predictable, mainly because of the oft-repeated story and drama. Questions like where Nikki is headed with Preet in the end remain unanswered. Likewise, the logic of Kehri Singh not paying the ransom money is very unconvincing. All in all, the routine story is backed by an insipid screenplay. Dialogues (by Vipin Bhatti) are fair.

Akshay Oberoi does well as Nikki. Ragini Khanna is natural in the role of Preet. Pankaj Tripathi is earnest as Kehri Singh. He has limited dialogues to mouth. Aamir Bashir (as Bhupinder Hooda) and Shalini Vatsa (as Kehri Singh’s wife, Karma Devi) lend able support. Ashish Verma (as Chintu), Arjun Fauzdar (as Rajvir), Yogi Singha (as Jonty) and Kunal Naik (as Vicky) are adequate.

Shanker Raman makes a fair debut as director. His presentation of a rou­tine story is quite different but the problem is that while the script is for the masses, his narration caters to the class audience more than to the masses. In trying to convey the story, he has kept the entertainment quotient out. Music (by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor) is good but not of the popular variety. Lyrics (Manoj Yadav and Cyli Khare) are appropriate. Vivek Shah’s cinematography is nice. Sunil Rodrigues’ action scenes and stunts are alright. Rita Ghosh’s sets are realistic. Shan Mohammed’s editing is suitably crisp.

On the whole, Gurgaon may be a slightly different presentation of a routine script but its chances at the box-office are bleak.

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JAB HARRY MET SEJAL

Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.’s Jab Harry Met Sejal (UA) is a love story of a middle-aged tourist guide and a young girl who is already engaged to be married to someone else.

Harinder Singh Nehra, also known as Harry (Shah Rukh Khan), is a middle-aged tourist guide in Europe. He is good at his work but is not settled in life. He has flings and affairs with available girls and then moves on. Sejal (Anushka Sharma) has come from India on a trip of Europe, with family and other acquaintances. Rupen (Kavi Shastri), who is in the same group as Sejal, gets engaged to her during the foreign trip. Harry is the guide for Sejal’s group.

As bad luck would have it, Sejal loses the engagement ring which infuriates her fiancé because the ring, which belonged to his grandmother, holds sentimental value for him. Rather than return to India, Sejal stays back alone to get hold of her ring as she believes, it would be easy to trace it. She catches hold of the tourist guide, Harry, who very reluctantly agrees to help her.

Since the ring cannot be found, Harry and Sejal move from one city to another, covering all the destinations which Sejal and her group had visited. In the process, Harry and Sejal fall in love with one another.

Harry holds himself back because he feels, this relationship would lead to nowhere as Sejal is already engaged. Besides, Harry considers himself a loser, having lost in love in the past. He also thinks, his views on sex and life would never go down well with Sejal. In fact, he keeps asking Sejal to not get serious with him because of the aforementioned reasons. On her part, Sejal is keen to erase Harry’s past from his memory and towards this, she even asks him to return to his home town in India at least once, something which Harry can’t get himself to do because of memories of his past.

What happens then? Does Sejal find her engagement ring? If yes, where does she find it? Does she return to India or does she stay back with Harry? Does she marry Rupen or not? Does Harry get over his problematic past? Does he live happily ever after with Sejal?

Imtiaz Ali has written a mature love story in which everything other than love is secondary. Why, even the families of the two lovers hardly play any role in the love story. The story, in that sense, is different from the other love stories seen in films. Imtiaz Ali’s screenplay in the first half is full of light, humorous and fun moments which entertain the audience thoroughly. The viewers enjoy the arguments between a Punjabi tourist guide and a Gujarati girl. They also find Sejal’s efforts at impressing Harry and winning brownie points very cute. Equally endearing is how Harry slowly but surely starts caring for and liking Sejal. Having said that, it must be added that the humour is city-centric and youth-centric and will, therefore, be liked by the multiplex-frequenting youth in the cities, more than anybody else.

Once the second half starts, the fun quotient reduces dramatically as romance takes precedence over all else. Although the romance is interesting and engaging, it becomes repetitive, especially when Harry keeps telling Sejal to return to India and keeps holding himself back. Though the elite audience will understand the inner turmoil of Harry, the masses will find his actions irritating after a point of time because they will interpret it as his indecisiveness. Perhaps, the biggest letdown of the screenplay post-interval is that Harry’s back story is just not explained. Frankly, the audience waits for his back story to unfold because a reference to that is made in the first half when Harry thinks about his past and ends up crying. Harry’s tears prepare the audiences for a tear-jerking second half or at least a tear-inducing segment after interval, but writer Imtiaz Ali chooses to simply not talk of Harry’s past. The viewers feel cheated – and badly cheated – on this count, especially because they have seen the hero (Harry) going through pain on remembering his past, and they want to share his pain. Imtiaz Ali has committed a blunder of sorts by not even going on that route – that too, after giving an indication that travelling on that path is a must. The ending is cute and unusual although the climax may not satisfy every class of audience.

All in all, while the pre-interval portion is very entertaining, the post-interval part is neither entertaining nor emotional. The romance in the post-interval portion is good but repetitive and puts a question mark on Harry’s state of mind, something the non-class audience will not take kindly to.

Imtiaz Ali’s dialogues are very good and inspired. The light dialogues are supremely entertaining, at least for the youngsters and the city audiences.

Shah Rukh Khan lives the role of Harry. He endears himself instantly to the viewers and then goes on to deliver a memorable performance. His nuanced acting will win him a lot of praise. He proves yet again that when it comes to romance, he is unbeatable. His facial expressions and body language are to die for! Anushka Sharma does her Gujarati damsel act beautifully, giving her cent per cent to the character of Sejal. She is so natural that it is sheer delight to watch her perform. The chemistry between Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma is simply remarkable. Chandan Roy Sanyal leaves an outstanding mark in the role of Gas. Aru K. Verma makes his presence so wonderfully felt in the role of Harry’s friend, Mayank, that the audience actually misses him when he is absent. Evelyn Sharma (as Irina), Barbora Mudrochova (as Natassja), Paula Donner (as Clara), Denis Dorokhov (as Czar) and Kavi Shastri (as Rupen) provide the desired support.

Imtiaz Ali’s direction is mature and praiseworthy. The man may have slipped badly in the script (after interval) but his narration is very honest. Pritam’s music is appealing although the absence of super-hit tunes is sorely felt, more so because it is a romantic film. ‘Radha’, ‘Hawayein’, ‘Safar’ and ‘Beech beech mein’ are good tracks. Other songs are also interesting. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are beautiful. Song picturisations (by Vaibhavi Merchant, Ashley Lobo and Bosco-Caesar) are very colourful and eye-filling. Hitesh Sonik’s background music is wholesome. K.U. Mohanan’s cinematography is outstanding. The foreign locations are just too beautiful. Production designing (by Shwetha Sebastian) is of a very high order. Aarti Bajaj’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Jab Harry Met Sejal has a lovely first half but a very disappointing second half and will, therefore, not be able to appeal to all sections of the audience. While the classes in the cities will find it fairly engaging, the rest of the audience will not be able to connect with the drama and will give the film the thumbs down. In commercial terms, the film will entail losses to the distributors and will go down in box-office history as a losing fare.

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INDU SARKAR

Mega Bollywood Pvt. Ltd. and Bhandarkar Entertainment’s Indu Sarkar (UA) is a fictional human drama set against the backdrop of the Emergency declared by then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

Indu (Kirti Kulhari) is an orphan raised in an orphanage. She stammers while speaking and, therefore, lacks self-confidence. Prospective grooms reject her because of her stammering problem. But Naveen Sarkar (Totaroy Chowdhry) meets her, likes her and marries her. While Indu is simple at heart, Naveen is a go-getter who wants to earn a lot of money and lead a luxurious life. He is a government servant and is very close to minister Om Nath (Satyajeet Sharma). He knows that if he works to the satisfaction of the minister, he will be able to climb the ladder of success fast.

One day, the ruling Congress government declares Emergency in the country. Atrocities on common men and exploitation of the poor increase manifold, all in the name of the Emergency. Indu is disturbed by the sufferings of the people but husband Naveen chides her for speaking, even in private, against the government and the Emergency.

One day, Indu brings home two poor kids who were separated from their parents while a whole colony of hutments and shanties was being demolished by irresponsible officers. Naveen doesn’t approve of this as he is very particular about not antagonising anyone in the ruling party. He asks Indu to leave the kids at some camp but Indu doesn’t have the heart to leave the little siblings unattended. She continues keeping them at her home. Then, one day, she gets the news that the parents of the kids had been murdered and they had been declared Naxalites. Naveen throws a fit that two children of Naxalites were at his home. Exasperated, he asks Indu to choose between him and the home on the one hand and the two children on the other. Indu walks out of the house with the kids.

She starts life afresh with social activist Mekhla (Sheeba Chadha) who is part of an underground movement, Hamara India, which is involved in exposing the atrocities perpetrated on the public by the government in the name of the Emergency. Before she knows it, Indu also becomes a part of the underground outfit. Meanwhile, Naveen initiates divorce proceedings which Indu does not resist.

All hell breaks loose when one day, Indu and her colleagues of Hamara India shout slogans and throw pamphlets against the Emergency, in front of visiting foreign delegates. Minister Om Nath recognises Indu. Under pressure from his chief (Neil Nitin Mukesh), Om Nath dismisses Naveen from work.

Soon, Indu is arrested while trying to ensure group leader Nana Pradhan’s (Anupam Kher) escape. She is produced in court alongwith her other arrested colleagues. In court, Indu raises her voice against the government so effectively that the tremors are felt in the corridors of power.

Anil Pandey and Madhur Bhandarkar have written a story which puts up a human drama against a political backdrop. They have ensured to balance the two very well so that the film does not become a mere historical. It rather becomes an interesting and engaging drama. The duo’s screenplay is engrossing. It is about an underdog’s victory and, therefore, holds appeal for the viewers. Of course, the screenplay holds appeal only for the class audience as not many among the masses may be interested in going back in time to 1975. Again, since the Hamara India movement believes in non-violent methods of revolt, the masses would not be able to sympathise with the same. Another minus point is that matters seem very simplified for the revolting group. Sanjay Chhel’s dia­logues are inspired and weighty.

Kirti Kulhari performs splendidly in the title role. Her stammering act is excellent. She deserves to be praised for acting so beautifully. Totaroy Chowdhry puts in an admirably restrained performance as Naveen Sarkar. Neil Nitin Mukesh is effective as Chief, a character designed on Sanjay Gandhi. Satyajeet Sharma shines as minister Om Nath. Anupam Kher leaves a mark as Nana Pradhan. Sheeba Chadha is natural to the core in the role of Mekhla. Manav Vij does a fine job as police officer Sodhi. Ankur Vikal makes his presence suitably felt as Shivam. Zakir Hussain (as Mishra) and Mohan Kapur (as Sahani) lend very able support. Parvin Dabas is good in a special appearance. Rashmi Jha, Supriya Vinod, Jashn Agnihotri, Ishika Taneja, Bikramjeet Kanwarpal, Mujtaba Aziz Nazan and the rest lend able support.

Madhur Bhandarkar’s direction is inspired. Anu Malik’s music goes very well with the film’s mood. Lyrics (by Puneet Sharma and Sanjay Chhel) are impactful. Adil Shaikh and Longines Fernandes’ choreography in the ‘Chadhta sooraj’ and ‘Delhi ki raat’ songs respectively is alright. Amar Mohile’s background score is dramatic. Keiko Nakahara’s cinematography is eye-catching. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are realistic. Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s production designing is lovely. Devendra Murdeshwar’s editing is crisp.

On the whole, Indu Sarkar is an effective period drama meant only for the classes and it should do well in the good multiplexes of the cities only. However, given its dull start, that won’t be enough as it has to face the opposition of Mubarakan this week and of at least one big and/or star-cast film every week thereafter.

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MUBARAKAN

Sony Pictures Networks Productions and Cine 1 Studios’ Mubarakan (UA) is a comedy of errors.

Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor) is a Sikh settled in London. He has two brothers and a sister. One brother (Sanjay Kapoor) and his wife are killed in a road accident but the couple’s tiny twins have a miraculous escape. The two tiny tots become Kartar Singh’s responsibility but because he is unmarried, he gives one baby, Charan, to his other brother, Baldev Singh (Pavan Raj Malhotra), to raise, and the other baby, Karan, to his sister, Jeeto (Ratna Pathak Shah), to bring up. Charan grows up in Chandigarh in India as Baldev Singh runs a hotel, Purani Haveli, there. Baldev lives in Chandigarh with his wife (Geeta Agrawal Sharma) and daughter (Bhoomika Sharma). On the other hand, Karan is raised in London because Jeeto lives there with her husband (Lalit Parimoo) and daughter (Nikkita Chadha). Since Karan and Charan are identical twins, they grow up looking very similar. While Karan (Arjun Kapoor), raised in London, is flamboyant and outgoing, Charan (Arjun Kapoor) is shy and timid.

Karan has a girlfriend, Sweety (Ileana D’cruz), who lives in Chandigarh. Charan also has a girlfriend, Nafisa Qureshi (Neha Sharma), who is a lawyer and lives in Chandigarh too. Karan and Charan’s parents don’t know about their girlfriends. Charan, especially, is petrified of his strict father who would never allow him to marry a Muslim girl.

Karan is presently in India. His parents arrange for a meeting between him and Sandhu’s (Rahul Dev) daughter, Binkle (Athiya Shetty). But Karan somehow convinces his uncle in India, Baldev Singh, to finalise Binkle for Charan. Since Charan doesn’t have the courage to tell his father about his Muslim girlfriend, he has to accompany his father, Baldev Singh, to London. The entire extended family – including Kartar Singh, Jeeto and her husband – accompanies Baldev Singh and Charan to the Sandhus’ mansion. Charan confides in his uncle, Kartar Singh, about his Muslim girlfriend. Kartar Singh comes to Charan’s rescue by telling him to behave in a way that the filthy rich Sandhus would themselves reject him. While that does happen, the incident goes out of hand, as a result of which Jeeto and Baldev Singh end up fighting with each other because Jeeto holds Baldev Singh responsible for humiliating Sandhu whom she and her family are indebted to. Why, Jeeto even taunts Baldev Singh that he’d never get a girl like Binkle for Charan. This infuriates Baldev so much that he vows to get Charan married to a wonderful girl in a month’s time.

Charan and an embittered Baldev return to India. Back home, Baldev takes the marriage proposal of Charan to Mr. Gill’s (Gurpal Singh) home for his pretty daughter, Sweety. Of course, he is unaware that Karan is in a relationship with Sweety. Since both, Charan and Karan, accompany Baldev to Sweety’s house, Sweety initially thinks that the marriage proposal is for Karan.

In London, Jeeto finalises Karan’s marriage with Binkle. Both the weddings are slated for 25th December and neither Baldev nor Jeeto is willing to shift the date, due to ego problems. Kartar somehow convinces Baldev to have a destination wedding for Charan and Sweety in London as he is torn between brother Baldev and sister Jeeto and this is his only way to ensure that he could attend both the weddings.

The entire family meets in London a few days before the two weddings. The cold vibes between Baldev and Jeeto are evident but Baldev’s wife tries to maintain cordiality. Jeeto reciprocates but only upto a point. Sweety is nervous that if steps are not taken, she’d end up marrying Charan. Karan is stuck with Binkle. On her part, Bin­kle had fallen in love with Charan when they had met. To make matters worse, Nafisa Qureshi lands in London to ensure that Charan doesn’t marry any girl except herself. Kartar Singh is the only elder in the family who knows everything and he has a terribly tough time handling the whole situation and trying to come up with solutions.

Does Kartar Singh reveal the truth to Baldev and Jeeto? Whom does Karan marry – Sweety or Binkle? Whom does Charan wed – Binkle or Nafisa or Sweety? Do Baldev and Jeeto forget their ugly ego clash and make up with one another? What is Kartar Singh’s role in all this?

Balwinder Singh Janjua and Rupinder Chahal have written a hilarious story with umpteen turns and twists. The thread of comedy runs through the entire story which also has an undercurrent of emotions. Since the story has many twists, it keeps the audience thoroughly involved and engrossed, and because it is laden with humour, the story keeps the viewers completely entertained. Balwinder Singh Janjua and Gurmmeet Singh’s screenplay is excellent. It is so funny that it brings the house down with laughter at many places. The first half is so racy and fast-paced that the viewers end up laughing like crazy. The drama drops a bit after interval but picks up soon. Once the proceedings become funny again, the screenplay continues to make the audience laugh and even clap in sheer delight. The angle of the deceased brother coming in Kartar’s dream is a masterstroke from the screenplay point of view. Another brilliant angle is the full-blown emotional scene in the climax, which will make many in the audience cry and weep. Rajesh Chawla’s dialogues are so extraordinary that it wouldn’t be wrong to call him a hero of the film! Yes, the dialogues are indeed a pillar of the film.

Anil Kapoor proves yet again that given a good comedy script, there is nobody like him. To say that he is extraordinary would not be an exaggeration. His sense of timing is simply outstanding. He deserves full marks for carrying the film on his shoulders alongwith Pavan Raj Malhotra and Ratna Pathak Shah. Arjun Kapoor does a fairly good job as Karan and Charan. He does go overboard in the scenes in which he speaks in a squeaky voice when nervous. Ileana D’cruz looks glamorous and acts reasonably well as Sweety. Athiya Shetty has a tiny role and she is okay. Ratna Pathak Shah shines in a role that’s trailor-made for her. She is fabulous as Jeeto and qualifies to be called one of the pillars of the film, besides Anil Kapoor, Pavan Raj Malhotra, dialogue writer Rajesh Chawla and, of course, director Anees Bazmee. Pavan Raj Malhotra is mind-blowing in a role that requires loud and over-the-top acting. His sense of comic timing is flawless, his performance, terrific. In fact, he is so wonderful that the audience waits for him to come on the screen. Rahul Dev is suitably restrained as Sandhu. Karan Kundra is so good that he makes his presence amply felt amidst all the seasoned actors and stars. He deserves praise for his performance as Manpreet Sandhu. Neha Sharma, in a special appearance, is too good as Nafisa Qureshi. Sanjay Kapoor does justice to his character in a brief special appearance. Lalit Parimoo makes a mark as Jeeto’s husband, Paramjit. Gurpal Singh is very funny as Mr. Gill. Geeta Agrawal Sharma’s acting, as Baldev’s wife, is mature. Alexander Dolbenko, as Kartar Singh’s help, Jolly, is rather cute. Bhoomika Sharma (as Baldev Singh’s daughter, Baby), Nikkita Chadha (as Jeeto’s daughter, Nikki), Mohit Chhabra (as Billa), Monisha Hassan (as Mrs. Sandhu), Krishan Tandon (as the Babaji in the gurudwara in London) and the rest lend the required support.

Anees Bazmee’s direction is brilliant. He deserves extra praise for making a film for all types of audiences – multiplex-frequenting and single-screen cinema viewers, rich and poor, masses and classes, young and old, girls and guys. Family audiences will also love the narrative style. Anees is in top form! Music (Amaal Malik, Gourov-Roshin, Rishi Rich and R.D. Burman) is good but not a single song is a chartbuster. One or two hit numbers could’ve made a big difference. Kumaar’s lyrics are nice. Dance picturisations (by Ahmed Khan, Bosco-Caesar, Remo D’Souza and Anees Bazmee) are quite good. Amar Mohile’s background music has an enhancing effect on the scenes. Himman Dhamija’s camerawork is lovely. Production designing (by Durgaprasad Mahapatra) is of a very good standard. Sandeep Kurup’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Mubarakan is a definite winner at the box-office. It is an excellent entertainer which will fetch rewards for all concerned. But it must be added that its fullest potential will definitely not be realised because of big-budget and star-cast films releasing every week from next week onwards.

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THE BLACK PRINCE (English)

Brillstein Entertainment Partners and KR Films Hollywood’s The Black Prince (English; UA) is the story of a boy king who was stolen from his home and must discover himself years later in order to regain the kingdom of Punjab.

Following the death of his father, Duleep, the boy king of Punjab, was separated from his mother in mid-19th century and brought to Britain to live with the British elite, the very people who claimed his kingdom as their own. The boy king grows up in Britain and instead of following Sikhism, he is made to embrace Christianity. Duleep (Satinder Sartaaj) is looked after well by Queen Victoria (Amanda Root).

Years after separation and decades before India achieved independence, Duleep yearns to meet his mother (Shabana Azmi). He comes to India for that. Rather than leaving his mother in British-ruled India, Duleep takes her to Britain alongwith him.

Duleep’s mother hates the British, and keeps reminding Duleep to reclaim his kingdom. But Duleep fails to act. One day, Duleep’s mother passes away in the foreign country. She is cremated in India but not in Punjab, as she had desired. Although Duleep tried his level best to perform her last rites in their native place, the political climate did not permit him to do so.

Haunted by his mother’s advice, Duleep finally decides to go to India and lay claim on his kingdom. He enlists the support of Sikhs in different parts of the world. But as bad luck would have it, he is not allowed to reach India. The freedom struggle has gained so much momentum that Duleep travels to various countries to accomplish his mission with help from those countries. But the British government in India pours water on his plans by arresting and killing Sikhs who were part of the uprising plan. Meanwhile, Duleep gets married to a foreigner and, some years later, to another foreigner.

But his dream to get back his kingdom from the Britishers remains just that as he can’t reach India. Finally, he breathes his last in 1893 in a hotel in Paris, impoverished and lonely. Of course, although he failed, his struggle inspired Sikhs to continue the fight for freedom until India got independence from British imperialism in 1947.  Duleep Singh’s final wish was denied even in death as he was buried like a Christian in an English countryside.

Kavi Raz’s story is basically that of a man who did not meet with success. Since the Hindi film-going audience is used to watching films of achievers and heroes, the story of a loser will not go down well with them as there is nothing in it to inspire them. The entire drama is depressing and saddens the viewers. Kavi Raz has penned a screenplay which has neither patriotic fervour nor an inspirational quality about it. Dialogues are okay.

Satinder Sartaaj does an average job as Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab. Shabana Azmi leaves an impact in the role of Duleep’s mother, Rani Jindan. Jason Flemyng is good as Dr. Login. Amanda Root delivers a fine performance as Queen Victoria. Keith Duffy makes his presence felt as Patrick Casey. David Essex is alright as Colonel Hurbon. Others are adequate.

Kavi Raz’s direction is okay. He has made the film more like a docu-drama, missing out on the emotional turmoil of the characters. The film, therefore, becomes a drama devoid of emotions. There are no light moments too. George Kallis’ background music is passable. Aaron C. Smith’s camerawork leaves something to be desired because a lot of scenes are too dark. Natalie O’Connor’s production design is fair. Editing (by Heidi Scharfe and Marc Cohen) ought to have been much sharper. Dubbing is appropriate.

On the whole, The Black Prince has no commercial or entertainment value and, as such, it will fail to perform at the ticket windows. But it will be liked by those who enjoy watching historicals.

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LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA

ALT Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions’ Lipstick Under My Burkha (A) is the story of four women from a small town, and their fantasies.

Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a widow, way past her prime. For the outside world, she is the lady with religious and ritualistic leanings but she reads erotica on the sly. She finds a swimming coach, Jaspal (Jagat Singh Solanki), who is probably half her age, very desirable and tries to woo him to fulfill her sexual desires. Shireen Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a married woman but her orthodox Muslim husband, Rahim (Sushant Singh), doesn’t love her or care for her feelings. He uses her as a sex machine and, on the sly, has an extra-marital affair. Leela (Aahana Kumra), being raised by her mother (Sonal Jha), is due to be married to a boy, Manoj (Vaibhav Tatwawdi), who is not of her choice. She loves Arshad (Vikrant Massey), who is a still photographer, and even indulges in sex with him after her engagement. Rehana Abidi (Plabita Borthakur) hails from an orthodox Muslim family but is wild in her thoughts. She wants to become a singer but her parents won’t hear anything of that. Despite family restrictions, Rehana drinks, smokes, wears sexy clothes and even has a boyfriend in Dhruv Bose (Shashank Arora).

The film traces the brief journeys of the four women who are unrelated to each other but whose paths meet at some point.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s story is bold yet depressing. Since all the four women don’t achieve what they desire, it leaves the audience dissatisfied. But the class audiences would appreciate the unusual and rather bold story and they would not really mind the fact that the four ladies have to ultimately resign to their respective fates and can’t be successful. The screenplay by Alankrita Shrivastava, with additional screenplay by Suhani Kanwar, is interesting in parts. However, the screenplay does not give the viewers a major high in spite of being so bold. And the reasons for this are varied. One doesn’t sympathise completely with Shireen because quite early on in the drama, one gets the feeling that she is a very smart lady, capable of having her way. Buaji’s character does not evoke sympathy because the viewers know that her sexual fantasies would never be fulfilled as her one-sided affair with the swimming coach rests on a foundation built on lies and deceit. No doubt, the elite audience would overlook the aforementioned ‘shortcomings’ but the masses wouldn’t. Likewise, in the case of Leela, the traditionally inclined viewers would find her sexcapades with the photographer, after her engagement with Manoj, unpardonable. But again, the city folk would have no such moral issues. Another major point about the drama is that there is no happy character in it, everyone is either unhappy or sad or depressed or bogged down by pressures of life or made a fool of. That may be the reality but a large chunk of the audience is used to watching films about happy people. This is one more point which dramatically reduces the film’s appeal to the elite and classes only.

Probably, the put-downer in a bold film like this is the climax in which the women are shown to have been unsuccessful in their quests. Even the class audience would’ve preferred a happier ending, given the nature of the drama. Having said that, it must be added that the audience which looks for realistic endings in films, would get what it wants in the climax. Gazal Dhaliwala’s dialogues are bold and complement the drama well enough.

Konkona Sen Sharma is excellent in a difficult role which she handles with the ease of a seasoned artiste. Ratna Pathak Shah is very good but does go overboard in a couple of scenes. Aahana Kumra is natural to the core and shines. Plabita Borthakur does a splendid job and lives the character of Rehana. Sushant Singh is simply remarkable and conveys a lot without having too many dialogues. Vikrant Massey is wonderful as the still photographer. Vaibhav Tatwawdi has his moments in the role of Manoj. Shashank Arora makes his presence amply felt with his realistic performance as Dhruv Bose. Jagat Singh Solanki (as swimming coach Jaspal) and Sonal Jha (as Leela’s mother) lend decent support.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s direction is mature. Zabunnisa Bangash’s music and Anvita Dutt’s lyrics go well with the film’s mood. Background music (by Mangesh Dhadke) is fair. Ranjit Dev’s choreography is functional. Cinematography (by Akshay Singh) is praiseworthy. Vikram Singh’s production designing is appropriate. Charu Shree Roy’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Lipstick Under My Burkha is bold and will be liked by the class audience. Its appeal is restricted and it will do well in select multiplexes of the big cities.

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