MR. X

Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd. and Vishesh Films’ Mr. X (UA; 3D) is the story of an anti-terrorist agent, Raghuram Rathore (Emraan Hashmi). His girlfriend, Siya Verma (Amyra Dastur), also works as an anti-terrorist agent. The two plan to get married and live happily together. But one incident changes their lives forever.

Just a day before their wedding, their boss, ACP Bharadwaj (Arunodaya Singh), seeks their services. While Raghuram is deployed for chief minister Dwarkanath Dutta’s (S.M. Zaheer) security at a press conference along with other agents, Siya is sent to a hotel room to keep tabs on a terrorist putting up in the same hotel. To Raghuram’s horror, his boss asks him to kill the chief minister, failing which his men would kill Siya. Raghuram soon realises that Bharadwaj is hand-in-glove with the chief minister’s son, Aditya Dutta (Jignesh Joshi), who is the mastermind behind his own father’s killing.

Left with no alternative, Raghuram shoots down the chief minister in full view of the media persons and the murder is captured on camera. Bharadwaj’s stooges show Siya the breaking news on television about Raghuram gunning down the chief minister and she is devastated. Raghuram escapes after the murder but is soon caught and held captive in a chemical factory. Within minutes, the factory is blown up and Raghuram is presumed dead due to burns. But Raghuram survives.

He contacts his friend, Popo (Tanmay Bhat), who also works in the same anti-terrorist department. Popo takes him to his sister (Shruti Ulfat) who works in a laboratory. She gives him a liquid to consume, which cures Raghuram of the burns but he becomes invisible. Raghuram can now be seen only in daylight or in blue neon light.

It’s now revenge time. Raghuram targets Bharadwaj, Aditya Dutta and Tiwari (Susheel Pandey), one of Bharadwaj’s stooges. He kills Tiwari first, in his invisible avatar, calling himself Mr. X. He also meets Siya but does not reveal that Bharadwaj was involved in the chief minister’s murder. Siya, who had believed the news on television, realises that Raghuram had murdered the chief minister, who is said to be corrupt, so that he could save her life. While sympathising with him, she doesn’t agree with his plans to seek revenge as she feels that the law must take its own course. Unaware that Bharadwaj is responsible for Raghuram’s misery, she actually spills the beans about Mr. X’s identity before Bharadwaj.

Siya’s boss, Bharadwaj, now uses her to get to Raghuram. What happens thereafter? Who wins and who loses? Is Raghuram alias Mr. X able to prove his innocence? Does Bharadwaj have to pay for his evil deeds? Is the chief minister’s son, Aditya, made to pay for the murder he masterminded?

Vikram Bhatt has penned a story which doesn’t even pretend to be original or novel. Incidents unfold one after the other without involving the audience. Vikram Bhatt’s screenplay is an exercise in convenience. Raghuram opts to murder the chief minister to save his girlfriend, Siya. But is he such an idiot as to think that Bharadwaj would spare him and/or Siya after the murder he commits in broad daylight and in the presence of hundreds of media persons and cameras? Again, Raghuram could have easily told Siya when he meets her as Mr. X for the first time, that Bharadwaj is the man responsible for making him kill the chief minister, especially because she still works for him. But for absolutely no reason at all, he does not reveal Bharadwaj’s identity. Of course, this is just so that the drama can progress further and there can be some excitement when Siya spills the beans before Bharadwaj. But because the audiences immediately understand that Raghuram has withheld the identity of one of the persons responsible for the chief minister’s killing, they don’t experience the excitement they are supposed to when Siya reveals all to Bharadwaj. In fact, the entire revenge drama of Raghuram is full of holes in the script so that the audience disconnects almost completely from the drama. Clearly, the cheating in scripting is evident at every stage of the drama. Another example of the lack of application of mind while writing the script: much after Raghuram has killed the chief minister, it is mentioned merely in a dialogue that the chief minister was corrupt. This is, perhaps, just so that the audience may not feel that Raghuram (who is the hero) had murdered an innocent man. But if that is so, why are Bharadwaj, Tiwari and Aditya Dutta treated as villains? If Raghuram is a hero even after killing the chief minister, shouldn’t the three also be treated as heroes for getting a corrupt man killed?

Shagufta Rafique’s dialogues are routine and commonplace most of the time.

Emraan Hashmi does an ordinary job as Raghuram and Mr. X. Clearly, the lack of conviction in the script gets reflected in his performance too, which appears half-hearted. Amyra Dastur is also average, maybe partly because of the weak script. Arunodaya Singh’s performance as Bharadwaj is commonplace. Shruti Ulfat is earnest in a brief role. Tanmay Bhat is alright. Jignesh Joshi (as Aditya Dutta) and Susheel Pandey (in the role of Tiwari) leave their individual marks. Girish Pardeshi (as Amar), S.M. Zaheer (as chief minister Dwarkanath Dutta) and Atul Mathur (as the terrorist) do as required. Major Bikramjeet Kanwarpal is okay as Siya’s father.

Vikram Bahtt’s direction is very ordinary. Like the script, his narrative style is also lacklustre and offers no novelty whatsoever. The 3D shooting adds little to the film and seems to be a waste of expenditure. Jeet Ganguly and Ankit Tiwari’s music is alright. ‘Tu jo hai’, composed by Ankit Tiwari, is a hit song but the other songs are not as good. Lyrics (Rashmi Singh, Mohnish Raza, Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay and Manoj Muntashir) are nice. Raju Khan’s choreography is ordinary. Raju Singh’s background music is uninspired. Pravin Bhatt’s camerawork is so-so. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunt scenes are routine. Jayant Deshmukh’s production designing hardly deserves mention. Kuldeep Mehan’s editing could’ve been sharper.

On the whole, Mr. X is a clear case of a job done half-heartedly and without much conviction. It will fail to strike a chord with the audience and will, therefore, flop miserably at the box-office.

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DHARAM SANKAT MEIN

Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Trigno Media’s Dharam Sankat Mein (UA) is the story of a Hindu Brahmin, Dharampal (Paresh Rawal), who learns one day that he was born a Muslim and had been adopted by the Hindu Brahmin family. He is shocked and doesn’t know how to break this news to his wife and two grown-up children. All along, he has been very critical of Muslims but that’s now just a minor issue.The major problem is that his son, Amit (Manoj Sharma), is in love with a Hindu girl, Shraddha (Auritra Ghosh), whose father won’t agree to the marriage unless he is convinced that the groom and his family are religious-minded and ritualistic. Dharampal is neither. To get the father of Amit’s girlfriend agree to the wedding, Dharampal is forced to accompany his family to Godman Neelanand Baba’s (Naseeruddin Shah) ashram. He is also being tutored in Hindu religion and rituals by a priest.

Alongside this, he begins to learn about Muslim religion and rituals because he is keen to meet his biological father who is critically ill. The Imam (Murali Sharma) looking after the place where his father now lives, will not let Dharampal meet the father unless Dharampal learns about Muslim religion and rituals. And so, Dharampal takes lessons in Muslim religion, rituals and Urdu language from his neighbour, Mehmood (Annu Kapoor), who is a lawyer by profession.

Anyway, Dharampal’s secret is out one day, much to the shock and dismay of his family. His wife and children walk out on him. Obviously, his son, therefore, will not get to marry his girlfriend. On the other hand, the Imam is still not convinced that Dharampal can meet his biological father.

What happens thereafter? Does Dharampal’s family realise Dharampal’s predicament and return to him? Is his son able to marry the girl of his choice? Why is the Imam so resistant to the idea of Dharampal meeting his own father? Does Dharampal ultimately get to meet his biological father?

The film is an official remake of British film The Infidel, written by David Baddiel. Its screenplay has been written by Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma, Vijay Desai and Vedish Jhaveri under the supervision of creative consultant Kundan Shah. The script is far from convincing and is, in fact, nothing short of a shoddy job. Why Dharampal is so ashamed to tell his family about him being a Muslim is not explained. He may feel awkward, yes, but ashamed?!? After all, it is not a crime he has committed by being born a Muslim. It is also not as if he knew about it and hid this fact from his family. The whole track of Neelanand Baba is so tacky and irritating that it looks completely farcical, even for his staunch supporters. The need for Dharampal to be religious-minded and ritualistic is ‘created’ through dialogues rather than actual scenes of the girlfriend’s father, greatly diluting the seriousness of the issue. Again, the comedy that ought to have been created when Dharampal sets out to learn simultaneously about Hindu and Muslim religions and rituals is simply not created. An occasional laugh here and a smile there do not constitute comedy. The Imam’s real reason for precluding Dharampal from meeting his biological father is revealed only in the climax and that is so ridiculous that the audience remains unmoved. Besides, Dharampal’s exposé in the climax is so idiotic that it just doesn’t make sense. It almost looks like Dharampal’s ‘crime’ of being born a Muslim were reduced in impact simply because of his revelations or that if he hadn’t revealed what he does, he may never have been forgiven for being born a Muslim. The fact, however, is that the two are not connected at all and the writers have somehow tried to correlate the two – without much success, of course. The track of Neelanand Baba and Amit’s marriage look like a repetition of a similar track in PK – that too, a very poor copy.

All in all, the writers seem to be at sea in creating comedy. Consequently, many attempts at humour fall flat. Even the scenes which do make the audience laugh do not really add up to make the drama cohesive and fulfilling. One of the main reasons for this is that the writers seem to have penned the entire drama, except the climax, under the assumption that it is fine to be born a Hindu but definitely not so fine to be born a Muslim. While alienating the Muslim audience from the content, the film won’t even appeal to the non-Muslim audience because of the ridiculous premise! Many scenes are lengthy and boring. While some dialogues, penned by the writing team, are entertaining, the same cannot be said about all of them.

Paresh Rawal does a fine job of Dharampal but even he is not able to add more conviction to his character than the script which is rather weak. Annu Kapoor performs ably as advocate Mehmood and is very real. Naseeruddin Shah gets limited scope and is more caricaturish than believable. Alka Badola Kaushal is okay as Dharampal’s wife, Indu. Murali Sharma is alright in the role of the Imam. Mukesh Bhatt passes muster as the Hindu priest. Manoj Sharma (as Amit), Auritra Ghosh (as Shraddha) and Rushita Pandey (as Dharampal’s daughter, Antara) lend ordinary support. Gippy Grewal, Sophie Choudry and Hazel Keech (all three in special appearances) are okay. Suresh Venkataraman (as Neeleshwar), Jagdish Rajpurohit (as Bhatt), Jehangir Karkaria (as Hasmukh), Alka Mehta (as the bank manager), Gagan Gupta (as the magistrate) and the others lend very average support.

Fuwad Khan fails to impress in his debut attempt at direction. Neither has he been able to make the film a laugh-riot nor even a hard-hitting satire. Music (Meet Bros. Anjjan, Sachin Gupta and Jatinder Singh) is okay; no song is truly appealing. Kumaar’s lyrics are quite meaningful. Arvind Thakur’s choreography passes muster. Sachin Gupta’s background music is ordinary. Anshuman Mahaley’s cinematography is average. Javed-Aejaz’s action and stunt scenes are functional. Sukant Panigrahy’s production designing is routine. Editing, by Apurva Asrani, leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Dharam Sankat Mein is a very dull fare and its business prospects will be no better.

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EK PAHELI LEELA

T-Series and Paper Doll Entertainment’s Ek Paheli Leela (A) is a love story that spans 300 years. Meera (Sunny Leone) is a leading model from India but based in London. She has lost her parents in a plane crash which she survives and is, therefore, petrified of air travel. For this very reason, she suffers from depression and is on medication for the same.

In India, Karan (Jay Bhanushali) makes music. After shifting into his new home, he gets a scary dream every night about somebody whip-lashing another person, and he invariably breaks into a cold sweat. The visuals in his dream are not clear. At times, he notices that there are whip-lash marks on his back when he wakes up.

Karan’s sister, Radhika alias Ratz (Shivani Tanksale), is an ace photographer and she soon befriends Meera in London, courtesy event co-ordinator Andy (Andy). On Andy’s insistence, Ratz hoodwinks Meera into flying to India for a photo-shoot in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Meera is very angry with Andy and Ratz but soon forgives them as she finds immense peace and solace in Rajasthan. She starts to dance and play with the local girls there, feeling a strange connection with them.

Meanwhile, the troubled Karan consults a tantrik who tells him that 300 years ago, Leela (Sunny Leone) and Shravan (Rajniesh Duggal) were madly in love with one another. But sculptor Bhairav (Rahul Dev) had fallen so much in love with Leela while making her statue that he had asked Shravan to leave him (Bhairav) and Leela alone while he completed the statue. As the tantrik is unable to continue the 300-year-old story after this point, he tells Karan to complete the love story in this life and tells him that he would get an opportunity to end his long wait, after which his frightening dream would not haunt him. He also tells Karan that the reason he has started to visualise the terrible dream only after moving into his new house is because there is some connection with the memories of the era gone by. Karan soon realises that the connection is a music record he possesses, which has Rajasthani music and which transports him to the same backdrop as he visualises in his dream every night. He, therefore, decides to go to Jaisalmer.

In Jaisalmer, in the present times, cousins Bikram Singh (Jas Arora) and Ranveer Singh (Mohit Ahlawat) are involved in a court case over the ownership of the house of sculptor Bhairav and the 300-year-old statue made by Bhairav, the whereabouts of which are unknown. Meera, who has come to Jaisalmer for the photo-shoot, ends up falling in love with and marrying Ranveer Singh and now lives with him happily in Jaisalmer. Bikram Singh lusts for Meera but there’s little that he can do.

Once Karan comes to Jaisalmer and visits Bhairav’s house, the subject matter of litigation between Bikram Singh and Ranveer Singh, he (Karan) is able to correlate his dream with what happened 300 years ago. He recalls that driven by the mad desire to possess Leela, Bhairav had killed Shravan with a whip-lash and hammer. Additionally, he had also pushed Leela to her death in sheer frustration. The installation of Leela’s statue that very day, 300 years ago, had, therefore not taken place.

Karan must now find the statue to attain freedom from the haunting dream. Does he find Leela’s statue?

In Jaisalmer, Karan is surprised to meet Meera who resembles Leela of 300 years ago. He tells Meera about his strange dream. He is now convinced that he was Shravan 300 years ago, and Meera was his Leela. Do Karan and Meera unite in this life?

Bobby Khan’s story is not completely novel as previous films of rebirth have tackled similar subjects. But since the story moves on various tracks, it does engage the viewers and also keeps them entertained. Jojo Khan has written an interesting screenplay which is fast-paced and has a number of twists and turns. Although there are several tracks on which the drama moves, the screenplay is not at all confused or confusing and is a rather neat job. Very intelligently, the writers have kept the sex element integral to the script by exposing Meera’s assets in her dances and photo-shoots. In other words, the sex quotient is exploited in Meera’s professional work. In the past life, Leela is shown wearing clothes which make her look sexy and reveal her anatomy to the hilt. Leela’s intimate scenes with Shravan and with Bhairav are also integral to the story. Likewise, the love-making scene between Ranveer Singh and Meera is integral to the drama. Another good part of Jojo Khan’s screenplay is that the locations have been made a very good part of the drama, whether they happen to be the streets of London or the deserts and havelis of Rajasthan.

The twist in the climax is the best part of the script and it comes as a shock to the audiences because they least expect it. In fact, the twist is so unique that the viewers can’t help but like it. Bunty Rathore’s dialogues are of a fine standard.

Sunny Leone acts well in both the roles – of Meera and Leela. She looks glamorous and sexy and actually springs a surprise with her performance. Her dances, of course, are sensuous. Her costumes are colourful and beautiful. Jay Bhanushali is good as Karan. Mohit Ahlawat is alright in the role of Ranveer Singh. Rajniesh Duggal looks the character he plays and comes up with a fine performance. Jas Arora looks very handsome (with beard and moustache) as Bikram Singh and he has performed ably. Rahul Dev is lovely as Bhairav. Shivani Tanksale makes her presence felt as Ratz. Andy is efficient and evokes laughter. Kulvinder Bakshish has his moments as Karan’s friend, Rajiv. Ehsaan Qureshi provides few light moments as Maan Singh. Nausheen Ahmed (as Ratz’s assistant, Candy), Girish Thapar (as Bikram Singh’s aide, Samar), Daniel Weber (as the pilot), Jitendra Baiswal (as the pandit), Arun Singh (as the tantrik) and the others lend able support.

Bobby Khan’s direction is decent. He adopts a simple narrative style which engages the audiences without confusing them or cluttering their minds. Also, he has made the film quite a visual treat for the viewers, thanks to the picturesque locations on which it has been shot, and the colourful costumes worn by the characters. His picturisation of the love-making and intimate scenes has aesthetic value. Music (Meet Bros. Anjjan, Amaal Malik, Dr. Zeus, Uzair Jaiswal and Tony Kakkar) is a major plus point. ‘Meri desi look’ is already a hit song. Other songs which are very appealing are ‘Saiyyan superhit’, ‘Khuda bhi’ and ‘Tere bin’. The ‘Dholi taro dhol’ song from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam has been effectively used. Other songs are quite nice. Lyrics (Kumaar, Manoj Muntashir and Tony Kakkar) are easy on the lips. Ahmed Khan has choreographed all the songs, except one (‘Ek do teen chaar’ which has been choreographed by Jojo Khan). All the song picturisations are eye-filling. Mannan Munjal’s background music is alright. It could have been better. Bashalal Syed’s camerawork deserves special mention. He has captured the locations and the actors on his camera aesthetically. Aziz and Shamshair’s action and stunts are quite good. Chetan Acharya and Yunus Khan’s production designing is of a fairly good standard. Nitin’s editing is fine.

On the whole, for the budget at which Ek Paheli Leela is made, it is entertaining and eye-filling. It has abundant sex and skin show, hit music, beautiful locations and colourful costumes, all of which make it a fine audio-visual presentation. It will prove to be a plus fare because of its medium investment (Rs. 17-18 crore) on the one hand and its fairly good initial on the other.

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DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY!

Yash Raj Films and Dibakar Banerjee Productions’ Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (UA) is a murder mystery solved by a detective. The film is set in Calcutta in pre-Independence India.

Ajit Banerjee (Anand Tiwari) is concerned about his father, Bhuvan Banerjee, who disappeared two months earlier. He approaches Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput) to help him trace his father. Byomkesh gets on the job and soon realises that Ajit’s father has been murdered.

He now sets out on a journey to understand who murdered Bhuvan Banerjee and why, and to trace the murderer. He chances upon some clues and keeps getting closer and closer to the murderer with every clue. Along the way, a few people are murdered by unknown persons, probably because they would spill the beans about the murderer of Bhuvan Banerjee before Byomkesh Bakshy. The finger of suspicion points to different people at different times.

Not only is the revelation of the kill­er shocking but so is his motive. Byomkesh Bakshy realises along the way that the murder of Bhuvan Banerjee was just the tip of the iceberg and that the murderer had very big and insidious plans.

Writers Urmi Juvekar and Dibakar Banerjee have adapted the original story of Saradindu Bandyopadhyay. The story is interesting as it involves the audience in the guessing game. But it becomes heavy and boring and confusing post-interval. The screenplay, penned by the duo, moves at a fairly fast pace in the first half. However, the scenes to unravel the intent of the killer get boring after a point of time. In other words, while the attempt of Byomkesh Bakshy to solve the murder mystery throws up an interesting and engaging drama till the point where the identity of the murderer is revealed, the bigger drama of why the murder was committed does not remain as interesting, and not just because the same is confusing. Besides, many of the characters have difficult (Bengali) names and are played by unknown faces, making the drama only more difficult to comprehend. A lot of shooting has been done in the dark as the scenes are of the night and although these would not normally have irritated the audience, they do so because the drama gets boring after a point of time.

On the other hand, what holds the audience’s interest is the intelligent way in which Byomkesh deciphers clue after clue and keeps getting closer to his target. And since the screenplay involves the audience in the guessing game, it does manage to entertain upto a point. The duo’s dialogues are natural and interesting but definitely often lack the punch.

Sushant Singh Rajput is natural and easy-going in the title role. He plays the titular character well but it would’ve been far better if his character had been made more endearing. Anand Tiwari does a fine job as Ajit Banerjee. Newfind Divya Menon is quite nice in the role of Satyawati. Swastika Mukherjee is truly impressive as Angoori Devi. Neeraj Kabi shines as Dr. Anukul Guha. He is supremely natural and steals the show whenever he comes on the screen. Meiyang Chang is alright as Kanai Dao but it must be added that he gets limited scope. Mark Bennington performs ably as deputy commissioner of police Wilkie. Takanori Higuchi has his moments as Dr. Watanabe. Dr. Kaushik Ghosh is alright as Gajanan Sikdar. Shivam lends fair support as Sukumar. Pradipto Kumar Chakraborty (as Puntiram), Arindol Bagchi (in the role of Ashwini Babu), Anindya Banerjee (as Prafulla Ray), Moumita Chakraborty (as Leela), Peter Wong (as Underboss), Tirtha Mallick (as Atanu Chandra Sen), Piyali Ray (as Dr. Watanabe’s receptionist), Kawaljeet Singh Banga (as the Sikh taxi driver) and the others provide the desired support.

Dibakar Banerjee’s direction is fairly good but, like the script, caters more to the class audience. His narration also seems a bit too indulgent. Music (by Madboy/Mink, Sneha Khanwalkar, Blek, Peter Cat Recording Co., Mode AKA, Joint Family and IJA) is functional. Lyrics, by Madboy/Mink, Sneha Khanwalkar, Rishi Bradoo, Suryakant Sawhney, Sandeep Madhavan, Akshay De and IJA, are alright. Background music (by Madboy/Mink, Blek, Peter Cat Recording Co., Mode AKA, Joint Family and IJA) is good but too loud at places – so loud that the dialogues are not clearly audible, at times. Nikos Andritsakis’ camerawork is splendid except that the night scenes sometimes become difficult to comprehend because of the limited lighting. Action (Parvez Fazal Khan) scenes are okay; some of them are very gruesome. Vandana Kataria has done a creditable job of the production designing by re-creating the atmosphere of Calcutta of the 1940s. Editing, by Manas Mittal and Namrata Rao, could’ve been sharper.

On the whole, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is an ordinary fare which does not give the audience the thrill of a murder mystery. While it will be liked by the classes, its acceptance among the masses will be limited. It will, therefore, not do good business at the box-office.

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NH10

Eros International, Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. and Clean Slate Films’ NH10 (A) is the story of a happily married couple, Meera (Anushka Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam), and how their lives overturn due to one incident.

Meera and Arjun live in Gurgaon and are very happy in their space. A one-off incident on the road in the dark of the night frightens Meera, taking the couple to the police on whose recommendation Meera gets the licence to keep a pistol with her for her security. The two decide to go on a picnic one day to celebrate Meera’s birthday. They set off in their car on the National Highway 10.

In Haryana itself, they see Satbir (Darshan Kumar) mercilessly beating his sister, Pinky (Kanchan Sharma), and her husband. Arjun, shocked at the beastly behaviour of Satbir and his cronies, tries to intervene to save Pinky and her husband but he is silenced by Satbir who slaps him tight. As nobody else present there dares to raise his voice, Arjun helplessly gives up even as Satbir and his goons drive away in their own car with Pinky and her husband.

Frustrated, Arjun and Meera get on with their road journey but soon spot Satbir’s car once again. With the intention of scaring Satbir, Arjun gets off his car, this time with Meera’s pistol in hand. It is not long before Arjun and Meera are held captive by Satbir who then murders Pinky and her husband. It is now clear beyond doubt to the shocked Arjun and Meera that these were honour killings.

Meera and Arjun manage to escape from Satbir’s clutches but not before killing one team member, Chhote (Ravi Beniwal). Satbir, with a view to seek revenge, follows them with his hoodlums. Meera and Arjun have to escape from Satbir and his men. Gun shots are fired, knives are used and there is fear in the minds of Arjun and Meera that they would not be spared.

Soon, Arjun is grievously injured and having been forced to abandon their car, Meera now has to battle Satbir and his men all alone in the dark of the night, that too, on the secluded and unsafe highway. Meera even reaches the police station but the police fails to come to her rescue.

Even as Satbir and his army are hot on Meera’s trail, she reaches the village sarpanch’s (Deepti Naval) home, hoping that she would get help from this quarter at least. But she is shocked at the turn of events.

What happens then? What is it that shocks Meera at the sarpanch’s home? Who survives and who is laid to rest? What happens to Arjun?

The film is inspired by the English film, Eden Lake. The screenplay, penned by Sudip Sharma, is very engrossing and engaging. It manages to completely hook the audience’s attention. Since the drama has several twists and turns, the uni-dimensional story doesn’t get monotonous or boring. But the audience’s sympathy doesn’t go out completely to Meera and Arjun, which should’ve been the case, and that’s because the audience feels, Arjun had no business to invite trouble the way he did. In other words, there isn’t a very justifiable reason for Arjun to intervene in Satbir’s business. Of course, the counter-argument to this is that Arjun is a guy with a conscience and, therefore, can’t tolerate injustice. But one does wish that the writer had taken pains to make Arjun’s involvement in Satbir’s affairs not seem so self-inflicted. Another drawback, if one may use the word, is that the drama is very violent and there are scenes of bloodshed, gore and gut-wrenching action, which will be difficult for the womenfolk and family audience to digest. Sudip Sharma’s dialogues are very real.

Anushka Sharma lives the role of Meera and shines with a very note­worthy performance. Her expressions, body language and acting, all add up so that her acting stands out. She is sure to be nominated for the best actress awards this year. Neil Bhoopalam is sincere in the role of Arjun. He gets limited scope. Darshan Kumar is menacing and he acts with effortless ease. Deepti Naval is first-rate as the village sarpanch. Tushar Grover (as Mukesh), Kanchan Sharma (as Pinky), Ravi Jhankal (as Fauji), Jaswant Singh (in the role of Omi), Yogendra Singh (as Ashok), Ashish Sharma (as Ramavtar), Ravi Beniwal (as Chhote), Siddharth Bharadwaj (as the constable), Sushil Tyagi (as the police inspector), Krishan Kumar (as the Bihari migrant), Shruti (as the Bihari migrant’s wife) and Tanya Purohit (as the sarpanch’s daughter-in-law) lend very able support.

Navdeep Singh’s direction is wonderful. He has succeeded in creating the right amount of tension for the audience which will find it difficult to even blink for fear of missing something. Navdeep has kept the film fast-paced so that it doesn’t get boring despite moving on a single track. Music (Bann Chakraborty, Ayushman Shre­shta, Savera Mehta and Samira Koppikar) is more functional than anything else. The songs are all background numbers. Lyrics (by Bann Chakraborty, Neeraj Rajawat, Manoj Tapadia and Varun Grover) are alright. The ‘Chhil gaye naina’ song, recorded and picturised for the film’s promotion, is conspicuous by its absence in the film. It should’ve been incorporated in the film because it is indeed very well-tuned (by Sanjeev Darshan). Karan Gour’s background music is very good. Arvind Kannabiran’s cinematography is remarkable and he uses his camera to heighten the fear element. Action scenes, choreographed by Armin Sauer and Abdul Salaam Ansari, are for the masses mainly, but they would also be liked by the multiplex audience because the violence is not uncalled for or meaningless. Mustufa Stationwala’s production designing is very good. Editing (Jabeen Merchant) is crisp and sharp.

On the whole, NH10 is raw and entertaining in its own way. No doubt, it is meant more for the class audience but since the investment in the film (Rs. 14 crore approximately) is not big, it would very easily fetch commission. Sadly, the recovery from all other sources, except India theatrical, would be very limited. In spite of that, the film will fetch profits. It is a film which will win a lot of critical acclaim and one which will make the producers, director, technicians and actors associated with it, proud.

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BADLAPUR

(Read if you wish to as there may be spoilers in the review)

Eros International and Maddock Films’ Badlapur (A) is a dark revenge drama. Raghav’s (Varun Dhawan) wife, Misha (Yaami Gautam), and little son, Robin (master Neil Tyagi), are killed by two robbers on the run. Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Harman (Vinay Pathak) hijack Misha’s car and hold her and her son captive inside as they are escaping after a planned loot. They kill Misha and Robin almost immediately when the two try to force them to stop. Liak actually murders the two while his accomplice, Harman, watches on shocked. Even as the two criminals are on the run, with the police giving them a hot chase, Harman manages to give the police the slip and escapes with the loot money. Liak is arrested and sentenced to jail for 20 years.

Since the loot money runs into crores of rupees, Liak refuses to reveal the name of his accomplice to the police. However, to save his own skin, he keeps telling the police that his accomplice had committed the murders. Years pass by but Raghav’s single agenda in life remains to seek revenge. He wants the name of Liak’s partner-in-crime as he, too, believes that the partner had eliminated his wife and son.

While in jail, Liak gets stomach cancer and the doctors estimate that he has just one more year to live. Shobha (Divya Dutta), who runs an NGO for the rehabilitation of jail inmates, approaches Raghav and requests him to forgive Liak on humanitarian grounds so that he (Liak) could be set free on medical grounds and could thereby lead the last year of his life with dignity. With revenge as his sole mission in life, Raghav is prepared to do so if and only if Liak would tell him who his accomplice was. But Liak refuses to do so as he fears that if Harman were to be arrested, the loot money would be confiscated by the police.

Help comes to Raghav when Liak’s mother, pleading before Raghav to forgive her son so that he could be released from jail, spills the beans about Harman. In no time, Raghav meets Harman and his wife, Kanchan (Radhika Apte), and reveals his identity. After mentally torturing the two, he kills both of them but not before taking the loot money and Liak’s passport which Harman was to deliver to Liak for his safe passage abroad.

Now, Raghav wants to meet Liak once again. But does he succeed in meeting Liak? Does Raghav hand over the money and passport to Liak? Does Raghav murder Liak? Or does Liak turn out to be one up on Raghav? Does Raghav ever get to know who actually killed his wife and child? Is Raghav punished by law for the murders he commits?

Massimo Carlotto has written a story which is a dark revenge drama and which doesn’t have great novelty. But the screenplay, written by Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas and Pooja Ladha Surti, keeps the audience engaged from the start till the end. No doubt, there are points where the interest level of the viewers dips because the drama looks stretched but it never fails to engage the viewers. Having said that, it must be added that the film will appeal more to the classes than the masses, more so because of the second half. The twists and turns after the interval are more of the kind which would find favour with the classes. The last couple of reels, in which Raghav wants to meet Liak, and actually does meet him seem to be redundant at the end of the day, from Raghav’s point of view. Put differently, the writers have not been able to establish why Raghav was thirsting to reach Liak. It, obviously, couldn’t be to merely tell Liak that he (Raghav) had killed Harman and Kanchan and that he had ensured that the loot money doesn’t reach Liak. Even without Raghav saying so to Liak, the latter would realise that the money is not his if it didn’t reach him. And if only passing on the information to Liak was the reason, well, the hopes of the audience are raised in a different direction before Raghav actually meets Liak post-Harman’s murder. That the drama takes a shocking turn in the last reel is, of course, a nice twist but that does not in any way justify why Raghav was so keen to meet Liak.

Raghav killing Kanchan looks very un-hero-like. Similarly, Raghav teaching Shobha a lesson seems uncalled for because she, after all, was well within her rights, coming from the NGO which she was running. Rehabilitation of jail inmates is a noble cause even if it comes in the way of Raghav achieving his mission in life. That Raghav can’t distinguish between the villains and the noble or the unconnected people leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. These two points (of Raghav killing Kanchan, and seeking revenge on Shobha) somewhere dilute the audience’s sympathy for Raghav because they make him appear villainish. Simultaneously, the character of Liak is not shown to be terrorising at all but it rather becomes endearing as the drama progresses, if only because of his antics. This is probably the reason why the viewers get up with a feeling of not having been fully satisfied when the end titles begin to roll – they don’t experience the high they ought to have because somewhere, they have, much earlier on, started to hope that something good should happen in Liak’s life. The writers have tried to add light scenes to balance the tension but those light scenes don’t have the desired impact. The drama has very gross violent scenes which don’t make the film appealing for women and families. But the youngsters and the class audience in the big cities will definitely enjoy the drama. Dialogues, penned by the trio, are nice, but mainly those mouthed by Liak.

Varun Dhawan does a very good job. He plays the role of Raghav effectively. But his dialogue delivery does not have the desired impact. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is, hands down, the star of the show. He impresses in every single scene and gets into the skin of the character so very brilliantly that there could veritably have been no other actor better than him in this role. His is an award-winning performance indeed. Yaami Gautam looks pretty and leaves a mark in a short role. Vinay Pathak is effective as Harman. As his wife, Radhika Apte does a swell job and gives a noteworthy performance. Huma Qureshi lives the role of prostitute Jhimli. She is first-rate. Divya Dutta lends superb support. Pratima Kannan shines as Liak’s mother. Kumud Mishra makes his presence felt as police inspector Govind Mishra. Ashwini Kalsekar lends able support as detective Joshi but has a tiny role. Murali Sharma has his moments as Michael. Zakir Hussain provides lovely support as Patil, the paramour of Jhimli. Master Neil Tyagi (as Robin), Gopal Singh (as sub-inspector Khanolkar), Divya Bhatiya (as Raghav’s father), Paromita Chatterjee (as Raghav’s mother), Anandi (as Misha’s mother), Bala Subramaniam (as Misha’s father), Vijay Salve (as the jailor) and the others are adequate.

Sriram Raghavan’s direction is very nice. He has made the dark thriller with the right amount of energy although he could’ve made it crisper and more fast-paced. Sachin-Jigar’s music is hit. ‘Jee karda’, ‘Jeena jeena’ and ‘Judaai’ songs are already a rage. But the songs don’t have the desired impact in the film; their audio appeal is far greater. Dinesh Vijan and Priya Saraiya’s lyrics are soulful. Ahmed Khan’s choreography is suited to the drama. Sachin-Jigar’s background music is quite nice. Anil Mehta’s cine­matography is of a high standard. Action scenes have been well choreographed by Parvez Fazal Khan but they are just too violent. Production designing, by Donald Reagan Gracy and Anita Lata Rajagopalan, is appropriate. Pooja Ladha Surti’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Badlapur will be liked more by the classes and will score in the big cities, ultimately proving a safe bet. Its appeal for the womenfolk, families and the small centres is limited.

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ROY

Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. and Freeway Pictures’ Roy (UA) is the story of a thief and a filmmaker who makes a film on the life of the thief.

Kabir Grewal (Arjun Rampal) is a filmmaker who has been signed by producer Irani (Kaizaad Kotwal) but he just can’t think up a good script. Then, one day, he sees detective D.S. Wadia (Rajit Kapur) talking on television about a thief who stole expensive paintings. Kabir heads to Malaysia to make his film, without much of a story. In Malaysia, he meets filmmaker Ayesha Amir (Jacqueline Fernandez) who tells him about her encounter with the thief, Roy (Ranbir Kapoor).

Roy had met Ayesha, wooed her, had had an affair with her and one day disappeared after stealing a painting from her house. That painting was one-half of a painting which was already in the possession of the man (Barun Chanda) Roy worked for and he (Roy) had taken it upon himself to complete the painting by stealing the other half.

Ayesha, who has a brief affair with Casanova Kabir, tells him her entire story about her encounter with Roy, little knowing that Kabir was shooting her story on celluloid as his new film. Then, one day, Ayesha reads the script of Kabir’s under-production film and realises that Kabir has stolen her story. She wraps up her own shooting and returns home and completely disconnects from Kabir. Here, Kabir realises that he is deeply in love with her. He doesn’t even know the reason for Ayesha walking out of his life. He abandons his film project mid-way because Ayesha, who is the de facto writer of the film, has gone away without telling him the ending. Kabir can’t think of how to take his movie forward.

Kabir tries to establish contact with Ayesha but to no avail. He gets lucky when he finally meets her at a film festival and awards function for which he is a jury member and where her film, Malacca Diaries, wins her a prize. That is where Ayesha tells Kabir to stop trying to get her back into his life because she did not approve of him stealing her story.

Here, Roy also realises, he is madly in love with Ayesha. Meanwhile, Kabir and Roy meet and become friends.

Roy soon has a change of heart and he now wants both the paintings – the one he had stolen from Ayesha’s house and its other half. But his boss has already sold the two paintings to an art dealer (Asif Basra). Does Roy lay his hands on the two paintings? If so, how? And if he does get the paintings, what does he do to them? Is Kabir able to forget Ayesha or does he meet her again? Does Ayesha forgive Kabir? Does Kabir tell Ayesha that he loves her? Does Ayesha also love Kabir? Does Roy meet Ayesha again? Does Ayesha forgive Roy? Does Roy tell Ayesha that he loves her? Does Ayesha also love Roy? Does Ayesha go with Kabir or Roy or none of them?

Vikramjeet Singh has penned a story which is far from engaging or interesting. That it moves at a painfully slow pace and thereby tests the audience’s patience is just one of the many problems. The stories of Aye­sha with Roy and of Ayesha with Kabir appear to be happening simultaneously, confusing the audience. Many among the viewers will not be able to comprehend that the time zones of the two stories are different and so are the places where they are unfolding.

Vikramjeet Singh’s screenplay is quite weird. Ayesha is shown to be an idiot who has affairs with two thieves – a thief of paintings and a thief of intellectual property. Kabir Grewal seems to be another idiot who can’t even complete a script, simply because the person whose story he has been stealing walks out on him without completing it. This means, Kabir completely lacks imagination which is why he abandons the project after shooting a good portion of it. Roy’s character is equally weird – there is no explanation given to the viewers about why he does what he does. Probably worse than all of the above is the point that neither the story of Ayesha and Roy nor the story of Ayesha and Kabir appears believable or even appealing enough. All the three characters are so sketchy that the viewers are unable to identify with any of them. Frankly, the feeling the viewer gets while watching the film is that each of the three principal characters is doing nothing and merely indulging in silly and stupid things as far as their romantic stories go. The audience’s sympathy goes to neither of the three characters – it doesn’t go to Kabir because he comes across as a loser; it doesn’t go to Roy because he is a thief without much else revealed about him; and it doesn’t go to Ayesha because she seems to be good at everything including filmmaking, yoga, painting, dancing but stupid enough to not realise that she is being used. Also, Ayesha oscillating between Kabir and Roy will prove to be a sore point with the audience because this hardly makes her appear as a morally right girl. Effectively, the film has two heroes – one is a loser, the other is a thief – and one heroine – who appears morally wrong.

The screenplay also looks one of complete convenience. Ayesha chancing upon Kabir’s script is just one case in point to indicate how very convenient the screenplay is. For, why would a director leave his script so callously for someone to pick up?

If the romance is far from heart-warming, the light moments are very few and even they are feeble. Emotions fail to touch the heart because the audience doesn’t connect with any of the three main characters. The ending is very confusing. Dialogues, penned by Vikramjeet Singh and Hussain Dalal, are extremely routine and commonplace.

Arjun Rampal tries to look sincere and dedicated but his lack of conviction in the script and in his characterisation is all too evident. Ranbir Kapoor is ordinary and he, too, seems to have simply acted for the sake of acting. He lends star value, of course, but the unsubstantive role he portrays is bound to greatly disappoint his fans. That he is not the hero of the drama will only agitate the audience. Jacqueline Fernandez is earnest but to no avail. She looks gorgeous. Shernaz Patel gives her cent per cent to the character she plays – a production head with Kabir Grewal. Anupam Kher has his moments as Kabir’s father. Barun Chanda is effective as Roy’s boss. Asif Basra makes his presence felt in a brief role as an art dealer. Rajit Kapur leaves a mark. Cyrus Broacha is good but his Hindi pronunciations and sense of gender are pathetic. Kaizaad Kotwal and Mandana (as Pia) provide fair support. Others do as required.

Vikramjeet Singh’s direction may be alright as far as the technicalities are concerned but his narrative skills are below the mark. He confuses the audience at several places and is not able to engage them or entertain them. Music (Ankit Tiwari, Meet Bros. Anjjan and Amaal Malik) is the best thing in the film. ‘Sooraj dooba hai’ (by Amaal Malik) is a surefire hit. ‘Tu hai ki nahi’ (by Ankit Tiwari) is also very appealing. All the other songs are also melodious. Lyrics (by Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay, Sandeep Nath and Kumaar) are weighty. Song picturisations (choreography by Ahmed Khan) are good but could’ve been better. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music seems heavily inspired by Hollywood films. It appeals at places. Himman Dhamija’s cinematography is nice. Locations are breathtaking. Sanjay Shekhar Shetty’s action and stunts are functional. Vintee Bansal’s production designing is alright. Dipika Kalra’s editing leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Roy is a confused film which will confuse the audience more than it would entertain. Despite a hit music score, it will prove to be a flop fare at the box-office.

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