THUGS OF HINDOSTAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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KAASHI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BAAZAAR

Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Kyta Productions, B4U Entertainment and Emmay Entertainment’s Baazaar (UA) is the story of a ruthless share bazaar kingpin.

Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan) is a big name in the share market. He has made tons of money by investing in shares and stocks. He is a shrewd Gujarati Jain businessman who can stoop to any level to make money. Shakun lives with his wife, Mandira (Chitrangda Singh), and two little daughters, Alisha (Raddheya Mahendru) and Nayantara (Anika Malhotra).

In Allahabad lives Rizwan Ahmed (Rohan Mehra) with his father, Zulfikar Ahmed (Pawan Chopra), and sister, Aamna (Sonia Balani). Despite coming from a middle-class family, Rizwan has big dreams and he idolises Shakun Kothari. Much against his father’s wishes, Rizwan comes to Bombay and joins a share broking company, Capital Broking, owned by Kishore Wadhwa (Denzil Smith). His single-point agenda is to get close to Shakun Kothari and work under him. At Capital Broking, broker Priya Rai (Radhika Apte) sees a spark in Rizwan and supports him.

Then, one day, Rizwan comes in touch with Shakun Kothari who gets pretty impressed with his brilliance. Shakun Kothari gives Capital Broking a cheque for Rs. 100 crore and asks Rizwan to multiply his money. Rizwan fails at first but just about manages to remain in Shakun’s good books by making some profitable moves.

Shakun commits big frauds in the share bazaar with such finesse that he escapes the hands of law always. SEBI investigators are always after him but have never been successful in nabbing him as yet.

Anyway, soon thereafter, Shakun takes Rizwan under his wings and even starts a telecom company with Rizwan as its major shareholder. Shakun has bribed the minister to grant him licence, which would make the new company rich in a jiffy. But the government policy is changed at the last minute. However, by this time, Rizwan has given his sister’s fiancé a tip to invest all his savings in the telecom company floated by Shakun Kothari and himself.

All hell breaks loose when the new company lands in a terrible mess. Additionally, SEBI launches an investigation into what appears as a fraud. Rizwan is arrested for insider trading. What about Shakun Kothari? Is the SEBI able to prove Shakun as the fraudster or is Shakun too smart for SEBI? Who has shortchanged whom?

Parveez Sheikh has written an interesting story which keeps the audience interest alive right from the start till the end. It is inspired by Hollywood film Wall Street. But the share bazaar jargon and the technical aspects of the stock market make the drama class-appealing. The first half is very interesting despite being confusing at places. The post-interval portion is however, not as interesting and engaging.

Aseem Arora and Parveez Sheikh’s screenplay is quite effective but also class-appealing. A minus point about the screenplay is that it appears to be one of convenience at several strategic points. In other words, some difficult points in the drama are sought to be explained in a fashion that gives the audience the feeling that convenient liberties have been taken. Despite this, the tension in the drama does consume the viewers. The climax is interesting but the revelation of the catalyst does not come as a shock as the identity of the catalyst is quite predictable. Even for those who are unable to predict the catalyst’s identity, the revelation comes as a downer because it doesn’t have the force or the weight to match up to the drama before the climax.

Aseem Arora’s dialogues are weighty and impactful.

Saif Ali Khan does a very good job as the shrewd Shakun Kothari. He looks nice and plays the businessman with an evil streak, convincingly. Chitrangda Singh uses her facial expressions and body language very effectively to convey her emotions. She looks bewitching. Radhika Apte looks glamorous and acts with effortless ease as Priya Rai. She is supremely natural. Rohan Mehra makes a promising debut as Rizwan Ahmed. His free acting more than makes up for his devoid-of-glamour looks. Manish Chaudhary has his moments as SEBI investigator Rana Dasgupta. Sonia Balani (as Aamna Ahmed), Pawan Chopra (as Zulfikar Ahmed), Ravinder Singh Bakshi (as Balwinder), Deepak Gheewala (as Gagan­bhai), Utkarsh Mazumdar (as Chheda), Abhishek Gupta (as Aamna’s fiancé, Anwar), Dr. Mukesh Hariawala (as Chhaganlal Parekh), Ajit Satbhai (as Bipinbhai), Danish Husain (as Dubey), Krunal Pandit (as Mani Shankar), Amit Jairath (as Sanjay Shukla), Vikram Kapadia (as Sandeep Talwar), and Denzil Smith (as Kishore Wadhwa) lend decent support. Vijay Tilani (as Ashish), Martin Jishil (as Venkat), Raddheya Mahendru (as Alisha Kothari), Anika Malhotra (as Nayantara Kothari), Sai Gundewar (as Suhas Sharma), Gaurav Sharma (as Sagar Malhotra), Sahil Sangha (as Vineet Mehra), Devesh (as Shantanu) and Pulkit Jawahar (as Kanai Morarji) are adequate.

Gaurav K. Chawla’s direction is very good. The debut-making director has handled the complex and layered story with a great deal of maturity. Music (Kanika Kapoor, Tanishk Bagchi, Yo Yo Honey SIngh, Sohail Sen and Bilal Saeed) is fair, with one song – ‘Adhura lafz’ (Sohail Sen) – being the best number. Lyrics (Shabbir Ahmed, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Ikka, Jamil Ahmed and Bilal Saeed) are appropriate. Adil Shaikh’s choreography is alright. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is effective. Swapnil S. Sonawane’s cinematography is very good. Amin Khatib’s action and stunts are quite nice. Shruti Gupte’s production designing is of a good standard. Editing (by Maahir Zaveri and Arjun Srivastava) is fairly sharp.

On the whole, Baazaar is a well-made film but it has limited appeal and will, therefore, be liked mainly by the classes. Lack of promotion, and a dull pre-Diwali period ahead will further adversely affect its box-office chances. Business in Gujarat (because of Gujarati characters) and Bombay will be the best. But overall, the film will not be able to prove profitable.

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NAMASTE ENGLAND

Jayantilal Gada, Reliance Entertainment and Blockbuster Movie Entertainers’ Namaste England (UA) is a love story.

Param Singh (Arjun Kapoor) and Jasmeet (Parineeti Chopra) live in Punjab. They fall in love and get married. While Jasmeet is ambitious and wants to pursue jewellery designing as a profession, her guardians (grandfather and brother) don’t want her to work. They actually tell Param’s father that she should not be asked to work after marriage too. Jasmeet is saddened but she has faith in Param. On the day of the wedding, Param gets into an ugly fight with his well-con­nected friend, Gurpreet (Anjum Batra), who, therefore, vows to make it impossible for him to travel abroad. As months pass, Jasmeet expresses a desire to settle in London which, she feels, would be the ideal place for her work.

One day, Param meets travel agent Gurnaam (Satish Kaushik) who sends people abroad by unfair means. Gurnaam suggests that Param ‘marry’ a resident of London, shift there with the ‘wife’, get citizenship there, divorce her, and then call Jasmeet over to London. Although Param views this idea with the disdain it deserves, Jasmeet is quite excited. But she knows, Param would never approve of the illegal way of going to London. She also knows, Param’s friend-turned-foe Gurpreet would never let it become possible for them to travel abroad.

Then one day, Jasmeet gets lucky when she gets a chance to go to London. Param somehow convinces her family and ensures that she goes to London. The couple is excited that Jasmeet’s dream was finally going to be realised. However, before departing, Jasmeet tells Param something that shocks him.

Soon, Param realises that Jasmeet is not likely to return to India. He sets out to bring her back. Since he can’t go to London through the legal route, Param reaches the city illegally. He sees Jasmeet being so enamoured of London that he is convinced, she may not be willing to return to India. He now tries in his own way to bring her back to India. What does he do? Does he succeed? Or does Jasmeet convince Param to stay back? Or do the two go their separate ways?

Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah have written a shockingly hopeless script. As scene by scene unfolds, what comes out loud and clear is the complete lack of conviction. The story is sketchy and one of convenience. Neither are the characters well-established nor are the incidents in the drama. The duo’s screenplay is so poor that it’s a wonder, someone could make a film based on such a half-baked screenplay. How Param and Jasmeet fall in love is simply not shown. What the couple does before Jasmeet goes to London is also not explained. It, therefore, almost appears that the only thing Param and Jasmeet do is day-dream and sleep and dream. Again, the ploy Param uses to take back Jasmeet to India seems ludicrous, given the circumstances. His philosophy of where one lives not being important as compared to with whom one lives and how loving that companion is, suddenly crops up in Lon­don, making the audience wonder why he did not explain this philosophy to Jasmeet while they were in India and while she kept pestering him to take her to London. Again, the track of Param interpreting Jasmeet’s insistence on going to London as childishness which had now turned to mad obsession is just too convenient. The viewers are clueless how Param thought, it was childishness, because they (viewers) all along interpreted it as mad obsessiveness. All in all, Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah have penned a shoddy screenplay which fails miserably to convince the audience. Many things are sought to be established through dialogues – and this is another major minus point of the screenplay.

It is because of the glaring drawbacks of the screenplay that the audiences feel no empathy for the two despite the fact that Param and Jasmeet love each other a lot. In other words, they don’t root for Param and Jasmeet to come together in London. The viewers’ attitude is one of couldn’t care less! Resultantly, the audiences don’t cry when the couple does so. All in all, the emotional part of the drama does not succeed in engaging the viewers. The comedy and humour almost completely fall flat on their face. The romance, or whatever there is of it, is far from heart-warming. Even the climax is tame and dull.

Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are routine, save for a handful of them. One good dialogue is when a weeping Jasmeet asks Param to stop saying what he is saying lest she end up crying, and, immediately thereafter, a weeping Param tells Jasmeet to stop saying what she is saying lest he start crying. But impressive dialogues like the above are few and far between.

Arjun Kapoor delivers a performance which almost makes it appear that he is either not interested or he is not at all convinced about the script. Yes, he is fairly nice in emotional scenes but that’s about all. Arjun seriously needs to work – and work hard – on his weight and physique. Parineeti Chopra does not look fresh at all and her acting is also mediocre. She defi­nitely does well in the emotional scenes but that’s not saying much for the talented actress. Aditya Seal lends able support as Sam. Alankrita Sahai looks good and acts ably as Alisha. Anjum Batra has his moments as Gurpreet. Satish Kaushik (as Gurnaam) is fair, his comedy making the audience smile a bit. Shivendra Mahal (as Jasmeet’s grandfather), Kuljinder Singh (as Jasmeet’s brother), and Hobby Dhaliwal (as Param’s father) lend average support. Paras Oberoi (as Ricky), Shivendar Sharma (as Timmy), Jashandeep (as Kuljeet), Shreya Mehta (as Mitthi), Katie Iqbal (as Santo), Deepali (as Simmy), Nishu Bhatt (as Rinky), Jaswant Damania (as Chaiji), Susheel Kumar Batra (as Lalaji), Damanpreet Kaur (as Param’s bua), Sunny Gill (as Param’s uncle), Aman Bhogal (as Param’s aunt), Mallika Dua (as Harpreet), Robin Singh (as Gurnaam’s sidekick), Vinod Nagpal (as Sam’s grandfather), Pratik Dixit (as KG), Zahra Sheikh (as KG’s bride) and the rest are alright.

Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s direction is dull. Like the writers, the director also seems to be lacking conviction. His handling of even sensitive scenes is weak. Mannan Shah’s music is good. A couple of his songs are popular. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are of a good standard and ably bring out the mood of the moment. Ganesh Acharya’s choreography (one song choreographed by Tushar Kalia; montage song by Akansha Mantri) is okay. Prasad Sashte’s background music is ordinary. Yiannis Manolopoulos’ cinematography is very good. Sriram Kannan Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant’s production designing is appropriate. Amitabh Shukla’s editing is okay but lacks the sharp edge.

On the whole, Namaste England is a flop fare. The producers may have broken even before release, by selling the satellite and digital rights for a fantastic price, audio rights for a good price, Overseas and India territorial rights (while retaining some territorial rights) but losses to the distributors are inevitable because the dull film will almost face rejection.

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BADHAAI HO

Junglee Pictures and Chrome Pictures’ Badhaai Ho (UA) is a family drama.

Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) is a middle-class TC working in Northern Railways. He lives in Delhi with his wife, Priyamvada (Neena Gupta), two children, Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Gullar (Shardul Rana), and mother (Surekha Sikri). Nakul is in love with his office colleague, Reene (Sanya Malhotra). Reene lives with her widowed mother (Sheeba Chadda).

To the dismay of the Kaushik family, a visit to the doctor reveals that middle-aged Priyamvada is pregnant with her third child. Not just Jeetender and Priyamvada themselves but Nakul, Gullar and Jeetender’s mother are so embarrassed that it actually becomes awkward. Nakul stops meeting friends because he doesn’t know how to react. He even stops taking Reene’s calls and bunks office too. Why, Nakul and Gullar don’t even talk properly to their own parents now! As if that’s not bad enough, there’s a marriage in the family. Shanu (Vibhuti Tomar), the daughter of Jeetender’s sister (Alka Badola Kaushal), is due to get married in Meerut. Nakul and Gullar refuse to go for the wedding under some pretext or the other but actually because of the embarrassing position they find themselves in due to their mother’s pregnancy. Jeetender, Priyamvada and the former’s old mother, however, do attend the marriage. Priyamvada has to bear the taunts and barbs of her relatives at the wedding but she maintains her dignity by not getting into ugly tiffs.

An incident changes things dramatically for Nakul. Likewise, an incident at the wedding function in Meerut changes things for Priyamvada too. What happens thereafter?

Shantanu Srivastava and Akshat Ghildial have penned an extraordinary story which may not be contemporary but which is easy for even the youngsters to identify with. Frankly, one must salute the conviction of the two writers (besides the director and producers) for choosing a story of an era gone by and making a film based on it, for today’s audiences. Coming back to the story, it is replete with humour, comedy and fun in the first half. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the pre-interval portion is full of scenes which make the audience laugh and even guffaw. There’s not a single dull moment, not a single shot out of synch. The story takes a dramatic turn in the second half and abounds in emotions which touch the core of the heart. All in all, it’s a story which will appeal to all age groups and all strata of society.

The screenplay, written by Akshat Ghildial, is amazingly brilliant. If the comedy and humour keep the viewers in splits, the emotions tug at the heart strings so forcefully that they would make the audience cry, weep and sob, at times, inconsolably. In fact, the screenplay is so outstanding that it wouldn’t be wrong to call it a text­ book for writers. There’s not a single scene or shot that’s unnecessary – and likewise, there’s not a single scene or shot which is lacking in any way. In particular, there are several scenes which are worthy of loud claps. For instance, the scene in which the forever-complaining mother-in-law praises daughter-in-law Priyamvada not just draws tears from the viewers’ eyes but also prompts them to clap their hands. The scene in which Nakul gives Reene’s mother a piece of his mind is another example of brilliant scripting. It will evoke a loud round of applause. The scene immediately following that, in which Reene confronts Nakul, would draw two terrific rounds of applause – when Nakul says “Ghanta” and when he says with finality and without thinking for even a split second, “Dekh liya, ab bol”. Again, the scene when Nakul meets Reene’s mother to extend her an invitation for his mother’s baby shower is such an honest scene that one can’t help but heap praises on it. Climax is tear-jerking and extremely fulfilling.

Akshat Ghildial’s dialogues are gems. That a simple dialogue of his, like “Khaana kha liya, beta?”, can make the audience cry, says it all. No flowery language or stylish dialogues for him. His simple ones touch the heart. The humorous ones, of course, tickle the funny bone and how!

Ayushmann Khurrana is extraordinary as Nakul Kaushik. He uses his body language and facial expressions so effectively that his performance in this film could probably be rated as his best so far. The integrity he brings to his character is absolutely remarkable. His monologue with Reene’s mother, when he meets her to invite her, would not have had the impact it has if it were not for Ayushmann’s integrity as an actor. Sanya Malhotra does a lovely job as Reene. She gets into the skin of the character and comes up with a superb performance. Surekha Skiri deserves the highest praise for a job extraordinarily done. Perhaps, every single award for the best supporting actress this year would go to her for what will be counted as one of her landmark performances. Gajraj Rao is just too wonderful. A phenomenal actor, he gives his cent per cent to Jeetender Kaushik’s character. His dialogue delivery is, of course, superb but one can’t overlook his body language. His style of standing and walking, with shoulders drooping, stomach pulled in, face down – to express embarrassment is worthy of praises galore. Neena Gupta is first-rate as Priyamvada. Her honest and sincere performance lends so much dignity to her character and her role that it’s amazing. Shardul Rana lends remarkable support as Gullar Kaushik. He is truly cute. Sheeba Chadda is phenomenal as Reene’s mother. Jeet Singh (as Banda), Kush Malhotra (as Sunny), Rahul Tiwari (as Juneja), Vibhuti Tomar (as Nakul’s cousin, Shanu), Aabhushan (as Dr. Bagga), Davinder Madan (as Baggi), Manoj Bakshi (as Jeetender’s elder brother), Alka Amin (as Jeetender’s sister-in-law), Vivek Dagar (as Sumit Malik), Tarun Bali (as Chawla), Arun Karla (as Sunil), Alka Badola Kaushal (as Jeetender’s sister), Manoj Kumar Patel (as Chawla’s son), Sharika Raina Ahluwalia (as Bhabhi) and the others provide outstanding support.

Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s direction is excellent. His narration keeps the audience across age groups and classes engaged thoroughly and completely. Kudos to him for creating the perfect atmosphere and ambience for the story. Music (Tanishk Bagchi, Rochak Kohli, Kaushik-Akash-Guddu, and Sunny Bawra-Inder Bawra) is fair. The absence of chartbusting music is sorely felt. Lyrics (Vayu, Kumaar and MellowD) are okay. Vijay Ganguly’s song picturisations are quite nice. Abhishek Arora’s background music is remarkable, yet non-intrusive, as it adds to the impact of the drama without being overbearing. Sanu John Varughese’s camerawork is truly lovely. Ratheesh’s production designing is very good. Editor Dev Rao Jadhav deserves distinction marks for his super-sharp editing.

On the whole, Badhaai Ho is a super-hit! It is a big box-office fare in the small film space. In a way, it is, therefore, landmark cinema. Writers Akshat Ghildial and Shantanu Srivastava, director Amit Ravindernath Sharma, producers Junglee Pictures and Chrome Pictures (for their conviction), Ayushmann Khurranna, Surekha Sikri, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta and Sanya Malhotra are all heroes of this ‘multi-starrer’ blockbuster. This small film can easily cross the 100-crore mark because it will be loved by the young and the old, the masses and the classes, the men and the women, the girls and the guys, the rich and the poor.

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JALEBI

Vishesh Films’ Jalebi (UA) is a love story with a difference. Aisha (Rhea Chakraborty) and Dev (Varun Mitra) fall in love and soon get married even though they are quite different from one another. Dev is a tourist guide and loves the city he lives in. His home, having the old-world charm, is so dear to him that he often gets tourists home to see the place. On the other hand, Aisha is an outgoing and gregarious person who wants to stand on her feet. After marriage, she feels suffocated in her marital home because she can’t be the ideal daughter-in-law as desired by Dev and his family.

Things reach a stage where Aisha returns to her parental home. Years later, Aisha meets Dev in a train journey. She also meets his new wife, Anu (Digangana Suryavanshi), and their little daughter, Disha (Aanya Dureja). As she engages in a conversation with Anu and Dev, Aisha gets answers to several questions which had been troubling her over the years.

The film is a remake of Bengali film Praktan and it has been scripted by Kausar Munir and Pushpdeep Bhardwaj. The story’s underlying philosophy is that if you cannot take love to its rightful place, it is best to leave it at an interesting point. However, in the present story, it doesn’t appear as if Dev couldn’t have taken his love to its logical conclusion. His act of, therefore, leaving it and giving up so easily does not appeal to the audience. Dev reveals in the end why he had not tried to reconcile with Aisha but his reason is so lame that it doesn’t make him a hero in the viewers’ eyes. Even Aisha’s passive approach to the problem doesn’t appeal to the audience. The screenplay, penned by the duo, with additional screenplay by Suhrita, seems contrived and lacking conviction. It often appears that the drama moves in the direction in which the writers want it to rather than progressing seamlessly and naturally. As a result, the audience does not get convinced with the reasons offered, especially in the climax. The dialogues, written by the duo, are good at places and ordinary at others.

Rhea Chakraborty does fairly well as Aisha. Varun Mitra makes an ordinary debut in the role of Dev. He tends to overact at places. He looks fairly alright. Digangana Suryavanshi is reasonably good as Anu. Pravina Deshpande makes her presence amply felt as Dev’s mother. Poorti Arya lends average support as Dev’s sister, Renu. Mahesh Thakur is sincere as Aisha’s father. Arjun Kanungo (as Arjun) has his moments. Farida Dadi (as Saifa aunty), Yusuf Hussain (as Siddiqui uncle), Sonali Sudan (as Simar), Shabnam Kapoor (as Simar’s mom), Priya Yadav (as Anhaita), Rajsi Verma (as Sumi bhabhi), Sanchay Goswami (as Chaubey), Jimmy Sharma (as Rocky), Jashan Singh Kohli (as Sunny) and the others lend fair support.

Pushpdeep Bhardwaj’s direction is okay; it needed to be far more sensitive. Music (Tanishk Bagchi, Javed-Mohsin, Jeet Ganguli, Abhishek Mishra, Samuel and Akanksha) is fantastic, with several of the songs being very appealing and melodious. In particular, ‘Pal ek pal’ is a hit number. ‘Tera mera rishta’, ‘Tum se’ and ‘Mera pyaar tera pyaar’ are also very appealing numbers. Lyrics (Rashmi Virag, Manoj Kumarnath, Arafat Mehmood, Prashant Ingole and Kunaal Verma) are of a good standard. Song picturisations (by Raju Khan and Sana Khan) are nice but could’ve been more eye-filling. Raju Singh’s background music is decent. Manoj Soni’s camerawork is nice. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action scenes are okay. Production designing (by Sandeep Suvarna) is fair. Devendra Murdeshwar’s editing is good enough to not confuse the viewers despite the drama oscillating between present times and flashbacks.

On the whole, Jalebi is a half-baked attempt and will, therefore, not prove to be a sweet experience for its investors.

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TUMBBAD

Eros International, Colour Yellow Productions, Film I Vast and Filmgate Films’ Tumbbad (A) is a fantasy horror film. It is the story of greed as a vice, which can ruin people.

Tumbbad is a village in Maharashtra which is cursed because the Rao family, which lived in Tumbbad, had dared to build a temple of Hastar, the greedy but favourite child of Mother Goddess despite the latter’s edict against the building of temples in the name of Hastar. The edict was issued because Hastar had plundered wealth but was hungry for food.

The film talks about a scheming member of the Rao family, Vinayak (Sohum Shah), who becomes obsessed with finding the treasure of his ancestors. For this, he has hit upon a novel idea. He feeds the spirit of the hungry Hastar with food and while the spirit is feasting on the food, the manipulative Vinayak smuggles out the treasure in instalments. A time comes when Vinayak takes his young son too to the temple so that the latter can help plunder more. But greed can destroy men – and that’s what finally happens.

Mitesh Shah, Adesh Prasad, Rahi Anil Barve and Anand Gandhi have written a thought-provoking story but have tried to drive home the age-old lesson of life – that greed is a dangerous vice – through a horror drama which holds appeal for a small section of the classes, if only because the horror drama and its relevance to greed is a bit abstract. The writers have penned a screenplay which would appeal more to the intelligent audience and could leave the masses confused or at least not completely satisfied. The story of the Gods etc., shown in the prelude, only complicates matters for the large mass base of audience. Of course, the horror scenes are eerie but they are not scary like horror scenes in other horror films usually are. Furthermore, since there is no hero, who would destroy the spirit/ghost, the masses would find it difficult to relate to the horror drama because they are used to the hero triumphing over the ghost/spirit in horror films. In that sense, the screenplay is meant for evolved viewers who like understated scenes and novel content. Dialogues, written by the four writers, are alright.

Sohum Shah acts well as Vinayak. He has worked hard on his physique which makes him look both, handsome and believable. Jyoti Malshe is fairly good in the role of Vinayak’s mother. Dhundhiraj Prabhakar Jogalekar lends decent support as young Vinayak. Anita Date makes her presence felt in the role of Vinayak’s wife. Deepak Damle is fairly nice as Raghav. Ronjini Chakraborty makes her mark as Vinayak’s mistress. Rudra Soni has his moments as Sadashiv. Madhav Hari Joshi is decent in the role of Sarkar. Mohammad Samad (as Pandurang) and the rest provide fair support.

Rahi Anil Barve’s direction is too class-appealing. Ajay-Atul’s music is okay. No song is of the popular variety. Raj Shekhar’s lyrics are so-so. Jesper Kyd’s background music is fair. Prosthetics and special effects (by Dirty Hands and Studio Hash) are good. Pankaj Kumar’s camerawork is remarkable. Parvez Shaikh’s action and stunts are alright. Production designing (by Nitin Zihani Choudhury and Rakesh Yadav) is of a very good standard. Sanyukta Kaza’s editing could have been better.

On the whole, Tumbbad is a class-appealing horror film meant for the big cities mainly. Its poor start is a minus point.

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