MADAARI

Miraj Entertainment, Bharat Shah, Easemytrip.com, Paramhans Creations, Dore Films and Saptrishi Cinevision’s Madaari (UA) is the story of how a common man teaches the government a lesson of a lifetime.

Nirmal (Irrfan Khan), a common man, kidnaps Rohan (master Vishesh Bansal), son of the home minister (Tushar Dalvi). Nirmal is seeking justice for a wrong which has cost him dear.

All hell breaks loose in the corridors of power when the news of the kidnapping spreads. The home minister asks trusted police officer Nachiket (Jimmy Shergill) to investigate and ensure that his kidnapped son is brought back. While Nirmal keeps telephoning Nachiket and even speaks with the home minister, he doesn’t reveal where he is. He also doesn’t reveal his identity, where he is from and the wrong which had affected his life. This makes the task of Nachiket’s team extremely difficult. For, while they are asked by Nirmal to tell him who is responsible for the injustice done to him, they don’t even know what the injustice is. The information has to be given to Nirmal within the stipulated time period, failing which Nirmal would not release the home minister’s son.

What happens thereafter? What progress does Nachiket make? Is the government able to answer Nirmal’s query? Is the home minister able to secure his son’s release? What is the wrong due to which Nirmal goes to the extent of kidnapping the minister’s son? Does Nirmal succeed in getting justice?

Shailja Kejriwal has penned a story which is quite different from the routine stuff. However, there is not much of a suspense, because of which the audience is rarely on tenterhooks. The viewer understands quite well that Nirmal would not unnecessarily murder the home minister’s son and, therefore, the nail-biting excitement of a thriller is missing. In other words, Nirmal is shown to be too much of a gentleman right from the beginning, for the audience to ever skip a heartbeat or two. So, although the story is different, it doesn’t engage the view­ers as much as it should. Ritesh Shah’s screenplay is good in parts only. While some portions keep the audiences involved, there are other portions which bore them, sometimes because they are predictable and at other times because they are repetitive. The home minister’s son is made to mouth dialogues which do not suit his age, and this irritates the audience. All in all, the screenplay loses its grip on the viewers quite a few times, taking away the excitement quotient from the thriller. Climax holds promise of novelty and excitement before it starts but it turns out to be similar to climaxes seen in earlier films. Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are effective but he should have taken care to give believable dialogues to Rohan to mouth.

Irrfan Khan lives the role of Nirmal. Whether it is as the loving father, devastated dad, man on a revenge spree or a commoner, he is extraordinary. His acting is so effortless that it’s a delight to watch him perform. Jimmy Shergill gives a noteworthy performance. He underplays the character of Nachiket to advantage. Tushar Dalvi is quite effective as the home minister. In the role of his party secretary, Uday Tikekar is excellent. He uses his body language and expressions very effectively. Nitesh Pandey is entertaining as the television news host. Master Vishesh Bansal is confident as Rohan. Rajeev Gupta stands out in a brief role as Mr. Bansal. As Bansal’s son, Chiku, master Sadhil Kapoor lends proper support. Master Kedar Bagaria looks cute and acts reasonably well in the role of Apurva, son of Nirmal. Ravi Mahashabde and Akash Dabas lend lovely support as Nachiket’s assistants. Ayesha Raza is al­right as the home minister’s wife. Purva Parag (as Nirmal’s wife), Vikrant Singh (as barber), Jitendra Gupta (as home secretary), Rajat Bhalla (as political aide), Umesh Shrivastav (as NIA chief Raghuvaran), Manoj Bakshi (as director IB, Govind Bakshi), Sunil Bedi (as RAW chief Shivender Singh), K.N. Joshi (as defence minister), Gurvinder Singh (as army officer), Vikas Jain and Manish Raj (both as cops at the bus stand), Radha (as Chiku’s mother), Dr. Vivek Rajpal (as prime minister), Sachin Pathak (as lodge receptionist), Sabir Khan (as opposition leader Jogi), Sanjeev Sahay (as opposition leader), Deepak Shroff (as Fareed Wadia), Pallavi Mishra (as Fareed Wadia’s wife), Chandraprakash Thakur (as structural engineer), Vaibhav (as engineer’s son), Satya­jeet Bhattacharya (as contractor Abhay Sahani) and the others are adequate.

Nishikant Kamat’s direction is good but there are problems in it. He has not been able to keep the audience’s interest alive throughout the drama. Also, his narration is of the kind which does not give the audience a feeling of fulfilment at the end. The narrative fails to emotionally move the viewers. Music (Vishal Bhardwaj – ‘Dama dam dam’ song; Sunny Bawra and Inder Bawra – ‘Masoom sa’ number) is good but not hit or even hummable. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are weighty. Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry (‘Bol ke labh azad hai’) at the end is meaningful. Sameer Phaterpekar’s background music is nice. Cinematography (by Avinash Arun) is appropriate. Kaushal-Moses’ action scenes are fair. Rita Ghosh’s art direction and Sukant Panigraphy’s production designing are good. Aarif Sheikh’s editing is effective.

On the whole, Madaari is an ordinary fare which will barely touch the average mark, if at all. Business in the big cities and in circuits like Bombay, Delhi-U.P., East Punjab and South will be better than in circuits like C.P. Berar, C.I., Rajasthan and Bihar. It will win more critical acclaim than box-office rewards.

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GREAT GRAND MASTI

ALT Entertainment, Maruti International, Sri Adhikari Brothers and Anand Pandit’s Great Grand Masti (A) is the third film in the Masti franchise.

Amar (Ritesh Deshmukh), Prem (Aftab Shivdasani) and Meet (Vivek Oberoi) are bosom pals and all of them are frustrated in their married lives. Amar, a sexologist, can’t consummate his marriage with his wife, Sapna (Puja Banerjee), because he lives with his strict mother-in-law (Usha Nadkarni). The mother-in-law is convinced that her late husband would be born again into the family and for this, she is guided by a fraud astrologer, Antakshri Baba (Sanjay Mishra), who will decide the time Amar and Sapna should get physical.

Prem, who is married to Nisha (Shraddha Das), cannot consummate his marriage because Nisha’s hot and sexy younger sister (Kangna Sharma) also lives with them. The sister-in-law lusts for Prem, and does not allow Prem and Nisha to even sleep together till she sleeps between them.

Meet is married to Rekha (Mishti Chakravarty) who has a twin brother, Laxman (Ketan Mangesh Karande). Since they are twins, the two experience identical feelings. Resultantly, Laxman revolts when Meet makes love to Rekha because he also gets sexually charged.

The three friends decide to go to Doodhwari village where Amar has a haveli which he is desperately trying to sell. The trio plans to have fun with the girls of Doodhwari while also trying to dispose of the haveli. The palatial house has no takers because it is believed that it is inhabited by a ghost. Amar, Prem and Meet reach Doodhwari in an excited state of mind. At the haveli, they meet Shabri alias Ragini (Urvashi Rautela). All the three are attracted to Ragini’s beauty and are so smitten by her that they lust for her. But soon, they realise that Ragini is the ghost which inhabits the haveli. They try to run away but the sex-starved Ragini won’t allow them to do so. She tells them that one of them would have to have physical relations with her, after which her spirit would go to heaven. She also says that the person with whom she’d have physical relations would die after the act.

Obviously, Amar, Prem and Meet fear for their lives and try to push each other to Ragini’s ghost to save their own life. They then bring in sex maniac Babu Rangeela (Shreyas Talpade) to satisfy Ragini without telling him the truth about her. Their plan goes phut when the three wives reach Doodhwari even as Babu Rangeela is readying himself to get physical with Ragini. Amar’s mother-in-law also arrives at Doodhwari. Obviously, the wives and the mother-in-law are clueless about the presence of a ghost in the haveli or about the three friends’ initial intentions of having sex with Ragini or even about the problem they had landed themselves in.

Ragini’s ghost now plays havoc with the three friends and their family members. What happens thereafter? Does any of the three friends have to oblige Ragini’s spirit? Do the wives get to know about the naughty plan of their husbands, which had got them to Doodhwari? What happens to Ragini’s ghost finally?

Tushar Hiranandani’s story is very silly and has been written with the sole aim of exciting the audience with vulgar jokes and sexual innuendos. The drama moves on a predictable path. If most of the comedy falls flat on its face, the emotional track looks like one big joke, given the extremely vulgar sex jokes in the drama. Screenplay writers Aakash Kaushik and Madhur Sharma, alongwith story writer Tushar Hiranandani, seem to be under the mistaken belief that the more vulgar the drama and the more obscene the incidents, the better the box-office potential of the film. The screenplay doesn’t tease the audience – which is what it should have done if the drama had to be made funny and appealing. Instead, the drama is so in-your-face and so overtly vulgar that it would irritate the viewers or at least a majority of them. Yes, a section of the youth and masses may enjoy the obscene drama but ladies, families, the older generation, classes and even a section of the youngsters and a section of the masses would feel thoroughly repulsed by the proceedings. The comedy at most places falls flat on its face because it doesn’t tickle the audience. The ‘Karwa chauth’ angle in the film looks like a pathetic – and horrendously wrong – attempt to salvage the obscene drama and woo the family audiences. It just does not belong to the film. Two sequences which can truly be termed rotten are: the one in which the three friends try to get physical with Amar’s mother-in-law; and the one in which the three wives are in conversation with Babu Rangeela whom they consider a potential buyer of the haveli. A few scenes are, of course, funny but they are just not enough. All in all, a terrible story is complemented by a shameful screenplay. Dialogues, written by Aakash Kaushik and Madhur Sharma, are double-meaning and too over-the-top. They are vulgar to the core and lack class!

Ritesh Deshmukh does fairly well. Aftab Shivdasani is quite okay. Vivek Oberoi performs with a reasonable amount of conviction. But none of the three heroes stands out. Puja Banerjee, Shraddha Das and Mishti Chakravarty look pretty but get very limited scopes to act. They are all mediocre. Urvashi Rautela looks sexy and her performance is average. Usha Nadkarni looks like fish out of water in an adult comedy. Sanjay Mishra sleepwalks through the role of Antakshri Baba. His track of singing hit Bollywood songs is entertaining. Kangna Sharma is okay as Prem’s sister-in-law. Ketan Mangesh Karande (as Meet’s bother-in-law, Laxman) barely passes muster. Shreyas Talpade makes his presence felt in a special appearance as Babu Rangeela. Sonali Raut leaves a mark as Amar’s sexy maid, Shiney. Calling her Shiney (alluding to actor Shiney Ahuja’s real-life rape case) is in terribly bad taste. Sudesh Lehri is effective as the mukhiya of Doodhwari village. Vijay Gupta (as Ragini’s father), Palash Dutta and Gazla Sharma (as the house-buying couple), Ravi Ujjain (as the broker), Bhadra Parekh (as the shepherd boy) and the others lend good support.

Indra Kumar’s direction fails to entertain even the target audience. Too much emphasis on below-the-belt male jokes and too many references to male and female body parts leave a bad taste in the mouth and this is the director’s biggest failing. Music is a plus point. ‘Teri kamar ko’ and ‘Tera ishq’ (both composed by Sanjeev-Darshan and written by Kumaar) are the best songs. ‘Resham ka rumaal’ (Sharib-Toshi; Manoj Yadav) and ‘Lipstick lagaa ke’ (Superbia; Sameer Anjaan) are also appealing numbers. Song picturisations (by Bosco-Caesar and Vishnu Deva) are eye-filling. Background music (by Sanjay Wandrekar and Atul Raninga) is okay. Nigam Bomzan’s cinematography is fairly nice. R.P. Yadav’s action scenes are functional. Production designing (by Dipankar Dasgupta) and art direction (by Nimishi Misra and Priya Shree) are alright. Sanjay Sankla’s editing could’ve been crisper.

On the whole, Great Grand Masti is an unworthy film in the Masti franchise and will be rejected by the majority audience for its excessive vulgarity and base and crass dialogues. Its online leak ten days back will only add to its tale of woes. Flop.

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Sultan

Yash Raj Films’ Sultan (UA) is a love story set against the backdrop of wrestling. Sultan Ali Khan (Salman Khan) lives a simple life in a village in Haryana. One day, he meets Aarfa (Anushka Sharma) who is a wrestler. Aarfa, unlike the other girls in the village, has studied in Delhi and has come back to her village to train with her father, Barkat (Kumud Mishra), because she has only one dream and that is to win a gold medal for India at the Olympics. Completely smitten by Aarfa, Sultan realises that Aarfa will only marry a wrestler and so he decides to start training to become a wrestler.

Soon, he becomes a wrestler and that too, a very good one. He even marries Aarfa. One by one, he starts winning not only national but international titles and even becomes the world champion in wrestling. But when he comes back from the world championship victory, a tragedy drives his wife away from him and he decides to give up wrestling for good. After a few years, Aakash Singh Oberoi (Amit Sadh) is trying to salvage his Mixed Martial Arts franchise, called Pro Take Down. After two seasons of losses, he convinces his partners to give him one more chance. His father, Gyan Singh Oberoi (Parikshat Sahni), advises him to get an Indian fighter in the mix because that is the only way they will be able to attract the Indian audiences. Following his father’s advice, he sets out to meet Sultan but he soon realises that Sultan’s dream in life is something else entirely. Aakash manages to convince Sultan that his dreams can be achieved by returning to the world of wrestling and gets him back in the ring. Returning to the world of sport after a long time, Sultan trains day and night to get back in shape and understand this new sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Will Sultan manage to win in the end? What was it that drove Aarfa away from Sultan? And will Sultan manage to win her back in the end?

Ali Abbas Zafar’s story is both, entertaining and engrossing. Although there is not much newness in the love story, which the film basically is, setting it against the backdrop of wrestling makes it look fresh. The core of the story – i.e., the love story and the family drama – is absolutely Indian at heart and will appeal hugely to the families and the ladies, in particular. Ali Abbas Zafar’s screenplay is wonderfully written and keeps the audience glued in without them losing interest for even a minute. The first half has a good dose of humour. The second half has a lot of emotional appeal, drama and melodrama. Both the portions, of course, have wrestling and action. A number of scenes in the film are clap-worthy and it will not be rare to see the audience scream, shout and applaud in the cinema halls. Some emotional scenes will bring a lump to the audience’s throats and the weak-hearted may even end up shedding tears. Dialogues, penned by Ali Abbas Zafar, are gems and if the light ones evoke a lot of laughter, the dramatic ones tug at the heart strings and the emotional ones move the viewers to tears.

Salman Khan lives the role of Sultan. He is outstanding as the lover boy, the wrestler, the loving husband and the brooding man. He is also brilliant as the man who strikes back. There is so much innocence on his face that he makes the character of Sultan endearing right from the word ‘go’. Not once does he get out of character. Indeed, a performance which could fetch him awards. Anushka Sharma shines as only few could. She is first-rate at whatever she does and it is a sheer delight to watch her performance. The chemistry between Salman and Anushka is magical. Anant Sharma, as Sultan’s bosom pal, Govind, is wonderful. His expressions are to die for. Kumund Mishra does an absolutely fantastic job. Even his facial expressions and body language are truly praiseworthy. Amit Sadh leaves a lasting impact as Aakash. Randeep Hooda may have a brief role but he stands his own as the coach who trains Sultan when he strikes back. Parikshat Sahni has his moments as Gyan Singh Oberoi. Sumeet Samnani is lovable as Vicky Kukreja. Abhishek Duhan (as Titu), Farrokh Jaffer (as Sultan’s grandmother), Naveen Kumar (as Sharief Ali Khan), Monica Verma (as the doctor), Satish Sharma (as the minister), Parevz Mullan (as Vicky Kukreja’s father), Meiyang Chang and Kubra Sait (both as commentators), Shibani Dandekar (as the news reporter), Himashu Bhutiyani (as doctor), Danesh (as Titu’s friend), Suzie (as Sultan’s daughter) and the others lend excellent support.

Ali Abbas Zafar’s direction is superb. He has kept the narrative style simple and extremely entertaining and engaging. Also, his direction caters as much to the classes as to masses, as much to the ladies as to men, as much to the old as to the young. Music (Vishal-Shekhar) is a major plus point. ‘Jag Ghoomeya’, ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’, ‘440 Volt’ and ‘Bulleya’ are hit songs. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are extraordinary. The picturisation of ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’ (by Farah Khan) is just too wonderful. Other song picturisations (by Vaibhavi Merchant) are also very eye-filling. Julius Packiam’s background score is outstanding and serves to heighten the impact of the drama. Artur Zurawski’s cinematography deserves distinction marks. Action scenes will be loved, more so by the masses and the youth as their choreography (by Parvez Sheikh and ‘Anl’ Arasu) is superb. The MMA fights have been excellently choreographed by Larnell Stovall. Production Design by Acropolis (Rajnish Hedao, Sumit Basu and Snigdha Basu) is lovely. Rameshwar S. Bhagat’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Sultan is a blockbuster and will go on to write box-office history. It will smash old box-office records and create new ones. It will turn out to be one of the biggest ever blockbusters, if not THE BIGGEST ever so far!

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7 HOURS TO GO!

Krian Pictures’ 7 Hours To Go! (UA) is a thriller.

Arjun Ranawat (Shiv Pandit) holds seven people hostage in the court premises, demanding the arrest of his girlfriend’s murderers. His girlfriend, Maya (Natasa Stankovic), is murdered right in front of his eyes because she is to depose in court against influential and top businessman Kabeer Khemka (Rohit Vir). Arjun gives the police seven hours’ time and demands that accomplished police inspector Shukla-ji (Sandeepa Dhar) be asked to handle the case. ­ACP Ramesh Dhadke (Varun Badola) has no option but to call Shukla-ji to take charge of the case.

Shukla-ji soon realises that Arjun’s girlfriend, Maya (Anjalie Gupta), had been murdered earlier in a court in Muzaffarnagar in much the same way as the present Maya has been killed. If the earlier Maya was Arjun’s girlfriend, who is the present Maya? Is she fake?

Does Shukla-ji solve the case? Who is Arjun Ranawat and is there something else he wants?

Saurabh Varma has penned a childish story. Although the film is a thriller, the screenplay is so weak that no part of the drama offers thrills. To make matters worse, the pace of the film is so slow that even the semblance of a thriller goes out of the window. The laidback attitude of ACP Ramesh Dhadke, meant to entertain the audience and tickle their funny bone, actually irritates them. Even otherwise, the comedy is pathetic. As for the police, they often behave like fools crumbling under pressure rather than as intelligent officers. In other words, Saurabh Varma’s screenplay is no better than his story.

Since the drama moves on a single track, it becomes monotonous quite early on. The revelation of a suspense angle in the end is so half-baked that the viewer is not even surprised. All in all, the story and the screenplay are terribly weak. Saurabh Varma’s dialogues are dull.

Before one talks of individual performances, a word about the casting. Generally speaking, the film looks like a classic case of miscasting with almost all important actors miscast. Shiv Pandit is not able to carry the weight of the character of Arjun Ranawat on his shoulders. It doesn’t look believable that he can hold seven persons hostage in the court premises. His acting is so-so. Sandeepa Dhar does not look like the firebrand police officer she plays. Her performance lacks fire. Varun Badola is earnest but his attempt at comedy falls flat on its face due to the poor scripting. Natasa Stankovic is okay as Natasha Sharma alias fake Maya. Kettan Singh’s comedy is silly, to say the least. As Amol Palekar, he is unable to impress. Rohit Vir is hardly effective as Kabeer Khemka. Vipin Sharma, Santosh S. Darne (as television reporter Kiran More), Himanshu Malik (as Tamim Chakri), Anjalie Gupta (as Maya), Sunil Pala (as Lal), Aakash Dabhade (as Ghorpade), Pankaj Vishnu (as police inspector Joshi), Naveen Prabhakar (as informer Ranglani), Harsh Singh (as Kabeer Khemka’s secretary), Archana Dwivedi (as Seema Sharma) and the rest provide ordinary support.

Saurabh Varma’s direction leaves something to be desired. He has failed to give the narrative the pep and pace needed in a thriller. Music (Sugat Dhanvijay, Shubham Sundaram and Hanif Shaikh) is okay. The ‘Mahinder dance’ song is the better of the lot. Lyrics (Shraddha Bhilave, Sugat Dhanvijay and Manoj Yadav) are ordinary. Choreography (Jasmin Oza) is alright. Manan Munjal’s background score is below the mark. Milind Jog’s cinematography is ordinary. Action scenes (Javed-Aejaz) lack thrill. Nitin’s editing is loose.

On the whole, 7 Hours To Go! is so dull that it will go almost completely unnoticed.

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JUNOONIYAT

T-Series’ Junooniyat is a love story. Army captain Jahan Bakshi (Pulkit Samrat) and college-going Suhani (Yami Gautam) fall in love with one another when they meet while the latter is on a picnic with friends. However, Suhani’s father (Ravi Kemmu) is against the idea of her marrying an armyman as three of his family members – two brothers and a son – have laid down their lives working for the Indian army. Suhani’s widowed sister-in-law, Mishti (Hrishitaa Bhatt), lives with them.

Seeing that Suhani is adamant, her father agrees to the alliance if and only if Jahan would quit the army. Jahan rejects the army-quitting proposal, put forth to him by Suhani, and instead asks her to marry him and forget her family. Suhani, torn as she is between her family and Jahan Bakshi, realises that she would have to sacrifice her love.

Time passes by but the two lovers are unable to forget each other. Unaware of what’s going on in Jahan’s mind, Suhani leaves home to try one last time to see if she and Jahan can unite in matrimony. But before she can meet Jahan, she becomes a vic­tim of a misunderstanding and returns home.

Some time later, Suhani is scheduled to get married to Yash (Gulshan Devaiah). As luck would have it, Jahan comes with the to-be-groom’s side to attend the destination wedding, clueless about who the bride is. Both, Jahan and Suhani, are shocked to meet one another under such circumstances.

What happens then? Do old sparks reignite? Does Yash get to know of Suhani’s past with Jahan? What was the misunderstanding which had made Suhani leave in a hurry, without even meeting Jahan Bakshi one last time? Is Jahan already married when he comes to attend Yash’s wedding? Does Suhani marry Yash?

Priti Singh and Vivek Agnihotri have written a story which is hackneyed – boy meets girl, the two fall in love, father of the girl objects, the two lovers sacrifice their love, meet after some time etc. What is, perhaps, worse than penning a story which belongs to an era gone by is the fact that the love is so artificial that the audience is not even saddened by the breakup of the lovers. The duo’s screenplay belongs to an era gone by. The two writers seem to believe that in today’s age of cellphones and the Internet, two young people would romance exactly in the same way as couples used to romance in the 1980s. They seem to have a heavy hangover of Yash Chopra’s cinema but except for the Punjab fields and flying leaves, there is nothing to match the late veteran’s classic cinema. The screenplay is as predictable as night following day and even the misunderstandings are borrowed from cinema of the 1980s.

If the romance is not heart-warming, the separation of the two lovers is not heart-wrenching. Their meeting again, after a long gap, hardly brings a smile on the viewers’ faces. Also, the writers have, quite needlessly, chosen to concentrate only on Suhani and her state of mind after the breakup, almost completely ignoring Jahan Bakshi once he leaves Suhani’s city.

Vivek Agnihotri’s dialogues are weak. Not much thought seems to have gone into writing the dialogues. Vivek Agnihotri has also written a lot of poetry to enhance the romantic flavour. However, the poetry has no such effect.

Pulkit Samrat does an ordinary job. He seems to be suffering from a heavy Salman Khan hangover which does him no good. And what’s it about always turning to face the camera? Yami Gautam is quite good but her I-care-a-damn-and-I’ll-have-my-way attitude doesn’t make her any more en­dearing to the audience, which seems to be the intention. Gulshan Devaiah is average in a special appearance. Hrishitaa Bhatt hardly has anything worthwhile to do in a special appearance. Ravi Kemmu is dull in the role of Suhani’s father. Madhuri D. Bandiwadekar (as Suhani’s mother), Anoop Kamal Singh (as Suhani’s grandfather) and Jacqueline Garewal (as Suhani’s grandmother) lend poor support. S. Poonam Kaur (as Kamya) is adequate. Aneesha Joshi (as Rangoli), Harry Tangri (as DMK), Khushboo Upadhyay (as Preet), Sanjay Mehandiratta (as Jahan’s senior, Col. Bhatti), Charu Rohatgi (as Mrs. Bhatti), Shakeel Khan (as Harinder), Manoj Bakshi (as Yash’s father), Gurpreet Kaur (as Yash’s mother), Rakesh Thareja (as Yash’s elder brother), Harjeet Kaur (as Yash’s sister-in-law), Mannan Dania (as Honey), Garvil Bhatia (as Prince) and the rest pass muster.

Vivek Agnihotri’s direction, like the script, lacks novelty and is more functional than anything else. Music (Jeet Ganguli, Meet Bros.-Anjjan and Ankit Tiwari) is the real plus point of the film. All the songs are tuneful and melodious. Lyrics (Kumaar, Rashmi Virag and Manoj Muntashir) are effective. Picturisation of the songs (choreographed by Vijay Ganguly-Dimple Ganguly and Shampa Gopikrishna) are good but could’ve been more imaginative and eye-filling. Raju Singh’s background music is commonplace. Attar Singh Saini’s camerawork is of a fine standard. Vikram Dahiya’s action and stunt scenes are routine. Saini S. Johray’s production designing is fairly good. Antara Lahiri’s editing ought to have been sharper.

On the whole, Junooniyat is a poor fare, devoid of novelty. The music is the only real plus point in an otherwise insipid film. The film will, therefore, not be able to make a mark at the ticket windows.

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RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0

Reliance Entertainment and Phantom’s Raman Raghav 2.0 (A) is inspired by the story of eccentric serial killer Raman Raghav who wreaked havoc in Bombay in the 1960s.

Ramanna alias Raman (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is an eccentric serial killer who hacks his victims to death with an iron rod. The instigation for killing could be anything. The police, led by investigating officer Raghav (Vicky Kaushal), succeeds in nabbing him once but doesn’t believe him when he admits to having killed nine people. He soon escapes from police custody. After a few more cold-blooded murders, including those of his own sister, brother-in-law and nephew, the police once again nab him but he gives them the slip again.

Raman feels that Raghav is also a messenger of Lord Yamraj, the God of Death, just like himself, because his (Raghav’s) job is to also kill people. Although Raghav is a police officer, he snorts drugs. He has a girlfriend, Simmy (Sobhita Dhulipala), whom he has physical relations with but does not want to marry.

One day, Raghav brings Ankita (Anuschka Sawhney) to Simmy’s home and gets physical with her (Ankita). He then accidentally kills Simmy in a fit of rage. Ankita is shocked at the murder of Simmy at Raghav’s hands. What happens thereafter?

Do the police finally nab Raman? Does Raghav pay for the murder of Simmy? What happens to Ankita?

Vasan Bala and Anurag Kashyap have written a very grim, dark, depressing and disturbing story of an eccentric serial killer and an eccentric police officer. There is so much gruesome violence in the drama that it shakes the audiences. Womenfolk and the weak-hearted will actually feel repulsed by the horrifying action although it must be added that a lot of the murders are suggestively depicted rather than actually shown. The sound effects of hacking the victims to death are enough to make a large section of the audience squirm in their seats.

Besides, the pace of the drama is so slow that it often tests the viewer’s patience. No doubt, fans of this kind of cinema will enjoy the realistic drama but their number is very limited. What adds to the audience’s depression is that there is no happy character in the film at all. Even if someone (like the maid servant of Simmy or the money-lender) is not unhappy, he/she meets with an end that’s sickeningly depressing. Even the ambience is one of poverty and squalor. Dialogues, written by Vasan Bala and Anurag Kashyap, add to the realism quotient.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is simply outstanding in the role of the eccentric Raman. His performance is just too brilliant and could fetch him critics’ awards. Vicky Kaushal is very good in the role of police inspector Raghav who is also a drug addict. It is enjoyable to see his professional side and his dark personal side. Sobhita Dhulipala makes an impressive debut as Simmy. Amruta Subhash is splendid as Raman’s sister, Lakshmi. As Lakshmi’s husband, Ashok Lokhande has his moments. Mukesh Chhabra makes his presence felt as the money lender. Vipin Sharma shines in a special appearance as Raghav’s father. Anuschka Sawhney is effective as Ankita. Sona Mahapatra (as the club singer), Donald Burman (as Chacha), Anik Ram Verma (as Chacha’s neighbour), Hitesh Dave (as constable Kamble), Harsh Singh (as the sub-inspector), Rajesh Jais (as ACP Farid Haq), Atul Arora and Raj Kumar (both as constables), master Saksham Sudhija (as Raman’s nephew), Deepali Suryakant Badekar (as Simmy’s maid), Hirabai Tambe (as the old lady at the home of Simmy’s maid), Ashok Verma and Harshan Kumar (both as constables with Raghav), Arun Singh (as Swamiji), Tara Chand Chhabra (as Raghav’s teacher) and the rest lend adequate support.

Anurag Kashyap’s direction, like the script, caters to a thin section of the city audience only. Ram Sampath’s music is in synch with the genre and mood of the film. Of course, the songs are not of the popular variety. Varun Grover’s lyrics are appropriate but not easy on the lips. Ram Sampath’s background music is effective. Camerawork (by Jay Oza) is nice but since the film has often been shot in the dark, the strenuous viewing does get on the audience’s nerves. Action scenes, choreographed by Parvez Shaikh, are gruesome. Tiya Tejpal’s production designing is good. Aarti Bajaj’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Raman Raghav 2.0 is too grim, dark, violent and depressing to entertain. It will appeal to a very thin section of the audience but will face rejection otherwise.

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UDTA PUNJAB

ALT Entertainment and Phantom Films’ Udta Punjab (A) is about the drug menace in the state of Punjab. The problem of how the youth are falling prey to the evil of drugs has been narrated through four characters – Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor), Mary Jane (Alia Bhatt; that’s not her real name), Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) and Dr. Preeti Sahni (Kareena Kapoor Khan).

Tommy Singh is a hugely popular rock star of Punjab, whom the youth of Punjab simply loves, adores and emulates. He is on drugs and it would not be wrong to say that he has, in his own way, made taking drugs appear cool. A police raid on Tommy Singh’s house on his birthday leads to the arrest of the rock star who has consumed drugs. Tommy gets bail after cooling his heels in jail for some days and is now unable to make music due to withdrawal symptoms following his decision to give up drugs. His cousin keeps prodding him to consume drugs to get back into form but Tommy’s uncle (Satish Kaushik) prevents him from going back to drugs.

Mary Jane is from Bihar. She lands in Punjab and starts working in the fields. One day, quite by accident, she finds a packet of heroin weighing three kilograms. She decides to sell the drug to drug dealers and make a lot of money. But her conscience awakens at the last moment and she throws away the entire three kilograms of the heroin. This infuriates the drug mafia which holds her captive. In their cus­tody, Mary Jane is raped regularly and is also injected with drugs. Mary Jane escapes one day and, by sheer chance, meets Tommy Singh while he is on the run to avoid arrest, this time for causing nuisance in public. Even as Tommy and Mary are getting to know one another, Mary’s captors catch her and take her back to where she had escaped from, to the life of drugs and debauchery.

Sartaj Singh is a police officer who, like the others of his ilk, does not bat an eyelid before accepting bribes. It is not rare that his corrupt ways and those of the other police officers ensure the safe passage of raw materials and chemicals for the manufacture of drugs which are then so easily available to the youth of Punjab. But Sartaj’s life comes crashing down when his own younger brother, Balli (Prabhjyot Singh), becomes a drug addict. Sartaj now decides to fight the drug menace but finds himself quite helpless. That’s when Dr. Preeti Sahni comes to his help. In fact, it is Dr. Preeti who has made Sartaj Singh feel guilty for contributing to the same drug menace – by overlooking crime, for the lure of bribes – of which his brother has now become a victim. Dr. Preeti Sahni treats drug addicts and she has saved Balli’s life too. Balli is now at her rehabilitation centre. Dr. Preeti Sahni begins to help Sartaj Singh in getting to the root of the drug problem so as to expose the manufacturers. It’s not an easy task but the two manage to unearth shocking details which reveal the involvement of an MP, Maninder Brar (Kamal Tewari). The duo prepar­es a complete file with proof and documentary evidence to nail the culprits, which they decide to hand over to the Election Commission since elections in Punjab are around the corner.

Here, Tommy Singh, still on the run, is so smitten by Mary Jane that he wants to save her from her captors.

Does Tommy Singh manage to save Mary? Do the police nab him or does he surrender? Do Sartaj Singh and Dr. Preeti Sahni succeed in their mission to expose MP Maninder Brar? Or do they fail?

The film is a very hard-hitting and bold account of the drug menace. The story and screenplay are written by Sudip Sharma and Abhishek Chaubey and are raw and realistic. Of course, the scenes and the language spoken by the characters are of the kind which would disturb the viewers and may hurt the sensibilities of a section of the audience but for those who can stomach all this, the story and screenplay are an eye-opener. The drama is so tight that it doesn’t let the audience’s thoughts stray for even a minute. Yes, the manner in which Sartaj Singh and Dr. Preeti Sahni investigate the drug scam may be a bit too simplistic but it doesn’t really take away from the interesting drama. The portions of Mary Jane are depressing but the full-of-life girl, her never-say-die attitude and her fighting spirit are all like antidotes to the depressing parts of the film. The inherent humour, whether in the language or the scenes, also serves to provide entertainment in the realistic drama. The heart-touching moments between Sartaj Singh and Dr. Preeti Sahni and a cou­ple of them between Tommy Singh and Mary Jane are very appealing.

On the ‘negative’, side, if one may use the word, the drama is devoid of the usual frills of romance and romantic songs and the other elements of a commercial entertainer, like comedy and the regular family drama. Also, the lavish use of swear words, spoken with great relish, can put off the orthodox audience, probably completely, but it is also this very language and these very dialogues which are the mainstay of the film and which will greatly appeal to connoisseurs of realistic cinema because the language goes well with the bold theme of the film.

Dialogues, penned by Sudip Sharma, are very bold and, as mentioned above, very colourful too. A lot of the dialogues are in Punjabi.

Shahid Kapoor does a superb job as Tommy Singh. He plays the rock star to the hilt, with all his eccentricities. As a drug addict too, he is excellent. His performance in the film would be counted as one of his best so far. His facial expressions and body language are a treat to watch. Alia Bhatt, completely deglamorised, is outstanding in the role of the Bihari girl who gets sucked into the world of drugs and prostitution. Her performance is so natural that one can’t help but heap praises on her. She makes her character cent per cent believable. Her make-up deserves special mention. Kareena Kapoor Khan lives the role of the doctor on a mission. She looks glamorous and acts with effortless ease. Her romantic moments with Sartaj Singh are very cute. Diljit Dosanjh is another powerhouse of talent. He plays the unscrupulous police officer whose conscience is suddenly awakened, with aplomb. In North India in general and in Punjab in particular, Diljit will be a major draw for the audience because of his superstardom in Punjabi cinema. Satish Kaushik is endearing as Tommy Singh’s uncle. Manav Vij makes his presence felt as the spineless police inspector, Jujhar Singh. Suhail Nayyar is lovely as Jassi. Vansh Bhardwaj has his mom­ents as Sonu. Prabhjyot Singh is effective as Balli. Kamal Tewari leaves a mark in the role of MP Maninder Brar. Rajesh Kumar Sharma (as Kaka), Mahabir Bhullar (as Veerji), Suvinder Vicky (as Kuku) and Dilawar Sidhu (as Bhandi) lend admirable support. Kaizad Kotwal, Vishal Handa, Pawan Singh, Satwant Kaur, Anita Sab- dheesh, Satpal Singh, Nina Tiwana, Swairaj Sandhu and the rest are adequate.

Abhishek Chaubey’s direction is praiseworthy. He has adopted a narrative style which goes perfectly well with the rawness of the drama, keeping the target audience (youth) in mind. He has extracted great performances from out of the actors. Amit Trivedi’s music is a big plus point. ‘Chitave’, ‘Udd da Punjab’ and ‘Ikk kudi’ are superbly tuned songs. The other songs are also very nice. Lyrics (late Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Shellee and Varun Grover) are wonderful. Sudeesh Adhana’s choreography is in synch with the mood of the film and the characters on whom the songs are picturised. Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor’s background music is extraordinary. Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography deserves distinction marks. Action scenes, choreographed by Harpal Singh and Ravi Kumar, are raw. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production designing is lovely. Meghna Sen has done a swell job of the film’s editing.

On the whole, Udta Punjab is a dark film but yet, it is an entertaining fare. It may be for a limited audience only, but the size of the target audience is big enough to see the film cross the average mark and generate profits. This, despite the fact that revenues from sale of satellite rights will be very limited. Business in Punjab will be excellent for obvious reasons.

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