Yash Raj Films’ Tiger Zinda Hai (UA) is a sequel to Ek Tha Tiger.

Twenty-five Indian and fifteen Pakistani nurses, working in Ikrit (Syria), are held captive in their own hospital by Abu Usman (Sajjad Delafrooz), the head of terrorist outfit ISC. Abu Usman is to be treated in the hospital and he, therefore, has all the other patients thrown out. The Indian government is concerned about the safety of the 25 nurses. Shenoy (Girish Karnad), the head of RAW in India, feels, RAW agent Tiger (Salman Khan) would be the best person for the job which is to be accomplished in just seven days because after that, the US has decided to launch an airstrike on the city of Ikrit to kill the dreaded terrorist. But Tiger’s whereabouts are not known ever since he quit the job and settled down in matrimony with Pakistani secret service agent Zoya (Katrina Kaif). Unknown to the Indian authorities, Tiger and Zoya live in Innsbruck (Austira) and have a little son, Junior (master Sartaj).

Shenoy and his deputy, Karan (Anant Vidhaat), track down Tiger and reach Inssbruck to ask Tiger to undertake the operation to rescue the 25 Indian nurses. A reluctant Tiger has a change of heart when wife Zoya asks him to take up the mission for the sake of his country which, according to her, he should love more than even his wife.

Without waste of time, Tiger is in Syria with his three trusted men – Azaan ( newfind Paresh Pahuja), Capt. Namit (Angad Bedi) and Rakesh (Kumud Kumar Mishra). Before long, Zoya joins him with two team members – Capt. Abrar (Gavie Chahal ‘Navdeep’) and Capt. Javed (Danish Bhat) – because she gets to know what Tiger doesn’t know: that there are 15 Pakistani nurses also held captive in Ikrit alongwith the Indian nurses.

Obviously, it is not easy for Tiger to infiltrate into the hospital where the nurses are held captive because Abu Usman and his men are housed in the same hospital. There’s another big problem: since India and Pakistan are always at loggerheads, how will the teams of Tiger and Zoya work towards the common end to free the nurses from captivity. Will they join forces or not?

Do Tiger and Zoya succeed in their mission? If so, how? What are the many obstacles that come their way?

Neelesh Misra and Ali Abbas Zafar have written an interesting and engaging story with a number of twists and turns. In their story, they have included a dash of emotions, a dash of patriotism and a fair dose of humour with a lot of drama, of course. The India-Pakistan angle is very novel and would definitely be taken in the right spirit by the majority of the audience. In fact, this angle comes as a refreshing change from other films in which the India-Pakistan angle is significant. This angle could well turn out to be the film’s high point.

Ali Abbas Zafar’s screenplay is very fast-paced and doesn’t give the viewers time to think. Yes, there may be a bit too much of the terrorism track and a little less of mass-oriented dialogues but there are still several dialogues which will appeal so much to the masses that the cinema halls will resonate with rounds of applause. The last few reels are absolutely stunning. Special mention must be made of the scene in which Capt. Namit is given the task of diffusing a ticking bomb tied around nurse Purna’s (Anupriya Goenka) body, the scene in which Tiger comes out, shirtless, with a machine gun in his hand, the scene in which the Pakistani secret agent, Capt. Abrar, receives the Indian flag from Indian secret agent Azaan, the scene in which two flags are hoisted from the two windows of a bus, and the last scene when RAW chief Shenoy gets a phone call. The last scene, in particular, brings a smile on the face of the viewer.

Ali Abbas Zafar’s dialogues are excellent and several of them are clapworthy. In fact, some dialogues will elicit loud and huge rounds of applause. But one does wish, there were more such dialogues.

Salman Khan does an outstanding job as Tiger. He gets into the skin of Tiger’s character and shines with a truly noteworthy performance and some fine action and stunts. He looks dashing with a beard, and his bare torso in one scene will floor the audience. Special mention must be made of Salman’s dance in the ‘Swag se karenge sab ka swagat’ song which is just too graceful. Katrina Kaif makes a wonderful mark with both, her acting and her beauty. She absolutely and completely shines in action scenes and stunts. Her dialogues are very clear this time and are mouthed in Hindi without an accent. Her costumes are hep and her dance in the ‘Swag’ song is superb. Sajjad Delafrooz makes for a formidable villain. He plays Abu Usman with the right attitude. Sal Yusuf is effective as Baghdavi. Paresh Rawal makes his presence amply felt as Firdaus. Girish Karnad performs with the dignity the character of Shenoy demands. Anant Vidhaat is such a fine actor that he leaves a mark even though he has few scenes. Kumud Kumar Mishra is truly entertaining as Rakesh. Angad Bedi makes his presence felt in the role of Capt. Namit. Paresh Pahuja lends excellent support as Azaan. Gavie Chahal ‘Navdeep’ has his moments as Capt. Abrar. Danish Bhat marks his presence with a good performance as Capt. Javed. Anupriya Goenka does a splendid job as nurse Purna. Neha Hinge (as nurse Maria), Khalida Jan Touray (as Pakistani nurse Naghma), Kashmira Irani (as Pakistani nurse Sana) and Vibhoutee Sharma (as nurse Jia) lend great support. Master Jignesh (as Hassan) and master Sartaj (as Junior) are cute. Other actors are effective.

Ali Abbas Zafar’s direction is veritably excellent. His easy style of narration and his inclusion of elements of patriotism, emotions and humour in the action drama are intelligent. Vishal-Shekhar’s music is very good. The ‘Swag’ song is already a hit. ‘Dil diya galaan’ is very melodious. ‘Tera noor’ is okay. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics deserve distinction marks. Vaibhavi Merchant’s dance choreography in the ‘Swag’ song is extraordinary. The dance steps are just too wonderful. Julius Packiam’s background music is effective.

Marcin Laskawiec’s cinematography is terrific. It enhances the drama. Tom Struthers’ action and stunts are mind-blowing. Production designing (by Rajnish Hedao, Snigdha Basu and Sumit Basu ) is of a very good standard. Rameshwar S. Bhagat’s editing is razor-sharp. Even though the film is pretty length (running time: 2 hours and 41 minutes), there is not a moment of boredom.

On the whole, Tiger Zinda Hai is a super-entertainer and will yield very huge profits at the ticket windows. The super-hit fare will turn out to be one of the biggest blockbusters of all times.

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Excel Entertainment’s Fukrey Returns (UA) is a sequel to Fukrey and continues from where the first part had ended but after a gap of a year.

Bholi Punjaban (Richa Chadha) manages to come out of jail with the help of minister Babulal’s (Rajiv Gupta) intervention. But, in return, Babulal asks for some crores of rupees. Since Bholi has to settle scores with the four Fukreys viz. Hunny (Pulkit Samrat), Choocha (Varun Sharma), Lali (Manjot Singh) and Zaffer (Ali Fazal), she contacts them forthwith and asks them to think up a scheme to amass the crores required. Pandit (Pankaj Tripathi), the security guard of the college, is also now with the Fukreys.

Together with Bholi, the Fukreys cook up a seemingly faultless plan to win money through betting, but before winning the bets by decoding Choocha’s dream and converting it into a lucky number, the Fukreys borrow money from the common men, promising them double their money. The game is that the money borrowed from the public would be used to lay bets, and the betting windfall would be shared between them all after paying off the public’s money with cent per cent interest as promised, and after paying the money which had been demanded by the minister from Bholi while arranging her release from jail. However, the plan goes phut when the lucky number is changed by minister Babulal (who runs the gambling business) as soon as he gets to know about the Fukreys who are on the verge of winning tons of money from his gambling business. The members of the public are angry as hell at the Fukreys for their inability to keep their word of doubling their money.

Bholi is livid and now threatens to take out organs from the bodies of the Fukreys so that she could sell them in the illegal market and pay off minister Babulal. But she refrains from doing so when she is convinced that Choocha gets visions which enable him to see what others can’t see. Bholi now gives the Fukreys one more chance to amass wealth for her.

As luck would have it, Choocha comes up with a story that there’s a treasure lying in a tunnel. Do they actually find the treasure? Is it gold or silver or ornaments?

Vipul Vig has penned an interesting story, with additional story by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. It may not be a plausible story but that was the beauty of Fukrey and that is the beauty of Fukrey Returns too. The rather implausible story has been embellished with a comical screenplay, also penned by Vipul Vig, with additional inputs by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Although the screenplay does have a few dull moments, it has around eight or nine absolutely hilarious sequences which will bring the house down with laughter. The comedy in these sequences is outstanding and entertains the audience thoroughly. The comedy is accentuated a great deal by the remarkably funny dialogues written by Vipul Vig, with additional dialogues by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Some of the one-liners, especially those mouthed by Bholi (incorrect English), Choocha and Pandit are outstanding and will sometimes even evoke claps from the viewers. The climax tends to get a bit lengthy and less exciting but the comical dialogues save the day there too. The last scene of the climax, of course, comes as one which brings a huge smile on the faces of the viewers.

Pulkit Samrat looks very handsome and acts well. His dances are graceful. Varun Sharma is one of the three pillars among actors. His performance is mind-blowing and his expressions, especially, are to die for! Richa Chadha is another pillar because of the funny dialogues she gets to mouth and also because of the confidence with which she speaks in incorrect English! She is truly entertaining. Manjot Singh is very cute and endearing as Lali and delivers a fine performance. Ali Fazal is good as Zaffer; he gets limited scope. Pankaj Tripathi is the third pillar among actors and it would not be an exaggeration to say that he evokes laughter with almost every dialogue and every expression of his. His sense of comic timing is par excellence. Priya Anand is okay as Priya. Vishakha Singh is earnest as Neetu. Both, Priya Anand and Vishakha Singh, have very little scope to perform. Rajiv Gupta lends tremendous support as minister Babulal. Shrikant Verma makes his presence felt (as Babulal’s P.A.). Majinder Singh P. Kar­eer has his moments as Lali’s father, Billa. Neelu Kohli (as Choocha’s mother) is her usual entertaining self. Alkesh Tiwari (as Choocha’s father), Mahesh Gahlot (as Priya’s father), Ogunro Gbolabo Lucas (as Bobby), Michael Obidike (as Eddie), Sada­ nand Patil (as Changu), Nalneesh (as Mangu), Ishteyak Khan (as Tidda), Pallavi Batra (as the hotel receptionist) and the others provide the necessary support.

Mrighdeep Singh Lamba’s direction is very good. His narrative style is easy-going and keeps the audience engag­ed, engrossed and entertained throughout. Music (Prem & Hardeep, Shree D & Ishq Bector, Sumeet Bellary, Gulraj Singh, Jasleen Royal, Shaarib & Toshi) is good but not hit. The ‘Fukrey’ song (Gulraj Singh) is the best num­ber but the others could’ve been more appealing. Lyrics (Kumaar, Shree D, Satya Khare, Raftaar, Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, Vipul Vig and Aditya Sharma) are in keeping with the film’s mood. Song picturisations (by Bosco-Caesar and Ganesh Acharya) are in­teresting. Sameeruddin’s background music is very effective. Andre Mene­zes’ cinematography is nice. Action scenes and stunts (by Manohar Verma) are suitably thrilling and funny, as required. Mayur Sharma’s production designing is appropriate. Dev Rao Jadhav’s editing is sharp and crisp.

On the whole, Fukrey Returns is a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable comedy and it will prove to be a hit at the box-office.

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‘Padmavati’: Biases Showing

The drama that is unfolding on the Padmavati front is disgusting, to say the least. The governments of various states seem to be least concerned about the orders of the apex court of the country, the Supreme Court. Even after the top court of the country came down heavily on ministers and states who and which had spoken against the controversial film, and asked them to refrain from making comments which could prejudice the sole certifying authority – the Central Board of Film Certification – ministers and state governments have not mended their ways. Why, the Bihar government, in fact, put a ban on the controversial film of Sanjay Leela Bhansali after the verdict of the Supreme Court as above!

The parliamentary panel, looking into the Padmavati controversy, seems to have been constituted with the sole intention of humiliating Bhansali. It seems to be consisting of members who have absolutely no knowledge of the functioning of the film industry or even the laws of the land and the rules. The panel asked Bhansali how he had announced December 1 as the intended release date of Padmavati when the official application for certification was only made on 11th November. This is like seeking an answer from somebody for a change in policy by someone else. The panel should have done its homework before interrogating the filmmaker. Had they done that, they would have known that the practice of announcing a release date before certifying one’s film has been in vogue since ages. Why should Bhansali have acted differently? The parliamentary panel should have known better than anybody else that the time gap (between 11th November and 1st December) was considered very normal for a film to be certified. If the CBFC, all of a sudden, decided to invoke the rule of 68 days between the date of application and the date of certification, it surely cannot be Bhansali’s fault. Is the panel even aware that the film industry is convinced, this rule was brought into play only and only so that the release of Padmavati could be stalled? Shouldn’t a fair panel actually haul up the CBFC for invoking the rule without notice and so suddenly? But no, the panel won’t do that!

CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi appeared before the petition committee which also took up Padmavati for discussion. Interestingly, both, the parliamentary panel and the petition committee, are chaired by BJP leaders. So much for impartiality! It doesn’t need to be emphasised that the BJP’s open support to the Rajput Karni Sena, which is at the forefront in demanding a ban on the film, is to garner the support of the Rajputs in the forthcoming assembly elections in various states. Anyway, the petition committee asked the CBFC chief how the producers of Padmavati had sent the film for certification to the UK when it had not been certified in India. If only the petition committee had done a little bit of research on the subject, it wouldn’t have been left red-faced (or was it?) by the CBFC chief’s reply to its silly question. Prasoon Joshi had to tell the committee that the two were independent processes.

The parliamentary panel is also alleged to have asked Bhansali whether he had selectively screened the film to the media with the intention of influencing the CBFC. Fantastic! Phenomenal! Wonderful! What a brilliant question was that!! If Bhansali had screened the film to three media persons with the aim of influencing the CBFC, what were the ministers and chief ministers of various states, and the Rajput Karni Sena doing by loudly announcing from every single platform available that they would not allow the film to be released. The panel ought to have applied its mind that Bhansali’s act of screening the controversial film could have backfired if any or all of the three media persons had reviewed the film unflatteringly. In that sense, Sanjay Leela Bhansali took a huge risk in screening his magnum opus when it wasn’t even clear whether his film would publicly release on December 1 or days or weeks or months thereafter. But yet, the panel wanted to know if his intent was to influence the CBFC. Three media persons, the panel, perhaps, felt, could sway the CBFC in favour of the film but all the Rajput Karni Sena members and the many BJP ministers condemning the film in the worst possible manner could not influence the CBFC in any way!

Aren’t we so very proud of the parliamentary panel and the petition committee? Forget distortion of history by Bhansali, what kind of history are some people writing for the generations to come?

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K9 Films’ Firangi (UA) is set in pre-Independence India. It is the story of a young man, considered good for nothing, rising to the occasion and coming to the rescue of an entire village.

Manga (Kapil Sharma) lives in Behrampur with his family. His father (Sharan Makkar) keeps taunting him for idling away his time. His grandmother (Jatinder Kaur) dotes on him, though. Manga is God-gifted. He has the ability to cure anyone suffering from a stiff back, by merely kicking him, an ability believed to be special to people born upside down. This ability, in fact, gets him a job as the orderly of British officer Daniels (Edward Sonnenblick).

But before that, Manga goes to the neighbouring village, Nakku Guda, to attend close friend Heera’s (Inam-ul-haq) marriage. There, he falls in love with Sargi (Ishita Dutta) who reciprocates his advances. However, when Manga’s family goes to Sargi’s family with a marriage proposal, Sargi’s grandfather (Anjan Srivastav), who is a Gandhian, refuses the proposal because Manga works for the Britishers who, according to the grandfather, need to be thrown out of the country. Manga vows to win over Sargi’s grandpa. Sadly, just the reverse happens. Not only the grandfather, Manga actually ends up winning the wrath of Sargi’s entire village.

British officer Daniels colludes with king Inderveer Singh (Kumud Mishra) and decides to build a liquor factory in Nakku Guda after vacating the entire village – and the two use Manga to prompt the villagers to attend a party in which they are treated to dance and a lot of drinks. To their horror, the villagers realise the next morning that in their drunken state, they had been made to give their thumb impressions on a stamped paper which mentioned that they all were voluntarily giving up their plots of land for the proposed liquor factory. Although Manga is innocent and had merely been used by Daniels and king Inderveer Singh, he is accused by the villagers of Nakku Guda of having stabbed them in the back. How Manga comes to the rescue of the villagers and saves them from being displaced forms the crux of the rest of the drama.

Rajiev Dhingra’s story is fresh and reasonably good. It is laced with a lot of humour which is both, entertaining and engaging. However, the story, especially the part in which Manga rises to the occasion, looks too simplistic and like a fairy tale. The screenplay, written by Rajiev Dhingra, Balwinder Singh Janjua and Rupinder Chahal, is good as far as the light moments are concerned. But the emotional and patriotic angles are simply not exploited by the trio. Because of this, the entire exercise of Manga to get back the legal paper with the thumb impressions of the residents of Nakku Guda looks merely like an exercise to undo the wrong, however inadvertent it may have been on his part. The emotional angle of doing what he is doing, also because he loves Sargi doesn’t come through very well. In a way, the writers haven’t been able to strike a balance between the love story and the village drama. Consequently, the story of Manga’s romance comes in spurts, as if to remind the audiences, at regular intervals, that it is at the core of the unfolding drama. The three screenplay writers are also unable to evoke patriotic feelings in the viewers while Manga rescues the villagers from the clutches of the manipulative Daniels and the evil king. The inability to exploit the emotional and patriotic sides of the drama is the biggest drawback of the screenplay which, therefore, at times, starts looking like a fairy tale and too simplistic to be true. The writers probably lost control of the multitude of tracks along the way. For instance, they could’ve easily milked the emotions by showing Manga’s constantly-taunting father feeling elated after Manga’s heroic deed. Likewise, the emotions of the family members of Manga and others and of the residents of Nakku Guda have not been exploited at all. The sum total of the screenplay’s shortcomings is that while the comedy scenes evoke laughter which, at times, is too much, the dramatic portions fall short of expectations. The first half of the pre-interval portion is, therefore, cute and entertaining because of the light moments, but the drama becomes quite boring thereafter. In the post-interval portion, the last part – from the time Manga enlists the support of four villagers viz. Heera, Sargi’s father, the local hakeem (Jameel Khan) and the local toughie (Vishal Om Prakash) – is hilarious and truly entertaining. But the climax (with Mahatma Gandhi’s arrival) looks a bit of a mismatch if only because the patriotic feelings don’t really get aroused. At times, in the second half, the viewers are served very good comic moments but those very moments dilute the emotions. Clearly, this is a failing of the screenplay writers.

Dialogues, written by Rajesh Chawla and Rajiev Dhingra, are superb but mainly the comic ones.

Kapil Sharma acts with effortless ease and impresses with a fine performance. He has such an innocent and endearing face that one can’t help but like him as Manga. Ishita Dutta gets limited scope in the role of Sargi but she acts ably. Monica Gill is fairly nice as Shyamli. Kumud Mishra is pretty effective. Anjan Srivastav makes his presence felt as Sargi’s Gandhian grandfather. Edward Sonnenblick has his moments as Daniels. Rajesh Sharma lends very good support in the role of Sargi’s father. Inam-ul-haq brings the house down with laughter as Manga’s friend, Heera, especially in scenes of cross-dressing. Jameel Khan’s (as hakeem) comic sense of timing is excellent. Vishal Om Prakash leaves a mark as the toughie. Jatinder Kaur is good as Manga’s grandmother. Neeta Mohindra acts quite well as Shyamli’s mother and one of the many wives of the king. Baby Nayesha Khanna is very cute and natural as Lali. Roshni Walia creates a fine impression as Nimmo. Sharan Makkar makes a mark as Manga’s father. Jasveen Kaur (as Heera’s wife), Swarn Singh (as the mukhiya of Nakku Guda), Sukhi Chahal (as the thekedaar), Rakesh Pandey (as mukhiya of Behrampur), Kamlesh (as Mahatma Gandhi), Mar­ yam Zakaria and the others provide able support.

Rajiev Dhingra’s direction is good but he has not been able to exploit the emotional side of the drama. Although Jatinder Shah’s music is nice, none of the songs are very popular. His background music is quite appealing. Lyrics (by Dr. Devendra Kafir, Ashraf Ali and Krishna Bhardwaj) are very effective. Rekha Chinni Prakash’s choreography is okay. Navneet Misser’s cinematography is eye-filling. Raashid Rangrez’s production designing, and Shabana Khanam’s art direction are nice. Amin Khatib’s action scenes are alright. Omkar Nath Bhakri’s editing is suitably sharp.

On the whole, Firangi has very good comedy, especially in the second half, but the drama portion lacks plausibility, emotions and the patriotic feel. It will, therefore, find the going at the box-office pretty tough.

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Siddhi Vinayak Creations’ Aksar 2 (A) is a thriller and the second in the Aksar series. An old widow, Dolly Khambata (Lillette Dubey), needs a governess as her earlier governess has died in a road accident. Her financial advisor, Patrick Sharma (Gautam Rode), hires Sheena Roy (Zarine Khan) even though she is way younger than 50 years which is the age requirement for this job.

Patrick is very close to Dolly Khambata but he soon tells Sheena that he is not very fond of her. Patrick has a glad eye for Sheena whom he forces to sleep with him. Sheena already has a boyfriend, Ricky (Abhinav Shukla). It is soon revealed that Ricky is actually the estranged nephew of Dolly Khambata. The aunt and nephew have had a fallout over the matter of property and wealth. Ricky has vowed to drag Dolly to court so that he can get his share of the property which Dolly has in her possession. There is also Dolly Khambata’s trusted lawyer, Gaurav (Sreesanth).

Sheena reveals to Pratrick that Dolly has made him the beneficiary of her bungalow in London, in her will. Unable to believe that Dolly could do so, he somehow opens her locker and gets hold of the will. He is pleasantly surprised to see his name in the will.

The house manager, Bachchan ( Mohit Madan), now confronts Patrick and asks him for a favour. It turns out that Sheena and Bachchan are hand-in-glove to usurp the property of Dolly. Bachchan, who is expert at copying people’s signatures, promises to keep the London property bequeathed to Patrick while changing the will to bequeath the rest in his and Ricky’s name.

But things start happening pretty fast after that. Ricky dies in a road accident, and Bachchan dies of a heart attack. Are these accidents and death genuine or are they murders? Who is behind them?

Is Dolly Khambata safe? Who is plotting and planning and against whom?

Narendra Bajaj’s story is as routine as routine can be. It doesn’t have even a hint of novelty so that everything becomes predictable. Sunjiv Puri’s screenplay, rather than being fast-paced because it’s a thriller, moves at such a slow pace that it ends up testing the viewers’ patience. Right from the start, the audience is led into believing that there is more to the characters and the drama than meets the eye. But it takes so long for the thrills to surface that by then, the audience has almost switched off. It becomes clear to the viewer quite early on that there will be more turns and twists – the presentation says it all. And since there are just so many key characters, it is obvious that the mastermind will use each and every key character. Given this obvious interpretation, there is little left for the viewer to enjoy. Consequently, he sits back and passively watches the boring and slow-moving drama unfold on the screen without being bothered about what would happen to whom. Climax is as dull as the rest of the film. Sunjiv Puri’s dialogues are ordinary.

Zarine Khan can hardly act to save her life. Gautam Rode is at least earnest but that hardly has any impact. Lillette Dubey is very good but it’s a pity to see her talent being frittered away in a mindless enterprise like this one. Abhinav Shukla doesn’t quite impress in the role of Ricky Khambata. Mohit Madan tries to convey everything with one fixed expression on his face, which he tries to pass off us, perhaps, intense acting. Sreesanth is just about passable as lawyer Gaurav. Denzil Smith, Mohan Azad and Rushad Rana do as desired.

Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s direction leaves a lot to be desired. Firstly, he makes it clear right from the first scene that the film is a thriller but lets the actual thrill element come into the narration almost an hour later. Besides, his narrative pace is so slow that it just doesn’t suit the thriller genre of the film. Music (by Mithoon and Rohit Kulkarni) is fair but the songs are far from being popular. Saeed Quadri’s lyrics are weighty. Shabina Khan’s choreography is dull. Rohit Kulkarni’s background music is weaK. Cinematography (Mahesh Bhatt) is alright. Allan Amin’s action and stunt scenes lack thrill. Ram Kishor Tripathi’s sets and Muneesh Suppal’s production designing are alright. Jitendra Shah’s editing is loose.

On the whole, Aksar 2 is a dull fare all the way. Flop show!

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T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment’s Tumhari Sulu is a slice-of-life film about a middle-class housewife.

Sulochana a.k.a. Sulu (Vidya Balan) leads a middle-class life in Bombay, living with her husband, Ashok (Manav Kaul), and school-going son, Pranav (master Abhishek Sharma). A school-dropout, she is happy winning prizes in contests held on radio or in game competitions in her housing society and the like but yearns to do something to supplement the income of her husband who works in a garment factory. Her father, two elder twin sisters and brothers-in-law keep asking her to take up a permanent job.

One day, she gets to know that Wow FM radio station is on the lookout for a new radio jockey. Although she has no experience, she offers herself for the job. At first critical, Wow radio head Maria (Neha Dhupia) sees a spark in her due to her simplicity and honesty, and she hires her on a handsome salary, much to the discomfort of show producer, writer and RJ Pankaj (Vijay Maurya). The only hitch is that it’s a late-night show for which Sulu has to be at the radio station every night. She is trained to talk sexily and naughtily to the callers on the live show.

Sulu does it in the first day’s show itself. The show’s, and Sulu’s popularity keeps growing but soon, Ashok and Sulu’s other family members start voicing their reservations about Sulu talking to autorickshaw drivers and the like, that too, on topics which could be considered taboo. But Sulu is adamant to continue with the radio show as she experiences a new-found confidence.

Soon, Ashok loses his job and his frustration grows further. And then, something so terrible happens that Sulu has to rethink about whether she would like to continue as a radio jockey or not.

What is the incident which brings Sulu on the crossroads? Does she quit as the RJ or does she continue? Does Ashok support her or, like her sisters and father, does Ashok also dissuade her?

Suresh Triveni’s story is fresh and beautifully presents the life of a middle-class school dropout who suddenly gets a well-paying job but which has a bit of a social stigma attached to it. The first half is full of light moments as the story gives you a peek into middle-class living in Bombay. The film takes a fairly serious turn after interval and there are some heart-touching emotions too which will bring tears to the eyes of the weak-hearted. The climax, especially when Sulu is explaining herself to Maria and when Pankaj reacts to her explanation, is tear-jerking. Suresh Triveni has written a lovely screenplay, with additional screenplay by Vijay Maurya. The screenplay is fast-paced and engaging, not letting the audience get bored at all. A few scenes, especially in the second half, may appear a bit repetitive but that’s not much of an aberration. The screenplay so beautifully captures the middle-class mentality of Sulu and her family members that the viewer can’t help but admire the writers’ eye for authenticity. And this is evident in every action, every movement and every dialogue of Sulu.

Dialogues (by Suresh Triveni; additional dialogues by Vijay Maurya) are lovely and many of them touch the heart. Making Sulu speak in Bambaiya Hindi makes her character so much more real.

Vidya Balan lives the role of Sulu and shines as she often does. She is simply excellent in every scene – whether humorous, dramatic, emotional or even as the sexy-voiced RJ. Her stocky built is a bit of an eyesore but her performance quite makes up for it. Manav Kaul plays Ashok with a lot of conviction at his command. Master Abhishek Sharma delivers a truly fine performance as Pranav. Neha Dhupia makes her character of Maria very believable with a fantastic performance. She is supremely natural. This talented girl deserves more and meaty roles. Vijay Maurya is simply extraordinary. He often has short or no dialogues to mouth but his expressions and body language are to die for. See, for instance, how he expresses his frustration, amusement, bewilderment and even helplessness. Full marks to this under-rated reservoir of talent! Santanu Ghatak lends excellent support as the horrible young boss of Ashok. Malishka Mendonsa lends decent support as RJ Albeli Anjali. Seema Taneja and Sindhu Shekharan make their presence amply felt as Sulu’s sisters. Sonel Singh has her moments as Radio Wow’s receptionist. Trupti Khamkar shines as the Ola driver. Ayushmann Khurrana lends star value in a special appearance. Mahesh Pillai (as the school principal), Uday Lagoo (as Sulu’s father), Ajoy Chakraborty and Mandeep Kumar (both as Sulu’s brothers-in-law), Raghu Sawhney (as Mathuradas brother 1), Vidhyadhar Karmakar (as Mathuradas brother 2), Abdul Majid Sheikh, Bachan Pachera, Asha Joshi, Hitesh Dave and Latafat Shaikh (all as employees of the garment factory), Kavya Pande (as the radio executive), Siven Sankaran Devendran (as the tiffin vendor), Sandeep Punj (as the papad client executive), Tanuj Garg (as the papad client), Bhumika Dube (as the gym receptionist) and the others lend the necessary support.

Suresh Triveni’s direction is lovely. Not only has the director extracted good work from out of his actors but he has also kept the narrative pace fast and interesting. Musically, ‘Ban ja rani’, composed by Guru Randhawa and Rajat Nagpal, is the best number and is already very popular. The ‘Hawa Hawai’ song from Mr. India, recreated by Tanishk Bagchi, is entertaining. Lyrics (by Guru Randhawa, Vayu, Siddhant Kaushal and Santanu Ghatak) are appropriate. Rajeev Surti’s choreography of the ‘Hawa Hawai’ song is eye-filling. Vijay Ganguly’s picturisation of ‘Ban ja rani’ is quite good. Karishma Chavan’s choreography of the ‘Farrata’ song is so-so. Karan Kulkarni’s background music is effective. Saurabh Goswami’s cinematography is nice. Dhara Jain’s production designing is appropriate. Shivkumar Panicker’s editing is excellent.

On the whole, Tumhari Sulu is a heartwarming entertainer and it will, therefore, score at the box-office. Its positive word of mouth will see collections rising.

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Soham Rockstar Entertainment and Soundrya Production’s Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana (UA) is a love story that goes awfully wrong.

Satyendra Mishra (Rajkumar Rao) and Aarti Shukla (Kriti Kharbanda) live in Uttar Pradesh with their respective families. A marriage proposal for Satyendra goes out from Aarti’s family, and the prospective candidates meet over coffee although they both are awkward with the arrangement. While Satyendra has just got a job of a clerk in a government department, Aarti has just completed her education in Allahabad. The two hit it off in the first meeting and decide to get married.

Satyendra’s mother (Alka Amin) and maternal uncle, Mahesh (Vipin Sharma), are brazen about the fact that they want a fat sum of money as dowry – and they say so in as many words when Aarti’s father, Shyam Sunder Shukla (Govind Namdeo), and Aarti’s maternal uncle, Jogi (Manoj Pahwa), go to meet the Mishras to talk about dowry and other wedding arrangements. Despite finding the demand way beyond his means, Shukla agrees to the proposal as he feels that Satyendra is the best match for his daughter. Shyam Sunder Shukla is very orthodox in his thinking and firmly believes that girls should be married off at the first opportunity. Not for him working girls and all that. But since Aarti is career-minded, she tells Satyendra right in their first meeting that she would want to take up a job after marriage. Satyendra readily agrees.

In the Mishra household, while Sat­yendra’s dad, Jugal Kishore Mishra (K.K. Raina), is forward-thinking, Satyendra’s mother is not just traditional but is also a manipulator and, if one may say so, evil-minded.

Satyendra and Aarti meet during their courtship days and become extremely fond of each other.

To Aarti’s elder married sister, Abha’s (Nayani Dixit) shock, Satyendra’s mother tells her on the day the marriage is to be solemnised that the Mishras would not even dream of having Aarti work in an office.

Even as the baaraat is on its way from Satyendra’s house to Aarti’s house, Aarti gets a happy news that gladdens her heart no end. But this news, coupled with what Abha has been told by Satyendra’s mother, becomes the reason for Aarti to run away from her home before the marriage can be solemnised. To the shock and devastation of Satyendra and his family, the wedding is called off – and the reason given for it is that Aarti had just gotten to know that the Mishras had demanded dowry, which was not acceptable to her. Before running away, Aarti had tried to call Satyendra several times as she loved him immensely but he didn’t hear his cellphone ringing in the din of the baaraat celebrations and music.

What is the good news which Aarti gets and which becomes one of the reasons for her marriage to be called off?

Five years later, Aarti is a respected officer in a government department. Suddenly one day, she is accused of accepting bribe money of Rs. 3 crore. Her case comes before the district magistrate. And who is the district magistrate? It is none other than Satyendra Mishra!

Will Satyendra give Aarti a fair trial? Or will he now seek revenge for Aarti wronging him five years ago? Is Satyendra married or not? Has Aarti gotten married? What happens in Aarti’s bribery case? What happens in the personal lives of Satyendra and Aarti?

Kamal Pandey has written an interesting story which is engaging upto the interval point. The second half, however, goes haywire because it just doesn’t match with the drama of the first half. The light moments and humour prior to the interval are entertaining. Even the drama, and the entire tension-ridden build-up right till the time the wedding is finally called off are very interesting. But Kamal Pandey’s screenplay becomes boring and even illogical after interval. Firstly, the second half of the screenplay looks like a self-defeating exercise because Aarti and her firebrand elder sister, Abha, are shown to be buckling under pressure so much so that Aarti even apologises to Satyendra for having wronged him by calling off the marriage. While some (who had felt that Aarti was right in running away from her marriage five years ago) would feel that she doesn’t owe Satyendra an apology, there would be others (who had felt that Aarti was wrong in calling off the marriage five years ago) who would be justified in thinking that she now owed Satyendra an apology. The audiences get confused at this point because of poor scripting – nowhere has it been clarified by writer Kamal Pandey who the audience should have supported five years ago. Very conveniently, he has left it for the viewers to decide or, in other words, he has left it to the viewers’ imagination. For a commercial film, this is not the best way to write a screenplay. What’s more, Abha’s character is shown to be so strong in the first half but she suddenly becomes a meek spectator after that.

The viewers wonder why Aarti does not tell Satyendra (when he asks her, why she hadn’t at least once taken him into confidence before calling off the marriage) that she, in fact, had tried contacting him. And even without Aarti telling him so, didn’t Sat­yendra see the umpteen missed calls from Aarti on his cellphone during the baaraat procession? Why, the final call which Aarti makes – after running away from home – is even seen by Satyendra on his cellphone before he rejects the call.

Even Aarti’s claim that it was because of her that Satyendra had resolved to become a government officer instead of remaining a government clerk all his life, doesn’t hold much water in the context of things. Resultantly, Aarti’s char­acter becomes weak after interval. Even Satyendra’s villainish character in the second half becomes a bit too much for the audience to digest, especially that section of the audience which had agreed with Aarti’s stance five years ago. For the same reason, Aarti’s remorse in the climax – that she had now understood how it felt when a near and dear one is stabbed in the back – doesn’t create the desired impact for those who were appreciative of her stand five years ago – for, according to them, she hadn’t stabbed Satyendra in the back because she had had a solid reason for doing what she did. The climax is not very entertaining and it is also pretty predictable.

Although the first half is entertaining and enjoyable, its similarity to Badrinath Ki Dulhania makes it appear to be too heavily inspired by that film. The post-interval portion, of course, is not half as good as it ought to have been. Kamal Pandey’s dialogues are very realistic.

Rajkumar Rao shines as Satyendra Mishra. He is outstanding, and the contrast in his personality when he is a government clerk and when he becomes the DM has been brought out excellently by him. Full marks to Rajkumar Rao for doing the role so convincingly and so effectively. Kriti Kharbanda looks glamorous and pretty. She acts with complete conviction. K.K. Raina underplays beautifully. Alka Amin does a splendid job as Satyendra’s manipulative mother. Govind Namdeo deserves distinction marks for enacting the role of Shyam Sunder Shukla so wonderfully. Navni Parihar leaves a fine mark as Aarti’s mother. Nayani Dixit is terrific as Aarti’s elder sister, Abha. But one misses her firebrand avtaar post-interval. Manoj Pahwa makes his presence amply felt with a mature performance. Vipin Sharma is first-rate as Mahesh. Neha Mishra provides lovely support as Neelam Gupta. Neha Agarwal is appropriate as Satyendra’s sister, Poonam. Ajitesh Gupta (as Priyansh) does well. Karanveer Sharma has his moments as Sharad. Abhijeet Singh is very natural in the role of Ranjan. Ashish Kapoor (as builder Kukreja), Gaurav Dwivedi (as officer Saxena), Mahesh Chandra Deva (as the land broker), Sachin Chandra (as the lawyer), Pramod Singh (as the lawyer), Azhar Ali (as officer Yadav) and the rest lend the desired support.

Ratna Sinha’s direction, like the script, is good upto a point. Once the script goes off-track, even she is unable to salvage it with her narration. Music (Anand Raaj Anand, Jam 8, Arko, Raees & Zain-Sam, and Rashid Khan) is appealing. The songs are all good. Lyrics (Shakeel Azmi, Gaurav Krishna Bansal, Arko, Kumaar and Kunaal Verma) are appropriate. Song picturisations (by Ahmed Khan, Umesh Jadhav and Adil Shaikh) are fair. Prasad Sashte’s background music is quite nice. Suresh Beesaveni’s camerawork is good. Production designing (by Pradip Singh and Anup Adhikari) is of a fine standard. Ballu Saluja’s editing is quite alright.

On the whole, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana has an interesting first half but its dull second half ruins the chances of the film at the box-office. Given its ordinary initial, the film will prove to be a flop fare.

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