Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd., Crossword Films Pvt. Ltd. and NG Film Crafts’ Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho (UA) is a satire on khap panchayats and the judiciary in India.

Arjun (Rahul Bagga) is accused by the chief of Tanakpur village, Pradhan Sualal (Annu Kapoor), of raping his buffalo. The fact is that Sualal had caught Arjun and his (Sualal’s) much younger wife, Maya (Hrishitaa Bhatt), red-handed but rather than tell the world that his wife was having an extra-marital affair with Arjun, he accuses Arjun of a bizarre crime – that of having raped his buffalo which, incidentally, had been crowned Miss Tanakpur at a beauty contest of buffaloes.

The rape matter reaches the court because an unscrupulous police officer, Matang Singh (Om Puri), accepts bribe from Sualal and registers his rape complaint. Even while the matter is being decided by the court, the khap panchayat orders Arjun to marry the buffalo.

What happens then? Does Arjun marry Miss Tanakpur, the buffalo? What does Maya do? Does she tell the court or the world that Arjun had been falsely framed by her husband?

Vinod Kapri and Abhishek Sharma have written a story which is novel and interesting even though it is far-fetched. The humour and the comedy in the drama keep the audience entertained. Writers Vinod Kapri and Varun Gautam have penned a screenplay which is full of humour and comedy. The characters in the film are very interesting because of which the viewers feel involved in the drama and enjoy it. The first half has many light moments and the satire is pretty entertaining. However, it must be added that although the humour is quite mass-appealing, the basic premise of the plot has limited appeal, mainly for the classes only. After interval also, the drama remains entertaining and engrossing but it also appears over-stretched beyond plausible limits. The khap panchayat ordering Arjun to marry the buffalo and the actual baaraat and wedding taking place are too much for even the class audience to digest. In other words, the last part of the drama spoils the impact. Also, as Maya is shown to be a lady who is supposed to win the audience’s sympathy, her silence when her beloved, Arjun, is being roughed up in public and humiliated in court, before the khap panchayat and by the people, looks rather unbelievable. Dialogues, by Vinod Kapri and Varun Gautam, are superb and they make the film truly enjoyable for the viewers.

Annu Kapoor is extraordinary as Pradhan Sualal. He acts with effortless ease and entertains the audien­ce. His ‘Don’t take me otherwise’ dia­logue is a highlight and so are his other dialogues spoken in English. Om Puri shines as the spineless Matang Singh. He gets into the skin of the character of an unprincipled police officer. Ravi Kishan is endearing as Bhim Singh alias Bhima. Sanjay Mishra is outstanding as Shastri. He evokes laughter every time he comes on the screen. It would not be wrong to say that he is the highlight. Rahul Bagga acts sincerely. Hrishitaa Bhatt looks pretty and performs ably. Kamlesh Gill is first-rate as Arjun’s paternal aunt, providing many a light moment. Rajeev Gupta is effective as the judge. V.K. Sharma (as Arjun’s father) and Amita Udghata (as Arjun’s mother) lend fan­tastic support. Munmun is suitably restrained as Arjun’s sister, Lajjo. Brijend­ ra Kala leaves a wonderful mark as Arjun’s lawyer, Luttan Singh. Govind Pandey is also effective as Sualal’s lawyer, Bhanwar Singh. Anoop Trivedi makes his presence amply felt as Rambeer, the fat police officer with Matang Singh. Arjun Singh Faujdar shines as Arjun’s friend, Narayan. N.K. Pant (as veterinary doctor), Dev (as the doctor at the hospital) and Sushil Tyagi (as the SP) provide good support. Sachin Kathuria (as bus conductor) and Abhushan (as the old man in the bus) are very good. Ankur Chaudhry (as Arjun’s friend, Sattu), Vidya Bhushan (as the aged hakim), Ajay Verma (as the head constable), Sanjeev Kumar (as the constable), Moolchand Prajapati (as Harkaara) and Gurudev (as Munadi announcer) are adequate.

Vinod Kapri’s direction is lovely. Although Kapri makes his debut as director with this film, the narration is smooth. He has extracted excellent work from out of his actors and he adopts a style which does not let the audience get bored. Palaash Muchhal and Susmit Sen’s music is alright. Lyrics (Sanjeev Sharma, Sakshi Joshi and Vinay Bihari) are appropriate. Song picturisations (by Pappu-Maalu and Nishi Rastogi) are functional. Vinayak Netke’s background music is excellent and adds to the drama. Vishnu Dev’s action and stunts are adequate. Yogesh Jani’s camerawork is very effective. Bhupendra Singh’s production designing is appropriate. Editing (by Devendra Murdeshwar and Nishant Radhakrishnan) is superbly sharp and deserves distinction marks.

On the whole, Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho is, by and large, an entertaining film which will be liked by the class audience but its box-office prospects are dull because its promotion has been extremely low-key and satiri­cal films, as it is, have a very limited market in India.

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Disney’s ABCD – Any Body Can Dance 2, as the title suggests, is a dance film. It is a sequel to ABCD – Any Body Can Dance. Suresh (Varun Dhawan) and Vernon (Sushant Pujari) have choreographed a dance which they and their dance troupe – Stunners – perform at a prestigious competition. Although their performance is excellent, the three judges (Remo D’Souza, Terrence Lewis and Seema Pandey) disqualify them after heaping insults on them for having blatantly lifted the entire choreography of a foreign dance troupe. Suresh and Vernon’s dance team has to face a lot of public humiliation because of which some dancers leave the team. But Suresh is convinced, he would leave the ugly past behind him, form a new team and aim to participate in the international Hip Hop dance competition to be held after three months in Las Vegas. Supporting him in his dream are his dancer-girlfriend, Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor), Vernon, Raghav (Raghav Juyal) and a couple of other team mates. They don’t have a proper team, they don’t have the money but they dream of striking gold in Las Vegas.

Soon, Suresh gets lucky when he meets choreographer Vishnu (Prabhudheva) who also nurtures a dream to go to Las Vegas. Suresh and the team mates, who are still with him, try to convince Vishnu to train them for Las Vegas and it is after a lot of cajoling that Vishnu agrees. A few new dancers are inducted into the dance team and the old team mates also join in. After a lot of practice, the Stunners reach Las Vegas with Vishnu. The judges at the Hip Hop dance competition are inclined to disqualifying the Indian team for having cheated in the Indian dance competition but Vishnu pleads before the judges, asking them to give the dancers just one chance. The Stunners impress the judges and the audience so much with their dance moves that they are allowed to participate.

As the Indian Stunners win the first and second rounds, unforeseen and serious problems crop up. For one, Vinnie gets injured while rehearsing and she is advised rest. Secondly, Vishnu disappears with the money without informing the team which is now left with no money. Meanwhile, the team is asked to deposit more money to move ahead in the competition, failing which they would have to quit. Although Suresh and team find an Indian girl, Olive (Lauren Gottlieb), to step in for Vinnie, the lack of funds continues to threaten to jeopardise all their efforts.

What happens then? Is the Indian Stunners team allowed to continue in the competition and if so, how? Where did Vishnu disappear with the cash? Did he have any other agenda for coming to Las Vegas? Does the Indian Stunners dance team do India proud? Does it return home victorious?

Remo D’Souza has penned the story which is inspired by a real-life story of a dance team. It is a simple story of dance, passion, hardships, team work etc. and it mostly moves in a predictable fashion. Predictability is also the catchword for the screenplay penned by Tushar Hiranandani and Remo D’Souza but it must be added that the writers have very intelligently added all the ingredients of a masala entertainer including mythological touch, patriotic flavor, emotions, drama and melodrama, besides, of course, dance, team spirit, a bit of romance and a dash of suspense. This is one of the reasons why even the predictable screenplay engages and entertains the audience. In fact, there are hardly any dull moments in the film. The other reasons for the film being engrossing are its visual beauty, fantastic dances and some hit songs. Mayur Puri has penned dialogues which are simple but appealing.

Prabhudheva has a full-fledged role and he does a truly fine job. He is very restrained in the emotional scenes and manages to touch the hearts of the viewers. Of course, his dancing is to die for! Varun Dhawan dances very energetically and acts with effortless ease, essaying the character of Suresh with elan. Shraddha Kapoor is cute and endearing and her dances are absolutely graceful and mesmerising. Lauren Gottlieb dances like a million bucks and her acting is also good. Dharmesh Yelande is pretty impressive as Dharmesh alias D. Raghav Juyal is terrific as dancer Raghav; he seems to have an elastic body. Sushant Pujari leaves a mark as Vernon. Punit J. Pathak has his wonderful moments in the role of Vinod. Saajan Singh (as Saajan), Rohit Jadhav (as Rohit), Chandan Acharya (as Chandan), Praveen Solanki (as Praveen), Pravin Bhosle (as Pravin), Jack Gill (as Jack), Mohanlal Pandey (as Mohan), Nikhil Kasare (as Nikhil), Sumeet Pendam (as Sumeet) and Pavan Rao (as Pavan) lend terrific support, more as dancers than actors. Tisca Chopra is fantastic in a bit role, as Swati. Master Jeenit Rathi is very natural as Manu. Murali Sharma makes his presence felt as Suresh’s boss, Shetty. Manmeet Singh performs ably in the role of Raghav’s uncle. Remo D’Souza, Terrence Lewis, Seema Pandey and Shashank Khaitan leave their marks in the roles of judges. Pooja Batra comes as a whiff of fresh air in a special appearance. Prachi Shah Pandya is alright in the role of Suresh’s mother. Naresh Malik (as Vernon’s team leader), Sonal Bhatt and Mohit Abrol (both as masters of ceremonies), Partha Akerkar (as the man who orders pizza at home), master Kavin Bagaria (as little Suresh), Ganesh Acharya (as Vishnu’s friend, Gopi), Gary Tantony (as the doctor in Las Vegas), Will Roberts (as the organiser of the World Starz Hip Hop Challenge), Robert ‘Bob’ Amulo (as the master of ceremonies in Las Vegas) and the others lend the required support.

Remo D’Souza’s direction is lovely. He adopts a narrative style which keeps the audience engaged throughout. Credit is due to him also for making the film a visual treat for the viewers. Sachin-Jigar’s music is excellent. The ‘Bezubaan’ and ‘Saathiya’ songs are hit numbers whereas the other songs are also very appealing. Mayur Puri’s lyrics are meaningful. Choreography by Remo D’Souza and his entire team is outstanding. The song picturisations are veritably delightful. Sachin-Jigar’s background music could’ve been better. Vijay Kumar Arora deserves distinction marks for his cinematography which is of international standard. He makes the film look just too grand and beautiful. Parichit Paralkar’s sets and production designing are remarkably outstanding, making the film a big-canvas fare. Manan Sagar’s editing is sharp. Visual effects and 3D effects are lovely.

On the whole, ABCD – Any Body Can Dance 2 is a surefire hit. It has hit music, great choreography, brilliant sets, outstanding camerawork and superb masala for everyone. It will easily join the 100-crore club. Its opening day and opening weekend’s collections may be the best of this year so far.

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Junglee Pictures and Excel Entertainment’s Dil Dhadakne Do (UA) is a comedy drama set on a cruise ship. Kamal (Anil Kapoor) and Neelam Mehra (Shefali Shah), to the outside world, are a perfect socialite couple but in reality, they can’t stand each other. They have invited their family and close friends on a 10-day cruise around Turkey, in celebration of their 30th wedding anniversary. It is at this party that the seemingly Utopian world of the Mehras starts falling apart, leaving Kamal and Neelam aghast at how the world will judge their personal lives.

Ayesha (Priyanka Chopra), their elder daughter, who is a successful businesswoman, is married to Manav Sangha (Rahul Bose) and it is on this cruise that she tells her parents and Manav and his mother (Zarina Wahab) that she is unhappy in the marriage and, therefore, wants a divorce. Kamal and Neelam are shocked and Kamal actually tells her to think of a divorce at her own risk as she won’t be welcome back into the Mehra family. Neelam Mehra feels, marriage is a journey full of ups and downs and tells Ayesha to adjust rather than thinking about divorce. Also on the cruise is her ex-buddy, Sunny Gill (Farhan Akhtar), who is the son of Kamal Mehra’s trusted manager. Kamal had, some years ago, sent Sunny for further studies to the USA but the real reason for sponsoring Sunny’s education trip was to separate Sunny from Ayesha.

The Mehras’ second child is Kabir (Ranveer Singh), the sole heir to the huge business empire of his dad. He is passionate about flying and his dad has bought him a private jet. The seemingly successful Ayka company of the Mehras has actually hit bad times and is bankrupt because of which Kamal wants Lalit Sood (Parmeet Sethi) to buy a stake in the company and bail him out. But the egotistic Mehra can’t get himself to tell Sood to acquire a stake in the company, more so because Sood is known to be a shark who soon takes control of the companies he acquires a stake in. Therefore, Kamal has invited the Sood family on the cruise with the single intention of setting up his own son and Lalit’s only daughter, Noorie (Riddhima Sud). That way, Lalit’s acquisition of a stake in Ayka would ensure that the control remains within the family only. To the horror of Kamal and Neelam Mehra, however, Kabir falls in love with Farah Ali (Anushka Sharma) whom he meets on the cruise and who is a dancer and a Muslim.

What happens thereafter? Are Kamal and Neelam Mehra able to save their ‘family honour’ from the prying eyes of their socialite-friends even as they grapple to save Ayesha’s marriage and get Kabir to agree to marrying Noorie Sood so that their company can be saved from ruination? Or do Ayesha and Kabir, who are each other’s emotional anchors, revolt against their selfish parents, for whom, society and status are more important than the happiness of their two children?

Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti have penned a story which has many layers and at the core of which is the tension within the Mehra family on several counts. The duo’s screenplay keeps the audience engrossed, engaged and entertained but intermittently so. For, in several scenes, Akhtar and Kagti take too long to come to the point and, in the process, end up boring the viewers. Since the entire film is narrated from the point of view of the Mehras’ dog, Pluto, the narration does get monotonous at times, when it starts sounding like a sermon. In fact, the dog’s initial talking gets on the audience’s nerves after a point of time. However, the comedy punches and the inherent humour in the drama, although quite class-appealing, do save the drama. Resultantly, the screenplay emerges like a fresh and entertaining take on relationships but with boring portions in between. The first half has more dull moments than the second half. In fact, the post-interval portion moves at a fast pace as the simmering differences between the four Mehras come to the fore. The ultimate showdown which Kabir has with his father is supremely engaging. Having said that, it must be added that the humour is meant more for the classes and the city audience than the masses and public of the small centres. But the emotional part of the relationship drama is definitely universal.

The comic dialogues by Farhan Akhtar are witty and humorous whereas the dramatic ones are even cutting-edge at times. The dialogues of Pluto have been penned by Javed Akhtar and they are appropriately philosophical and humorous.

Anil Kapoor lives the role of Kamal Mehra and plays the selfish and manipulative business tycoon with elan. It’s a delight to watch his facial expressions and body language moving in synch with his mood, in different situations. Shefali Shah is equally outstanding as Neelam Mehra. She acts with the confidence of a seasoned actress who knows what the audience wants. Ranveer Singh is extraordinary in the role of Kabir Mehra. His layered character unfolds so dramatically because of his superb performance that he absolutely endears himself to the public. Priyanka Chopra is wonderfully restrained as Ayesha Sangha. She plays her character with a lot of maturity and leaves a brilliant mark. Anushka Sharma shines in a brief role. Her conviction comes to the fore in her scenes of a modern girl who knows her priorities. Rahul Bose is outstanding as Manav Sangha who is unable to understand his modern wife. He underplays his character so beautifully that he leaves a lasting impression. Farhan Akhtar is lovely in a special appearance. He looks very handsome and acts with effortless ease. Riddhima Sud is fair as Noorie Sood. Zarina Wahab is fantastic as Manav Sangha’s mother. She makes a lovely mark each time she comes on the screen. Parmeet Sethi, as Lalit Sood, and Dolly Mattoo, as Naina Sood, play Noorie’s parents with confidence. Aamir Khan’s voice acting as the voice of Pluto, the dog, is very fine. Sarah Hashmi is quite nice as Divya Mehra, cousin of Ayesha and Kabir. Khushi Dubey is cute as Putlu Mehra. Pawan Chopra (in the role of Kamal Mehra’s brother Prem Mehra) and Ayesha Raza (as Prem Mehra’s wife, Indu Mehra) act ably. Divya Seth Shah (as Saira Hashmi), Shireesh Kumar Sharma (as Saira’s husband), Ikhlaque Khan (as Amrish uncle), Manoj Pahwa (as Vinod Khanna), Preeti Mamgain (as Vandana Khanna), Vikrant Massey (as Rana Khanna), Vandana Sajnani (as Anju) and Debanshi Shah (as Nitya) lend very good support.

Zoya Akhtar’s direction is mature and she brings to the fore the smallest nuances so beautifully that one can’t help but marvel at her eye for detail. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is good but the absence of chartbusting music is sorely felt, especially because the backdrop is a celebration party. The title song and ‘Galla goodiyaan’are the more appealing numbers. The other songs are quite good. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are both, interesting and meaningful. Choreography of the ‘Galla goodiyaan’ song (by Bosco-Ceasar) is the best. The other song-dances are also well-picturised. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Jim Satya’s background music is lovely. Carlos Catalan’s camerawork is of a high order. The cruise ship, the sea and the foreign locales have all been captured beautifully by him in his camera. Neil Patel’s production design and Chandrashekhar More’s art direction befit the huge canvas of the film. Anand Subaya’s editing is sharp. Production values are rich.

On the whole, Dil Dhadakne Do is a good entertainer for the multiplex-frequenting audience. It will be liked by the youngsters and the classes more than the mass audiences. Business in the cities will be good on the strength of audiences of multiplexes and premium single-screen cinemas. However, business in smaller centres and in lesser single-screen cinemas will be dull. All in all, it will fetch some profits.

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Eros International and Colour Yellow Productions Pvt. Ltd.’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns (UA) is a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu. Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and Manu (R. Madhavan) have been married for four years now and they live abroad. They have fallen out of love and both visit a team of psychiatrists to see if there is a possibility to improve matters but as bad luck would have it, Manu is taken to be suffering from a mental disorder, by the team of doctors and, therefore, put in a mental asylum. The bold Tanu leaves him to fend for himself and returns to her parental home in India. She informs his friend, Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal), who lives in India, about Manu’s state.

Pappi reaches London and gets Manu released from the mental asylum and the two of them return to India. One day, quite by chance, Manu sees a look-alike of Tanu and mistakes her for his estranged wife. But she turns out to be Kusum alias Datto (Kangana Ranaut), who hails from Haryana and studies in Delhi. She is an athlete. Manu falls in love with Kusum due to her looks which resemble Tanu’s. Slowly but surely, Kusum also reciprocates even though she knows that he is a married man. Meanwhile, Manu has sent Tanu a legal notice more with the intention of initiating talks with her for a rapprochement. Tanu’s lawyer, without her knowledge, replies to that by sending Manu a legal notice for divorce. Tanu has, in the meantime, touched base with Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill) who was madly in love with her and had wanted to marry her.

As it turns out, Kusum alias Datto is to marry Raja Awasthi who has chosen her solely because she resembles Tanu. All hell breaks loose when Tanu learns of Manu’s plans to marry Kusum. She confronts both, Manu and Kusum, but is unable to stop the marriage.

What happens then? Does Manu marry Kusum? Or does Raja Awasthi succeed in stalling the wedding?

Himanshu Sharma has written an excellent story with twists and turns galore to keep the audience involved and engaged throughout the drama. The characterisations are superlative and nobody moves out of his character ever. Himanshu Sharma’s screenplay is extraordinary and is laced with excellent humour which keeps the viewers thoroughly entertained. The screenplay is so interesting, engaging and humorous that it appears to be almost flawless. The best part is that the screenplay involves audiences of every class and every age group and both, men and women. The opening scene itself is so interesting that the audience is completely taken in. The interval point is lovely and the second half also begins so brilliantly that it sets the stage for excitement galore once again. An enviable point about the screenplay is that it progresses very smoothly and there’s not a single scene which appears forced or out of place. Similarly, the entire drama unfolds so remarkably seamlessly that it doesn’t look one bit like it has been created! The simplicity and honesty with which the drama unfolds on the screen is yet another plus point. There are a number of scenes which remain with you long after the film is over. The opening scene of the film, the scene in which Kusum’s brother is prevented by another brother from setting Manu and Pappi on fire, the scene in which Tanu confronts Manu and Kusum, the scene in which Tanu, in a drunken state after the humiliation she faces in her confrontation with Manu and Kusum, roams around on the streets, the scene in which Tanu confronts Manu, the scene in which Manu and Kusum are getting married in the presence of Tanu, the entire sequence in which Kusum tries to help Pappi get the girl he loves, the scene in which Manu meets Raja Awasthi, the climax sequence…. the list is long, very long. Another fantastic point about the screenplay is that although Tanu and Kusum are on two different ends of the spectrum and Manu is at the centre, the audience’s sympathy goes to all three. That’s the victory of the writer!

Himanshu Sharma’s dialogues are gems. They go straight to the heart and strike a chord. If the witty dialogues evoke laughter, the weighty ones prompt the audience to clap. In fact, there are a number of clapworthy scenes as well as dialogues.

  1. Madhavan does a splendid job. Any actor could’ve easily gone overboard in the role, which would have reduced the impact of his performance, but R. Madhavan steers completely clear of overacting. As he has minimum dialogues to mouth, he has very intelligently used his body language, facial expressions and eyes to convey his feelings and his predicament and state of mind. Kangana Ranaut delivers yet another rivetting and award-winning performance, this time in a double role. So sensational is her acting that it is difficult or almost impossible to conclusively decide whether she is better as Tanu or Kusum. She gets into the skin of both the characters so effortlessly that it is difficult to imagine any other actress doing so as beautifully as her. With this film, Kangana proves that there is none quite as good as her. The Haryanvi language spoken by Kangana for Kusum’s character is lovely and is yet another plus point. If Kangana is endearing in light scenes, she is superb in emotional and dramatic ones too. Her dance in the ‘Banno’ song is memorable. The costumes worn by her as Tanu (designed by Reza Shariffi) are colourful and striking. Jimmy Shergill underplays marvellously as Raja Awasthi. He is very cute. Deepak Dobriyal deserves the highest praise for his endearing and entertaining performance as Pappi. He evokes laughter every time he comes on the screen and his sense of timing is outstanding. Swara Bhaskar shines as Payal. Although she gets limited scope, she leaves an indelible mark in people’s minds whenever she speaks. Eijaz Khan, as Payal’s Sardar-husband, provides good support. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub makes his presence felt just too beautifully in the role of Tanu’s lawyer. Rajendra Gupta is excellent as Tanu’s father. As Tanu’s mother, Navni Parihar is very good. K.K. Raina makes his mark as Manu’s father. Dipti Misra is also lovely in the role of Manu’s mother. Rajesh Sharma is just too good as Kusum’s brother. Rahul Shanklya (as Kusum’s brother who lives in Haryana), Deepak (as Aakash Dahiya in a special appearance), Guneet Kaur (as Komal whom Pappi loves), Manu Rishi (as lawyer Fazal) and the others lend able support.

Aanand L. Rai’s direction is superb. For one, his narrative style is simple and he caters to every class of audience. Secondly, he doesn’t let boredom creep in for even a minute. Thirdly, he has recreated the atmosphere of a family drama splendidly. Fourthly, the recreation of the various cities/towns/villages is first-rate. Fifthly, his narration is honest to the core. And sixthly, he has extracted great and noteworthy performances from out of his cast members. Music (Krsna, Tanishk-Vayu and Surj-RDB) is good but could’ve been better. Of course, the ‘Banno’ song (by Tanishk-Vayu) is a hit number. Lyrics (by Raj Shekhar, Vayu and Surj-RDB) are very meaningful. Song picturisations (by Bosco-Caesar and Saroj Khan) are good; the choreography of ‘Banno’ song is remarkable. Krsna’s background music deserves distinction marks. Chirantan Das’ cinematography is terrific. Javed-Eijaz’s action scenes are beautifully choreographed. Wasiq Khan deserves kudos for his production designing. Hemal Kothari’s editing is razor-sharp and the results are praiseworthy.

On the whole, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a sureshot super-hit film. It has entertainment for all sections of the audience and for all age groups. It also has tremendous repeat value. Ladies and youngsters, especially, will adore the film.

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Fox Star Studios and Phantom’s Bombay Velvet (UA) is the story of an ambitious young man, Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor), and is set in Bombay of 1950s and 1960s.

Balraj (master Yash Sehgal) starts out as a young pickpocket when he joins Chiman Chopra (master Siddharth Thakur). The two grow up to be criminals and are thick friends. Balraj is more ambitious while Chiman (Satyadeep Misra) is more careful. One day, businessman Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) takes Balraj under his wings and both, Balraj and Chiman, start working for him. Khambatta is a wheeler-dealer and an opportunist and sees potential in Balraj as an aide who would help him (Khambatta) realise his dreams of making fast and big money.

Khambatta opens a club, Bombay Velvet, for Balraj, whom he rechristens Johnny. Although the investment in the club is Kaizad Khambatta’s, Johnny is the de facto owner for the world.

Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma) is a club singer and she soon joins the Bombay Velvet club where she entertains customers. Rosie, a close accomplice of Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhry), has actually been planted in the club by Jimmy so that she can get her hands on the negative of an incriminating photograph taken by Johnny Balraj for Khambatta. The picture shows minister Rao Saheb Desai (Atul Shrivastav) in a compromising position with Khambatta’s own wife. The unscrupulous Khambatta had sent his wife to Desai and had asked Johnny Balraj to click their photographs in bed, so that he could use the same to blackmail him into giving the contract for developing parts of Bombay into a business district. While Johnny Balraj has given the pictures to Khambatta, he keeps the negative with himself so that he can someday blackmail Khambatta too. At Khambatta’s behest, Johnny Balraj also kidnaps trade union leader Deshpande (Sandesh Jadhav) who has been opposing the displacement of mills for the upcoming business district in Bombay.

While working at the Bombay Velvet club, Rosie falls in love with Johnny Balraj who also loves her. Rosie, therefore, refuses to oblige Jimmy Mistry and doesn’t give him the negative. Khambatta and Jimmy Mistry are old rivals and they both own newspapers. Another photograph of Khambatta hobnobbing with Bombay mayor Romi Mehta (Siddhartha Basu) and others, gets leaked to the media, much to the embarrassment of Khambatta. That’s when Khambatta accuses Rosie of being Jimmy Mistry’s mole and he asks Johnny Balraj to kill her.

Johnny Balraj carries out Khambatta’s order and plants a bomb in Rosie’s house but he saves her before the explosion, while planting another girl there so that it appears to the world, and to Khambatta, that Rosie has died.

Police officer Vishwas Kulkarni (Kay Kay Menon) is investigating the disappearance of trade union leader Deshpande and also gets involved in the Rosie murder case. He is also in charge of the disappearance of a photographer (Akash Vijay Dabas) who was last seen at Bombay Velvet club. Obviously, therefore, Vishwas Kulkarni interacts with Johnny Balraj. Meanwhile, Johnny Balraj has become over-ambitious now and wants a share in profits from the development contract bagged by Khambatta. Obviously, Khambatta is not happy with Johnny Balraj’s thinking.

Johnny Balraj and Khambatta now start working at cross-purposes. One day, Khambatta orders Johnny Balraj’s execution and asks the latter’s bosom pal, Chiman, to do the job. When he learns of this, Johnny Balraj is livid and thirsting for Khambatta’s blood. In the meantime, police officer Vishwas Kulkarni becomes aware that Johnny holds the key to a lot of criminal activity going on and is, therefore, hot on his trail. Khambatta, in any case, wants Johnny Balraj dead.

So what happens finally? Who kills whom and how?

The film is based on an original story by Gyan Prakash. The script has been written jointly by Gyan Prakash, Thani, Vasan Bala and Anurag Kashyap with additional writing by Gul Dharmani, Megha Ramaswamy and Anubhuti Kashyap. The story and screenplay are ridiculously weak and the first half actually tests the audience’s patience because it is not only disjointed but also moves at an excruciatingly slow pace. The speed picks up after the interval but the whole drama fails to involve the audience which, therefore, ends up only dispassionately watching it unfold. There is no sense of belonging which the viewers experience. Also, there is hardly a happy moment in the film or even an entertaining one. Every character is either a crook or has depression written on his/her face, making it seem like the world has no right people at all.

The second half of the film becomes like a routine vendetta drama seen in hundreds of earlier films. The whole track of development of Bombay city is so sketchily written that terms like Nariman Point and Backbay Reclamation will not even be understood by those living outside Bombay. In effect, the writers have treated the crux of the story so shabbily and so half-heartedly that their absolute lack of application of mind and slacker attitude is there for all to see. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that there are hardly any scenes which would bring even a smile to the viewer’s face, leave alone make him laugh. In other words, the drama and the whole atmosphere in which it unfolds, is morose and depressing.

The script is also one of complete convenience. Kaizad Khambatta is shown to be a smart wheeler-dealer but he is such an idiot that he blackmails the minister with pictures showing him (minister) in a compromising position with his (Khambatta’s) own wife. What if the minister were to turn around and tell Khambatta that in exposing him (minister), Khambatta also stood to be hopelessly exposed? Is Khambatta so hard-pressed for money that he can’t afford to pay a girl of easy virtues to share the bed with the minister if only for the purpose of clicking the photographs? Again, Khambatta is supremely smart but has no idea that a romance is brewing between Johny Balraj and Rosie right in his club! Johny Balraj announces to the world that Rosie is dead but loses no time in introducing her identical twin sister as if he is convinced that the world is full of dumb people who’d buy his story of twin sisters. Wouldn’t common sense prompt Johnny Balraj to keep Rosie or rather whom he calls Rosie’s twin, far from the prying eyes of the people who know him. All in all, the writers seem to be in a defiant mood and have gone ahead and done whatever has appealed to them without really caring for what the audiences would feel. There are stereotypes in Hindi cinema and there are stereotypical situations and characters, and if the large team of writers thought it would break the stereotypes, it ought to have come up with at least a sensible story. One cannot hope to break the stereotypes with a half-baked and absolutely dishonest script as that of Bombay Velvet. Dialogues, penned by the writing team, are good only at a few places. Otherwise, even they are routine and commonplace.

Before talking about the performances of the stars, let it be said that one expects nothing short of outstanding work from the actors in a film of the scale of Bombay Velvet, what with Rs. 90 crore having been spent on its making. But not a single actor stands out with a landmark performance. Ranbir Kapoor is good in the role of Johnny Balraj and puts in sincere work. He has taken care to look like a young man of the 1960s and his hairstyle suits him. Anushka Sharma’s only job in the film seems to be singing songs or crying. She is alright. Karan Johar performs fairly well as villain Kaizad Khambatta. Satyadeep Misra is earnest but doesn’t get a single meaty scene to show his talent. Kay Kay Menon is first-rate as police officer Vishwas Kulkarni. Siddhartha Basu has his moments as Romi Mehta. Vivaan Shah is okay as Tony. Sandesh Jadhav (in the role of Deshpande), Jagdish Rajpurohit (as commissioner of police), Remo Fernandes (as the Portuguese man), Akash Vijay Dabas (as the photographer), Denzil Smith (as Larsen), Vicky Kaushal (as Basil), Varun Grover (as the emcee), Shanti (as Khambatta’s wife), Sarika Singh (as Chiman’s wife), Prerna Tiwari (as Jimmy Mistry’s wife), Atul Shrivastav (as Rao Saheb Desai), master Yash Sehgal (as young Balraj), master Siddharth Thakur (as young Chiman) and baby Tanya Sharma (as young Rosie) lend average support. Raveena Tandon adds glamour value as the club singer. Others are alright.

Anurag Kashyap’s direction fails to cut the ice with the audience. Like the script, which has niche appeal, his narrative style will be liked by a very thin section of the audience only. For the large mass base of audience, the script as well as the direction would afford little excitement or meaning. Amit Trivedi’s music is another major minus point. The Jazz base of the music wouldn’t find favour with the youngsters. A couple of songs, particularly ‘Fifi’ (remixed by Mike McCleary) and ‘Mohabbat buri bimaari’ (also by Mike McCleary) and ‘Behrupiya’ (Amit Trivedi) are well-tuned but, as mentioned above, they have their limitations for the youth of today. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are alright. Choreography of the songs by Ashley Lobo is in keeping with the era in which the film is set. Amit Trivedi’s background music is appropriate. Rajeev Ravi’s cinematography is wonderful. Chuck Picerni Jr.’s action scenes are okay. Sameer Sawant’s art direction and Sonal Sawant’s production designing is excellent. Visual effects deserve special mention. Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker and Prerna Saigal leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Bombay Velvet is a colossal waste of money and resources. It is devoid of entertainment value and will, therefore, fail miserably at the box office. There is nothing velvet-like about it. Rather, it is as coarse as unprocessed jute.

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MSM Motion Pictures, Saraswati Entertainment and Rising Sun Films’ Piku (UA) is the story of a girl and her aged father, who live in Delhi. Piku (Deepika Padukone) lives with her aged father, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan). Her mother is no more and, therefore, the responsibility of looking after her father is hers. She divides her time between her work place and her home.

Bhaskor Banerjee has constipation problems and is, therefore, always frustrated. He is also a hypochondriac, fearing that he suffers from many diseases. Piku is fed up of her dad giving so much importance to the problem of his irregular and unpredictable bowel movements. Of course, she loves him which is why she has given up the thought of marriage although being of marriageable age. On his part, her father, selfish by nature, also does not want Piku to marry.

One day, Bhaskor Banerjee announces his decision to visit his home town, Calcutta, where his younger brother lives with his wife in their ancestral home. While Piku, practical as she is, wants that the ancestral home should be sold off, Bhaskor Banerjee won’t hear anything of that. Anyway, as per Banerjee’s wish, the father and daughter prepare to travel to Calcutta by road. Piku books the taxi of Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan). Since no driver of Rana is willing to drive Piku due to previous bad experiences, owner Rana himself doubles up as their driver.

During the journey, Rana realises how Banerjee’s life revolves around his bowel movements. Piku, who has been far from fond of Rana, becomes friendly with him during the journey. The friendship even turns to love after they reach Calcutta where Rana stays back for a couple of days. The Banerjees in Calcutta are also briefly joined by Piku’s maternal aunt, Chhobi (Moushumi Chatterjee). Meanwhile, Rana keeps recommending home remedies for Bhaskor Banerjee’s constipation problems. And then, it’s time for Rana to leave for Delhi.

What happens thereafter? Is Bhaskor Banerjee cured? Or does his constipation problem continue? Do Piku and Rana get married to one another?

Juhi Chaturvedi has written a very unusual story which uses an aged man’s bowel movements as the focal point. Although it looks too stretched at times, it is, nevertheless, very interesting for the class audience only. Juhi Chaturvedi’s screenplay is superb but again, it will be appreciated by the class audience, mostly in the big cities. Her screenplay is engaging and very entertaining for the target audience. The drama does take a dip a little before interval but it picks up again post-interval. Of course, the feeling that too much importance is being given to the topic of constipation (which, incidentally, is a very common problem) does irritate the viewers. The masses, especially those frequenting single-screen cinemas and those in the smaller centres, will find the drama as being a case of much ado about nothing. But the elite audience will feel greatly amused and entertained by the humorous screenplay. The subtle romantic track of Piku and Rana will be simply loved, again only by the niche audience. Juhi Chaturvedi’s dialogues are gems and serve to create a lot of humour, evoking smiles and laughter at a lot of places for the target audience.

Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan have all performed so wonderfully that their acting becomes a huge plus point. Amitabh Bachchan gets into the skin of the character he plays and delivers an unbelievably brilliant performance. His Bengali accent, his nuances, facial expressions and body language are all to die for. Deepika Padukone is outstanding in the title role. She is so natural that it doesn’t even look like she is acting. She shines in her role, and her dialogue delivery and facial expressions are mind-blowing. Irrfan Khan is also as natural as natural can be. He performs so excellently that he makes the character of Rana Chaudhary supremely lovable. His expressions, body language and dialogue delivery are outstanding. All in all, the three lead actors have delivered performances worthy of awards. Moushumi Chatterjee is very cute and endearing. Raghubir Yadav delivers a restrained performance as Banerjee’s doctor. Jisshu Sengupta lends decent support as Piku’s working partner, Syed. Balendra Singh is quite nice as Banerjee’s servant, Budhan. Swaroopa Ghosh has her moments as Piku’s paternal aunt. Sajal Bhattacharya makes his presence felt in the role of Piku’s paternal uncle. Nutan Mathur is first-rate as Rana’s overbearing mother. Prerna Chawla (as Rana’s sister, Ritu) and Rupsa Banerjee (as Eisha) are alright. Kanupriya leaves a mark in a brief role as Piku’s maid servant. Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (as Nobendu) and Akshay Oberoi (as Aniket), are adequate. Others provide the desired support.

Shoojit Sircar’s direction is sensitive and truly fantastic. He keeps the entertainment quotient alive right from the start till the end. But, like the script, his narrative style is so subtle that it would appeal to the classes only. Anupam Roy’s music is alright but no song is of the kind which will become popular. A couple of songs, of course, are tuneful. Manoj Yadav and Anupam Roy’s lyrics are fair but not easy on the lips. Anupam Roy’s background music is of a very fine standard. Kamaljeet Negi’s camerawork is splendid. Whether it is Calcutta, Delhi, Varanasi or Gujarat, he captures the locations in his camera rather wonderfully. Mansi Dhruv Mehta’s production designing is lovely. Chandrashekhar Prajapati’s editing is terrific.

On the whole, Piku has sectional appeal only. It is entertaining and very different from the usual commercial films but it will be loved by only the class audience and will, therefore, score in good multiplexes, mainly in the cities. But business in lesser multiplexes, single-screen cinemas and smaller centres will be low as the masses will not take to the drama. Its business will fall quite short of the investment made in the film. Release of one big film almost every week now will be a major factor to greatly limit the film’s box-office prospects.

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