Sony Pictures Networks Productions and Cine 1 Studios’ Mubarakan (UA) is a comedy of errors.

Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor) is a Sikh settled in London. He has two brothers and a sister. One brother (Sanjay Kapoor) and his wife are killed in a road accident but the couple’s tiny twins have a miraculous escape. The two tiny tots become Kartar Singh’s responsibility but because he is unmarried, he gives one baby, Charan, to his other brother, Baldev Singh (Pavan Raj Malhotra), to raise, and the other baby, Karan, to his sister, Jeeto (Ratna Pathak Shah), to bring up. Charan grows up in Chandigarh in India as Baldev Singh runs a hotel, Purani Haveli, there. Baldev lives in Chandigarh with his wife (Geeta Agrawal Sharma) and daughter (Bhoomika Sharma). On the other hand, Karan is raised in London because Jeeto lives there with her husband (Lalit Parimoo) and daughter (Nikkita Chadha). Since Karan and Charan are identical twins, they grow up looking very similar. While Karan (Arjun Kapoor), raised in London, is flamboyant and outgoing, Charan (Arjun Kapoor) is shy and timid.

Karan has a girlfriend, Sweety (Ileana D’cruz), who lives in Chandigarh. Charan also has a girlfriend, Nafisa Qureshi (Neha Sharma), who is a lawyer and lives in Chandigarh too. Karan and Charan’s parents don’t know about their girlfriends. Charan, especially, is petrified of his strict father who would never allow him to marry a Muslim girl.

Karan is presently in India. His parents arrange for a meeting between him and Sandhu’s (Rahul Dev) daughter, Binkle (Athiya Shetty). But Karan somehow convinces his uncle in India, Baldev Singh, to finalise Binkle for Charan. Since Charan doesn’t have the courage to tell his father about his Muslim girlfriend, he has to accompany his father, Baldev Singh, to London. The entire extended family – including Kartar Singh, Jeeto and her husband – accompanies Baldev Singh and Charan to the Sandhus’ mansion. Charan confides in his uncle, Kartar Singh, about his Muslim girlfriend. Kartar Singh comes to Charan’s rescue by telling him to behave in a way that the filthy rich Sandhus would themselves reject him. While that does happen, the incident goes out of hand, as a result of which Jeeto and Baldev Singh end up fighting with each other because Jeeto holds Baldev Singh responsible for humiliating Sandhu whom she and her family are indebted to. Why, Jeeto even taunts Baldev Singh that he’d never get a girl like Binkle for Charan. This infuriates Baldev so much that he vows to get Charan married to a wonderful girl in a month’s time.

Charan and an embittered Baldev return to India. Back home, Baldev takes the marriage proposal of Charan to Mr. Gill’s (Gurpal Singh) home for his pretty daughter, Sweety. Of course, he is unaware that Karan is in a relationship with Sweety. Since both, Charan and Karan, accompany Baldev to Sweety’s house, Sweety initially thinks that the marriage proposal is for Karan.

In London, Jeeto finalises Karan’s marriage with Binkle. Both the weddings are slated for 25th December and neither Baldev nor Jeeto is willing to shift the date, due to ego problems. Kartar somehow convinces Baldev to have a destination wedding for Charan and Sweety in London as he is torn between brother Baldev and sister Jeeto and this is his only way to ensure that he could attend both the weddings.

The entire family meets in London a few days before the two weddings. The cold vibes between Baldev and Jeeto are evident but Baldev’s wife tries to maintain cordiality. Jeeto reciprocates but only upto a point. Sweety is nervous that if steps are not taken, she’d end up marrying Charan. Karan is stuck with Binkle. On her part, Bin­kle had fallen in love with Charan when they had met. To make matters worse, Nafisa Qureshi lands in London to ensure that Charan doesn’t marry any girl except herself. Kartar Singh is the only elder in the family who knows everything and he has a terribly tough time handling the whole situation and trying to come up with solutions.

Does Kartar Singh reveal the truth to Baldev and Jeeto? Whom does Karan marry – Sweety or Binkle? Whom does Charan wed – Binkle or Nafisa or Sweety? Do Baldev and Jeeto forget their ugly ego clash and make up with one another? What is Kartar Singh’s role in all this?

Balwinder Singh Janjua and Rupinder Chahal have written a hilarious story with umpteen turns and twists. The thread of comedy runs through the entire story which also has an undercurrent of emotions. Since the story has many twists, it keeps the audience thoroughly involved and engrossed, and because it is laden with humour, the story keeps the viewers completely entertained. Balwinder Singh Janjua and Gurmmeet Singh’s screenplay is excellent. It is so funny that it brings the house down with laughter at many places. The first half is so racy and fast-paced that the viewers end up laughing like crazy. The drama drops a bit after interval but picks up soon. Once the proceedings become funny again, the screenplay continues to make the audience laugh and even clap in sheer delight. The angle of the deceased brother coming in Kartar’s dream is a masterstroke from the screenplay point of view. Another brilliant angle is the full-blown emotional scene in the climax, which will make many in the audience cry and weep. Rajesh Chawla’s dialogues are so extraordinary that it wouldn’t be wrong to call him a hero of the film! Yes, the dialogues are indeed a pillar of the film.

Anil Kapoor proves yet again that given a good comedy script, there is nobody like him. To say that he is extraordinary would not be an exaggeration. His sense of timing is simply outstanding. He deserves full marks for carrying the film on his shoulders alongwith Pavan Raj Malhotra and Ratna Pathak Shah. Arjun Kapoor does a fairly good job as Karan and Charan. He does go overboard in the scenes in which he speaks in a squeaky voice when nervous. Ileana D’cruz looks glamorous and acts reasonably well as Sweety. Athiya Shetty has a tiny role and she is okay. Ratna Pathak Shah shines in a role that’s trailor-made for her. She is fabulous as Jeeto and qualifies to be called one of the pillars of the film, besides Anil Kapoor, Pavan Raj Malhotra, dialogue writer Rajesh Chawla and, of course, director Anees Bazmee. Pavan Raj Malhotra is mind-blowing in a role that requires loud and over-the-top acting. His sense of comic timing is flawless, his performance, terrific. In fact, he is so wonderful that the audience waits for him to come on the screen. Rahul Dev is suitably restrained as Sandhu. Karan Kundra is so good that he makes his presence amply felt amidst all the seasoned actors and stars. He deserves praise for his performance as Manpreet Sandhu. Neha Sharma, in a special appearance, is too good as Nafisa Qureshi. Sanjay Kapoor does justice to his character in a brief special appearance. Lalit Parimoo makes a mark as Jeeto’s husband, Paramjit. Gurpal Singh is very funny as Mr. Gill. Geeta Agrawal Sharma’s acting, as Baldev’s wife, is mature. Alexander Dolbenko, as Kartar Singh’s help, Jolly, is rather cute. Bhoomika Sharma (as Baldev Singh’s daughter, Baby), Nikkita Chadha (as Jeeto’s daughter, Nikki), Mohit Chhabra (as Billa), Monisha Hassan (as Mrs. Sandhu), Krishan Tandon (as the Babaji in the gurudwara in London) and the rest lend the required support.

Anees Bazmee’s direction is brilliant. He deserves extra praise for making a film for all types of audiences – multiplex-frequenting and single-screen cinema viewers, rich and poor, masses and classes, young and old, girls and guys. Family audiences will also love the narrative style. Anees is in top form! Music (Amaal Malik, Gourov-Roshin, Rishi Rich and R.D. Burman) is good but not a single song is a chartbuster. One or two hit numbers could’ve made a big difference. Kumaar’s lyrics are nice. Dance picturisations (by Ahmed Khan, Bosco-Caesar, Remo D’Souza and Anees Bazmee) are quite good. Amar Mohile’s background music has an enhancing effect on the scenes. Himman Dhamija’s camerawork is lovely. Production designing (by Durgaprasad Mahapatra) is of a very good standard. Sandeep Kurup’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Mubarakan is a definite winner at the box-office. It is an excellent entertainer which will fetch rewards for all concerned. But it must be added that its fullest potential will definitely not be realised because of big-budget and star-cast films releasing every week from next week onwards.

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Brillstein Entertainment Partners and KR Films Hollywood’s The Black Prince (English; UA) is the story of a boy king who was stolen from his home and must discover himself years later in order to regain the kingdom of Punjab.

Following the death of his father, Duleep, the boy king of Punjab, was separated from his mother in mid-19th century and brought to Britain to live with the British elite, the very people who claimed his kingdom as their own. The boy king grows up in Britain and instead of following Sikhism, he is made to embrace Christianity. Duleep (Satinder Sartaaj) is looked after well by Queen Victoria (Amanda Root).

Years after separation and decades before India achieved independence, Duleep yearns to meet his mother (Shabana Azmi). He comes to India for that. Rather than leaving his mother in British-ruled India, Duleep takes her to Britain alongwith him.

Duleep’s mother hates the British, and keeps reminding Duleep to reclaim his kingdom. But Duleep fails to act. One day, Duleep’s mother passes away in the foreign country. She is cremated in India but not in Punjab, as she had desired. Although Duleep tried his level best to perform her last rites in their native place, the political climate did not permit him to do so.

Haunted by his mother’s advice, Duleep finally decides to go to India and lay claim on his kingdom. He enlists the support of Sikhs in different parts of the world. But as bad luck would have it, he is not allowed to reach India. The freedom struggle has gained so much momentum that Duleep travels to various countries to accomplish his mission with help from those countries. But the British government in India pours water on his plans by arresting and killing Sikhs who were part of the uprising plan. Meanwhile, Duleep gets married to a foreigner and, some years later, to another foreigner.

But his dream to get back his kingdom from the Britishers remains just that as he can’t reach India. Finally, he breathes his last in 1893 in a hotel in Paris, impoverished and lonely. Of course, although he failed, his struggle inspired Sikhs to continue the fight for freedom until India got independence from British imperialism in 1947.  Duleep Singh’s final wish was denied even in death as he was buried like a Christian in an English countryside.

Kavi Raz’s story is basically that of a man who did not meet with success. Since the Hindi film-going audience is used to watching films of achievers and heroes, the story of a loser will not go down well with them as there is nothing in it to inspire them. The entire drama is depressing and saddens the viewers. Kavi Raz has penned a screenplay which has neither patriotic fervour nor an inspirational quality about it. Dialogues are okay.

Satinder Sartaaj does an average job as Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last king of Punjab. Shabana Azmi leaves an impact in the role of Duleep’s mother, Rani Jindan. Jason Flemyng is good as Dr. Login. Amanda Root delivers a fine performance as Queen Victoria. Keith Duffy makes his presence felt as Patrick Casey. David Essex is alright as Colonel Hurbon. Others are adequate.

Kavi Raz’s direction is okay. He has made the film more like a docu-drama, missing out on the emotional turmoil of the characters. The film, therefore, becomes a drama devoid of emotions. There are no light moments too. George Kallis’ background music is passable. Aaron C. Smith’s camerawork leaves something to be desired because a lot of scenes are too dark. Natalie O’Connor’s production design is fair. Editing (by Heidi Scharfe and Marc Cohen) ought to have been much sharper. Dubbing is appropriate.

On the whole, The Black Prince has no commercial or entertainment value and, as such, it will fail to perform at the ticket windows. But it will be liked by those who enjoy watching historicals.

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ALT Entertainment and Prakash Jha Productions’ Lipstick Under My Burkha (A) is the story of four women from a small town, and their fantasies.

Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a widow, way past her prime. For the outside world, she is the lady with religious and ritualistic leanings but she reads erotica on the sly. She finds a swimming coach, Jaspal (Jagat Singh Solanki), who is probably half her age, very desirable and tries to woo him to fulfill her sexual desires. Shireen Aslam (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a married woman but her orthodox Muslim husband, Rahim (Sushant Singh), doesn’t love her or care for her feelings. He uses her as a sex machine and, on the sly, has an extra-marital affair. Leela (Aahana Kumra), being raised by her mother (Sonal Jha), is due to be married to a boy, Manoj (Vaibhav Tatwawdi), who is not of her choice. She loves Arshad (Vikrant Massey), who is a still photographer, and even indulges in sex with him after her engagement. Rehana Abidi (Plabita Borthakur) hails from an orthodox Muslim family but is wild in her thoughts. She wants to become a singer but her parents won’t hear anything of that. Despite family restrictions, Rehana drinks, smokes, wears sexy clothes and even has a boyfriend in Dhruv Bose (Shashank Arora).

The film traces the brief journeys of the four women who are unrelated to each other but whose paths meet at some point.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s story is bold yet depressing. Since all the four women don’t achieve what they desire, it leaves the audience dissatisfied. But the class audiences would appreciate the unusual and rather bold story and they would not really mind the fact that the four ladies have to ultimately resign to their respective fates and can’t be successful. The screenplay by Alankrita Shrivastava, with additional screenplay by Suhani Kanwar, is interesting in parts. However, the screenplay does not give the viewers a major high in spite of being so bold. And the reasons for this are varied. One doesn’t sympathise completely with Shireen because quite early on in the drama, one gets the feeling that she is a very smart lady, capable of having her way. Buaji’s character does not evoke sympathy because the viewers know that her sexual fantasies would never be fulfilled as her one-sided affair with the swimming coach rests on a foundation built on lies and deceit. No doubt, the elite audience would overlook the aforementioned ‘shortcomings’ but the masses wouldn’t. Likewise, in the case of Leela, the traditionally inclined viewers would find her sexcapades with the photographer, after her engagement with Manoj, unpardonable. But again, the city folk would have no such moral issues. Another major point about the drama is that there is no happy character in it, everyone is either unhappy or sad or depressed or bogged down by pressures of life or made a fool of. That may be the reality but a large chunk of the audience is used to watching films about happy people. This is one more point which dramatically reduces the film’s appeal to the elite and classes only.

Probably, the put-downer in a bold film like this is the climax in which the women are shown to have been unsuccessful in their quests. Even the class audience would’ve preferred a happier ending, given the nature of the drama. Having said that, it must be added that the audience which looks for realistic endings in films, would get what it wants in the climax. Gazal Dhaliwala’s dialogues are bold and complement the drama well enough.

Konkona Sen Sharma is excellent in a difficult role which she handles with the ease of a seasoned artiste. Ratna Pathak Shah is very good but does go overboard in a couple of scenes. Aahana Kumra is natural to the core and shines. Plabita Borthakur does a splendid job and lives the character of Rehana. Sushant Singh is simply remarkable and conveys a lot without having too many dialogues. Vikrant Massey is wonderful as the still photographer. Vaibhav Tatwawdi has his moments in the role of Manoj. Shashank Arora makes his presence amply felt with his realistic performance as Dhruv Bose. Jagat Singh Solanki (as swimming coach Jaspal) and Sonal Jha (as Leela’s mother) lend decent support.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s direction is mature. Zabunnisa Bangash’s music and Anvita Dutt’s lyrics go well with the film’s mood. Background music (by Mangesh Dhadke) is fair. Ranjit Dev’s choreography is functional. Cinematography (by Akshay Singh) is praiseworthy. Vikram Singh’s production designing is appropriate. Charu Shree Roy’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Lipstick Under My Burkha is bold and will be liked by the class audience. Its appeal is restricted and it will do well in select multiplexes of the big cities.

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Eros International and NextGen Films’ Munna Michael (UA) is the story of Munna Michael who is passionate about dance and is a huge Michael Jackson fan.

Michael (Ronit Roy) lives in Bombay and is a fantastic dancer. He idolises Michael Jackson. After doing very well for himself for many years, he is one day shown the door because he has become outdated. Obviously, he is crest-fallen. On the same day, he finds a new-born child abandoned in a dust bin, and brings him home. He christens the child Munna and raises him as his own son.

Munna Michael (Tiger Shroff) grows up to be as passionate about dance as Michael. But Michael doesn’t want Munna to pursue dancing as a career because of his bitter memories of the abrupt end to his own career. On his part, Munna can think of nothing but dance.

One day, Munna defeats and insults a young boy in a discotheque, because of which the influential boy ensures that Munna is debarred from every discotheque and club in the city. Munna, therefore, shifts base to Delhi, giving the impression to his father that he was going to the capital city to take up a job in a corporate set-up. Munna wants to earn a lot of money for the medication of his dad who has been diagnosed with a deadly disease.

In Delhi, Munna gets into a fight with Balli (Pankaj Tripathi) in a discotheque. As it turns out, Balli is the brother of Mahindar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who is an underworld don of sorts. Swearing revenge, Mahindar meets Munna but is soon bowled over by his dancing. Since the married Mahindar is in love with a dancer, Dolly (Nidhi Agerwal), he pleads with Munna to teach him to dance as he feels, he would be able to woo Dolly if he mastered the art of dancing.

Since Munna is in need of big money, he begins to teach dance to Mahindar. Over a few days, Mahindar and Munna become very close to one another and are as good as brothers now. Munna meets Mahindar’s weakness, Dolly, and before long, he starts falling in love with her. Dolly also loves Munna.

One day, Dolly runs away from Delhi. A manhunt is launched for her but when she can’t be traced, Mahindar sends Munna to Bombay to track her down and bring her to him. Mahindar is clueless about Munna and Dolly’s fondness for one another. Aware that she was to take part in a dance show on television, Munna locates Dolly in Bombay. The two are happy in each other’s company. Dolly is doing very well in the dance show and has been clearing elimination rounds. She reveals to Munna that she had to make it to the final round to prove to her father that the career she wants to opt for was not wrong. Meanwhile, Munna has never so far mentioned to Dolly that he, too, is an extraordinary dancer.

Soon, Mahindar gets to know that Munna is hiding Dolly from him. He abducts Munna’s ailing father and gives Munna a notice of just 24 hours to hand over Dolly to him and take away his father in return. If Munna returns Dolly to Mahindar, her dream of proving herself before her father would remain unfulfilled as the final round is still a few days away. On the other hand, if he doesn’t take Dolly to Mahindar, his own father’s life would be in danger.

So what does Munna do? Does he let Dolly realise her long-cherished dream or does he stop her so that he can save his own father’s life? Does Dolly participate in the finals or not? If not, why not? If yes, does she win? Does Munna adopt a constructive or destructive approach? Does Dolly get to know about Munna’s dancing brilliance? Does she enlist Munna’s support for her dance competition? Does Dolly marry Munna or Mahindar?

Vimmi Datta has penned a very routine story which borrows liberally from films of the past. There is no novelty in the story which sometimes reminds of R… Rajkumar. The basic point of the girl’s approval for marriage is overlooked till the climax. And this point is introduced in the end in such a way that it appears as if the point is the trump card! The audience wonders how Mahindar and Munna never thought of it beforehand as it is such a basic point!

Since Munna and Mahindar are like brothers, there is no real antagonist for the hero, for a good part of the drama. Vimmi Datta’s screenplay caters to the masses but it won’t appeal to the classes and the multiplex-frequenting audience. The unfortunate part is that Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays a key role in the film, has a huge following among the multiplex audience. Actually, the screenplay is so designed that the scenes will be liked by the single-screen cinema viewers but they would find minimal acceptance among the multiplex audience. Dolly’s silence even after being aware that Mahindar is in love with her is baffling, to say the least. Why would any girl, with her silence, lead on a guy if she is not in the least interested in him? What’s worse is that she doesn’t even discuss this point with Munna whom she is in love with. Again, for Mahindar to assume that he could easily woo Dolly by his dance even though she is not interested in him is the height of foolishess. In the climax, Munna’s dance looks out of place because Dolly – rather than Munna – is in competition. But it must be added here that the masses wouldn’t care much for the screenplay; they would feel entertained with the good doses of dances and action, provided regularly. While on this point, it must be explained that the screenplay seems to have been written in a formulaic manner – dance, followed by action, followed by dance, followed by action, and so on and so forth – rather than in a free-flowing drama.

Although a love story, the romantic track is not too heart-warming. Mahindar’s comedy is entertaining but again, for the masses rather than the classes. Emotions are completely missing. Action and dances are abundant.

Vimmi Datta’s dialogues are good at places.

Tiger Shroff shines in dances and action sequences but gets limited scope to act. Even otherwise, his mediocre acting is overshadowed by his dances and stunts. Nidhi Agerwal looks quite good, dances well and is a fair performer in her debut film. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is terrific as Mahindar but making him a dancing villain will not go down too well with his hardcore fans. Ronit Roy is good in a light role as Michael. Pankaj Tripathi has his entertaining moments in the role of Balli. Paresh Shirodkar, Bikram Swain, Jueili Vaidya and Ashish Kanojia (all four as Munna’s fast friends) lend ordinary support. Farah Khan, Chitrangda Singh and Shaan, as judges of the dance show, add star value. Shenaz Treasury and Karan are good as hosts of the dance show. Anas Chaudhary (as Michael’s friend), Hitesh Sejpal (as the Parsi doctor), Shreeradha (as the airhostess), Richa Rai (as Mahindar’s wife), Lata Shukla (as Mahindar’s mother), Sunny Charla (as Mahindar’s father) and the others provide the necessary support.

Sabbir Khan’s direction is ordinary. He has concentrated mainly on the single-screen cinema audiences while not caring for what the multiplex viewers want. Music (Meet Bros., Tanishk Bagchi, Pranaay, Vishal Mishra, Javed-Mohsin and Gourov-Roshin) is very good. ‘Main hoon’ (by Tanishk Bagchi), ‘Ding Dang’ (by Javed-Mohsin) and ‘Beparwah’ (by Gourov-Roshin) are hit numbers. A couple of other songs are also appealing. Lyrics (by Kumaar, Danish Sabri, Sabbir Khan, Pranaay and Tanishk-Vayu) go with the film’s mood. Ganesh Acharya’s choreography is excellent. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background music should’ve been more forceful. Hari Vedantam’s cinematography is good. Action scenes (by Anl Arasu and K. Ravi Verma) are excellent for the masses. Rajat Poddar’s production designing is fair. Manan Sagar’s editing is reasonably sharp.

On the whole, Munna Michael has entertainment for the single-screen cinema audiences but not much for the multiplex audiences. As such, it will not be able to reach the safety mark without the full support of multiplex viewers.

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Anticlock Films and WSG Pictures’ Shab (A) is a story which moves on several tracks.

Sonal Modi (Raveena Tandon) is not too happy with her businessman-husband, Vivek Modi (Sanjay Suri), and seeks comfort in the arms and beds of other men. One such man, whom she treats as a toy boy, is Mohan (Ashish Bisht). She had first met Mohan when she was judging a contest to select models. Mohan had failed the contest but had managed to win Sonal’s heart. So that she could be with him, Sonal had appointed him as a personal trainer and had even changed his name to Azafar.

Azafar soon realises that Sonal was only using him while having her share of fun with other men. He is disillusioned and finds solace in the company of Afia (Arpita Chatterjee). Afia has her own back story. She has a sister who doesn’t quite respect her. She runs a restaurant with Neil (Areesz Gandhi). Neil, too, has a story of his own. He is in a gay relationship with a young man, Nishant (Shray Rai Tiwari), who ditches him, then returns to him, and then ditches him to finally marry a girl. Neil initially finds it difficult to get over Nishant but finally does when he meets Afia’s neighbour, Benoit (Simon Frenay), a French guy, who agrees to be his partner in bed.

Azafar ultimately also loses Afia because she decides to settle in France alongwith her sister. Azafar is also horrified to know the truth about Afia. What exactly is the truth about her?

Merle Kröger and Onir have written a story which is intriguing but also confusing. There are too many interrelated tracks in the story and although they are fairly interesting, they give the feeling that they are leading to nowhere. The duo’s screenplay engages the audience upto a point but the fact that almost every character is either unhappy or depressed doesn’t make for happy viewing. The drama is of the kind that would appeal to the festival circuit audience mainly. Even the ending will be found to be anything but satisfying because hardly any character in the drama gets what he/she desires. Adhiraj Singh’s dialogues are alright.

Raveena Tandon acts well. Ashish Bisht makes a fair debut and suits the role he plays. Arpita Chatterjee is quite alright. Areesz Gandhi acts ably. Simon Frenay makes his presence felt. Sanjay Suri lends able support. Raj Suri has his moments as designer Rohan. Shray Rai Tiwari, Anika Tandon (as Afia’s sister, Anu) and the others lend adequate support.

Onir’s direction goes with the drama but his quest to be different limits the appeal of his narration. The emphasis on gay characters and male body ex­posure will not go down well with many among the audience. Mithoon’s music is very good. Each of the songs has appeal. Lyrics (Amitabh S. Verma and Mithoon) are rich. Shashwat Srivastava’s background music is fair. Sachin K. Krishn’s camerawork is praiseworthy. Dhanya Pilo’s production designing is okay. Editing (by Onir and Irene Dhar) is suitably sharp.

On the whole, Shab has such limited appeal that it will go largely unnoticed except in a handful of cinemas in the country.

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UTV Motion Pictures and Pictureshuru Entertainment’s Jagga Jasoos (UA) is the story of detective Jagga, narrated like a musical opera.

Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is a detective, who studies in school. An orphan, he has been raised by Tooti Footi Bagchi (real name Badal Bagchi; Saswata Chatterjee). Right from childhood, Jagga has been stammering. As a child, Bagchi had explained to him that those who stammer while talking don’t stammer while singing, and so, he should sing to express himself uninhibitedly. In fact, Jagga has gotten over his problem to a large extent by singing more than talking.

Unknown to little Jagga, Bagchi had been an eyewitness to arms being airdropped at Purulia in West Bengal. In fact, it was soon after witnessing the airdrop of arms by illegal arms dealer Bashir Alexandra that Bagchi had been seriously injured by the wrongdoers and saved by little Jagga. Bagchi had adopted Jagga soon after recovering. Bagchi had gone away after some time, promising to return.

But years had passed and Bagchi hadn’t returned. Jagga’s only connection with Bagchi over the years had been the annual wishes which the latter used to send him on his birthday. Jagga had grown up to be a handsome young lad who was a sharp detective.

One day, Jagga meets Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif), a journalist by profession. Shruti has written a couple of articles against illegal arms trading and is being hunted by the arms traders. Her fiancé, also a journalist, had to pay with his life for exposing the arms mafia. Shruti has come to Jagga’s town from Calcutta in connection with the arms story and has, therefore, put her life in further danger. She is framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and Jagga comes as a saviour in her life. Shruti is so indebted to Jagga for coming to her rescue when she was arrested that she promises to help him if he ever needed her.

It is Jagga’s birthday and for the first time in many years, the postman doesn’t bring Bagchi’s wishes. Jagga is sad and fearful about Bagchi’s well-being. And then comes the news that Bagchi is dead. Intelligence officer Sinha (Saurabh Shukla), for whom Bagchi used to work, had actually ordered his men to kill Bagchi after he (Bagchi) had delivered a VHS casset­te which would expose the illegal arms dealers. But in a case of mix-up, Bagchi had delivered the tape containing his birthday wishes for Jagga, to Sinha. An exasperated Sinha is sure that the VHS cassette with the incriminating evidence would be with Jagga and so he contacts him. But Jagga does not have the tape. In his meeting with Sinha, Jagga gets a clue which convinces him that Bagchi isn’t dead.

He takes Shruti and goes to foreign land Mombaka in search of Bagchi whom he considers his father. He takes Shruti along because like Bagchi, Shruti is also clumsy, and Jagga has seen that Shruti makes the same mistakes as Bagchi used to make when he (Jagga) was a kid. This similarity as also the fact that both, Bagchi and Shruti, are born unlucky convince Jagga that Shruti would prove to be an asset in tracking Bagchi.

From Mombaka, Jagga and Shruti go to Sundi in search of Bagchi. They are shocked to see that Sundi is the hub of illegal arms trading. The arms mafia is busy replacing Christmas goodies, meant to be airdropped by the Pope, with guns and other arms and ammunitions. Jagga resolves to stop this and expose the illegal arms trade while tracing his father.

Do Jagga and Shruti succeed in their mission? Does Jagga unite with Bagchi?

Anurag Basu’s story is different from the usual romantic or even detective films. This is designed as a fantasy drama and written like an opera. And that is the unfortunate part – because fantasies are often not accepted by the audience, and a musical opera is almost an alien concept for the Indian viewers. The structure of the story and the screenplay (also written by Anurag Basu) is such that they don’t reveal everything in one go. Who is Bagchi, whom does he work for, who is Sinha, why did Sinha ask his men to kill Bagchi, who is Bashir Alexandra – all these questions are answered much after they crop up in the minds of the audiences. The drama, therefore, tests the viewers’ patience because nobody enjoys watching a film with so many questions remaining unanswered for a long time. Perhaps, the most terrible part of the story and screenplay is that Jagga sings while he speaks and so do several other characters while interacting with him. Even this experiment may have worked if the singing was used within bear­able limits and if the film was not made on such a huge canvas. But to expect the audience to lap up so much singing and senseless rhyming, that too, in a big film such as this, is nothing but foolhardiness. What’s more, the drama seems to be so stretched that the viewer actually feels exasperated and completely helpless.

Since Jagga is much younger than Shruti, there is no romantic angle between them through most of the film. The comedy is kiddish and so, it may be liked by only the kid audience. Emotions totally fail to touch the heart.

Samrat Chakraborty’s dialogues are hardly funny. As for the song-dialogues, penned jointly by Amitabh Bhattacharya, Anurag Basu, Samrat Chakraborty and Debatma Mandal, they are not half as interesting as they should’ve been.

Ranbir Kapoor acts ably and sincerely but he ought to realise that if he continues to associate with such trash subjects as Jagga Jasoos (and Bombay Velvet, Besharam etc.), even his fantastic acting will not win him fans. Rather, he may lose his fan following if he doesn’t select the right script. One more point – Ranbir has been made to stutter way too much for the first alphabet, making it look gimmicky rather than natural. Katrina Kaif is cute and performs well. But a few of her dialogues are not dubbed in her voice. It is an ear-sore to find her dialogues in the same scene dubbed partly by her and partly by a dubbing artiste! Saswata Chatterjee is very good as Tooti Footi Bagchi or Badal Bagchi. Saurabh Shukla fails to impress, probably due to uninteresting characterisation. Master Saravajeet Tiwari has his moments as little Jagga. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has nothing to do except make an appearance in the final scene. Chitrak Bandopadh­yay (as Debu), Sayani Gupta, Md. Sarwar Mir, Denzil Smith, Bijou Thaangjam, Rajatava Dutta and the others lend the necessary support.

Anurag Basu’s direction leaves a lot to be desired. What comes out loud and clear in the film is his over-indulgence. He has committed a blunder by making an ‘opera film’, that too, at an investment of around Rs. 125 crore (including promotion and marketing)! This is one very expensive experiment which will cost him and all the others associated with it dear. Pritam’s music is very good. Two songs – ‘Galti se mistake’ and ‘Ullu ka pattha’ – are very well-tuned. A couple of other songs are good. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are so-so. The picturisations of ‘Galti se mistake’ and ‘Ullu ka pattha’ songs are eye-filling but because the rest of the film is so bad, the choreography (by Shiamak Davar; additional choreography by Vijay Ganguly and Ruel Dausan Varindani) looks like a mismatch. Pritam’s background music could’ve been better. S. Ravi Varman’s cinematography is splendid. Locations are simply terrific. Allan Amin’s action scenes are good. Production designing (by Rajat Poddar and Parijat Poddar) is of a fine standard. Ajay Sharma’s editing ought to have been sharper. Frankly, so much footage is used to establish things that major chunks of the film could have been deleted to advantage.

On the whole, Jagga Jasoos is a very costly experiment and a classic case of over-indulgence in a film which hardly has audience to lap it up. It is a terrible waste of resources and it should never have been made in the first place – at least and definitely not at the cost at which it has been made. At the box-office, the film will prove to be a major debacle and will be remembered as a blot on the reputations of all the people connected with it.

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Zee Studios, BSK Network & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., MAD Films and Naresh Agarwal Films’ Mom (UA) is a thriller-cum-family-drama.

Devki Sabarwal (Sreedevi Kapoor) is a school teacher who lives with her husband, Anand (Adnan Siddiqui), step-daughter, Arya (Sajal Ali), and little daughter, Priya (Riva Arora). Arya is unable to accept Devki as her mom as she misses her own mother a great deal. Because Arya studies in the school in which Devki teaches, she addresses her step-mother as Ma’am rather than mom – even at home, much to the discomfort of Anand and Devki. On her part, Devki loves Arya and Priya equally and tries her level best to come closer to an unrelenting Arya.

Devki, Anand and Arya are devastated when a horrifying incident with far-reaching ramifications takes place. The criminals responsible for the wrong perpetrated on Arya are four in number. Devki and Anand drag the four of them to court but they are acquitted, simply due to lack of enough evidence.

Devki and Anand are distraught. They feel helpless because they know, justice has been denied to them. Even the investigating police officer, Matthew Francis (Akshaye Khanna), is shocked at the court verdict. As for Arya, the defeat in the court battle shatters her completely, weaning her away from Devki even more. It is now clear that Devki would never be able to win Arya’s love and respect.

Having lost all faith in the law and the judiciary but not being able to forget the trauma the family has gone through – and is still going through – Devki approaches a private detective, Dayashankar Kapoor (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). With his help, she decides to mete out justice to the four persons who had wronged Arya. But the watchful eyes of Matthew Francis don’t let her go about her task in peace.

So what happens finally? Does Devki avenge the crime committed on step-daughter Arya by the four per­ sons? What is Matthew Francis’ stand? Is Devki able to win Arya’s love and respect?

Ravi Udyawar, Girish Kohli and Kona Venkat have written a story from the heart. The thriller part of the story may not boast of novelty but it has the additional track of the relationship between a young girl and her step-mom, which gives it a new edge. The screenplay, penned by Girish Kohli, is outstanding and almost flawless. Kohli is in complete command as he sets out to write a drama which then becomes engrossing, engaging and interesting. There are such poignant and intelligent moments in the screenplay that one can’t help but marvel at Girish Kohli’s writing. Note, for instance, the scene in which Devki tells husband Anand that with the horrific incident, all her chances of winning over Arya had been destroyed. This one scene gives Devki two solid reasons to set out on the path of revenge, instead of just one – the crime committed by the four persons on Arya, and her own (Devki’s) personal loss of never being able to find acceptance from Arya. Note again, the trigger point for Devki to feel cent per cent inclined to seek revenge – when Dayashankar Kapoor tells her that it is because God can’t be present everywhere that he had made mothers! Truly speaking, it is Girish Kohli’s inspired writing and the intelligent juxtapositioning of the thriller and the family drama, which make the screenplay so brilliant that the audience doesn’t get bored for a single minute. Yes, the courtroom drama could have been more exciting but that’s a minor aberration.

Another beautiful point about Kohli’s screenplay is that every character in the plot is well-defined and never deviates. Yet another plus point is the speed with which Girish Kohli establishes the relationships in the first 10-15 minutes and also the fast pace of the drama. Not giving Arya a single dialogue to utter in the second half till the fag end, also shows the intelligence of the writer. A few scenes are emotional. The entire drama shakes the viewers and keeps them hooked completely. Climax is exciting, and the scene in which Matthew Francis offers to overlook law will meet with applause.

Girish Kohli’s dialogues are excellent at places but not consistently so.

Sreedevi is outstanding in the role of Devki. She is so much in character that her performance becomes one of her best to-date in her long and chequered career. Her breakdown in the hospital ICU, when the doctor gives her a devastating piece of news, is so outstanding that it could easily go down as one of the most memorable melodramatic scenes in world cinema history and not just Bollywood history. Her breakdown again while she is talking to hubby Anand (who is in the USA) in a completely incoherent manner is so wonderful that it makes the audien­ce stare in disbelief. Her acting in the scene in which she traces her steps backwards to abide by the demands of a devastated Arya, as conveyed by her screams, is mind-blowing. Sreedevi is bound to win awards galore, besides acclaim, for her performance which could rate among the best performances in world cinema.

Sajal Ali, in the role of Arya, is outstanding. Her expressions and body language are to die for. The girl is so intelligent that she makes a distinction between how she insults her step-mother in front of her father and in front of her friends. Note also her acting (without speaking a single word) when she has to convey absolute hatred towards her step-mother, after losing the court battle. In one word, she is phenomenal! She looks pretty too. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, in a special appearance, proves that a great actor can leave a mark in any role, immaterial of the length. He is so entertaining that it’s a delight to watch him whenever he comes on the screen. Truly, a memorable performance by the hugely talented Siddiqui. Akshaye Khanna lends tremendous support in the role of police inspector Matthew Francis. Adnan Siddiqui gets limited scope but provides decent support as Anand Sabarwal. Abhimanyu Singh is menacing as Jagan Singh. He uses his eyes intelligently to convey his unbridled power and villainy. Adarsh Gourav Bhaghvatula is promising in the role of Mohit Chaddha. Vikas Verma makes his presence amply felt as Charles Deewan. Pitobash Tripathi has his moments as Baburam Pandey. Riva Arora is cute as Priya Sabarwal. Yuvraj Bajwa leaves a mark as Rashid, the deputy of Matthew Francis. Rajshree Deshpande (as Dayashankar’s wife) and Saiba Kapoor (as Dayashankar’s daughter) are adequate. Naresh Gosain (as Dayashankar’s client), Ivan (as the school principal) and the rest do as desired.

Ravi Udyawar’s direction is fantastic. His understanding of the medium is superb and his handling of the sensitive subject is truly remarkable. Udyawar seems to be a supremely talented director to have debuted the way he has with this film. A.R. Rahman’s background music deserves the highest praise for enhancing the impact of the scenes. The background score is one of the strong pillars of the film. A.R. Rahman’s music is good while Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are splendid. But the songs are not of the hummable variety. Anay Goswami’s cinematography, with additional cinematography by Ralph Kaechele, is terrific. The duo deserves a lot of praise for its slick camerawork. The picturisation of the scene in which the devastating incident happens is masterly. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are lovely. Ajay-Vipin’s (Patanga Art) art direction is appropriate. Monisha R. Baldawa deserves kudos for her sharp editing.

On the whole, Mom is a beautifully written and excellently directed film with landmark performances by its cast. It will appeal to the audience and emerge victorious at the box-office despite its terribly slow start and high cost of production (total investment: Rs. 41 crore). Its word of mouth will be very strong.

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