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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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Bhansali Productions’ Gabbar Is Back (UA) is the story of one man’s fight against corruption. Aditya (Akshay Kumar) is a college professor who doubles up as a crusader under the name of Gabbar. He picks up corrupt government officers and metes out punishment to them by killing them for making life miserable for the common man with their corrupt ways of operating. He hangs the dead person, one at a time, in a public place and leaves enough evidence of why the government officer was killed. But nobody knows who Gabbar is. The police tries in vain to trace Gabbar.

Aditya has a back story which underlines why he turned a crusader. He lived happily with his wife (Kareena Kapoor) till one day his world and the building in which they lived came crashing down. His pregnant wife had died in that crash caused due to faulty plans of the building. The plans had been passed by corrupt government officials, thanks to greasing of palms by builder Digvijay Patil (Suman Talwar). Aditya takes the builder head on but the powerful Patil attacks him so brutally that he is presumed dead.

Aditya, however, is saved by a group of students who then join him in his fight against corruption. As luck would have it, Aditya alias Gabbar gets another chance to expose Digvijay Patil and the hospital run by his son. The public humiliation Patil faces because of Gabbar’s action is too much for Patil to bear. Having also lost his son in the scandal exposed by Gabbar, Digvijay Patil is now thirsting for Gabbar’s blood. And so, while nobody seems to know much about Gabbar, there is Patil as well as the police force waiting to pounce on him.

What happens thereafter?

The film is a remake of Tamil super-hit Ramanna. A.R. Murugadoss’ story is one which the common man can easily identify with because it deals with day-to-day issues affecting every human being. It is not novel because films like Singham and, more recently, Ungli, also tackled the problem of corruption but it is, nevertheless, relevant and interesting as well as engaging. The screenplay, penned by A.R. Muruga­doss, with additional screenplay by Rajat Aroraa, is very entertaining and involves the audience right from the word ‘go’. Of course, there are a few weak points, one of them being the lack of proper culmination of police constable Sadhu’s (Sunil Grover) track. Given the build-up of the track, it should have ended in something of great consequence but that doesn’t happen. In other words, the drama would have remained pretty much the same even without Sadhu’s involvement. But the few weaknesses in the script don’t adversely affect the entertainment quotient of the film which has action, melodrama and even some entertaining comedy. There are several scenes worthy of applause like the dead body sequence in the hospital, the scene in which CBI officer Kuldeep Pahwa (Jaideep Ahlawat) asks senior police officer Yadav (Jagdish Rajpurohit) to move and vacate his chair for his own driver!

Rajat Aroraa’s dialogues are like gems. They greatly enhance the impact of the drama and are clap-worthy at a number of places.

Akshay Kumar, in a get-up that’s a good change from his other films, acts with effortless ease. He gives his cent per cent to the character of Gabbar and performs very ably, never going overboard and never under-performing. Shruti Haasan (as Shruti) has a brief role but provides entertainment whenever she comes on the screen. Her Google talk is cute. Suman Talwar is effective as Digvijay Patil although, it must be said, a recognisable face and a known name would’ve added to the impact. Jaideep Ahlawat has his moments as CBI officer Kuldeep Pahwa. Sunil Grover makes his presence felt very well in the role of police constable Sadhu. Jagdish Rajpurohit is entertaining as police officer Yadav. Manoj Chandila is alright as Vikas Patil. Shivraj Wahekar (as police commissioner Pant), Rajiv Kacho (as Vishwas Sawant), Chandraprakash Thakur (as Thakur), Vikas Shrivastav (as a police officer), Fareed Ahmad and Shruti Bapna (as Lakshmi) lend very good support. Raj Singh (as Gabbar’s team mate, Govind) is nice. Krishna Raaz (as the poor woman), Jahangir Karkaria, Narendra Jetly and Jitendra Trehan (all three as doctors in Patil Hospital), Dr. Kumud Shaw (as Dr. Kumud), Akhil Oza (as the cashier in Patil Hospital), Deepak Dadhwal (as college principal), Sanjay Gurbaxani (as the corrupt district collector), Krunal Pandit (as tehsildar Sanjay Datar), Kanchan Pagare (as PWD officer), Pradeep Shukla (as home minister) and Pravina Deshpan­de (as Govind’s mother) are all effective.

Krish’s direction is very good. His narrative style is very crisp and it keeps the viewers involved all through, never giving them a dull or boring moment. The Telugu film director makes an imp­ressive Bollywood debut. Music (Chirantan Bhatt, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Manj Musik) is appealing but there is no chartbusting song. ‘Teri meri kahani’ (Chirantan Bhatt), ‘Aao raja’ (Yo Yo Honey Singh) and ‘Gabbar’ (Manj Musik) are popular songs. Lyrics (Manoj Yadav, Kumaar, Honey Singh, Manj Musik, Raftaar and Big Dhillon) are appropriate. Choreography of all the song-dances (by Bosco-Caesar, Brinda and Vishnu Deva) is eye-pleasing. Amar Mohile’s background music is lovely and heightens the impact of the drama. Nirav Shah’s cinematography is very good. Stunt Siva’s action and stunts would be simply loved by the masses and they are very effective for the kind of drama the film tackles. Tanushree Sarkar and Boishali Sinha’s production designing is of a good standard. Rajesh G. Pandey’s editing is very sharp.

On the whole, Gabbar Is Back is entertaining all the way. It will bring back the audiences to the cinemas and keep everyone smiling despite its high cost (approximate investment around Rs. 80 crore).

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Fox Star Studios India Pvt. Ltd. and Vishesh Films’ Mr. X (UA; 3D) is the story of an anti-terrorist agent, Raghuram Rathore (Emraan Hashmi). His girlfriend, Siya Verma (Amyra Dastur), also works as an anti-terrorist agent. The two plan to get married and live happily together. But one incident changes their lives forever.

Just a day before their wedding, their boss, ACP Bharadwaj (Arunodaya Singh), seeks their services. While Raghuram is deployed for chief minister Dwarkanath Dutta’s (S.M. Zaheer) security at a press conference along with other agents, Siya is sent to a hotel room to keep tabs on a terrorist putting up in the same hotel. To Raghuram’s horror, his boss asks him to kill the chief minister, failing which his men would kill Siya. Raghuram soon realises that Bharadwaj is hand-in-glove with the chief minister’s son, Aditya Dutta (Jignesh Joshi), who is the mastermind behind his own father’s killing.

Left with no alternative, Raghuram shoots down the chief minister in full view of the media persons and the murder is captured on camera. Bharadwaj’s stooges show Siya the breaking news on television about Raghuram gunning down the chief minister and she is devastated. Raghuram escapes after the murder but is soon caught and held captive in a chemical factory. Within minutes, the factory is blown up and Raghuram is presumed dead due to burns. But Raghuram survives.

He contacts his friend, Popo (Tanmay Bhat), who also works in the same anti-terrorist department. Popo takes him to his sister (Shruti Ulfat) who works in a laboratory. She gives him a liquid to consume, which cures Raghuram of the burns but he becomes invisible. Raghuram can now be seen only in daylight or in blue neon light.

It’s now revenge time. Raghuram targets Bharadwaj, Aditya Dutta and Tiwari (Susheel Pandey), one of Bharadwaj’s stooges. He kills Tiwari first, in his invisible avatar, calling himself Mr. X. He also meets Siya but does not reveal that Bharadwaj was involved in the chief minister’s murder. Siya, who had believed the news on television, realises that Raghuram had murdered the chief minister, who is said to be corrupt, so that he could save her life. While sympathising with him, she doesn’t agree with his plans to seek revenge as she feels that the law must take its own course. Unaware that Bharadwaj is responsible for Raghuram’s misery, she actually spills the beans about Mr. X’s identity before Bharadwaj.

Siya’s boss, Bharadwaj, now uses her to get to Raghuram. What happens thereafter? Who wins and who loses? Is Raghuram alias Mr. X able to prove his innocence? Does Bharadwaj have to pay for his evil deeds? Is the chief minister’s son, Aditya, made to pay for the murder he masterminded?

Vikram Bhatt has penned a story which doesn’t even pretend to be original or novel. Incidents unfold one after the other without involving the audience. Vikram Bhatt’s screenplay is an exercise in convenience. Raghuram opts to murder the chief minister to save his girlfriend, Siya. But is he such an idiot as to think that Bharadwaj would spare him and/or Siya after the murder he commits in broad daylight and in the presence of hundreds of media persons and cameras? Again, Raghuram could have easily told Siya when he meets her as Mr. X for the first time, that Bharadwaj is the man responsible for making him kill the chief minister, especially because she still works for him. But for absolutely no reason at all, he does not reveal Bharadwaj’s identity. Of course, this is just so that the drama can progress further and there can be some excitement when Siya spills the beans before Bharadwaj. But because the audiences immediately understand that Raghuram has withheld the identity of one of the persons responsible for the chief minister’s killing, they don’t experience the excitement they are supposed to when Siya reveals all to Bharadwaj. In fact, the entire revenge drama of Raghuram is full of holes in the script so that the audience disconnects almost completely from the drama. Clearly, the cheating in scripting is evident at every stage of the drama. Another example of the lack of application of mind while writing the script: much after Raghuram has killed the chief minister, it is mentioned merely in a dialogue that the chief minister was corrupt. This is, perhaps, just so that the audience may not feel that Raghuram (who is the hero) had murdered an innocent man. But if that is so, why are Bharadwaj, Tiwari and Aditya Dutta treated as villains? If Raghuram is a hero even after killing the chief minister, shouldn’t the three also be treated as heroes for getting a corrupt man killed?

Shagufta Rafique’s dialogues are routine and commonplace most of the time.

Emraan Hashmi does an ordinary job as Raghuram and Mr. X. Clearly, the lack of conviction in the script gets reflected in his performance too, which appears half-hearted. Amyra Dastur is also average, maybe partly because of the weak script. Arunodaya Singh’s performance as Bharadwaj is commonplace. Shruti Ulfat is earnest in a brief role. Tanmay Bhat is alright. Jignesh Joshi (as Aditya Dutta) and Susheel Pandey (in the role of Tiwari) leave their individual marks. Girish Pardeshi (as Amar), S.M. Zaheer (as chief minister Dwarkanath Dutta) and Atul Mathur (as the terrorist) do as required. Major Bikramjeet Kanwarpal is okay as Siya’s father.

Vikram Bahtt’s direction is very ordinary. Like the script, his narrative style is also lacklustre and offers no novelty whatsoever. The 3D shooting adds little to the film and seems to be a waste of expenditure. Jeet Ganguly and Ankit Tiwari’s music is alright. ‘Tu jo hai’, composed by Ankit Tiwari, is a hit song but the other songs are not as good. Lyrics (Rashmi Singh, Mohnish Raza, Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay and Manoj Muntashir) are nice. Raju Khan’s choreography is ordinary. Raju Singh’s background music is uninspired. Pravin Bhatt’s camerawork is so-so. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunt scenes are routine. Jayant Deshmukh’s production designing hardly deserves mention. Kuldeep Mehan’s editing could’ve been sharper.

On the whole, Mr. X is a clear case of a job done half-heartedly and without much conviction. It will fail to strike a chord with the audience and will, therefore, flop miserably at the box-office.

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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Trigno Media’s Dharam Sankat Mein (UA) is the story of a Hindu Brahmin, Dharampal (Paresh Rawal), who learns one day that he was born a Muslim and had been adopted by the Hindu Brahmin family. He is shocked and doesn’t know how to break this news to his wife and two grown-up children. All along, he has been very critical of Muslims but that’s now just a minor issue.The major problem is that his son, Amit (Manoj Sharma), is in love with a Hindu girl, Shraddha (Auritra Ghosh), whose father won’t agree to the marriage unless he is convinced that the groom and his family are religious-minded and ritualistic. Dharampal is neither. To get the father of Amit’s girlfriend agree to the wedding, Dharampal is forced to accompany his family to Godman Neelanand Baba’s (Naseeruddin Shah) ashram. He is also being tutored in Hindu religion and rituals by a priest.

Alongside this, he begins to learn about Muslim religion and rituals because he is keen to meet his biological father who is critically ill. The Imam (Murali Sharma) looking after the place where his father now lives, will not let Dharampal meet the father unless Dharampal learns about Muslim religion and rituals. And so, Dharampal takes lessons in Muslim religion, rituals and Urdu language from his neighbour, Mehmood (Annu Kapoor), who is a lawyer by profession.

Anyway, Dharampal’s secret is out one day, much to the shock and dismay of his family. His wife and children walk out on him. Obviously, his son, therefore, will not get to marry his girlfriend. On the other hand, the Imam is still not convinced that Dharampal can meet his biological father.

What happens thereafter? Does Dharampal’s family realise Dharampal’s predicament and return to him? Is his son able to marry the girl of his choice? Why is the Imam so resistant to the idea of Dharampal meeting his own father? Does Dharampal ultimately get to meet his biological father?

The film is an official remake of British film The Infidel, written by David Baddiel. Its screenplay has been written by Alpesh Dixit, Sanjay Sharma, Vijay Desai and Vedish Jhaveri under the supervision of creative consultant Kundan Shah. The script is far from convincing and is, in fact, nothing short of a shoddy job. Why Dharampal is so ashamed to tell his family about him being a Muslim is not explained. He may feel awkward, yes, but ashamed?!? After all, it is not a crime he has committed by being born a Muslim. It is also not as if he knew about it and hid this fact from his family. The whole track of Neelanand Baba is so tacky and irritating that it looks completely farcical, even for his staunch supporters. The need for Dharampal to be religious-minded and ritualistic is ‘created’ through dialogues rather than actual scenes of the girlfriend’s father, greatly diluting the seriousness of the issue. Again, the comedy that ought to have been created when Dharampal sets out to learn simultaneously about Hindu and Muslim religions and rituals is simply not created. An occasional laugh here and a smile there do not constitute comedy. The Imam’s real reason for precluding Dharampal from meeting his biological father is revealed only in the climax and that is so ridiculous that the audience remains unmoved. Besides, Dharampal’s exposé in the climax is so idiotic that it just doesn’t make sense. It almost looks like Dharampal’s ‘crime’ of being born a Muslim were reduced in impact simply because of his revelations or that if he hadn’t revealed what he does, he may never have been forgiven for being born a Muslim. The fact, however, is that the two are not connected at all and the writers have somehow tried to correlate the two – without much success, of course. The track of Neelanand Baba and Amit’s marriage look like a repetition of a similar track in PK – that too, a very poor copy.

All in all, the writers seem to be at sea in creating comedy. Consequently, many attempts at humour fall flat. Even the scenes which do make the audience laugh do not really add up to make the drama cohesive and fulfilling. One of the main reasons for this is that the writers seem to have penned the entire drama, except the climax, under the assumption that it is fine to be born a Hindu but definitely not so fine to be born a Muslim. While alienating the Muslim audience from the content, the film won’t even appeal to the non-Muslim audience because of the ridiculous premise! Many scenes are lengthy and boring. While some dialogues, penned by the writing team, are entertaining, the same cannot be said about all of them.

Paresh Rawal does a fine job of Dharampal but even he is not able to add more conviction to his character than the script which is rather weak. Annu Kapoor performs ably as advocate Mehmood and is very real. Naseeruddin Shah gets limited scope and is more caricaturish than believable. Alka Badola Kaushal is okay as Dharampal’s wife, Indu. Murali Sharma is alright in the role of the Imam. Mukesh Bhatt passes muster as the Hindu priest. Manoj Sharma (as Amit), Auritra Ghosh (as Shraddha) and Rushita Pandey (as Dharampal’s daughter, Antara) lend ordinary support. Gippy Grewal, Sophie Choudry and Hazel Keech (all three in special appearances) are okay. Suresh Venkataraman (as Neeleshwar), Jagdish Rajpurohit (as Bhatt), Jehangir Karkaria (as Hasmukh), Alka Mehta (as the bank manager), Gagan Gupta (as the magistrate) and the others lend very average support.

Fuwad Khan fails to impress in his debut attempt at direction. Neither has he been able to make the film a laugh-riot nor even a hard-hitting satire. Music (Meet Bros. Anjjan, Sachin Gupta and Jatinder Singh) is okay; no song is truly appealing. Kumaar’s lyrics are quite meaningful. Arvind Thakur’s choreography passes muster. Sachin Gupta’s background music is ordinary. Anshuman Mahaley’s cinematography is average. Javed-Aejaz’s action and stunt scenes are functional. Sukant Panigrahy’s production designing is routine. Editing, by Apurva Asrani, leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Dharam Sankat Mein is a very dull fare and its business prospects will be no better.

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T-Series and Paper Doll Entertainment’s Ek Paheli Leela (A) is a love story that spans 300 years. Meera (Sunny Leone) is a leading model from India but based in London. She has lost her parents in a plane crash which she survives and is, therefore, petrified of air travel. For this very reason, she suffers from depression and is on medication for the same.

In India, Karan (Jay Bhanushali) makes music. After shifting into his new home, he gets a scary dream every night about somebody whip-lashing another person, and he invariably breaks into a cold sweat. The visuals in his dream are not clear. At times, he notices that there are whip-lash marks on his back when he wakes up.

Karan’s sister, Radhika alias Ratz (Shivani Tanksale), is an ace photographer and she soon befriends Meera in London, courtesy event co-ordinator Andy (Andy). On Andy’s insistence, Ratz hoodwinks Meera into flying to India for a photo-shoot in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. Meera is very angry with Andy and Ratz but soon forgives them as she finds immense peace and solace in Rajasthan. She starts to dance and play with the local girls there, feeling a strange connection with them.

Meanwhile, the troubled Karan consults a tantrik who tells him that 300 years ago, Leela (Sunny Leone) and Shravan (Rajniesh Duggal) were madly in love with one another. But sculptor Bhairav (Rahul Dev) had fallen so much in love with Leela while making her statue that he had asked Shravan to leave him (Bhairav) and Leela alone while he completed the statue. As the tantrik is unable to continue the 300-year-old story after this point, he tells Karan to complete the love story in this life and tells him that he would get an opportunity to end his long wait, after which his frightening dream would not haunt him. He also tells Karan that the reason he has started to visualise the terrible dream only after moving into his new house is because there is some connection with the memories of the era gone by. Karan soon realises that the connection is a music record he possesses, which has Rajasthani music and which transports him to the same backdrop as he visualises in his dream every night. He, therefore, decides to go to Jaisalmer.

In Jaisalmer, in the present times, cousins Bikram Singh (Jas Arora) and Ranveer Singh (Mohit Ahlawat) are involved in a court case over the ownership of the house of sculptor Bhairav and the 300-year-old statue made by Bhairav, the whereabouts of which are unknown. Meera, who has come to Jaisalmer for the photo-shoot, ends up falling in love with and marrying Ranveer Singh and now lives with him happily in Jaisalmer. Bikram Singh lusts for Meera but there’s little that he can do.

Once Karan comes to Jaisalmer and visits Bhairav’s house, the subject matter of litigation between Bikram Singh and Ranveer Singh, he (Karan) is able to correlate his dream with what happened 300 years ago. He recalls that driven by the mad desire to possess Leela, Bhairav had killed Shravan with a whip-lash and hammer. Additionally, he had also pushed Leela to her death in sheer frustration. The installation of Leela’s statue that very day, 300 years ago, had, therefore not taken place.

Karan must now find the statue to attain freedom from the haunting dream. Does he find Leela’s statue?

In Jaisalmer, Karan is surprised to meet Meera who resembles Leela of 300 years ago. He tells Meera about his strange dream. He is now convinced that he was Shravan 300 years ago, and Meera was his Leela. Do Karan and Meera unite in this life?

Bobby Khan’s story is not completely novel as previous films of rebirth have tackled similar subjects. But since the story moves on various tracks, it does engage the viewers and also keeps them entertained. Jojo Khan has written an interesting screenplay which is fast-paced and has a number of twists and turns. Although there are several tracks on which the drama moves, the screenplay is not at all confused or confusing and is a rather neat job. Very intelligently, the writers have kept the sex element integral to the script by exposing Meera’s assets in her dances and photo-shoots. In other words, the sex quotient is exploited in Meera’s professional work. In the past life, Leela is shown wearing clothes which make her look sexy and reveal her anatomy to the hilt. Leela’s intimate scenes with Shravan and with Bhairav are also integral to the story. Likewise, the love-making scene between Ranveer Singh and Meera is integral to the drama. Another good part of Jojo Khan’s screenplay is that the locations have been made a very good part of the drama, whether they happen to be the streets of London or the deserts and havelis of Rajasthan.

The twist in the climax is the best part of the script and it comes as a shock to the audiences because they least expect it. In fact, the twist is so unique that the viewers can’t help but like it. Bunty Rathore’s dialogues are of a fine standard.

Sunny Leone acts well in both the roles – of Meera and Leela. She looks glamorous and sexy and actually springs a surprise with her performance. Her dances, of course, are sensuous. Her costumes are colourful and beautiful. Jay Bhanushali is good as Karan. Mohit Ahlawat is alright in the role of Ranveer Singh. Rajniesh Duggal looks the character he plays and comes up with a fine performance. Jas Arora looks very handsome (with beard and moustache) as Bikram Singh and he has performed ably. Rahul Dev is lovely as Bhairav. Shivani Tanksale makes her presence felt as Ratz. Andy is efficient and evokes laughter. Kulvinder Bakshish has his moments as Karan’s friend, Rajiv. Ehsaan Qureshi provides few light moments as Maan Singh. Nausheen Ahmed (as Ratz’s assistant, Candy), Girish Thapar (as Bikram Singh’s aide, Samar), Daniel Weber (as the pilot), Jitendra Baiswal (as the pandit), Arun Singh (as the tantrik) and the others lend able support.

Bobby Khan’s direction is decent. He adopts a simple narrative style which engages the audiences without confusing them or cluttering their minds. Also, he has made the film quite a visual treat for the viewers, thanks to the picturesque locations on which it has been shot, and the colourful costumes worn by the characters. His picturisation of the love-making and intimate scenes has aesthetic value. Music (Meet Bros. Anjjan, Amaal Malik, Dr. Zeus, Uzair Jaiswal and Tony Kakkar) is a major plus point. ‘Meri desi look’ is already a hit song. Other songs which are very appealing are ‘Saiyyan superhit’, ‘Khuda bhi’ and ‘Tere bin’. The ‘Dholi taro dhol’ song from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam has been effectively used. Other songs are quite nice. Lyrics (Kumaar, Manoj Muntashir and Tony Kakkar) are easy on the lips. Ahmed Khan has choreographed all the songs, except one (‘Ek do teen chaar’ which has been choreographed by Jojo Khan). All the song picturisations are eye-filling. Mannan Munjal’s background music is alright. It could have been better. Bashalal Syed’s camerawork deserves special mention. He has captured the locations and the actors on his camera aesthetically. Aziz and Shamshair’s action and stunts are quite good. Chetan Acharya and Yunus Khan’s production designing is of a fairly good standard. Nitin’s editing is fine.

On the whole, for the budget at which Ek Paheli Leela is made, it is entertaining and eye-filling. It has abundant sex and skin show, hit music, beautiful locations and colourful costumes, all of which make it a fine audio-visual presentation. It will prove to be a plus fare because of its medium investment (Rs. 17-18 crore) on the one hand and its fairly good initial on the other.

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