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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Etaki Entertainment’s The House Next Door (A) is a horror film.

Dr. Krish (Siddharth), a brain specialist, lives in a bungalow with his wife, Lakshmi (Andrea Jeremiah), whom he loves dearly. There is another bungalow opposite theirs. Paul (Atul Kulkarni) and his family move in into the vacant bungalow. Paul’s family comprises his second wife, Lizzy (Bhawana Aneja), elder daughter, Jenny (Anisha Victor), younger daughter, Sarah (baby Khushi Hajare), and Lizzy’s father (Victor Banerjee).

Strange things start happening to Jenny who often behaves weirdly. Since Dr. Krish is their neighbour and a brain specialist too, he takes command and tries to cure her. Jenny’s case is then transferred to Dr. Krish’s colleague, Dr. Prasad (Suresh). It soon becomes clear that there are spirits in the bungalow in which Paul and his family have moved in. Despite being a doctor, Dr. Prasad solicits the support of a pastor (Prakash Belawadi) who is also convinced that Jenny is possessed by spirits who want Paul and his family to leave the bungalow. Dr. Krish, Dr. Prasad, the pastor, Paul and everybody present are convinced beyond doubt that spirits are behind Jenny’s weird actions. While trying to ward off the spirits, the pastor is grievously injured and has to be hospitalised.

Dr. Prasad refers to old books and arrives at the conclusion that the bungalow of Paul has an eerie history dating back to many years. An eyewitness, now an old lady (Farookh Jaffer) but then a little child, tells them about a Chinese man having sacrificed, on a solar eclipse day, his own little daughter years ago in the bungalow so that his pregnant wife would deliver a baby boy. The distraught wife had then killed herself and her unborn baby.

Even as Dr. Prasad and Dr. Krish get to know all about the spirits, Dr. Krish’s wife, Lakshmi, now pregnant, has an encounter with the spirits.

What happens thereafter?

Milind Rau and Siddharth have penned an interesting and engaging horror story which sends several chills down the spines of the viewers. The story is quite logical and moves at a fast pace, giving the viewers no time to think. The duo’s screenplay is very engaging and also entertaining. Several sequences catch the audience unawares because of the suddenness with which they come. Dialog­ ues, written by Chandan Arora and Siddharth, are realistic.

Siddharth is charming and does a truly fine job as Dr. Krish. While he is very good throughout the film, he is excellent in the climax scenes. Andrea Jeremiah is restrained and delivers a fine performance as Lakshmi. Atul Kulkarni is lovely as Paul, the worried father of Jenny. In the role of Jenny, Anisha Victor makes a fabulous debut. She is so natural that her acting looks effortless. Anisha Victor is a welcome addition to the list of leading ladies and she has a bright future ahead of her. Prakash Belawadi lends excellent support as the pastor. Bhawana Aneja makes her presence felt as Lizzy. Baby Khushi Hajare is cute in the role of Sarah. Suresh provides superb support as Dr. Prasad. Avinash Raghudevan leaves a mark as the psychic. Victor Banerjee, Yusuf Husain, Mandakini Goswami, Angeline Khangembam, Peter Wong, Joanne Chang, Farookh Jaffer, Dr. Agnelo Chong, Natarajan and the rest lend fair support.

Milind Rau’s direction is praiseworthy. He has maintained the horror element and has managed to keep the viewers thrilled and terrified all through the drama. Girish G.’s background music is pretty effective. His music is functional. Lyrics (Shakeel Azmi, Vayu Shrivastava and Siddharth) are okay. Shreyas Krishna’s camerawork is splendid. R. Sakthi Saravanan’s stunts are very good. Special mention must be made of Preetisheel G. Singh’s prosthetic designing. Siva Shankar’s art direction is very nice. Lawrence Kishore’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, The House Next Door is an entertaining horror thriller with good box-office prospects but they seem to be completely marred due to lack of promotion, marketing and, therefore, awareness among the public.

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Zee Studios and Jar Pictures’ Qarib Qarib Singlle (ua) is the story of a middle-aged bachelor and a widow who meet on a dating website and then go on a date to a few cities to know each other better.

Yogi (Irrfan Khan), a middle-aged bachelor, and Jaya (Parvathy Thiruvotu), a widow, meet on a dating website. Soon, they meet at a coffee shop. Yogi convinces Jaya to accompany him on a trip for a holiday so that they can know each other better and assess whether they are compatible enough to get married.

While on their holiday, they visit different cities because Yogi wants to meet his three ex-girlfriends. He introduces them to Jaya too. But their trip is not too smooth. They have misunderstandings and problems galore. For instance, Yogi misses the flight which Jaya has already boarded. On another occasion, he boards the wrong train and the two get separated. On a third occasion, he erroneously enters her room while she is in a state of undress.

If Yogi can’t forget his past – which is why he wants to meet his ex-girlfriends even though they have moved on in life – Jaya also can’t get over her deceased husband, Manav (Anuj Khurana). What do Yogi and Jaya finally decide? Are they compatible or incompatible?

Kamna Chandra’s story is interesting and although it moves on a single track, it is engrossing because it does not tread the beaten path. No doubt, it is a class-appealing subject because it doesn’t cater to the general mass base but that’s how it is and there’s no harm in that. The problem lies with the screenplay which is written by Tanuja Chandra and Gazal Dhaliwal. Two major drawbacks of the screenplay make the drama far less entertaining than it ought to have been. Firstly, although the film is designed as a light and breezy entertainer, the humour quotient is low. There are opportunities for the audience to laugh but they are few and far between. Besides, the pace is so slow that the drama often tests the audience’s patience. The second major drawback is that the emotional connect of the drama is missing. By the end of the trip, the viewers don’t really root for Yogi and Jaya to come together. The audience’s attitude is: if they can come together, fine; if they can’t, then also, it’s fine.

The reasons for the missing emotional quotient are several. For one, Yogi and Jaya hardly try to make the relationship work. Since the two main protagonists themselves don’t seem to be too keen to sort out their differences or to understand each other, the viewers are left wondering whether they met on a dating website or a friendship website. Not just left wondering, the viewers also, therefore, don’t want to hope for something which the protagonists themselves don’t seem to be trying for. Also, there are so many irrelevant scenes that the audience gets irritated. An instance in point is the entire sequence of Jaya’s antics after she consumes sleeping pills. Besides, the way Jaya behaves after popping the sleeping pills makes it look like she is under the influence of alcohol rather than sedatives. Besides, a drama like this ought to have been full of heart-touching moments but in reality, such moments are almost conspicuous by their absence. Rather than the screenplay flowing smoothly, several scenes look contrived – aimed to either evoke laughter or touch the heart. But because they are contrived, they fail to have the desired impact. Examples of the forced scenes: Jaya enters Yogi’s room in the night to put back the phone receiver into the cradle; Yogi, by mistake, enters Jaya’s room while she is wrapped in a towel – did Jaya not have common sense to latch the door from inside?

All in all, a fairly good story, no doubt, meant for the city audience only, has been sort of ruined by a screenplay which is written less with feelings and more with calculations. Gazal Dhaliwal’s dialogues are very good but not consistently so.

Irrfan Khan once again proves that he can rise above the script and shine his way through. He is such a fabulous actor that he puts life into every scene he appears in. To underline how great an actor he is, it needs to be said that even his rythmic snoring deserves distinction marks. His perfor- mance, in one word, is outstanding. Parvathy Thiruvotu is good in some scenes but tends to go overboard in others. Her make-up is patchy in several scenes. Neha Dhupia, in a special appearance, makes her mark in the role of Yogi’s ex-girlfriend, Anjali. Isha Sharwani, in a special appearance as Yogi’s ex, Gauri, is grace personified in her dance movements. Pushtie Shakti is good as Yogi’s ex, Radha. Siddharth Menon makes his presence felt as Jaya’s brother, Ashish. Navneet Nishan is terrific in a brief role as Mrs. Saluja. Aman Sharma leaves a wonderful mark as the taxi driver who gives Yogi a life lesson. Brijendra Kala (as the hotel receptionist) is natural to the core. Anagha Joshi has her moments as Jaya’s friend. Others lend the desired support.

Tanuja Chandra’s direction is not upto the mark because neither is the comedy enjoyable enough nor are the emotions touching enough. Besides, she makes the drama very elitist in appeal. On the music side, ‘Khatam kahani’, composed by Vishal Mishra, is a truly good song. Other songs (by Rochak Kohli and Vishal Mishra) are alright. Lyrics (Raj Shekhar, Varun Grover and Hussain Haidry) are quite okay. Song picturisations (by Tushar Kalia, Shampa Gopikrishna and Rajeev Surti) are fair. Background music (Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor) is so-so. Eeshit Narain’s cinematography is quite nice. Sunil Rodrigues’ action scenes are functional. Ravi Shrivastava’s production designing and Seema Kashyap’s art direction are fair. Chandan Arora’s editing is alright but it must be repeated that the pace itself is very slow.

On the whole, Qarib Qarib Singlle misses the chance to be an entertainer. It falters because it is not funny enough and also because it doesn’t touch the heart. Overall, it will prove to be a flop fare.

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Red Chillies Entertainment, B.R. Studios and Dharma Productions’ Ittefaq (UA) is a suspense thriller. Remake of the 1969 film of the same name, it is about two murder cases.

Vikram Sethi (Sidharth Malhotra) is a well-known Indian author who is based out of London. He is currently in India for the release of his new book. His wife, Katherine (Kimbereley McBeath), is found dead in the hotel room and since Vikram is the prime suspect, he is on the run from the police who are giving him a hot chase.

Vikram takes refuge in the home of a stranger, Maya Sinha (Sonakshi Sinha). As bad luck would have it, Maya’s lawyer-husband, Shekhar Sinha (Samir Sharma), is also found murdered that night in the Sinhas’ home, and Vikram is accused of murdering Shekhar Sinha too. Or was the murder committed by Shekhar’s own wife, Maya?

Investigating police officer Dev Verma (Akshaye Khanna) has only three days to solve the two murder cases. As investigations progress, it is revealed that a girl, who was the subject of Vikram’s latest book, had just recently committed suicide. A lot of other revelations follow.

Is Vikram Sethi the murderer? Why did he murder his wife and a lawyer? Are the two murders interlinked? Or has Vikram murdered only Katherine? In that case, did Maya murder her husband? Why? Or have the two murders or has one murder been committed by an outsider?

Abhay Chopra, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra have written an interesting story inspired by the 1969 Ittefaq. It is not a frame-to-frame copy of the old film, though. Since the story has many twists and turns, it keeps the audience thoroughly engaged and involved. The story is written in such a style that Dev Verma is shown interrogating both, Vikram and Maya, in parts and by turns. Therefore, the same drama is revealed from two different points of view – and the audience doesn’t know who is lying and who is speaking the truth. Some viewers might, at times, take sides with Vik­ram, some might sometimes think that Maya is right, and some others might often feel that both are lying – but it is this quality of the story which keeps the audience completely involved.

The trio’s screenplay is very engaging and it doesn’t allow the audience to think for even a moment. So much is happening so fast that the viewers just cannot allow their minds to wander. An interesting aspect about the screenplay is that humour has been knit beautifully into the tension-ridden drama, preventing the film from becoming too tense and boring. In fact, the humour keeps the viewers entertained differently from how the murder mystery keeps them entertained. Since the screenplay is well-written, the viewers find themselves trying to solve the murder mystery and getting involved in the guessing game.

Abhay Chopra, Shreyas Jain and Nikhil Mehrotra’s dialogues are excellent. The humorous dialogues evoke laughter while the others help in building the suspense and the tension.

Sidharth Malhotra does justice to his role and acts reasonably well. He looks very handsome. Sonakshi Sinha performs quite well, enough for the audience to either believe her or disbelieve her – which is what the character’s demand is. Akshaye Khanna is outstanding. As Dev Verma, he nails it completely. His voice modulation, his expressions, his nuances and his easy acting, all add up to a brilliantly noteworthy performance. His humorous one-liners are superb. Pavail Gulati lends lovely support as Chirag. Himanshu Kohli (as police inspector Gautam Kohli) is adequate. Vinay Sharma leaves a fine mark as police inspector Kadam. Ajay Jadhav evokes a lot of laughter in the role of hawaldar Tambe. Samir Sharma (as Shekhar Sinha) and Kimbereley McBeath (as Katherine Sethi) provide decent support. Trupti Kamkar (as Mrs. Kawatkar), Mandira Bedi (as Dev’s wife, Gayatri Verma), Bharat Jha (as Mr. Kawatkar), Romil (as the commissioner of police), Sandesh Upsham (as constable Gawde) and Sujata Jog (as the maid) make their presence felt. Others fit the bill.

Abhay Chopra’s direction is so polished that it doesn’t look like this is his debut film. Kudos to him for keeping the narrative so engaging and for extracting good work from out of his cast. BT’s background music (supervised by John Stewart Eduri) is lovely. Michal Sebastian Luka’s cinematography is outstanding. Bindiya Chhabria and Nari’s production designing is very nice. Nitin Baid’s editing is sharp and lovely.

On the whole, Ittefaq is an entertaining fare. Although its start is slow, collections will pick up by positive word of mouth of the class audience mainly. The film will hence keep the audience and the investors happy.

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Eros International and Drishyam Films’ Rukh (UA) is the story of a boy who rediscovers his lost connections with his father and rebuilds ties with his family when a shocking incident turns his life upside down.

Dhruv (Adarsh Gourav) studies in a school and lives in a boarding. He is oblivious to the financial crisis in his family. His life takes a turn when he gets the horrific news that his father, Divakar (Manoj Bajpayee), has died in a car accident. Dhruv tries to cope with the tragedy but he starts to get pieces of information which make him wonder whether his father’s death was an accident or a premeditated murder. He now sets out to unravel the mystery and, in the process, learns things about his father, which he didn’t know.

Meanwhile, his mother, Nandini (Smita Tambe), tries to hide from Dhruv things which she knows. Does Dhruv get to know the truth ultimately? Does Nandini get to know what had led to Divakar’s death? Why does Robin’s (Kumud Mishra) name crop up whenever Dhruv tries to get to the bottom of it all?

Atanu Mukherjee’s story is depressing right from the word ‘go’. As it is, a young man’s (Divakar) untimely death is sad enough, and then, details about his dysfunctional family further depress the audience. The screenplay, written by Atanu Mukherjee and Akash Mohimen, moves at a leisurely pace, often testing the viewers’ patience. The first half, especially, is boring and quite dull. Although the post-interval portion is better, it is so only marginally. The climax makes one wonder why Nandini reveals all that she does to Dhruv when the whole purpose of her maintaining silence was to not reveal the truth to Dhruv. Since the audiences are hardly allowed to understand what type of a person Divakar was, they don’t feel engaged as facets of his personality are revealed one by one in flashback scenes and through dialogues. All in all, the story is dep­ressing and lacklustre, and the screenplay, dull and depressing. Dialogues (by Vasan Bala) are realistic.

Manoj Bajpayee is supremely natural and lives the character of Divakar. He acts with effortless ease and makes the character believable. Adarsh Gourav is suitably restrained in the role of Dhruv. He performs ably. Smita Tambe is natural in the role of Nandini. Kumud Mishra lives the role of Robin and underplays the character beautifully. Shubhrajyoti Barat is very effective as Jayant. Pawan Singh (as Hassan) and Bhushan Vikas (as Shinde) lend excellent support. Annapurna Bhairi (as Jayant’s wife), Ahsaas Channa (as Shruti), Ila Bhate (as Nirmala), Vedant Muchandi (as Amrit), Kannan Arunachalam (as Rangarajan), Sandesh Kulkarni (as Arif), Siddharth Chanda (as Digant), Anil Khopkar (as Ajit), Ravi Mahashabde (as Jayesh), Jayahind Kumar (as the truck driver), Yagya Saxena (as Chinmay), Shubham Rawat (as Digant’s friend), Ravin Makhija (as Bhushan) and the others lend the necessary support.

Atanu Mukherjee’s direction is okay. However, it doesn’t really add much to the script in that it is unable to camouflage the shortcomings of the script. Amit Trivedi’s music is fair. Sidhant Mago’s lyrics are quite nice. Anjo John’s background music is okay. Pooja Gupte’s camerawork is alright. Prashant Bidkar’s sets are ordinary. Sanglap Bhowmik’s editing is loose.

On the whole, Rukh is so dull, dry and dreary that it will go largely unno­ ticed at the box-office.

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