Eros International, Phantom Films Pvt. Ltd. and Clean Slate Films’ NH10 (A) is the story of a happily married couple, Meera (Anushka Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam), and how their lives overturn due to one incident.

Meera and Arjun live in Gurgaon and are very happy in their space. A one-off incident on the road in the dark of the night frightens Meera, taking the couple to the police on whose recommendation Meera gets the licence to keep a pistol with her for her security. The two decide to go on a picnic one day to celebrate Meera’s birthday. They set off in their car on the National Highway 10.

In Haryana itself, they see Satbir (Darshan Kumar) mercilessly beating his sister, Pinky (Kanchan Sharma), and her husband. Arjun, shocked at the beastly behaviour of Satbir and his cronies, tries to intervene to save Pinky and her husband but he is silenced by Satbir who slaps him tight. As nobody else present there dares to raise his voice, Arjun helplessly gives up even as Satbir and his goons drive away in their own car with Pinky and her husband.

Frustrated, Arjun and Meera get on with their road journey but soon spot Satbir’s car once again. With the intention of scaring Satbir, Arjun gets off his car, this time with Meera’s pistol in hand. It is not long before Arjun and Meera are held captive by Satbir who then murders Pinky and her husband. It is now clear beyond doubt to the shocked Arjun and Meera that these were honour killings.

Meera and Arjun manage to escape from Satbir’s clutches but not before killing one team member, Chhote (Ravi Beniwal). Satbir, with a view to seek revenge, follows them with his hoodlums. Meera and Arjun have to escape from Satbir and his men. Gun shots are fired, knives are used and there is fear in the minds of Arjun and Meera that they would not be spared.

Soon, Arjun is grievously injured and having been forced to abandon their car, Meera now has to battle Satbir and his men all alone in the dark of the night, that too, on the secluded and unsafe highway. Meera even reaches the police station but the police fails to come to her rescue.

Even as Satbir and his army are hot on Meera’s trail, she reaches the village sarpanch’s (Deepti Naval) home, hoping that she would get help from this quarter at least. But she is shocked at the turn of events.

What happens then? What is it that shocks Meera at the sarpanch’s home? Who survives and who is laid to rest? What happens to Arjun?

The film is inspired by the English film, Eden Lake. The screenplay, penned by Sudip Sharma, is very engrossing and engaging. It manages to completely hook the audience’s attention. Since the drama has several twists and turns, the uni-dimensional story doesn’t get monotonous or boring. But the audience’s sympathy doesn’t go out completely to Meera and Arjun, which should’ve been the case, and that’s because the audience feels, Arjun had no business to invite trouble the way he did. In other words, there isn’t a very justifiable reason for Arjun to intervene in Satbir’s business. Of course, the counter-argument to this is that Arjun is a guy with a conscience and, therefore, can’t tolerate injustice. But one does wish that the writer had taken pains to make Arjun’s involvement in Satbir’s affairs not seem so self-inflicted. Another drawback, if one may use the word, is that the drama is very violent and there are scenes of bloodshed, gore and gut-wrenching action, which will be difficult for the womenfolk and family audience to digest. Sudip Sharma’s dialogues are very real.

Anushka Sharma lives the role of Meera and shines with a very note­worthy performance. Her expressions, body language and acting, all add up so that her acting stands out. She is sure to be nominated for the best actress awards this year. Neil Bhoopalam is sincere in the role of Arjun. He gets limited scope. Darshan Kumar is menacing and he acts with effortless ease. Deepti Naval is first-rate as the village sarpanch. Tushar Grover (as Mukesh), Kanchan Sharma (as Pinky), Ravi Jhankal (as Fauji), Jaswant Singh (in the role of Omi), Yogendra Singh (as Ashok), Ashish Sharma (as Ramavtar), Ravi Beniwal (as Chhote), Siddharth Bharadwaj (as the constable), Sushil Tyagi (as the police inspector), Krishan Kumar (as the Bihari migrant), Shruti (as the Bihari migrant’s wife) and Tanya Purohit (as the sarpanch’s daughter-in-law) lend very able support.

Navdeep Singh’s direction is wonderful. He has succeeded in creating the right amount of tension for the audience which will find it difficult to even blink for fear of missing something. Navdeep has kept the film fast-paced so that it doesn’t get boring despite moving on a single track. Music (Bann Chakraborty, Ayushman Shre­shta, Savera Mehta and Samira Koppikar) is more functional than anything else. The songs are all background numbers. Lyrics (by Bann Chakraborty, Neeraj Rajawat, Manoj Tapadia and Varun Grover) are alright. The ‘Chhil gaye naina’ song, recorded and picturised for the film’s promotion, is conspicuous by its absence in the film. It should’ve been incorporated in the film because it is indeed very well-tuned (by Sanjeev Darshan). Karan Gour’s background music is very good. Arvind Kannabiran’s cinematography is remarkable and he uses his camera to heighten the fear element. Action scenes, choreographed by Armin Sauer and Abdul Salaam Ansari, are for the masses mainly, but they would also be liked by the multiplex audience because the violence is not uncalled for or meaningless. Mustufa Stationwala’s production designing is very good. Editing (Jabeen Merchant) is crisp and sharp.

On the whole, NH10 is raw and entertaining in its own way. No doubt, it is meant more for the class audience but since the investment in the film (Rs. 14 crore approximately) is not big, it would very easily fetch commission. Sadly, the recovery from all other sources, except India theatrical, would be very limited. In spite of that, the film will fetch profits. It is a film which will win a lot of critical acclaim and one which will make the producers, director, technicians and actors associated with it, proud.

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(Read if you wish to as there may be spoilers in the review)

Eros International and Maddock Films’ Badlapur (A) is a dark revenge drama. Raghav’s (Varun Dhawan) wife, Misha (Yaami Gautam), and little son, Robin (master Neil Tyagi), are killed by two robbers on the run. Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Harman (Vinay Pathak) hijack Misha’s car and hold her and her son captive inside as they are escaping after a planned loot. They kill Misha and Robin almost immediately when the two try to force them to stop. Liak actually murders the two while his accomplice, Harman, watches on shocked. Even as the two criminals are on the run, with the police giving them a hot chase, Harman manages to give the police the slip and escapes with the loot money. Liak is arrested and sentenced to jail for 20 years.

Since the loot money runs into crores of rupees, Liak refuses to reveal the name of his accomplice to the police. However, to save his own skin, he keeps telling the police that his accomplice had committed the murders. Years pass by but Raghav’s single agenda in life remains to seek revenge. He wants the name of Liak’s partner-in-crime as he, too, believes that the partner had eliminated his wife and son.

While in jail, Liak gets stomach cancer and the doctors estimate that he has just one more year to live. Shobha (Divya Dutta), who runs an NGO for the rehabilitation of jail inmates, approaches Raghav and requests him to forgive Liak on humanitarian grounds so that he (Liak) could be set free on medical grounds and could thereby lead the last year of his life with dignity. With revenge as his sole mission in life, Raghav is prepared to do so if and only if Liak would tell him who his accomplice was. But Liak refuses to do so as he fears that if Harman were to be arrested, the loot money would be confiscated by the police.

Help comes to Raghav when Liak’s mother, pleading before Raghav to forgive her son so that he could be released from jail, spills the beans about Harman. In no time, Raghav meets Harman and his wife, Kanchan (Radhika Apte), and reveals his identity. After mentally torturing the two, he kills both of them but not before taking the loot money and Liak’s passport which Harman was to deliver to Liak for his safe passage abroad.

Now, Raghav wants to meet Liak once again. But does he succeed in meeting Liak? Does Raghav hand over the money and passport to Liak? Does Raghav murder Liak? Or does Liak turn out to be one up on Raghav? Does Raghav ever get to know who actually killed his wife and child? Is Raghav punished by law for the murders he commits?

Massimo Carlotto has written a story which is a dark revenge drama and which doesn’t have great novelty. But the screenplay, written by Sriram Raghavan, Arijit Biswas and Pooja Ladha Surti, keeps the audience engaged from the start till the end. No doubt, there are points where the interest level of the viewers dips because the drama looks stretched but it never fails to engage the viewers. Having said that, it must be added that the film will appeal more to the classes than the masses, more so because of the second half. The twists and turns after the interval are more of the kind which would find favour with the classes. The last couple of reels, in which Raghav wants to meet Liak, and actually does meet him seem to be redundant at the end of the day, from Raghav’s point of view. Put differently, the writers have not been able to establish why Raghav was thirsting to reach Liak. It, obviously, couldn’t be to merely tell Liak that he (Raghav) had killed Harman and Kanchan and that he had ensured that the loot money doesn’t reach Liak. Even without Raghav saying so to Liak, the latter would realise that the money is not his if it didn’t reach him. And if only passing on the information to Liak was the reason, well, the hopes of the audience are raised in a different direction before Raghav actually meets Liak post-Harman’s murder. That the drama takes a shocking turn in the last reel is, of course, a nice twist but that does not in any way justify why Raghav was so keen to meet Liak.

Raghav killing Kanchan looks very un-hero-like. Similarly, Raghav teaching Shobha a lesson seems uncalled for because she, after all, was well within her rights, coming from the NGO which she was running. Rehabilitation of jail inmates is a noble cause even if it comes in the way of Raghav achieving his mission in life. That Raghav can’t distinguish between the villains and the noble or the unconnected people leaves a bad taste in the audience’s mouth. These two points (of Raghav killing Kanchan, and seeking revenge on Shobha) somewhere dilute the audience’s sympathy for Raghav because they make him appear villainish. Simultaneously, the character of Liak is not shown to be terrorising at all but it rather becomes endearing as the drama progresses, if only because of his antics. This is probably the reason why the viewers get up with a feeling of not having been fully satisfied when the end titles begin to roll – they don’t experience the high they ought to have because somewhere, they have, much earlier on, started to hope that something good should happen in Liak’s life. The writers have tried to add light scenes to balance the tension but those light scenes don’t have the desired impact. The drama has very gross violent scenes which don’t make the film appealing for women and families. But the youngsters and the class audience in the big cities will definitely enjoy the drama. Dialogues, penned by the trio, are nice, but mainly those mouthed by Liak.

Varun Dhawan does a very good job. He plays the role of Raghav effectively. But his dialogue delivery does not have the desired impact. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is, hands down, the star of the show. He impresses in every single scene and gets into the skin of the character so very brilliantly that there could veritably have been no other actor better than him in this role. His is an award-winning performance indeed. Yaami Gautam looks pretty and leaves a mark in a short role. Vinay Pathak is effective as Harman. As his wife, Radhika Apte does a swell job and gives a noteworthy performance. Huma Qureshi lives the role of prostitute Jhimli. She is first-rate. Divya Dutta lends superb support. Pratima Kannan shines as Liak’s mother. Kumud Mishra makes his presence felt as police inspector Govind Mishra. Ashwini Kalsekar lends able support as detective Joshi but has a tiny role. Murali Sharma has his moments as Michael. Zakir Hussain provides lovely support as Patil, the paramour of Jhimli. Master Neil Tyagi (as Robin), Gopal Singh (as sub-inspector Khanolkar), Divya Bhatiya (as Raghav’s father), Paromita Chatterjee (as Raghav’s mother), Anandi (as Misha’s mother), Bala Subramaniam (as Misha’s father), Vijay Salve (as the jailor) and the others are adequate.

Sriram Raghavan’s direction is very nice. He has made the dark thriller with the right amount of energy although he could’ve made it crisper and more fast-paced. Sachin-Jigar’s music is hit. ‘Jee karda’, ‘Jeena jeena’ and ‘Judaai’ songs are already a rage. But the songs don’t have the desired impact in the film; their audio appeal is far greater. Dinesh Vijan and Priya Saraiya’s lyrics are soulful. Ahmed Khan’s choreography is suited to the drama. Sachin-Jigar’s background music is quite nice. Anil Mehta’s cine­matography is of a high standard. Action scenes have been well choreographed by Parvez Fazal Khan but they are just too violent. Production designing, by Donald Reagan Gracy and Anita Lata Rajagopalan, is appropriate. Pooja Ladha Surti’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Badlapur will be liked more by the classes and will score in the big cities, ultimately proving a safe bet. Its appeal for the womenfolk, families and the small centres is limited.

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Super Cassettes Industries Ltd. and Freeway Pictures’ Roy (UA) is the story of a thief and a filmmaker who makes a film on the life of the thief.

Kabir Grewal (Arjun Rampal) is a filmmaker who has been signed by producer Irani (Kaizaad Kotwal) but he just can’t think up a good script. Then, one day, he sees detective D.S. Wadia (Rajit Kapur) talking on television about a thief who stole expensive paintings. Kabir heads to Malaysia to make his film, without much of a story. In Malaysia, he meets filmmaker Ayesha Amir (Jacqueline Fernandez) who tells him about her encounter with the thief, Roy (Ranbir Kapoor).

Roy had met Ayesha, wooed her, had had an affair with her and one day disappeared after stealing a painting from her house. That painting was one-half of a painting which was already in the possession of the man (Barun Chanda) Roy worked for and he (Roy) had taken it upon himself to complete the painting by stealing the other half.

Ayesha, who has a brief affair with Casanova Kabir, tells him her entire story about her encounter with Roy, little knowing that Kabir was shooting her story on celluloid as his new film. Then, one day, Ayesha reads the script of Kabir’s under-production film and realises that Kabir has stolen her story. She wraps up her own shooting and returns home and completely disconnects from Kabir. Here, Kabir realises that he is deeply in love with her. He doesn’t even know the reason for Ayesha walking out of his life. He abandons his film project mid-way because Ayesha, who is the de facto writer of the film, has gone away without telling him the ending. Kabir can’t think of how to take his movie forward.

Kabir tries to establish contact with Ayesha but to no avail. He gets lucky when he finally meets her at a film festival and awards function for which he is a jury member and where her film, Malacca Diaries, wins her a prize. That is where Ayesha tells Kabir to stop trying to get her back into his life because she did not approve of him stealing her story.

Here, Roy also realises, he is madly in love with Ayesha. Meanwhile, Kabir and Roy meet and become friends.

Roy soon has a change of heart and he now wants both the paintings – the one he had stolen from Ayesha’s house and its other half. But his boss has already sold the two paintings to an art dealer (Asif Basra). Does Roy lay his hands on the two paintings? If so, how? And if he does get the paintings, what does he do to them? Is Kabir able to forget Ayesha or does he meet her again? Does Ayesha forgive Kabir? Does Kabir tell Ayesha that he loves her? Does Ayesha also love Kabir? Does Roy meet Ayesha again? Does Ayesha forgive Roy? Does Roy tell Ayesha that he loves her? Does Ayesha also love Roy? Does Ayesha go with Kabir or Roy or none of them?

Vikramjeet Singh has penned a story which is far from engaging or interesting. That it moves at a painfully slow pace and thereby tests the audience’s patience is just one of the many problems. The stories of Aye­sha with Roy and of Ayesha with Kabir appear to be happening simultaneously, confusing the audience. Many among the viewers will not be able to comprehend that the time zones of the two stories are different and so are the places where they are unfolding.

Vikramjeet Singh’s screenplay is quite weird. Ayesha is shown to be an idiot who has affairs with two thieves – a thief of paintings and a thief of intellectual property. Kabir Grewal seems to be another idiot who can’t even complete a script, simply because the person whose story he has been stealing walks out on him without completing it. This means, Kabir completely lacks imagination which is why he abandons the project after shooting a good portion of it. Roy’s character is equally weird – there is no explanation given to the viewers about why he does what he does. Probably worse than all of the above is the point that neither the story of Ayesha and Roy nor the story of Ayesha and Kabir appears believable or even appealing enough. All the three characters are so sketchy that the viewers are unable to identify with any of them. Frankly, the feeling the viewer gets while watching the film is that each of the three principal characters is doing nothing and merely indulging in silly and stupid things as far as their romantic stories go. The audience’s sympathy goes to neither of the three characters – it doesn’t go to Kabir because he comes across as a loser; it doesn’t go to Roy because he is a thief without much else revealed about him; and it doesn’t go to Ayesha because she seems to be good at everything including filmmaking, yoga, painting, dancing but stupid enough to not realise that she is being used. Also, Ayesha oscillating between Kabir and Roy will prove to be a sore point with the audience because this hardly makes her appear as a morally right girl. Effectively, the film has two heroes – one is a loser, the other is a thief – and one heroine – who appears morally wrong.

The screenplay also looks one of complete convenience. Ayesha chancing upon Kabir’s script is just one case in point to indicate how very convenient the screenplay is. For, why would a director leave his script so callously for someone to pick up?

If the romance is far from heart-warming, the light moments are very few and even they are feeble. Emotions fail to touch the heart because the audience doesn’t connect with any of the three main characters. The ending is very confusing. Dialogues, penned by Vikramjeet Singh and Hussain Dalal, are extremely routine and commonplace.

Arjun Rampal tries to look sincere and dedicated but his lack of conviction in the script and in his characterisation is all too evident. Ranbir Kapoor is ordinary and he, too, seems to have simply acted for the sake of acting. He lends star value, of course, but the unsubstantive role he portrays is bound to greatly disappoint his fans. That he is not the hero of the drama will only agitate the audience. Jacqueline Fernandez is earnest but to no avail. She looks gorgeous. Shernaz Patel gives her cent per cent to the character she plays – a production head with Kabir Grewal. Anupam Kher has his moments as Kabir’s father. Barun Chanda is effective as Roy’s boss. Asif Basra makes his presence felt in a brief role as an art dealer. Rajit Kapur leaves a mark. Cyrus Broacha is good but his Hindi pronunciations and sense of gender are pathetic. Kaizaad Kotwal and Mandana (as Pia) provide fair support. Others do as required.

Vikramjeet Singh’s direction may be alright as far as the technicalities are concerned but his narrative skills are below the mark. He confuses the audience at several places and is not able to engage them or entertain them. Music (Ankit Tiwari, Meet Bros. Anjjan and Amaal Malik) is the best thing in the film. ‘Sooraj dooba hai’ (by Amaal Malik) is a surefire hit. ‘Tu hai ki nahi’ (by Ankit Tiwari) is also very appealing. All the other songs are also melodious. Lyrics (by Abhendra Kumar Upadhyay, Sandeep Nath and Kumaar) are weighty. Song picturisations (choreography by Ahmed Khan) are good but could’ve been better. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music seems heavily inspired by Hollywood films. It appeals at places. Himman Dhamija’s cinematography is nice. Locations are breathtaking. Sanjay Shekhar Shetty’s action and stunts are functional. Vintee Bansal’s production designing is alright. Dipika Kalra’s editing leaves something to be desired.

On the whole, Roy is a confused film which will confuse the audience more than it would entertain. Despite a hit music score, it will prove to be a flop fare at the box-office.

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Eros International and Hope Productions’ Shamitabh (UA) is the story of a mute man trying his hand at acting in Bollywood and succeeding! Daanish (master Shubham Tukaram Param) is crazy about acting even as a kid in spite of the fact that he cannot speak. He wants to act in Bollywood films and for this, he wants to go to Bombay but can’t because of his mother’s (Sonamoni) illness which the mother feigns to stop him from going to Bombay as she knows, his disability will come in the way of the realisation of his dreams.

After years, Daanish (Dhanush) comes to Bombay once his mother passes away. Obviously, no one takes him seriously because of his handicap. But assistant director Akshara Pandey (Akshara Haasan) realises that he has a lot of potential and pitches him to the director she works for. The director refuses to give Daanish a break because of the speech problem. Just then, Akshara’s doctor-father (Uday Tikekar) gets to know of a medical advancement in Finland, which could help mute people ‘speak’. Daanish is flown to Finland and the procedure on him is successful. An ear-piece is given to Daanish, which has the ability to store the words spoken by another voice with a similar ear-piece (which ear-piece would enable the other person to hear all that is spoken to the mute person, if the other person is within the range of the mute person’s ear-piece) so that the mute person can then give lip movement to the spoken words and pretend to be speaking them. Daanish returns to India and now begins the search for a suitable voice.

Daanish and Akshara come across Amitabh Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) who has a wonderful voice. Sinha is a drunkard and lives in the cemetery, drowning himself in alcohol as he has nothing better to do. He had aspired to be a Bollywood actor but had failed. The two request him to become Daanish’s voice. At first sceptical, Amitabh Sinha soon gives in, though grudgingly. So that nobody should know that Daanish cannot speak, Amitabh Sinha, who at all times has to be in close proximity to Daanish, is introduced as upcoming hero Daanish’s valet, Robert.

Daanish gets a break when a filmmaker (Ivan Rodriguez) plans to launch him in Lifebuoy. Daanish gets a new screen name, Shamitabh. He becomes a huge success with the release of his very first film. Robert resents that all the attention and adulation is going to Shamitabh as he feels, his contribution to the success is much more than that of Shamitabh himself. Soon, ego problems develop between the two. Shamitabh signs a film which Robert doesn’t approve of and the tension starts to show on the sets. Ultimately, the partnership breaks up. Shamitabh acts in a film in which the hero is shown as a mute person but that film flops. On his part, Amitabh Sinha lends his voice to another new hero (who is good-looking but who stammers), but that film also fails at the box-office.

It is now clear that Shamitabh and Robert are incomplete without each other. Do they resolve their differences? If so, how? Do they become a formidable team over again.

Balki’s concept is novel but the script is implausible. Even the implausibility of the script may not have been such a big impediment in the enjoyment of the drama for the audience had the screenplay been convincing. But R. Balki’s screenplay, unlike his story, is so full of flaws that it just doesn’t hold water. Amitabh Sinha alias Robert has such a massive ego that it is unpalatable. And why does he have such a big ego? What has he done in life? He is a failure who is just wasting his time, downing bottles of whisky, living in a cemetery shabbily; he had been rejected by filmmakers. It is not as if Shamitabh is not paying him for lending him his voice. Then what is the reason for Robert’s frustration – why does he resent Shamitabh’s success so much? Especially because he himself wanted to be an actor, isn’t Amitabh Sinha aware that the adulation will go to the face rather than the voice, more so because the fact of the voice being different from the face is never going to be revealed to the public? Even this unfounded ego would have worked had Amitabh Sinha been projected as a villain of the drama but R. Balki clearly doesn’t want that. And a hero behaving the way Amitabh Sinha alias Robert behaves – that too, from the start and for a long time – is just not acceptable to the paying public. Frankly, the ego problems begin too, too early. If the ego problems had started only gradually, things may have been better for the audience (as far as acceptability is concerned) but one is sure, even in that case, the point of the voice being a bigger force than the face would have never been digested by the viewers. Here, it would not be out of place to mention that the writer seems to have erred in giving the actor more importance than the character he plays. That Amitabh Bachchan is one of the greatest actors we have is indisputable. But in the film’s drama, to have given the character of Amitabh Sinha so much importance is unpalatable because, after all, he is a voice which the public will never know is not Shamitabh’s. Also, in a country like India, where people worship Bollywood superstars, they worship them for the looks, charm, acting talent and, perhaps, to some extent, because of their baritone. If that were not so, every actor with a great voice would be a huge star. But, as everyone knows, Arjun Rampal, with a superb voice, is not a hugely successful actor in Bollywood.

The entire point of Robert rejecting a script is just not appreciated by the audience. After all, the viewers feel, when did Shamitabh give that right to Robert for him to feel bad when he (Shamitabh) signs a film rejected by him (Robert)? In other words, the conflict between Shamitabh and Robert, which should have been the high point of the film, is the weakest part of the drama. Clearly, the writer has gotten too carried away with the concept and with Amitabh Bachchan’s persona and over-indulged himself.

The drama moves at an excruciatingly slow pace, testing the audience’s patience. Besides, the drama is so verbose that it actually tires the viewers. Yes, Amitabh Sinha alias Robert speaks so much that it overshadows even the impact of his golden voice which is at the centre of the drama.

Shamitabh and Robert fighting with their fists, at one point of time, looks a bit absurd. But while this is just a minor aberration, one of the weakest points in the screenplay is that the viewers’sympathy goes to neither of the protagonists in the drama. It doesn’t go to Shamitabh because he is an over-confident man. And the sympathy doesn’t go to Amitabh Sinha because he is one hell of a pompous guy who doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.

This is not to say that the film does not have any plus points as far as the script is concerned. It does have. The light moments in the film are very enjoyable, but, of course, too class-appealing. There are also moments in the film which touch the heart but they are few and far between. However, because of the absolutely flawed screenplay, the impact of the plus points is drastically diluted, which, in any case, are meant more for the enjoyment of the audience in the cities, that too, those who frequent the high-end multiplexes mainly.

Amitabh Bachchan does a fantastic job and acts with effortless ease. He gets into the skin of the character and comes up with a memorable performance. Having said that, it must be added that he (his character) speaks so much in the film that the audience literally gets tired of listening to him. A certain kind of boredom consumes the viewer in the scenes of Amitabh Bachchan after a point of time because of the sheer verbosity of the drama. Dhanush is very good. He makes the character of Daanish alias Shamitabh believable but is unable to make it endearing, thanks in no small measure to the deficiencies in the script. Akshara Haasan makes a confident debut but needs to improve her dialogue delivery. She looks pretty but her hairstyle (with her hair often covering almost her entire face) is an irritant. Ajay Jadhav shines as Amitabh Sinha’s Man Friday, living with him in the graveyard. Master Shubham Tukaram Param is cute as little Daanish. Asif Ali Beg (as the doctor) is alright. Uday Tikekar does well as Akshara’s doctor-father. Rajeev Ravindranathan makes his presence felt as the journalist. Karim Hajee and Ivan Rodriguez (both as film directors) are adequate. Sonamoni has her moments as Daanish’s mother. Abhimanyu Choudhry (as the lead actor of Thappad) and Prateik Katare(as young Daanish) are okay. Rekha leaves a mark and a smile on the viewers’ faces in a special appearance. Rajkumar Hirani, Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty, Mahesh Bhatt, Ekta Kapoor, Boney Kapoor, Javed Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Prahlad Kakkar and Swanand Kirkire, all in special appearances, are appropriate. Others do as desired.

Balki’s direction is good but his narration is unable to camouflage the many defects in the script. Music (Ilaiyaraaja) is fair, with two songs, ‘Sha sha sha mi mi mi’ and ‘Piddly’, being quite appealing. A hit music score would’ve worked wonders for the film. Lyrics (Swanand Kirkire and Kausar Munir) are good. Choreography of the songs, by Bosco-Caesar, is quite alright. P.C. Sreeram’s cinematography is of a very good standard. Urvi Ashar and Shipra Rawal’s production designing is nice. Hemanti Sarkar’s editing is crisp.

On the whole, Shamitabh is good at the concept level but that’s about all. With a screenplay full of holes and lack of entertainment for the large mass base of audience, it will fail at the ticket windows. Although business in premium multiplexes in a few big cities will be okay, it will be grossly insufficient to cover the heavy investment in the film. Collections in most single-screen cinemas and small centres will be very poor.

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Super Cassettes Industries Ltd., Friday Filmworks, Cape Of Good Films and Crouching Tiger Productions’ Baby (UA) is a thriller. A special undercover team is formed by the government under the leadership of Feroze Ali Khan (Danny Denzongpa) to wipe out Pakistani terrorists spreading terror in India. In the team are sincere and dedicated members, the best among them being Ajay (Akshay Kumar). Ajay puts duty before self and his family comprising wife (Madhurima Tuli) and two little children, Arjun (master Khushmeet) and Ananya (baby Dishita).

One Pakistani terrorist, Bilal Khan (Kay Kay Menon) is already in an Indian jail. The mastermind, Maulana Mohammed Rehman (Rashid Naz), is in Pakistan and has evil designs to strike in India. Jamal (Karan Gupta), working for the undercover Indian team, betrays the team and leaks information to the terrorists because of which one honest team member, Rakesh (Taskin), is captured by them. Both, Rakesh and Jamal, have to ultimately pay with their lives.

Bilal Khan escapes from captivity and flees the country. The undercover team gets lucky when Ajay reaches Taufeeq (Jameel Khan) and gets vital information about a terrorist, Javed (Vatsal Rajan). However, when his team goes to arrest Javed, all the team members except Ajay, and the terrorist himself are killed. Taufeeq also commits suicide.

Soon, Ajay gets a lead about terrorist Waseem Khan (Sushant Singh) being in Nepal. He goes to Nepal alongwith Priya (Tapsee Pannu) and the two succeed in bringing Waseem to India. They torture Waseem till he reveals that Bilal Khan is in Al-dera in Saudi Arabia and is planning many terrorist attacks in India.

Ajay, accompanied by Jai (Rana Daggubati) and Shukla (Anupam Kher), goes to Al-dera to stop Bilal Khan from spreading terror in India. The trio manages to reach Bilal who is lodged in a hotel. But the three aren’t prepared for another terrorist who is with Bilal Khan.

Who is the other terrorist? Do Ajay, Jai and Shukla capture or kill both the terrorists? If so, how? If not, what hap­pens to the two terrorists and the planned terror attacks in India? Who is Ashfaq, the local in Al-dera, whom Ajay and group rely on while they are there? Does Ashfaq help them?

Neeraj Pandey’s story is simple and connects easily with the audience because terrorism is a subject easily understood by everybody. In that sense, there is not much novelty in the plot. In fact, at the story level, it looks like an oft-repeated subject. It also reminds of Akshay Kumar’s recent film, Holiday. However, the screenplay concentrates on the entire process of the working of the undercover team and that is interesting as well as quite novel. Although the film has plenty of action, drama, tension and thrills, the other ingredients of a commercial entertainer – romance, songs, comedy and emotions – are almost completely absent. Therefore, there will be one section of the audience which will not approve of the film completely, as it will find the drama too tension-ridden and not wholesome. However, there will be another section of the audience which will appreciate the fact that the film has not unnecessarily been burdened with the usual diversions and has been kept on the singular track of terrorism. In other words, the drama does not have universal appeal.

The film picks up phenomenally once Ajay and Priya go to Nepal (in the second half). The entire Nepal episode is very entertaining. Once again, the drama in Al-dera is superb and has nail-biting excitement and breathtaking moments. But, in spite of this, the audience does not experience a rush of patriotic emotions, and that is because the terrorists are not shown carrying out a single activity successfully in India, because of which there aren’t any victims of their terrorism to tug at the audience’s heart-strings and also because the drama concentrates more on the modus operandi of the undercover team. This is a major minus point of the screenplay. Nevertheless, the tension and the excitement keep the audience interest alive right from the start till the end. Neeraj Pandey’s dialogues are very good but they often lack the punch, because of which there aren’t many clap-worthy moments.

Akshay Kumar does a splendid job and puts his all into the character of Ajay. He performs so brilliantly that he looks every inch like an undercover agent. If his acting is excellent, his action scenes are marvellous. Danny Denzongpa’s persona and performance befit the character of Feroze Ali Khan. He lends the character a lot of dignity with his able acting. Rana Daggubati looks the character he plays and is good in a brief role. Anupam Kher shines as Shukla and provides the much-needed relief in the otherwise tension-ridden drama. Rashid Naz looks terrifying as Maulana Mohammed Rehman. He acts beautifully and his dialogue delivery is superb. Kay Kay Menon is restrained as Bilal Khan and he leaves a lasting impression. Mikaal Zulfikaar is lovely as Ashfaq. Sushant Singh is very efficient in a brief role. Jameel Khan (as Taufeeq) and Karan Gupta (as Jamal) lend very good support. Tapsee Pannu makes her presence felt in a tiny role. Madhurima Tuli doesn’t get much scope but is good in whatever she is asked to do. Murali Sharma is entertaining as Gupta, secretary to the minister. Amar Talwar is natural as the minister. Vijay Tilani leaves a mark as Sameer. Hasan Noman makes his presence felt as Hani in Al-dera. Vatsal Rajan (as Javed), Mukesh Bhatt (as Bilal Khan’s lawyer), Jaywant Wadkar (as Gawde), Sanjeev Tyagi and Rajeev (both as accomplices of Gawde), Akash (as Aftab), Alok and Jaiveer (as the two friends of Aftab), Sajjad (as the doctor in Al-dera), Ahmed (as the health inspector in Al-dera), Taskin (as Rakesh), master Khushmeet (as Arjun), baby Dishita (as Ananya) and the other actors lend the required support. Esha Gupta adds glamour and oomph in an item song.

Neeraj Pandey’s direction is very good. In spite of absence of romance, music, emotions and comedy, he has made a film which keeps the audience engrossed and entertained. Music (M.M. Kreem and Meet Bros. Anjjan) is functional. Lyrics (Manoj Muntashir) are okay. Vishnu Deva’s choreography is alright. Sanjay Chowdhury’s background music is of a very good standard. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography (with additional cinematography by Sudheer Palsane) deserves distinction marks. Cyril Raffaelli and Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunts are enjoyable. Sandeep Sharad Ravade’s production designing is appropriate. Shree Narayan Singh’s editing is crisp.

On the whole, Baby is an entertaining fare but it does not have some important ingredients of an entertainer, which the audiences are used to getting in films. Business could’ve been far better had the film taken a flying start but its ordinary initial on the one hand and absence of ingredients like romance, music, emotions and comedy on the other will ultimately restrict its business. Even though collections are bound to pick up due to positive word of mouth and in spite of the benefit of the Republic Day national holiday, it would not prove to be an earning proposition in the final tally as the price is high.

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Arbaaz Khan Production and Kinesis Films’ Dolly Ki Doli (UA) is the story of a girl, Dolly (Sonam Kapoor), who is a fraudster. Her full-time job is to pretend to fall in love with a boy, marry him and then make away with all the jewellery from the house on the first night after mixing sleeping tablets in milk offered to all the members of the household including her husband. She has a man (Manoj Joshi) posing as her father, a lady (Zeena Bhatia) who acts like her mother, a young man, Raju (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub), who poses as her brother, and an old lady (Rajani Vaidya) who pretends to be her grandmother. The five of them have looted a number of homes in the same style – hook a boy, marry him and make away with the jewellery before the marriage can be consummated.

Two of her victims are Sonu Sehrawat (Rajkumar Rao) and Manjot Singh Chaddha (Varun Sharma). The two of them meet on the day Dolly marries Manjot, by which time Sonu has already been duped by her. Meanwhile, police inspector Robin Singh (Pulkit Samrat) is given the case of Dolly, known in police circles as Looteri Dulhan. Soon, it emerges that Dolly has known Robin Singh also.

So, does Robin Singh arrest Dolly? How does Dolly know Robin Singh? Do Sonu and Manjot get justice? Does Dolly return the valuables stolen from Sonu and Manjot’s homes? Does Dolly finally settle down with anyone? If so, with whom?

Umashankar Singh and Abhishek Dogra have penned a story which is simple but their screenplay is what makes the drama enjoyable and entertaining. The screenplay keeps the audience in splits sometimes and with a smile or grin on their faces at other times. No doubt, the film moves on one track only, but because of the various ‘husbands’ of Dolly, the singular track does not make the drama monotonous. A bit of a suspense in the post-interval portion and its revelation come as additional excitement. The climax looks hurried and a bit disappointing but there’s a bonus – an additional sequence which has such a cute twist that it brings a smile on everybody’s face. One point about the characterisation of Sonu: it is beautifully written and is so consistent throughout the drama that that itself is funny. Umashankar Singh and Abhishek Dogra’s dialogues are splendid.

Sonam Kapoor looks glamorous and acts with effortless ease. She makes her character believable without making it look cheap. Rajkumar Rao is outstanding as Sonu Sehrawat. He has worked hard on the Haryanvi language which he speaks throughout the film. His performance will be counted as one of his best to-date. Pulkit Samrat looks handsome and acts well. Varun Sharma is cute and suits the role. Archna Pooran Singh is simply splendid, evoking laughter every time she comes on the screen. Manoj Joshi is efficient, as always. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub is pretty effective. Brijendra Kala is supremely natural and raises laughter. Rajesh Sharma leaves a fine mark. Rajani Vaidya, as Dolly’s grandmother, has her moments in the police station investigation scene. Zeena Bhatia is alright as Dolly’s mother. Gulfam Khan makes her presence felt as Sonu’s mother. Malaika Arora Khan adds plenty of oomph in a song-dance number. Saif Ali Khan is lovely in a guest appearance and he comes as a wonderful surprise in the film. Istiyak Khan (as Ashwin), Mubeen Saudagar (as Ibrahim), Kanchan Pagare (as John), Sukhwinder Chahal (as Manjot’s father), Vibha Chhibber (as the commissioner of police), Ishita Vyas (as Imarti), Kuldeep Sareen (as the police officer) and the others lend the desired support.

Abhishek Dogra’s direction is praiseworthy. He has made the film quite a laugh riot and extracted good work from out of his actors. Frankly, the film does not appear like a debut attempt of Dogra. Sajid-Wajid’s music is good but should’ve been better. A couple of chartbusting songs would’ve helped a great deal. Nevertheless, the ‘Fashion’ song is mass-appealing. The ‘Babaji ka thhullu’ song is nice while the ‘Naina’ track is melodious. The title song is fair. Irfan Kamal, Danish Sabri and Kumaar have penned lyrics which are quite good. Choreography (by Mudassar Khan, Shabina Khan and Lollypop) is fair. The songs have been directed by Remo D’Souza and Katyayan Shivpuri. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music is very effective. Saurabh Goswami impresses with his camerawork. Manohar Verma’s action and stunts are okay. Sapna Chandra and Tariq Umar Khan’s production designing is appropriate. Hemal Kothari’s editing is very sharp.

On the whole, Dolly Ki Doli is an enjoyable entertainer which will keep the audience smiling/laughing but business-wise, it will prove to be an average fare because of its extremely poor start. Of course, collections will pick up due to mouth publicity, and the additional national holiday on Republic Day (26th January) will prove to be beneficial for the film, but since there are other films slated for release next week, it has only its first week to do the maximum business; and the dull initial will tell on the first week’s business.

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I (Dubbed)

Aascar Film (P.) Ltd.’s I (UA; dubbed from the Tamil film of the same name) is a unique love story. Lingesan (‘Chiyaan’ Vikram) is a champion bodybuilder. He adores top model Diya (Amy Jackson) but feels, he can never make contact with her. Then one day, fate brings them together.

Diya has acted and continues to act in many ad films with John (Upen Patel) who is also a top model like her. John wants to get physical with Diya but she is not interested. John seeks revenge for the rebuff by ensuring that she doesn’t work in any ad film with him. There is one important ad film for which John and Diya have been signed. Before John can replace Diya, she has him replaced. She seeks the client’s permission to let Lingesan work in the ad film opposite her. The unit leaves for China to shoot the ad film. As Lingesan is too intimidated by Diya, he is just not able to perform in front of the camera. Exasperated, ad filmmaker Sushil (Mohan Kapur) asks Diya to feign romance with Lingesan to make him feel at ease. As the ad film is a matter of life and death for her, Diya obliges and tells Lingesan that she has fallen in love with him. This puts Lingesan so much at ease that he puts all his inhibitions behind him and acts superbly. The ad film becomes a rage and Lingesan and Diya consequently become the hottest pair in the ad world.

Diya and her mother closely know Dr. Vasudevan (Suresh Gopi) who doubles up as their family friend. Lingesan also, in a way, owes his body­building championship to Dr. Vasudevan’s guidance.

Meanwhile, gay stylist Ojas Jasmine (Ojas M. Rajani) has developed a strong attraction for Lingesan but is put in his place by Lingesan. He, therefore, hates Lingesan. Soon, Lingesan gets to know that Diya doesn’t love him and had lied to him. Anyway, after confronting Diya, Lingesan moves on. But now, Diya slowly but surely realises that she is in love with him. Their romance blossoms. The two even decide to get married.

One day, Lingesan realises that large chunks of his hair are falling. Soon, a tooth of his comes out. Dr. Vasudevan investigates. Even as the investigation is on, Lingesan develops large blisters all over his face and body and also gets a hunchback. In short, the very handsome Lingesan soon turns into a supremely ugly man. On being told that he is suffering from an irreversible disorder, Lingesan is left with no option but to walk out of Diya’s life. Lingesan ensures that Diya gets the news that he (Lingesan) is dead. He wants her to get married to someone else and settle down in life.

Diya’s marriage is now fixed with another man. But on the day of the wedding, Lingesan kidnaps Diya so that she cannot marry that man. Of course, Diya does not recognise Lingesan as he looks old, ugly and scary.

Why does Lingesan have a change of heart? Why does he not want Diya to settle down in life, which is what he had wanted after he had become disfigured? Does Diya get to know why she has been kidnapped? Does she get to know the truth about Lingesan? Whom does Diya marry? What is Lingesan’s agenda? What is the real story behind his disfigurement?

Shankar’s story is quite different from the umpteen love stories made. The intrigue value of the love story is novel and fresh. Although the romantic portions could’ve been more heartwarming, the novelty of the drama, which unfolds after the romance is over, makes up for the lack of warmth. Shankar’s screenplay is fantastic and keeps the audience interest alive from the start till the very end. The scenes, at times, do look a bit stretched but they don’t bore. The second half, in which the suspense keeps unfolding, is superb. The revelation of the last bit of suspense is shocking and truly gives the audience a jolt. The visual in the final scene of the film is so exhilarating that the viewer’s heart dances with joy. Dialogues, written by Swanand Kirkire, are very effective. If the dialogues in the light scenes evoke laughter, those in the dramatic ones enhance the impact.

‘Chiyaan’ Vikram does a marvellous job as Lingesan. His acting is par excellence. He has worked hard on his physique, looks and get-ups and deserves kudos for the results. His make­up and prosthetics are outstanding. Amy Jackson looks glamorous and pretty and also acts ably. She endears herself to the audience. Upen Patel looks smart and performs well. Santhanam is lovely as Lingesan’s comic friend. Suresh Gopi excels as Dr. Vasudevan. Ojas M. Rajani leaves a mark as stylist Ojas Jasmine. G. Ramkumar makes his presence felt as the businessman for whose companies Lingesan, John and Diya model. Mohan Kapur lends able support. Kamaraj is effective as a bodybuilder. Others lend good support.

Shankar’s direction is first-rate. His vision is unique and the translation of his vision on to the celluloid is brilliant. He has kept the narration so interesting that the viewer’s eyes remain glued to the screen. He has given the film a huge canvas and has made it an audio-visual treat. A.R. Rahman’s music is very nice but the Hindi songs have not become popular – and that is a drawback. ‘Tum todo na’ song is very melodious. ‘Aaila aaila’ and ‘Tu chale’ songs are also appealing. The other songs – ‘Issak taari’ and ‘Ladyo’ – are entertaining. Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are noteworthy. Song picturisations, by Bosco-Caesar and Shobi, are out of the world. The visual effects in the songs, in which inanimate objects are converted into human forms, are breathtaking. A.R. Rahman’s background music is superlative. P.C. Sreeram’s cinematography is of a very high class. Locations are simply too beautiful. ‘Anl’ Arasu and Peter Ming’s action scenes and stunts are unbelie­vably brilliant. In fact, action of this kind has rarely, if ever, been seen earlier in Indian films. T. Muthuraj’s sets are grand and ostentatious. Weta Workshop’s (New Zealand) prosthetics and makeup deserve special mention. Llewellyn Anthony Gonsalves’ editing is sharp. Dubbing is excellent.

On the whole, I has the merits to entertain. It may have started slow but it will pick up due to positive word of mouth and end up doing fair business in the final tally.

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