Arka Mediaworks’ Bahubali 2: The Conclusion (dubbed from the Telugu film of the same name; UA) is the second and final part in the Bahubali series. In the first part, Shiva (Prabhas) had been raised by commoners right from the day of his birth, as his grandmother, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), had left him right after he was born, to be tended by others while laying down her own life in the process of saving him from the clutches of his uncle, Bhalaladev (Rana Daggubati). Even as a child, Shiva had al­ ways yearned to know what was on the other side of the mountain and as a grown-up, he had crossed over to the other side and landed in Mahishmati kingdom. Not only had he found his love there but had also saved his own mother, Devasena (Anushka Shetty), from the clutches of Bhalaladev who had held her captive for 25 long years. Shiva had then realised that he belonged to the royal family of Mahishmati; that his father, Amarendra Bahubali (Prabhas), had been killed by Katappa (Sathyaraj), the trusted lieutenant of the royal family. Why had the ever-so-loyal Katappa killed Amaren­dra Bahubali?

The second film in the series sets out to answer why Katappa had killed Bahubali. It, therefore, tells the story of Shiva’s father, Amarendra Bahubali. In a sense, the second film in the series is a prequel to the first one as a major part of the second film deals with the flashback about Amarendra Bahubali. However, the last part of the second film is actually a sequel as the last portion takes off from where the first part had gotten over, once the flashback is over.

In the present film, it is shown that Amarendra Bahubali has been brought up by Sivagami along with her own son, Bhalaladev. In fact, the principled Sivagami has decided to make Amarendra Bahubali the king of Mahishmati kingdom, much to the shock of her husband (Nasser) and son, Bhalaladev (Rana Daggubati). However, on the day of the coronation, Sivagami makes Bhalaladev the king because Amarendra Bahubali wants to marry Devasena against Sivagami’s wishes. Sivagami has, a few days back, promised her son that she would get him married to Devasena but, unaware of his mother’s promise to Bhalaladev, Amarendra Bahubali has promised Devasena that he would marry her and look after her all his life. Even Deva­sena is keen to wed Amarendra Bahubali as she has fallen in love with him.

Unhappy with Amarendra Bahubali’s stand, Sivagami appoints Bhalaladev as the king, and Amarendra Bahubali as merely his lieutenant. Although Bahubali marries Devasena, the couple does not have the blessings of Sivagami. Soon, Devasena gets pregnant with Amarendra Bahubali’s child. Before she can deliver the child, Amarendra Bahubali and Devasena are thrown out of the palace by Sivagami due to the machinations  of Bhalaladev and his father. As if this were not bad enough, Katappa kills Amarendra Bahubali on the very day Devasena gives birth to their child. Why Katappa had murdered Bahubali is revealed by him (Katappa) to Shiva who has realised that he is actually Amarendra’s 25-year-old son, Mahendra Bahubali.

It is now the turn of Shiva alias Mahendra Bahubali to avenge his father’s murder and his mother, Devasena’s captivity by Bhalaladev for 25 long years.

What happens then? Who eliminates whom? And who lives happily thereafter? Who rules Mahishmati kingdom?

Vijayendra Prasad’s story is superb and has a number of twists and turns. It has emotions, romance, drama, melodrama, action, music, mythology, comedy and everything else a viewer wants to see in a commercial entertainer. The drama is so logical that the audience remains completely enthralled and captivated while it unfolds. Prasad’s story and S.S. Rajamouli’s screenplay move at such a fantastic pace and pack in so much that the viewers would not want to even blink their eyes for fear of missing out on a point or two. To the credit of the two writers, it must be said that they have packed the film with great entertainment for the audiences of all age groups and all classes. There is plenty of masala for the young and the old, for boys and girls, for men and women, for the rich and the poor, for the classes and the masses, for the families and non-family viewers, for the multiplex audience and the single-screen cinema audience. There are a number of scenes worthy of loud rounds of applause. For example, the scene in which Amarendra Bahubali offers his arms and shoul­ders for Devasena to walk over when the wooden plank leading to the boat gives way is heart-warming and clapworthy. Also clapworthy is the scene in which Amarendra Bahubali appears from nowhere and makes it possible for his mother, Sivagami, to complete her agni march. There will also be a huge round of applause when Mahendra Bahubali makes it possible for his own mother, Devasena, to complete her agni march 25 years later. The scene in which Sivagami declares a day-old tiny tot, Mahendra Bahubali, as the king of Mahishmati has a hair-raising impact and will make the weak-hearted cry tears of joy. Like clap-traps, there are many hair-raising sequences and several emotional scenes to activate the tear ducts. The scene in which Amarendra Bahubali tells his wife, Devasena, that she was wrong in cutting the fingers of the lieutenant is superb mainly for what he tells her and does thereafter. Another extraordinary scene is the one in which Amarendra Bahubali supports Devasena rather than his own mother when she asks him to let Bhalaladev marry Devasena. The scene in which Katappa raises his voice against Sivagami is also superb. The entire climax is hair-raising and supremely exciting.

Manoj Muntashir’s dialogues in pure Hindi (there is no use of Urdu at all), are extraordinary and several of them will evoke applause.

Prabhas looks handsome as ever and plays Amarendra Bahubali and Shiva alias Mahendra Bahubali to perfection. He has a physique which makes his mighty, larger-than-life and powerful character believable. His walk is majestic. His acting is terrific. He is outstanding in action and stunts. The actor can easily be accepted as the hero of a Hindi film. Anushka Shetty looks pretty and acts with effortless ease as Devasena. Rana Daggubati does a swell job as Bhalaladev. His physique, visible in the climax when he takes off his shirt, is fantastic. Ramya Krishnan shines in the role of Sivagami. Her facial expressions and her eyes speak volumes. She looks regal. Sathyaraj is splendid as Katappa. His acting is as natural as natural can be. Nasser is very effective as Sivagami’s frustrated husband and Bhalaladev’s manipulative father. Tamannah gets very limited scope as Avantika but she does well. Others lend terrific support.

S.S. Rajamouli’s direction is remarkable. He has made a film which has plenty of masala for every section of the audience. Undoubtedly, he is one of the best directors Indian cinema can boast of. His narrative style is so outstanding that there is not a single dull moment in it. With audience tastes being so varied in different regions and among different age groups and classes, it is not a mean task to make a film which can captivate every single viewer – and S.S. Rajamouli has achieved just that. M.M. Kreem’s music is good but there is no hit number for the Hindi-speaking audience. Yet, the songs are appealing in the film. The ‘Tana’ song is very nice; the ‘Surya’ song has a hair-raising quality about it. Manoj Muntashir’s lyrics are wonderful, making the songs sound more appealing. Song picturisations are lovely. K.K. Senthil Kumar’s cinematography is par excellence. Visual effects and computer graphics are of Hollywood standard. Sabu Cyril’s production designing is grand. The sets are superb. Stunts (by King Solomon, Lee Whittaker and Kecha Khamphakdee) are breathtaking. They will draw huge rounds of applause from the masses and youngsters. Editing (by Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao and Thammi Raju) is razor-sharp. Dubbing is truly terrific.

On the whole, Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is not just a movie, it is a phenomenon. It will set new benchmarks for a dubbed film and will emerge as one of the biggest Hindi blockbusters of all time. Why, it may also turn out to be the biggest ever blockbuster in Hindi in spite of being a dubbed fare. If the business of all the versions (Telugu, Tamil, Hindi dubbed and Malayalam dubbed) is considered, it will prove to be the BIGGEST BLOCKBUSTER EVER, no questions asked. Its business in big as well as in small centres, and in multiplexes as well as in single-screen cinemas will be huge. This one has tremendous repeat value. This one is destined to smash almost all (if not all) box-office records. This one is destined to write new box-office history.

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CDB Musical Production, Anjum Rizvi Film Co., Manoj Adhikari Production and Pugmark Films Pvt. Ltd.’s Maatr (A) is the story of revenge of a wronged woman.

Vidya (Raveena Tandon) is a teacher. One horrific night, she and her school-going daughter, Tia (Alisha Khan), are brutally raped by a gang of men. Vidya’s daughter dies soon after the gang rape but Vidya survives.

Devastated, Vidya seeks justice from the police but she soon realises that the rich and the influential are beyond the law of the land. With no justice coming her way, Vidya decides to seek revenge herself. How she eliminates the rapists one by one is the crux of the story.

Michael Pellico’s story is oft-repeated and does not have even an iota of novelty except that in this, the mother and daughter are raped at the same time and same place. The novelty stops there, after which the revenge drama is pretty much like in any other vendetta film. Michael Pellico’s screenplay, with additional writing by Mishka Singh, Appdeep Meshram and Nishant Singh, is dull, to say the least. Although it is a revenge story, the screenplay is so drab that it fails to really keep the audience engrossed. In fact, the revenge track is also not consistently exciting. For instance, the track of Vidya asking one of her students, Meenal Shrivastav (Amisha Sinha), to kill one of the rapists by getting into a hotel room with him seems weird, maybe even objectionable. Again, the ease with which Vidya successfully seeks revenge makes the plot seem implausible. Dialogues (by Mishka Singh, Appdeep Meshram, Nishant Singh and Michael Pellico) are hardly effective.

Raveena Tandon does a fair job as Vidya, the vendetta woman. Divya Jagdale is quite good as her friend, Ritu. Alisha Khan is effective in the role of Tia. Madhur Mittal performs ably as Apurva Malik. Anurag Arora is so-so as police inspector Shroff. As police officer Akhil, Saheem Khan lends ordinary support. Rushad Rana is average as Vidya’s husband, Ravi Chauhan. Nitin Sharma (as Inder Jangra), Piyush Kaushik (as Sikandar Beniwal), Pranav Brara (as Sophian Khan), Sutinder Singh (as Mama), Bhuvan Kaila (as Harshit Poojary) and Ishan Bhatt (as Kamran Qureshi) provide the necessary support.

Ashtar Sayed’s direction is routine. Music (Fuzon and Kavita Seth) and lyrics (Munawwar Rana, Swanand Kirkire and S.K. Khalish) are functional. Utkarsh Dhotekar’s background music is not very impactful. Hari K. Vedantam’s cinematography is alright. Vikram Dahiya’s action and stunt scenes are good. Ashish Porwal’s art direction hardly deserves separate ment­ion. Editing (by Girish Verma and Manoj Magar) is loose.

On the whole, Maatr will go largely unnoticed as it is too routine to entertain.

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Super Cassettes Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Abundantia Entertainment’s Noor (UA) is the story of a broadcast journalist. Based on Saba Imtiaz’s novel, Karachi: You’re Killing Me, it talks about a journalist who suddenly becomes a sensation.

Noor Roy Choudhary (Sonakshi Sinha) works for a broadcast news agency run by Shekhar (Manish Chaudhari). She is frustrated as she is asked to do inane and inconsequential stories while she is keen on doing socially relevant stories. Her personal life is also not in a great space – for one, she is overweight, and secondly, she has just had a break-up with boyfriend Rahul Parekh (Nikhil Khurana). In short, she is far from being happy. She has two close friends, Saad (Kanan Gill) and Zaara (Shibani Dandekar). Just recently, she has started hooking up with Ayananka Banerjee (Purab Kohli), a war photo-journalist.

One day, quite by chance, she hits upon a great story about the illegal business of trading in human organs, carried on by Dr. Shinde (Hempushpak Arora) who works for a trust run by her boss, Shekhar’s in-laws. She interviews one such victim, Vilas (Suraj Kumar Roy), whose kidney was removed forcibly by Dr. Shinde. Noor also interviews Vilas’ sister, Malti (Smita Tambe), who works as a maid in her house.

As is his wont, Shekhar sits over the story for a couple of days, during which time Noor’s boyfriend, Ayananka, sells her story as his own. Noor is devastated as this was going to be her ticket to fame. To make matters worse, Dr. Shinde is acquitted by the court in the case that follows the news story. Dr. Shinde also has Vilas killed. Noor is now in a miserable state of mind. She had a great story which her boyfriend had passed off as his own; and she realises that her reckless interview of Vilas exposing Dr. Shinde had led to his murder. Even her boss, Shekhar, fires her for being so insensitive to human life.

And then, Noor does something which changes her life. She becomes an overnight sensation. Not just that, Dr. Shinde is arrested too.

Saba Imtiaz’s story, taken from her novel, Karachi: You’re Killing Me, is hardly impactful, probably because of the slipshod way in which it unfolds in the film. The screenplay, written by Althea Delmas-Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma and Sunhil Sippy, is full of holes and fails to involve the viewers. The audience never ever feels for Noor and can’t empathise with her predicament. Why, the viewer doesn’t even feel too bad when Noor’s boyfriend steals her story. The audience expects boss Shekhar to be angry with Noor for exposing a doctor working in a trust run by his wife’s family but that never happens. Why it doesn’t happen is not even clear. When Noor meets Shekhar after her story is stolen by Ayananka, she accuses him (Shekhar) of sitting on her story, which is true. But what is just not understandable is her comment that her career was doomed now that her story had been plagiarised. Doomed? At the most, Noor could have cried that her career could not take off because of the story hav­ing been flicked. But how on earth was her career going to be doomed because of this aberration? Also, Shekhar fires her from the job but it’s not clear why he does so. Is it because the great story could not go with his employee’s byline? Unlikely, because it was Shekhar responsible for this rather than Noor. Then, is it because Noor’s reckless action had led to Vilas’ murder? But why would a boss fire his employee for failing as a human being and not failing as a journalist – that too, a boss who is not at all shown as being conscientious? There is another scene in which Noor is interviewed on a television channel for posting a video which goes viral. After the interview, Saad and Zaara hug Noor as if she had climbed Mt. Everest. Why the excitement? Whatever may have happened, if at all, after the interview may have taken days to happen – then why were the three friends rejoicing immediately after the interview? Is a television interview so important or such an achievement for a broadcast journalist? All in all, the screenplay is childish and often silly. Actually, the opening of the film, wherein Noor goes on and on about her life is such a put-off that it prejudices the viewer’s mind.

Ishita Moitra Udhwani’s dialogues are weak. Many of the dialogues, designed to be funny, fail to evoke laughter or even bring a smile to the face.

Sonakshi Sinha does an average job as a journalist. Her constant crib­bing gets on the audience’s nerves but that’s got more to do with her characterisation than her acting. Kanan Gill is not hero material. His performance is okay but his Hindi pronunciation needs improvement. Purab Kohli is charming as Ayananka Banerjee. Shibani Dandekar gets very limited scope as Zaara. Manish Chaudhari is alright as Noor’s boss, Shekhar. Smita Tambe acts in a natural style as maid Malti. M.K. Raina is wooden in the role of Noor’s father. Suchitra Pillai (as Lavina, wife of Shekhar), Sunny Leone (as herself), Nikhil Khurana (as Rahul Parekh), Shahnaaz Deshpande (as Nayantara), Hempushpak Arora (as Dr. Shinde), Suraj Kumar Roy (as Vilas) and the others provide routine support.

Sunhil Sippy’s direction is dull. His narration fails to involve the audiences who then passively view the drama unfold on the screen. Sippy seems to be at sea about commercial cinema! Amaal Malik’s music is ordinary. One song (by Badshah) is somewhat entertaining. Lyrics (Manoj Muntashir and Kumaar) are okay. Adil Shaikh’s choreography is fair. Background music (by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor) is average. Keiko Nakahara’s camerawork is okay. Production designing (by Mansi Dhruv Mehta) could’ve been better. Aarif Sheikh’s editing ought to have been far more tight.

On the whole, Noor is a flop fare.

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Promodome Motion Pictures’ Anaarkali Of Aarah (A) is the story of a singer and her fight against people who want to sexually exploit her.

Anarkali (Swara Bhaskar) is a singer who lives in Arrah and entertains people by singing on the stage. At one such singing event, vice chancellor Dharmender Chauhan (Sanjay Mish­ra), in his drunken stupor, misbehaves with her and molests her, openly asking her (on the stage) to have physical relations with him. Anarkali slaps him, much to the discomfort of her manager, Rangeela (Pankaj Tripathi), who asks her to apologise to Chauhan and make peace with him. But Anarkali is in no mood for a settlement and goes to the police station to lodge a complaint. However, police inspector Chulbul Pandey (Vijay Kumar) is a paid stooge of the vice chancellor and refuses to file her complaint. Rather, he frames Anarkali on charges of pros­titution and arrests her. Rangeela bails Anarkali out and takes her to Chauhan to settle matters. But Anarkali is unrelenting.

Soon, Anarkali is forced to leave Arrah when Chauhan, Chulbul Pandey and their men don’t let her live in peace. Accompanied by her trusted friend, Anwar (Mayur More), she comes to Delhi and struggles to record her songs. A studio owner (Nitin Arora) gives her a break as a singer after his agent, Hiraman Tiwari (Ishteyak Khan), pleads with him. But Anarkali’s joy is shortlived as Chauhan’s men track her down in Delhi.

Anarkali is once again arrested. It is then that she enters into a pact with vice chancellor Dharmender Chauhan. What is the pact? Does Anarkali compromise on her principles? Or does she seek revenge on Chauhan?

Avinash Das has penned a story which talks of a woman’s fight to maintain her dignity. Although the milieu is different, the crux of the story is not very different from several other vendetta films about a woman’s dignity. The first half is fairly interesting but the drama loses its grip on the audience after that. Avinash Das’ screenplay does not have the desired emotional impact on the viewers if only because it concentrates on just one episode – of molestation. Anarkali is not shown to be a force to reckon with for her neighbours or singers of her kind or even in Delhi once she gets break as a singer whose album would be out. In that sense, the screenplay is limited in its appeal. After a point of time, it moves quite predictably. Dialogues, written by Avinash Das, are quite realistic.

Swara Bhaskar is natural to the core in the role of singer Anarkali. She walks, talks and sings like a professional singer from Arrah. Sanjay Mishra plays the lecherous vice chancellor with all the conviction at his command. Pankaj Tripathi is effective in the role of the spineless Rangeela. Ishteyak Khan makes his presence beautifully felt as Hiraman Tiwari. Mayur More has his moments as Anwar. Vijay Kumar is lovely as police inspector Chulbul Pandey. Abhishek Sharma (as Sukhilal) and Vishwa Bhanu (as Dukhilal) are ordinary. Nitin Arora lends able support as the studio owner. Ipsita Chakraborty Singh (as Chamki Rani), Manmohan Joshi (as Faiyazbhai), Brijesh Karanval (as Muffler), Dilip Kumar Gupta (as ATM), Nilesh Kumar Deepak, Indrajeet Kumar and Prashant Giri (all three as the vice chancellor’s men), Amit Navendu (as Satyakam Anand), Ram Kumar Singh (as the press reporter), Suman Patel (as Munni), Anshika Chauhan (as young Anarkali), Shobhna Bhardwaj (as the vice chancellor’s wife), Nisha Jha (as Chandni Chauhan), Monica Chowdhury (as the Sanskrit woman) and the rest provide the desired support.

Avinash Das’ direction is fairly good but the narration will not appeal to the multiplex audience. Rohit Sharma’s music is alright but there is not a single song which would appeal to the city youth. Lyrics (Ramkumar Singh, Dr. Sagar, Ravinder Randhawa and Avinash Das) are okay. Shabina Khan’s choreography is fair. Rohit Sharma’s background score is so-so. Arvind Kannabiran’s cinematography is okay. Production designing (by Ashwini Shrivastav) is fair. Jabeen Merchant’s editing could’ve been sharper.

On the whole, Anaarkali Of Aarah does not have the merits or entertainment value to make a mark at the box-office.

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Fox Star Studios and Clean Slate Films’ Phillauri (UA) is a love story with a difference. It is actually a film about two love stories, set in two different time zones.

Kanan Gill (Suraj Sharma) comes to India from Canada to marry girlfriend Anu (Meherene Pirzada). Both the families are pretty excited about the impending marriage but the astrologer predicts doom unless Kanan first marries a tree as he is manglik. The needful is done and the tree to which Kanan is married, is cut off.

Even as the wedding celebrations are all set to start, a ghost comes to Kanan and tells him that he had married her while marrying the tree because she lived in the tree. The ghost is that of Shashi (Anushka Sharma). Kanan is petrified at first and he can’t even confide in anyone because Shashi’s ghost is only visible to him. He is now scared to marry Anu because of the presence of the ghost who refuses to leave his house as her abode – the tree – is no more. Seeing his attitude towards marriage change, Anu is devastated as she feels that Kanan does not want to marry her. Of course, Anu knows nothing about the presence of Shashi’s ghost in Kanan’s life.

Here, Shashi remembers her own love story as she sees the wedding celebrations underway. Shashi lived in Phillaur, a small town of Punjab, almost 100 years ago. She was a poetess whose poems were published in a local newspaper but as the work of an anonymous writer. She was too scared to even tell her doctor-brother, Kishanchand (Manav Vij), that she was a poetess. In the same town lived Roop Lal Phillauri (Diljit Dosanjh) who had a wonderful voice and who sang rom­antic songs. Although he was a drunk- ard, girls of Phillaur loved him because of his golden voice and his love songs. Roop Lal Phillauri had fallen in love with Shashi when he had seen her at a music event one day. But she had slapped him then and chided him for wasting his voice by singing meaningless love songs. She had asked him to use his talent for the good of society instead. This had had such an impact on Phillauri that he had begun to turn over a new leaf from that moment itself. In this way, Phillauri had won Shashi’s heart.

Dr. Kishanchand had been shocked and ashamed of his sister when he had found her cosying up to Phillauri in the latter’s house. He had warned Phillauri to keep away from Shashi. But Phillauri, while admitting that he was not fit for Shashi, had promised to mend his ways and come up to her level as he loved her. Saying so to Dr. Kishanchand, Phillauri had left for Amritsar to sing songs written by Shashi, for a music company. Dr. Kishanchand slowly but surely had had a change of heart and had finally given his consent to the marriage, much to Shashi’s joy.

The date of the wedding had been fixed. Roop Lal Phillauri was to come to Phillaur on the day of the wedding. But he hadn’t turned up. Had he ditched Shashi? Why else would he not turn up?

Did Shashi finally find Phillauri? Did the two get married? Or was there a problem in their path? In the present times, what happens to Shashi’s ghost? Does Anu realise Kanan’s predicament? Does Kanan marry Anu or does he live happily ever after with Shashi’s ghost?

Anvita Dutt has written an unusual love story of the modern day but has included in it a love story of a hundred years ago. So, there’s a modern love story (of 2017) and also a love story of 1919. The two romantic tales have been so beautifully interwoven that it makes for a refreshingly different viewing experience. Anvita Dutt’s screenplay is difficult but she comes out a winner with ease because she has balanced both of them excellently. The first half is full of fun, frolic and humour and evokes laughter. The second half has drama, melodrama and seriousness and is also more intense. But yet, the thread of humour is not lost. A very interesting aspect of the love story of 1919 is that one gets to see the points of respect for an elder brother, purity of love, faith, etc., all of which gladden the heart. The scene in which Roop Lal Phillauri promises to return to Phillaur to marry Shashi is fantastic and would bring tears to the eyes. But it must also be said that the pace drops after interval because of which the audience feels bored at times. The revelation of the suspense in the climax is extraordinary and just too unique. In the climax, there’s a scene in which the colours of the attires change – that scene has a hair-raising impact on the audience. Visually and even otherwise, the scene is absolutely deadly.

Anvita Dutt’s dialogues are truly terrific and touch the heart at many places. The comic dialogues are too cute and too funny.

Anushka Sharma does a fantastic job. She is first-rate as Shashi and her ghost and makes the story of the ghost completely believable. Hats off to her for a job so wonderfully accomplished! Diljit Dosanjh is so extraordinary that one can’t imagine another actor in the role of Roop Lal Phillauri. His honesty and integrity, so necessary for the character, ooze out of every pore of his. One can’t help but fall in love with him. Suraj Sharma is a revelation! In his first Bollywood film, he is outstanding in the role of Kanan Gill. He acts with effortless ease and makes his confused character so endearing. His confused looks, his stuttering, the fear on his face, his dilemma, all this has been portrayed by him to perfection. Meherene Pirzada makes an impressive debut as Anu. She is fairly good-looking and is a fine performer. Manav Vij lends able support as Shashi’s brother, Dr. Kishanchand. Salima Raza shines as Biji. Sunil Mehra and Suparna Marwah are lovely as Anu’s parents. Hobby Dhaliwal and Shabnam Wadhera are also too good as Kanan’s parents. Nidhi Bisht makes her presence felt in the role of Shashi’s friend, Amrit. Abhishek Banerjee is effective as Roop Lal Phillauri’s friend, Soma. Raza Murad has his moments as Gurubaksh Singh. Hassan Saad (as Nikhil), Shivam Pradhan (as Piyush), Amrit Pal (as Raju) and Kishore Sharma (as Panditji) are adequate.

Anshai Lal deserves praise for handling a difficult subject with such clarity of thought. He has also extracted wonderful work from out of his actors. Music (Shashwat Sachdev and Jasleen Royal) is very melodious but the absence of a chartbusting song is felt. ‘Sahibaan’ is a lovely track. ‘Dum Dum’ and ‘Bajaake tumba’ as also ‘Din shagna da’ are melodious numbers. Lyrics (Anvita Dutt, Aditya Sharma, Shellee and Neerja Rajawat) are rich. Song picturisations (by Feroz Khan) go well with the mood of the drama. Sameeruddin’s background music is superb. Vishal Sinha does a commendable job with his camera, capturing both, the beauty of the sets/locations and the drama, effectively. Meenal Aggarwal’s production designing is very good. Action scenes (by Sunil Rodrigues) are nice. Rameshwar S. Bhagat’s editing is sharp. Special mention must be made of the visual effects (by Red Chillies) which are terrific.

On the whole, Phillauri is a well-written, well-made and well-enacted drama and will prove to be a winner at the box-office. It will keep all its investors happy. The start may have been slow but collections will pick up due to positive mouth publicity. Business in East Punjab will be excellent due to the popularity of Diljit Dosanjh there.

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Fox Star Studios and Dharma Productions’ Badrinath Ki Dulhania (UA) is a love story with a strong message.

Badrinath Bansal (Varun Dhawan) lives in Jhansi with his strict father, Ambernath Bansal (Rituraj Singh), mother, Shanti Bansal (Leena Prabhu), elder brother, Alok (Yash Sinha), and sister-in-law, Urmila (Shweta Basu). Ambernath Bansal is of the firm belief that women must look after the household chores and not go out to work. Alok had been in love with a girl but his father had forced him to marry Urmila, who, though very educated, dare not step out of the house to work in an office. Quite unknown to Ambernath Bansal, Urmila helps husband Alok in his automobile business and is actually an asset to the business. Ambernath Bansal has a business of money-lending, and Badrinath helps his father in that business.

One day, Badrinath goes to Kota to attend his friend’s wedding. He meets Vaidehi Trivedi (Alia Bhatt) there and falls head over heels in love with her. He tries to woo Vaidehi but she doesn’t think too much of him because he isn’t well-educated. Vaidehi has had a heartbreak in the past, her lover having duped the family of lakhs of rupees and having vanished with that. Vaidehi’s father (Swanand Kirkire) is due to retire from his job in some time. He is very concerned about the weddings of his two daughters, Vaidehi and the older daughter, Kritika (Sukmani Lamba). Vaidehi’s mother (Kanupriya Pandit) is a housewife.

Scared of his father and aware of his aversion to love affairs, Badrinath makes his bosom pal, Somdev (Sahil Vaid), take Vaidehi’s proposal to his father. The father meets Vaidehi’s parents and agrees to the marriage. But Vaidehi is not happy with the marriage proposal and she says so to Badrinath, instead offering her elder sister’s hand in marriage. But since Badrinath is in love with Vaidehi, he refuses to marry Kritika. Rather, he offers to hunt for a suitable match for Kritika. Badrinath and Somdev get lucky when they find an eligible bachelor in Bhushan Patnaik (Aparshakti Khurana), whom Kritika and her family approve of. Even while the proposal in in the negotiation stages, it is about to be cancelled when Mr. Patnaik (Rajendra Sethi) asks for a huge amount as dowry, which is beyond the means of Mr. Trivedi. But Badrinath seeks his brother and sister-in-law’s help, pays the shortfall and saves the marriage from being called off.

Vaidehi now seems obliged to agree to marry Badrinath. But she realises that her dreams to soar high would remain just dreams if she were to marry Badrinath as his father would never allow her to work.  The unexpected happens on the day of the marriage of Vaidehi with Badrinath and Kritika with Bhushan. Vaidehi runs away from home just before the wedding ceremony. Badrinath is devastated. His father feels terribly humiliated. Bhushan, nevertheless, gets married to Kritika.

Unable to forget the insult, Ambernath Bansal asks son Badrinath to track Vaidehi down and bring her to him so that he could teach her a lesson of a lifetime to underline that it doesn’t behove a girl to run away from home. Badrinath comes to Bombay in search of Vaidehi but learns that she has landed a job with an airlines company in Singapore. Badrinath and Somdev then fly to Singapore. Badrinath is still madly in love with Vaidehi. But Vaidehi explains why she can’t marry him.

What happens thereafter? Does Badrinath convince Vaidehi to return to India with him? Does he hoodwink Vaidehi into returning to India with him? Does Vaidehi marry Badrinath? Or does Badrinath, like his elder brother, marry a girl of his father’s choice?

Shashank Khaitan has written a story which has love, romance, comedy, humour, drama, betrayal, emotions etc. The first half is light and full of fun moments. After interval, the story takes an emotional turn. Shashank Khaitan’s screenplay is very engrossing and fast-paced. It may not be seamless at places but the audience would want to overlook the slight bumps, if only because the drama is so entertaining otherwise. The audience laughs throughout the first half and often sheds tears post-interval. Shashank Khaitan, however, has taken care to infuse the emotional drama post-interval with humorous anecdotes so that the drama doesn’t become heavy at any time. Although predictable, the climax has been written so effectively that the audience feels a sense of elation. Shashank Khaitan’s dialogues are pleasing to the ears and also touch the heart.

Varun Dhawan is excellent as Badrinath. This is undoubtedly Varun’s best performance to-date. If he is supremely endearing in the light scenes, he is very effective in the emotional and dramatic ones. He does the fullest justice to the character of Badrinath Bansal and that includes delivering dialogues like a resident of Uttar Pradesh. Alia Bhatt is outstanding, as always. The ease with which she performs is indeed praiseworthy. Whether in comic scenes or emotional or dramatic ones, Alia is at her best. In fact, she performs the emotional scenes like a seasoned actress. Her smile and laughter are infectious. She looks extremely pretty. Together, Varun and Alia carry the film effortlessly on their shoulders. Sahil Vaid is splendid in the role of Somdev. He makes some of the scenes memorable by his sheer talent – like, for example, the one in which Varun (Badrinath) apologises to him. Yash Sinha is endearing and effective as Alok Bansal. Shweta Basu is lovely as Urmila Bansal. Rituraj Singh makes the character of Ambernath Bansal believable with his natural performance. Swanand Kirkire leaves a fine mark as Mr. Trivedi. Sukmani Lamba (as Kritika Trivedi) does a good job. Aparshakti Khurana is endearing as Bhushan Patnaik. Leena Prabhu (as Shanti Bansal) and Kanupriya Pandit (as Mrs. Trivedi) lend very good support. Gauhar Khan makes her presence felt as Laxmi Shankar. Gaurav Pandey (as Gurmeet) and Akansha Singh (as Kiran) have their moments. Rajendra Sethi is natural to the core as Mr. Patnaik. Sunil Uppal (as Panditji), Anjuman Saxena (as Mrs. Patnaik), Atul Nagrang (as Sagar) and the rest provide decent support.

Shashank Khaitan’s direction is mature. His narration is fresh and he never lets go of the thread of entertainment even once. Kudos to him for providing entertainment for all age groups and all classes of people. He deserves special praise for the message in the film, passed on without making it sound like sermonising. Music is very good. The ‘Badri ki dulhania’ song (composed by Tanishk Bagchi) is mass-appealing. ‘Roke na ruke’ (Amaal Malik) and ‘Humsafar’ (Akhil Sachdeva) are very melodious songs. ‘Tamma Tamma’ (original compostion by Bappi Lahiri, remixed by Tanishk Bagchi) is, of course, a hit. Lyrics (Shabbir Ahmed, Kumaar, Akhil Sachdeva; ‘Tamma Tamma’ by Indeevar, rap by Badshah) are very good. Song picturisations (‘Badri ki dulhania’ and ‘Aashiq surrender’ by Ganesh Acharya; ‘Tamma Tamma’ by Bosco-Caeser; ‘Humsafar’ by Feroz Khan) are very youthful and eye-filling. John Stewart Eduri’s background music is impactful. Neha Parti Matiyani’s cinematography is just too beautiful. Shashank Tere’s production designing is of a very good standard. Manan Sagar’s editing is razor-sharp.

On the whole, Badrinath Ki Dulhania is a hit. It has entertainment for the masses and the classes, for the young and the old, for the girls and the guys, for the big as well as the small centres and for the multiplex audience as well as for the single-screen cinema audience. It will keep the producers, distributors and exhibitors smiling from ear to ear.

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(This review contains spoilers but the attempt has been to include only the absolutely necessary ones (for analysing the story and screenplay).

Reliance Entertainment, PEN and Sunshine Pictures Pvt. Ltd.’s Commando 2 (UA) is the second in the Commando series. It is a commando’s war to get back the black money of Indians, parked out of India.

In a daredevil operation, ace commando Karan (Vidyut Jammwal), part of the government’s special squad, unearths the Indian black money racket by exposing and getting arrested Vicky Chaddha in Malaysia. Vicky Chaddha is the agent who transfers the black money of the rich people of India, into foreign bank accounts. The pressure on the Indian government to bring the black money and Vicky Chaddha to India is mounting.

The home minister (Shefali Shah) forms a core team of four persons – ACP Bhaktawar Khan (Freddy Daruwala), police inspector Bhavna Reddy (Adah Sharma), hacker Zafar Hussain (Sumit Gulati) and police officer Pandey (Chitranjan Tripathi) – to bring Vicky Chaddha to India from Malaysia. This is seen as a step to putting an end to the black money menace. However, since the home minister’s own son, Dishank (Suhail Nayyar), also has black money parked outside, the home minister is sending a weak team so that the black money of her son and others close to him, like businessman Runwal (Satish Kaushik), is safe.

Commando Karan gets wind of the home minister’s machinations and he manipulates things in such a way that he replaces police officer Pandey in the four-member team which goes to Malaysia. ACP Bhaktawar Khan and Karan can’t see eye to eye for obvious reasons. In Malaysia, Maria (Esha Gupta), wife of Vicky Chaddha, gives Karan a sob story and asks him to take them to Bangkok instead of India so that he would get the black money he wanted to take to India, but she and her husband would be spared action in India as they were forced into the racket and were, in that sense, innocent. Karan agrees, but Maria ditches him once they reach Bangkok. Maria is joined in Bangkok by KP (Thakur Anoop Singh) and she escapes from the custody of Karan. Joining her now is ACP Bhaktawar Khan who, it is clear, has sold his conscience for money. Maria also reveals something about Vicky Chaddha, which leaves Karan speechless. What is that?

Karan must now not allow Maria to escape. He has the support of Bhavna Reddy and Zafar Hussain, but Zafar is soon killed. With not much to fall back upon, Karan and Bhavna do their best to nab Maria and ensure that the black money comes to India. Their investigations lead them to Jimmy (Siddharth Kher) who has been asked by Maria to hack into the accounts of dead persons for a purpose. Another person is asked by Maria to get her the briefcase kept in a bank locker, which will allow her to access her account through high-security codes, and transfer all the black money to various accounts. How commando Karan thwarts Maria’s plans is what the crux of the drama is. In the end, there is an entire chain of suspense tracks, which is revealed.

Suresh Nair has penned the story and Ritesh Shah has written the screenplay, both of which are full of holes. For one, the suspense about the home minister (what the suspense is, is not being revealed here) doesn’t make sense because everyone in the team knows it. And those who don’t know it, are not at all concerned about it. In other words, the suspense is created only and only to mislead the audience, not any character in the film. This is the worst way to write a suspense drama. Again, the question that arises in the end, after the suspense is revealed, is: why did the home minister select the team which she did? Shouldn’t she have opted for a better team? Besides, it is not clear (after the revelation of the suspense) why ACP Bhaktawar Khan joins forces with Maria? Since the suspense revelation underlines a secret (not being revealed here), couldn’t commando Karan have joined hands with Maria? Karan had already won Maria’s confidence, so where was the need for someone else to join Maria? Frankly, the two writers have only written a script which has twists and turns galore but most of the twists and turns look fake and uncalled for, once the climax is over. It is as if the audiences were a character in the film, and the writers were all along misleading that character rather than any other real character in the drama. Put differently, since everyone knows everything, whom was the drama of pretence being staged for? The characters, who were not supposed to know, could have been kept in the dark without many of the twists and turns and suspense angles. The final scene of the drama, in which the black money gets transferred into the bank accounts of the poor farmers of India, is unintentionally hilarious and would find the audience, especially in the cities and multiplexes, mocking at it. Ritesh Shah’s dialogues are okay.

Vidyut Jammwal does his action and stunts so splendidly that the audience watches him in awe. But he definitely needs to improve his acting and also needs to take more care of his looks. Adah Sharma is entertaining. Her make-up in some scenes is odd. Esha Gupta does a fairly good job. Shefali Shah makes her presence felt. Freddy Daruwala is quite effective as ACP Bhaktawar Khan. Sumit Gulati is alright in a role which isn’t too significant; his death scene, designed to evoke patriotic feelings in the viewers’ hearts, fails to do so. Thakur Anoop Singh (as KP) impresses in the fight sequence with Vidyut Jammwal (Karan) but that’s about all. Adil Hussain, as Karan’s boss, Roy, leaves a mark. Suhail Nayyar (as Dishank), Satish Kaushik (as Runwal) and Siddharth Kher (as Jimmy) lend decent support. Atul Kumar (as Reza), D. Santosh (as Bala), Anjum Rajabali (as the prime minister), Chitranjan Tripathi (as police inspector Pandey), Chirag Vohra (as the doctor), Kanan Arunachalam (as Shreenath Iyer), Rashmi Phanse (as Erica), Vansh Bhardwaj (as Vicky Chaddha), baby Avisha (as Vicky’s daughter), Abhiroy Singh (as the briefcase man) and the others provide average support.

Deven Bhojani’s direction is okay but could have been far better. He seems to have concentrated mostly on action scenes and stunts but has been quite careless about the progression of the story and its logic. Mannan Shah and Gourov Roshin’s music is more functional than entertaining. Lyrics (by Aatish Kapadia and Kum­aar) are alright. Firoz A. Khan’s choreo­graphy is routine. Prasad Sashte’s background music is too loud and imposing at times. Chirantan Das’ cinematography is effective. Action direction by Franz Spilhaus and action choreography by Vidyut Jammwal and Sunil Balu Pala are extraordinary. Production designing (by Sheetal Duggal and Aparna Raina) is adequate. Editing (by Amitabh Shukla and Sanjay Sharma) is suitably sharp.

On the whole, Commando 2 is high on breathtaking action and stunts but the job of the script writers is so shoddy that the film will not be able to make profits and, maybe, not even break even despite its limited budget and fairly good recoveries from non-theatrical sources.

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