Yoodlee Films’ Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz (UA) is the love story of a male radio jockey and a girl considered a social outcast by many because of the large white spots on her face.

Archana (Geetanjali Thapa) works for a company which specialises in making memes for social media. She is unlucky in love because guys don’t find her desirable, thanks to the white spots visible on her face. She has been on several blind dates but has invariably faced rejection. She lives with her single mother (Mona Ambegaonkar). She has a soft corner for her colleague, Apu (Shray Rai Tiwari) who also loves her. Archana is a fan of radio jockey Alfaaz (Zain Khan Durrani) whose voice and talks on his radio show, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz, have made him a darling of the young and the old alike. After quitting her job, Archana makes Alfaaz’s quotable quotes viral on social media, as a hobby.

Just by chance, Archana and Alfaaz become phone friends and often chat either over the phone or through messages on the phone. Archana is unaware that the person at the other end is none other than Alfaaz. The radio jockey has a past which haunts him.

Soon, Archana and Alfaaz become more than just phone friends. Does Alfaaz meet Archana? If so, does he accept her or, like many earlier boys, reject her? What is Alfaaz’s haunting past?

Abhishek Chatterjee’s story is not new as one has seen love stories in which a person has fallen in love with another without meeting the other person. What’s more, the story moves at such an excruciatingly slow pace that it tests the audience’s patience. Abhishek Chatterjee’s screenplay often meanders aimlessly because the story is thin. Except for the last few minutes of the screenplay, there isn’t much to really engage the viewers, but by then, it is too late. Abhishek Chatterjee’s dialogues are natural.

Geetanjali Thapa delivers a very natural performance as Archana. Zain Khan Durrani looks handsome and is apt for the role of Alfaaz as his voice and narrative style are very good. Shray Rai Tiwari is alright as Apu. Mona Ambegaonkar makes her presence felt in the role of Archana’s mother. Chandreyee Ghosh has her moments as Alfaaz’s colleague. Soumya Mukherji leaves a fine mark as Param, the boss of Archana and Apu. Saheb Bhattacharjee makes his presence felt as Alfaaz’s colleague. Shefali Chavan (as Chhavi) looks pretty and is suitably expressive. Sourav Das (as Tony Baby), Barun Chanda (as Chhavi’s grandfather), Debopriyo (as Naren), Sahil Agarwal (as Kushal), Sangita Drolia (as Apu’s mother) and the rest of the actors lend fair support.

Onir’s direction is alright but his choice of the script is weak. Besides, his narrative pace is slow. Shashwat Srivastava’s background music is fair. Nusrat F. Jafri’s camerawork is okay. Production designing (by Mridul Baidya and Shashwati Baidya) is average. Irene Dhar Malik’s editing is alright.

On the whole, Kuchh Bheege Alfaaz is more for the festival circuit than for the commercial film circuit. As such, it will go quite unnoticed at the ticket windows.

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Reliance Entertainment, Motion Picture Capital, Plan C Studios, PEN Studios and Friday Filmworks’ Aiyaary (UA) is the story about the armed forces of India and the corruption that has set in in the ranks of the forces.

Principled army chief Pratap Malik (Vikram Gokhale) has clandestinely set up a covert army unit under Colonel Abhay Singh (Manoj Bajpayee), allocating funds to it although he has no authorisation to do the same. Major Jai Bakshi (Sidharth Malhotra) is a part of the covert team and he is a promising young army officer who is very inspired by the principled Colonel and his philosophies of life.

It emerges that Colonel Abhay Singh and Major Jai Bakshi have disappeared. Army officer K. Srinivas (Rajesh Tailang) is interrogating Maya (Pooja Chopra), another member of the covert team of Colonel Abhay Singh, about the whereabouts of the two.

As the drama unfolds, it turns out that Jai has stolen sensitive data from the covert unit’s data centre and he also has the recorded conversation between the army chief and Lieutenant General (retd.) Gurinder Singh (Kumud Mishra). Jai has learnt the art of decoding data from hacker Sonia (Rakul Preet Singh) whom he has ultimately fallen in love with.

In the taped conversation, Gurinder can be heard offering army chief Pratap Malik bribe money to clear the arms and ammunition deal offer received from an arms supplier in Czech Republic. But the upright Malik won’t do it as the cost of the deal is four times what it should be. Gurinder Singh, before concluding the conversation, has threatened to expose the covert unit and the army chief if he (army chief) does not close the arms deal. Armed with so much incriminating evidence, Jai has fled the country.

Gurinder Singh even starts the process of exposing the army chief by colluding with a television journalist (Nivedita Bhattacharya). Meanwhile, the army chief cancels the covert operations to ensure his own and Abhay Singh and his team’s safety. But the army chief gives Abhay Singh unofficial orders to ensure that the corrupt army people are wiped out in order to protect the nation.

Abhay Singh is shocked that his blue-eyed boy, Jai, could turn rogue. Abhay Singh follows Jai to London where the latter has gone to settle down. He ensures that the crores of rupees, promised to him by Gurinder Singh for not exposing him and Mukesh Kapoor (Adil Hussain) whom he (Gurinder Singh) works for, are transferred to his account. Jai wants to meet arms supplier Mukesh Kapoor in London. It soon becomes clear that Mukesh Kapoor is an ex-army officer of India. Mukesh Kapoor has quit the Indian army to make pots of money by supplying arms. He has retired army officers on his pay roll so that he can use their knowhow to make the best offers to the Army.

Colonel Abhay Singh, on the same flight as Jai, reaches London to kill Jai for turning rogue. He meets a trusted person (Anupam Kher) in London, who helps Abhay in tracking down Jai. Abhay Singh meets Mukesh Kapoor and asks him to eliminate Jai who would be meeting him, threatening to otherwise expose him alongwith Gurinder Singh if he (Mukesh Kapoor) does not oblige.

Meanwhile, the black sheep in the army, including Gurinder Singh, are wondering where Abhay Singh has disappeared after meeting the army chief. They also don’t know where Jai Bakshi is.

Does Mukesh Kapoor eliminate Jai? Or does Abhay Singh kill Jai? Is Mukesh Kapoor exposed? Does Gurinder Singh expose the army chief or does Abhay Singh prove one-up on him and expose him before that? Is Jai Bakshi working against the interest of India? Why does Jai Bakshi ask his boss, Abhay Singh, to meet Baburao (Naseeruddin Shah) who is holed up in a small hotel in India? Who is Baburao and what explosive information does he have? Whom will this information expose?

Neeraj Pandey’s story is too confusing and convoluted to be easily comprehended by the average person. It has so many sub-plots that it becomes difficult for the audience to keep track of the same. Besides, while talking of the corruption in the armed forces right through the drama, it focuses on such a small (comparatively speaking) aspect in the climax that it appears like a case of much ado about nothing. In an age when scams of thousands and lakhs of crores of rupees make headline news, the scam unearthed by Baburao in the climax looks like a tiny joke. Furthermore, the entire track of Jai Bakshi being disillusioned by the corrupt system does not seem justified because in the taped conversation between army chief Pratap Malik and Lieutenant General (retd.) Gurinder Singh, it is amply evident that the army chief is an honest and principled person. Rather than being inspired by Malik, Jai Bakshi keeps harping on the point of not willing to work for the corrupt system. So long as the man on the top is clean, how can Jai Bakshi take the plea that he is working for a corrupt system, and expect the viewers to buy that?

Neeraj Pandey’s screenplay is so confusing that the audience wonders what he wants to convey. The details of the sub-plots revealed by the screenplay are often unnecessary and serve to confuse the audience more than anything else. The tracks of Chiru and some others are unnecessary or, even if essential, are so long that they irritate more than adding anything worthwhile to the drama. There are flashbacks within flashbacks, only adding to the confusion. For example, there is a scene in which Sonia goes into flashback mode. In that flashback, Jai is shown explaining his stand to her and while doing so, he goes into a further flashback. Scenes like these are so irritating that the frustrated audience wants to throw up its hands in despair and shout out for help. Consequently, the viewers sometimes lose track and at some other times, they get irritated with the surfeit of information. The result is that the drama becomes too unwieldy for the audience to handle. In fact, the viewers get the feeling that Neeraj Pandey had so much to say that along the way, he himself lost track of what he must’ve first set out to say! Neeraj Pandey seems to have overlooked the point that like brevity is the soul of wit, it is also the soul of a box-office hit. The climax, of course, is a major letdown after the huge build-up and it pales into insignificance when viewed in the context of the drama leading up to the climax.

The screenplay lacks the elements of emotions and patriotism. Although the army chief and Colonel Abhay Singh are shown to be confirmed nationalists, nothing in the entire drama evokes patriotic feelings in the viewers. Even the title (meaning the art of disguising and deceiving) seems quite unsuitable.

Neeraj Pandey’s dialogues are good at places but definitely not half as punch-packed and patriotic as they ought to have been.

Sidharth Malhotra is sincere as Major Jai Bakshi. He delivers an earnest performance but his character does not get the audience’s sympathy because of the reason given above. Sidharth looks very handsome. Manoj Bajpayee shines in the role of Colonel Abhay Singh. He gets into the skin of the character and comes up with an absolutely stunning show of talent. Here, it must be added that the youth may not approve of the fact that Manoj Bajpayee often seems to have a meatier role than Sidharth Malhotra. Rakul Preet Singh does well as Sonia but she tends to overact in the last few reels. Adil Hussain plays arms dealer Mukesh Kapoor with conviction and authority. Kumud Mishra gives an interesting colour to the character of Lieutenant General (retd.) Gurinder Singh. Naseeruddin Shah is very natural as Baburao and makes a fine impact. But in the scheme of things, the viewers get the feeling that an artiste of his calibre has been quite wasted even though he turns out to be like the hero of the climax. Anupam Kher makes his presence felt. Pooja Chopra has her moments as Maya. Vikram Gokhale makes his mark as army chief Pratap Malik. Rajesh Tailang lends lovely support as army officer K. Srinivas. Juhi Babbar Soni leaves a mark as Abhay Singh’s wife. Nivedita Bhattacharya is effective as the television journalist. Lushin Dubey (as Jai’s mother), Ajith Bhurre, Gaurav Sharma, Maan Sarohi, Mir Sarwar, Deepak Chand, Zafar, Kacho, Sidharth Bhardwaj, Rahul and Janvi Kapoor are adequate.

Neeraj Pandey’s direction, like his script, leaves something to be desired. The accomplished director does not seem to be in form this time as his narration is found lacking in a lot of aspects. Rochak Kohli’s music is appealing as the ‘Lai dooba’ song is of a popular variety. Manoj Muntashir’s lyrics are good. Feroz Khan’s choreography is functional and goes well with the mood of the film. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music is excellent and greatly adds to the drama. Sudheer Palsane’s cinematography deserves distinction marks. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunt scenes are good. Production designing (by Narendra Rahurikar) is of a fine standard. Praveen Kathikuloth’s editing could’ve been more effective but, of course, the major blame for lack of effectiveness lies on the weak script.

On the whole, Aiyaary is a flop show which will face rejection at the box-office because it is too long and boring and lacks entertainment value and the patriotic flavour.

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Columbia Pictures, Mrs. Funnybones Movies, SPE Films India, KriArj Entertainment, Cape Of Good Films and Hope Productions’ Pad Man (UA) is a biopic on Arunachalam Muruganantham, the social entrepreneur from Coimbatore who invented a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine so that the poorest women in every corner of India could maintain hygiene during their menstrual cycles by being able to afford low-cost sanitary pads instead of relying on unhygienic pieces of cloth.

Lakshmi (Akshay Kumar), who lives in a small town, Maheshwar, gets married to Gayatri (Radhika Apte). He dotes on her and wants her to be happy at all cost. Living with the couple are Lakshmi’s mother (Jyoti Subhash) and two younger sisters (Parul Chouhan and Soumya Vyas). Another sister (Mrinmayee Godbole) is married and lives with her husband and in-laws.

Lakshmi is disturbed by the poor hygiene observed by wife Gayatri during her monthly periods. One day, he buys a packet of sanitary pads for her but she refuses to use them due to their high price. This sets his mind thinking about the crores of women who aren’t able to maintain hygiene because of the affordability factor. He consults his doctor (Umesh Damle) who tells him that many women contract diseases because of lack of hygiene during their periods and some have to pay with their lives. Obsessed with Gayatri’s well-being, he himself prepares sanitary napkins using cotton wool but when Gayatri uses them, she realises that they don’t serve the purpose. He makes alterations but when they fail to make life easier for Gayatri, she asks him to simply let her be. Unwilling to give up, Lakshmi now tries to convince girls and women in his town to use the indigenously-prepared sanitary napkin. On one such occasion, his over-enthusiasm backfires on him and he and his family have to bear the ignominy that comes with it. His devastated mother sends his two younger sisters to stay with the elder married sister so that they can avoid the barbs that would come their way because of Lakshmi treading into the female and taboo domain.

Left with no option, Lakshmi actually himself tries to judge the functionality of his sanitary napkins by using them himself but that experiment goes so horrendously wrong that he and his family have to face the wrath of everyone around. Gayatri’s brothers (Sanjay Singh and Abhimanyu Sarkar) take her away because they are ashamed of Lakshmi’s actions. Left with no option, Lakshmi leaves his town but not his dream.

He seeks help from people including a kid and does a lot of research till he realises that he ought to be using cellulose fibre instead of cotton wool for making sanitary napkins. He soon develops a low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine and makes sanitary napkins which cost only Rs. 2 a piece. By sheer chance, Pari (Sonam Kapoor) becomes the first person to try his pad. Hearing his story, she takes his invention of the low-cost sanitary pad manufacturing machine to the National Innovation Competition where he gets a special prize of the President of India. Pari and her father (Suneel Sinha) get him media coverage and the stage now seems to be set for Lakshmi’s machine to become a cash cow. But Lakshmi is saddened by this prospect as his aim has all along been to make affordable sanitary pads for poor women in the country. He is unwilling to sell his pad manufacturing machine as he fears, those who buy his machine at an astronomical price would then make sanitary pads and sell them at exorbitant prices to recover their cost of machines. This, he concludes, would defeat the very purpose of making low-cost sanitary pads.

Pari realises the goodness and noble thoughts behind Lakshmi’s innovation and joins him to further his business and aim. Not only does Lakshmi’s business take off in a big way but he is soon called by the United Nations to deliver a lecture about it. The people of his town welcome him with open arms when Lakshmi is given a Padma Award. Gayatri, who has all along waited for Lakshmi, comes back to him after her brothers realise their folly. Lakshmi’s mother and sisters also realise their mistake.

The story, based on Twinkle Khanna’s concept, is heavily inspired by the true-life story of Arunachalam Muruganantham. The story is very inspirational and interesting. The screenplay, written by R. Balki and Swanand Kirkire, is intelligent because it infuses a lot of humour and even some emotions in the drama. A taboo topic like menstrual cycle of ladies has been handled with reasonable maturity. Although the emotional quotient is a bit less, it does add to the drama. Had the writers made some scenes tear-jerking, the impact would’ve been wonderful. Having said that, it must be added that the humour in the screenplay keeps the atmosphere light and takes care that the film does not appear like a documentary. There are some wonderfully written scenes like the one in which Gayatri says, she would try using Lakshmi’s sanitary pads, or the one in which Lakshmi lets Gayatri return to her paternal home because she can’t face the humiliation, or the scene in which he decides to turn Gayatri’s humiliation (because of his over-enthusiasm) into pride, or the speech made by Lakshmi at the United Nations in awkwardly-structured English, or the scene in which Lakshmi refuses to make money by selling his patent, etc. It is scenes like the above which make the drama so heartwarming that the audience would love it. Lakshmi’s speech at the United Nations, especially, would be greeted by the audience in the cinemas with rounds of applause. However, it must be added that because the topic of the film is taboo, the drama would be more accepted by the city and evolved audience and the multiplex-frequenting viewers. The first half is slow and also uses very basic techniques to explain points. But the post-interval portion is fast-paced as also very interesting and engaging. The duo’s dialogues are very good and several of them are excellent.

Akshay Kumar lives the role of Lakshmi. He brings forth the honesty and integrity of the character so wonderfully that the audience roots for him. Consequently, his victory becomes the victory of the audience. It must be added here that Akshay has over the last couple of years established a loyal base of audience which waits for his entertaining films with a socially relevant message – and this base of viewers will simply love him in the film. Radhika Apte shines in the role of Gayatri. Her expressions are so beautiful that she often conveys what is to be conveyed, even before she has spoken her lines. It is delightful to watch the lady act. Sonam Kapoor, as Pari, has an endearing role and she mostly remains true to her character. Her performance in a couple of scenes is found lacking but that’s hardly anything. In most of the scenes, she acts effectively. Suneel Sinha makes his presence felt as Pari’s father. Jyoti Subhash has her moments in the role of Lakshmi’s mother. Mrinmayee Godbole leaves a mark as Lakshmi’s married sister. Amitabh Bachchan lends tremendous star value in a special appearance. Parul Chouhan and Soumya Vyas lend decent support as Lakshmi’s younger sisters. Yogesh Shreekant Pandey (as butcher Bablu) leaves a very good mark. A.R. Rama (as Harya), Shriram Jog (as senior partner at Lakshmi’s work­ shop), Santosh Rege (as the other partner), Amarjeet Singh (as the lazy worker at the workshop), Gaurav Sarathe (as the injured worker), Mru­ dul Satam (as Tinku), Riva Bubber (as Tinku’s mother), AjayDave (as Tinku’s father), Sanjay Singh and Abhimanyu Sarkar (both as Gayatri’s brothers), Priyanka Dubey (as Gaya­ tri’s sister-in-law), Umesh Damle (as the doctor at Maheshwar), Karan Bhogle (as the husband of Lakshmi’s sister), Shabbir Modi (as the malmal shopkeeper), Angshuman Thukan (as the hosiery shopkeeper), Ajay Singh Pal (as the cotton wool shop­ keeper), Manoj Pemgirkar (as the medical shopkeeper), Amit Sharma (as the man on the moped), Praveen Ojha (as the school teacher), Himika Bose, Minaz Frutiwala, Richa Joshi, Sonal Bhojwani, Nandini Shrivastav (all five as medical college students), Rakesh Chaturvedi (as professor), master Wahib Kapadia (as the professor’s child), Rajesh Tiwari (as the moneylender), Kajal Khanchandani (as the moneylender’s wife), Harsha­da Patil (as Pinky), Shrishti Wadh­wani, Tapasya Dasgupta, Priyanka Pawar (all three as Pari’s friends), Urmila Mahanta (as Savitri), Wasim Khan (as Savitri’s husband), Vanshika (as the school-girl), Salma Khan (as the school-girl’s mother), Reuben Is­ rael (as the IIT principal), I.P. Sawh­ney (as Pari’s interviewer), Aman Singh Mukar (as the United Nations interpreter) and the others provide able support.

Balki’s direction is excellent. Distinction marks to him for not allowing the film to appear like a documentary. Amit Trivedi’s music is very nice. The ‘Aaj se teri’ song is already a hit and it will grow further in popularity. Its simple tune and its easy-on-the-lips lyrics (Kausar Munir) are its biggest plus points, not to forget its magical rendition (by Arijit Singh). The ‘Hu ba hu’ song and the title track are also appealing songs. Kausar Munir’s lyrics are interesting. Brinda’s choreography is in synch with the film’s mood. Amit Trivedi’s background music is effective. P.C. Sreeram’s cinematography is very good. Rupin Suchak’s production de­signing is appropriate. Chandan Arora does a fine job of the editing.

On the whole, Pad Man is an en­joyable entertainer with a good mess­age. It will score at the box-office and will keep everyone associated with it, happy. It has chances of joining the Rs. 100-crore club.

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Viacom18 Motion Pictures and Sanjay Leela Bhansali Productions Pvt. Ltd.’s Padmaavat (UA) is a historical that projects the glory, bravery and valour of Rajputs and their women.

King Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) falls in love with Padmavati (Deepika Padukone) the moment he sees her in a jungle, hunting an animal. Besotted by her following his interaction with her while she tends to him after her arrow mistakenly injures him, he expresses his desire to marry her. Her father gives his consent and the marriage is solemnised. Padmavati goes to her matrimonial home where the king already has a wife, Naagmati (Anupriya Goenka).

In Delhi, Jalaluddin Khilji (Raza Murad) has displaced the ruler and taken charge. He marries off his daughter, Mehrunisa (Aditi Rao Hydari), to his nephew, the debauch Alaudiin Khilji (Ranveer Singh). In this way, Jalaluddin Khilji is now both, the uncle and the father-in-law, of Alauddin Khilji.

In Ratan Singh’s kingdom, Rajguru (Aayam Mehta) is considered to be the extremely learned and wise man who guides the king. King Ratan Singh respects Rajguru a great deal. But one day, Rajguru is banished by the king from his kingdom for having broken protocol and ventured into the extremely private space of the king and his new bride, Padmavati.

Unable to forget the insult and humiliation, Rajguru tries to instigate Alauddin Khilji against king Ratan Singh but he does so very cunningly. Knowing that Alauddin Khilji is a womaniser, he tells him about the boundless beauty of Padmavati which makes Alauddin salivate for her. Dying to see Padmavati, Alauddin sends an invitation to king Ratan Singh to visit him with his family. By now, Alauddin has already murdered his uncle and usurped the seat of power for himself. Anyway, king Ratan Singh turns down the invitation of Alauddin because Alauddin Khilji’s reputation of being an evil person is well-known. Khilji takes this as an insult and decides to wage a war against king Ratan’s kingdom. He reaches the outskirts of the king’s kingdom with his army, waiting for the opportune time to strike. King Ratan Singh also readies his army to strike back as soon as Khilji would attack. After months of waiting, the evil Khilji cooks up a plan to reach Padmavati. He pretends to send his army back home so as to misguide king Ratan Singh. He also extends a hand of friendship to king Ratan Singh and seeks his permission to visit him. Ratan Singh receives Khilji in his kingdom and after having dinner together, Khilji asks to be introduced to Padmavati. At first unwilling, king Ratan soon relents. Padmavati is brought in front of Khilji but for a few seconds only. Alauddin goes crazy about Padmavati’s beauty but is livid because king Ratan had purposely allowed him to see Padmavati for some seconds only. Alauddin Khilji returns to his kingdom and cooks up another evil plan to get Padmavati to come to him.

As per plan, he first extends an invitation to king Ratan Singh but once the latter reaches Delhi, he holds him captive and sends a message to Padmavati to come to him if she wanted to save her husband. Back home, king Ratan Singh’’s first wife, Naagmati, jealous of Padmavati, accuses her for their husband’s captivity and tells her to ensure his freedom. Convinced that she must rescue her husband, Padmavati agrees to go to Khilji but if and only if he would agree to her conditions, one of which is that she would meet him in Delhi in his palace only after he had freed her husband. By her shrewdness and due to the assistance of Mehrunisa, Padmavati manages to run away with husband Ratan Singh without so much as even meeting Khilji. The frustrated Alauddin Khilji now declares war against king Ratan Singh’s kingdom because he is consumed by the desire to possess Padmavati. Before the war breaks out, Padmavati seeks her husband’s permission to commit jauhar – that is, to jump into the fire rather than be dishonoured by Khilji who was bound to capture her if king Ratan would lose the war.

As luck would have it, Khilji manages to kill king Ratan Singh, of course, by deceit. Not only does Padmavati commit jauhar herself but also motivates all the other women whose husbands were being killed on the battlefield by Alauddin Khilji’s men, to likewise commit jauhar. This is considered one of Khilji’s biggest defeat in history because although he won the war, he did not achieve the purpose for which he had waged the war.

The story is based on a chapter of history and brings out a heart-rending story of how Rajput women laid down their lives rather than be sexually exploited by men. It talks of Rajput pride, honour and valour in all its glory. However, the story-line is quite thin because it is about an evil man’s immense desire to possess someone else’s wife. The screenplay, penned by Prakash R. Kapadia and Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is very engrossing, engaging and interesting too. The screenplay is well-written and keeps the audience interest alive from the start till the end. Besides the thin story-line, another minus point, if one may use the term, is that it does not make the audience cry despite being a human drama. But these two ‘drawbacks’ are more than offset by the positives which include an arresting screenplay, grand sets, outstanding costumes, fantastic performances, superb dances and some exciting and hair-raising sequences. The climax leaves the audience feeling euphoric. Dialogues, penned by Prakash R. Kapadia, are excellent and some of them are even clapworthy.

Shahid Kapoor does a very fine job as king Ratan Rawal Singh. He looks handsome and acts ably. But Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh actually carry the film on their shoulders. Deepika Padukone looks like an ethereal beauty and her costumes and jewellery are to die for. The costumes and jewellery will be discussed by womenfolk and could be a reason for repeat audience. Her acting is so restrained that it is a delight to watch her performance. She lends the character of Padmavati the dignity it deserves. Ranveer Singh plays to the gallery and is so outstanding that this could rate as one of his best performances to-date. He often acts so hideously that the viewers would be constrained to think of him as being an animal rather than a human being. Ranveer Singh’s memorable performance could also bring in repeat audiences. In a special appearance, Raza Murad makes his presence felt with a noteworthy performance as Jalaluddin Khilji. Aditi Rao Hydari looks petite and pretty and delivers a fine performance as Mehrunisa. Anupriya Goenka stands her own as Ratan Singh’s first wife, Naagmati. Jim Sarbh leaves a mark with a fine performance as Mallik Kafur. Aayam Mehta is earnest and natural in the role of Rajguru. Ujjwal Chopra (as Gora Singh), Veena Mehta (as Suraj Baisa), Ashwin Dhar (as Ulugh Khan), Vibhav Roy (as Itaat Khan), Muzamil Bhawani (as Amir Khusro), Deepak Shreemali (as Badal Singh), Manish Wadhwa (as Gandharvasen), Hriday Malhotra (as Sujan Singh), Sharhaan Singh (as Vijaydaan Singh), Lankesh Bhardwaj (as Tribhuvan Pal), Komal Chhabria (as Jalaluddin’s wife), Qutee Nagpal (as Shanze), Gulshan Walia (as the head monk), Saar Kashyap (as Wardhan), Daljeet Sean Singh (as Shareef Pasha), Nazir Hussain (as Mongol chief), Priyanka Sunny Pawar (as Chittai), Rohit Choudhary (as Ikhtiyaar), Mohammad Sakir (as Mohammad), Mursaleen Qureshi (as Mursaleen), Farhan Siddiqui (as Ashfaq), Ayaz Khan (as the hakeem), Anuj Khurana (as Bijuriya), Sanjeev Sharma (as Hajuriya), Arvinder Shagmer Gill (as Tejveer) and the rest of the artistes lend decent support.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s direction is extraordinary. He has made the film a visual delight with his painstaking detailing, whether in the costumes of the actors or the sets. Despite a thin story-line, he has made the film so interesting that one can’t help but heap praises on him for a job extraordinarily done. His music score is very good. The ‘Ghoomar’ song is already a rage; ‘Ek dil ek jaan’ and ‘Khali bali’ are also very well-tuned numbers. Other songs have lilt. A.M. Turaz’s lyrics (one song is written by Siddharth-Garima) go very well with the mood of the film. The picturisation of the ‘Ghoomar’ song (by Kruti Mahesh Midya, with expert inputs by Jyoti Tommar) is so mindblowing that it becomes one of the high points of the film. Even the picturisation of the ‘Khali bali’ song (by Ganesh Acharya) is delighful. The other choreographer is Shampa Gopikishan. Sanchit Balhara’s background music is astounding. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography is par excellence. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are brilliantly taken. Production designing (by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray) is truly terrific. The sets are grand. Rajesh G. Pandey’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Padmaavat is a surefire hit and has all the trappings of a blockbuster. If the film is allowed to be screened peacefully all over India, it has the potential to smash box-office records. But opposition by Rajputs and failure of government machinery in various parts of the country, prompting many exhibitors to refrain from screening the film for fear of damage to the cinemas, will definitely take its toll on the film’s business unless corrective action is taken soon. The 3D conversion (by Prime Focus) is very well done and that will be an added attraction for the audience as the grand sets look grander in 3D.

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UV Films’ Nirdosh (A) is a murder mystery.

Shinaya Grover (Manjari Fadnis), an extremely noble-hearted television journalist, is arrested for a murder. Investigating police officer Lokhande (Arbaaz Khan) interrogates her. He is known to be ruthless in his questioning. Also, Lokhande is known never to punish someone who is not guilty, and leave anybody who is guilty. Shinaya keeps repeating that she has been framed but Lokhande is not prepared to believe her till her husband, Gautam Grover (Ashmit Patel), reaches the police station and confesses to the crime. He tells Lokhande that he was in a relationship with their PG, Ada Saxena (Maheck Chahal), and had murdered their neighbour, Rana (Mukul Dev), because he was blackmailing him with a video of him (Gau­tam) and Ada in a compromising position. Since Shinaya had also told Lokhande about Gautam’s extra-marital affair with Ada, and about Rana blackmailing her with the video, she now tells him that the murder had been committed by her and not by Gautam. She explains that in return for the video, Rana had tried to rape her (Shinaya) and that she had killed him in an act of self-defence. Shinaya’s finger prints had also been found at the place of the murder, which was Rana’s house. This had led to her arrest in the case. However, the weapon used for the murder is missing.

There are other suspects too – Ada Saxena, Rana’s wife, Durga (Shilpa Kadam), who Rana used to physically and mentally abuse, Durga’s brother, Raj Bhosle (Aastad Kale), who had had a terrible fight with Rana around the time he was murdered, because he had seen Rana beating up his sister, and others too. Finally, the matter reaches the court. Perhaps, for the first time in his career, Lokhande is unable to prove who has committed the crime. Ultimately, Shinaya is acquitted.

So who committed Rana’s murder? Did Lokhande know the murderer? If not, why did he fail this time? If yes, why did he let the murderer go scot-free? And what was the weapon used for the crime?

Amit Khan has penned a juvenile story of crime. Because the story is so kiddish, it never really engages or involves the audience despite being a murder mystery. His screenplay has many holes because of which it fails to sustain the viewers’ interest for long. The scenes of interrogation are lengthy and often boring. They also look childish on many occasions. Even the courtroom drama has been carelessly written. Amit Khan’s dialogues are hardly impressive.

Arbaaz Khan does an average job and makes his performance uni-dimensional, often repeating lines! Ashmit Patel’s acting is flat and looks unconvincing. Manjari Fadnis looks pretty and is earnest as Shinaya. Maheck Chahal exudes oomph but her performance is average as Ada Saxena. Mukul Dev plays Rana effectively. Aastad Kale leaves a mark in the role of politician Raj Bhosle. Shilpa Kadam is so-so as Rana’s wife, Durga. Manisha Kelkar makes her presence felt as Lokhande’s deputy, Shalini Patil. Aakash Sinha is just about passable as Lokhande’s other deputy, Waghmare. Geetanjali Mishra has a couple of entertaining moments as maid Laxmi Bai. Pushpak Chawla is okay as Ada’s boyfriend, Robin. Dinesh Lamba (as the housing society guard), Rajkumar Kanojia (as the liftman), Muni Jha (as the secretary of the housing society), baby Zenia Shastikar (as Gautam and Shinaya’s little daughter, Dil), Yusuf Hussain (as the judge), Zafar Ali Sayyed and Eva Shirali (both as lawyers), Himanshu Manek (as the forensic expert), Prem Nath Gulati (as the police commissioner) and the rest lend routine support and are mostly predictable.

Pradeep Rangwani and Subroto Paul’s direction is fair but they’ve not been able to camouflage the shortcomings of the script. Musically, the ‘Saiyyan re’ song (composed by Liyakat Ajmeri, and penned by Shakeel Azmi) is appealing. The other song (composed by Harry Anand, penned by Amit Khan) is average. Raju Khan and Vishnu Deva’s choreography is okay. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music is routine. Arun Prasad’s camerawork is alright. Abbas Ali Moghul’s action and stunts could’ve been far more exciting. Sanjay Sankla’s editing is not crisp enough for a thriller.

On the whole, Nirdosh is too dull to be an engrossing and engaging murder mystery. It will, therefore, flop at the box-office.

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K’Scope Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and Vishalraj Films And Production Pvt. Ltd.’s Vodka Diaries (UA) is a suspense thriller.

ACP Ashwini Dixit (Kay Kay Menon) is neck-deep in trying to solve the cases of mysterious murders in a single night in a club, Vodka Diaries. Some time after his investigation begins, he is shocked to see the three dead persons alive. He is also clueless about where his wife, Shikha Dixit (Mandira Bedi), has disappeared suddenly. Roshni Banerjee (Raima Sen) offers to help him but can she? How is it that the three dead persons come alive? Who is Roshni Banerjee? Where is Shikha Dixit?

Vaibhav Bajpai has written quite an engaging story with interesting twists and turns. The twist about the dead persons coming alive has shock value. Likewise, the last couple of reels, in which the suspense is revealed, are very engaging. Kushal Srivastava and Vaibhav Bajpai’s screenplay may not be excellent but it does manage to keep the audience hooked because it is fairly fast-paced and it also offers quite a lot. Dialogues, penned by Manisha Korde and Kushal Srivastava, are quite nice.

Kay Kay Menon does a remarkable job. He lives the character of ACP Ashwini Dixit and makes the drama believable because of his natural performance. Mandira Bedi looks glamorous and acts with effortless ease in the role of Shikha Dixit. Raima Sen delivers a fine performance as Roshni Banerjee. Sharib Hashmi lends decent support as ACP Ashwini Dixit’s aide, senior police inspector Ankit. Herry Tangiri looks endearing and acts ably as Ronnie Duggal. Rahul Kapoor leaves a mark in the role of Nikhil Bhatia. Rishi Bhutani is fair as Vivek Rajput. Swati Rajput has her moments as Sera, girlfriend of Ronnie. Namya Saxena makes a lovely impression with her realistic performance in the role of Meghna Shastri. Antara Srivastava (as Kavya Saluja) and Vaishnavi Dhanraj (as Ananya) lend decent support. Sooraj Thapar makes his presence amply felt in the role of manager of Vodka Diaries club. Dipoo Srivastava is alright as the assistant of the manager. Vikram Sakhalkar, as Mayukh, looks handsome and acts well. Mohommed Ali Shah (as Sam), Rajat Srivastava (as the streetside book-seller) and the rest provide fair support.

Kushal Srivastava’s direction is good. He has handled the intriguing subject well enough to keep the viewers engaged. Music (by Parvaaz, Harry Anand and Sandesh Shandilya) is more functional than anything else. Lyrics (Harry Anand and Aalok Shrivastav) are appropriate. Sanjoy Chowdhury’s background music is compelling. Maneesh Chandra Bhatt’s cinematography is very good. Narendra Haldankar’s art direction is okay. Aalaap Majgavkar’s editing is sharp.

On the whole, Vodka Diaries is a well-made suspense thriller which is quite engaging. But it will not be able to do well enough at the turnstiles because it has not been promoted enough for people to come to the cinemas in reasonably large numbers and also because there is no time for collections to pick up by word of mouth as it has only a six-day window, after which Padmaavat and Pad Man will take over the cinemas.

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Kahwa Entertainment’s My Birthday Song (A) is a thriller.

Rajiv Kaul (Sanjay Suri) has a wife, Ritu (Zenia Starr), and two kids. He is celebrating his 40th birthday with friends. Although the party has been arranged by his wife, she herself is unable to attend as she and the kids are with her mother who is unwell. Anyway, Rajiv’s travel agent-friend, Vikram Acharya (Ayaz Khan), brings his friend, Sandy (Nora Fatehi), to the party. Sandy stays back in Rajiv’s house on a false pretext, even after all friends have left – and Rajiv is quite happy about it because both had felt attracted towards each other.

Before long, Rajiv and Sandy are in his bedroom, in bed. After foreplay, Sandy suddenly asks Rajiv to stop. Accidentally, her head hits a glass vase kept on the side table and she bleeds to death. Rajiv is devastated.

Unable to handle the situation, he drinks pegs after pegs and falls asleep. He wakes up next morning and is surprised to see everything perfectly alright. Sandy’s body is not there. What’s more, he is told that it’s his birthday today and that Ritu has planned a party for his friends. He realises that he had dreamt about his party. Strangely, all the things that had happened in his party in his dream, happen in reality. He asks Vikram whether he was planning to get a friend named Sandy to his party, to which Vikram answers in the affirmative. Scared for her life – because everything that he had seen in his dream was coming true – Rajiv visits Sandy in her hotel room to ask her not to attend his birthday party. But he is in for a shock when he ends up pushing Sandy in her room and she bangs the back of her head on a glass-top table. Soon, Sandy bleeds to death. Rajiv runs away from the hotel but when he returns after a while to take his cell phone which he had forgotten in Sandy’s room, he is flabbergasted to see the room spic and span. Why, he is even informed that no Sandy ever checked in into the hotel.

What happens thereafter? What is the truth about Sandy? How is it that Rajiv had dreamt exactly what was to happen on his birthday, the previous night? Was Sandy dead or alive? Who is Sandy?

Samir Soni has written a very engrossing story which is unusual, to say the least. It unfolds in such a way that it keeps the viewers hooked completely. The various turns and twists are so scary that they sometimes jolt the audiences out of their seats. His screenplay – with additional screenplay by Vrushali Telang – is brilliantly written. So wonderful is the screenplay that although the drama is confusing, it has been penned in as simplistic a manner as possible while retaining the thrill element. Of course, it is a class-appealing screenpaly alright but the classes would love the last two reels when a lot of reality is revealed. Samir Soni’s dialogues, with additional dialogues by Vrushali Telang, are quite realistic.

Sanjay Suri does a splendid job as Rajiv Kaul. Whether in scenes of being seduced (by Sandy) or in scenes of being scared or confused, he is wonderfully natural. Nora Fatehi is lovely in the role of Sandy. She looks bewitching and performs very well. Zenia Starr does a fine job as Ritu Kaul. Ayaz Khan leaves a mark as Vikram Acharya. Purab Kohli (as Ashish) and Pitobash (as the waiter/mechanic) make their presence amply felt in special appearances. Samir Sharma (as Ravi Kaul), Elena Kazan (as Amy), Suparna Krishna (as Achala), Aarti Khetarpal (as Annie), master Aryan Veir Suri (as young Rajiv), Kausher Ali Khan (as Vijay), Rahul Gaba (as the caterer), master Aarav Bedi (as Yash Kaul), master Rohan Awasthi (as Maanav Kaul), Sumit Satija (as the hotel receptionist), Gurinder Singh (as the police inspector), Poonam Kindo (as Madhu), Savitri Wahi (as Ritu’s ailing mother), baby Mayana Sherawat (as little Sandy), Devishi Sharma (as young Sandy) and the others provide good support.

Samir Soni’s direction is very nice. He has narrated the intriguing script in such a lucid style that it keeps the eyes of the audience glued to the screens. Music (by Raajeev V. Bhalla, Joi Barua & Pawan Rasaily, and Ajay Govind & Nitin K. Menon) is functional. Lyrics (Ajay Govind, Akshay K. Saxena and Joi Barua) are alright. Pawan Rasaily’s background music is lovely. Shubham Kasera’s cinematography is splendid. Aamar Shetty’s action and stunts are in synch with the mood of the film. Natasha Gauba’s art direction is appropriate. Sandeep Sethy’s editing is very sharp.

On the whole, My Birthday Song is a beautifully made thriller with very good performances. It deserves to do well but, unfortunately, lack of promotion and a window of just six days (before Padmaavat floods the cinemas on 25th January) will tell on its box-office performance.

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