MUNNA MICHAEL

Eros International and NextGen Films’ Munna Michael (UA) is the story of Munna Michael who is passionate about dance and is a huge Michael Jackson fan.

Michael (Ronit Roy) lives in Bombay and is a fantastic dancer. He idolises Michael Jackson. After doing very well for himself for many years, he is one day shown the door because he has become outdated. Obviously, he is crest-fallen. On the same day, he finds a new-born child abandoned in a dust bin, and brings him home. He christens the child Munna and raises him as his own son.

Munna Michael (Tiger Shroff) grows up to be as passionate about dance as Michael. But Michael doesn’t want Munna to pursue dancing as a career because of his bitter memories of the abrupt end to his own career. On his part, Munna can think of nothing but dance.

One day, Munna defeats and insults a young boy in a discotheque, because of which the influential boy ensures that Munna is debarred from every discotheque and club in the city. Munna, therefore, shifts base to Delhi, giving the impression to his father that he was going to the capital city to take up a job in a corporate set-up. Munna wants to earn a lot of money for the medication of his dad who has been diagnosed with a deadly disease.

In Delhi, Munna gets into a fight with Balli (Pankaj Tripathi) in a discotheque. As it turns out, Balli is the brother of Mahindar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who is an underworld don of sorts. Swearing revenge, Mahindar meets Munna but is soon bowled over by his dancing. Since the married Mahindar is in love with a dancer, Dolly (Nidhi Agerwal), he pleads with Munna to teach him to dance as he feels, he would be able to woo Dolly if he mastered the art of dancing.

Since Munna is in need of big money, he begins to teach dance to Mahindar. Over a few days, Mahindar and Munna become very close to one another and are as good as brothers now. Munna meets Mahindar’s weakness, Dolly, and before long, he starts falling in love with her. Dolly also loves Munna.

One day, Dolly runs away from Delhi. A manhunt is launched for her but when she can’t be traced, Mahindar sends Munna to Bombay to track her down and bring her to him. Mahindar is clueless about Munna and Dolly’s fondness for one another. Aware that she was to take part in a dance show on television, Munna locates Dolly in Bombay. The two are happy in each other’s company. Dolly is doing very well in the dance show and has been clearing elimination rounds. She reveals to Munna that she had to make it to the final round to prove to her father that the career she wants to opt for was not wrong. Meanwhile, Munna has never so far mentioned to Dolly that he, too, is an extraordinary dancer.

Soon, Mahindar gets to know that Munna is hiding Dolly from him. He abducts Munna’s ailing father and gives Munna a notice of just 24 hours to hand over Dolly to him and take away his father in return. If Munna returns Dolly to Mahindar, her dream of proving herself before her father would remain unfulfilled as the final round is still a few days away. On the other hand, if he doesn’t take Dolly to Mahindar, his own father’s life would be in danger.

So what does Munna do? Does he let Dolly realise her long-cherished dream or does he stop her so that he can save his own father’s life? Does Dolly participate in the finals or not? If not, why not? If yes, does she win? Does Munna adopt a constructive or destructive approach? Does Dolly get to know about Munna’s dancing brilliance? Does she enlist Munna’s support for her dance competition? Does Dolly marry Munna or Mahindar?

Vimmi Datta has penned a very routine story which borrows liberally from films of the past. There is no novelty in the story which sometimes reminds of R… Rajkumar. The basic point of the girl’s approval for marriage is overlooked till the climax. And this point is introduced in the end in such a way that it appears as if the point is the trump card! The audience wonders how Mahindar and Munna never thought of it beforehand as it is such a basic point!

Since Munna and Mahindar are like brothers, there is no real antagonist for the hero, for a good part of the drama. Vimmi Datta’s screenplay caters to the masses but it won’t appeal to the classes and the multiplex-frequenting audience. The unfortunate part is that Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who plays a key role in the film, has a huge following among the multiplex audience. Actually, the screenplay is so designed that the scenes will be liked by the single-screen cinema viewers but they would find minimal acceptance among the multiplex audience. Dolly’s silence even after being aware that Mahindar is in love with her is baffling, to say the least. Why would any girl, with her silence, lead on a guy if she is not in the least interested in him? What’s worse is that she doesn’t even discuss this point with Munna whom she is in love with. Again, for Mahindar to assume that he could easily woo Dolly by his dance even though she is not interested in him is the height of foolishess. In the climax, Munna’s dance looks out of place because Dolly – rather than Munna – is in competition. But it must be added here that the masses wouldn’t care much for the screenplay; they would feel entertained with the good doses of dances and action, provided regularly. While on this point, it must be explained that the screenplay seems to have been written in a formulaic manner – dance, followed by action, followed by dance, followed by action, and so on and so forth – rather than in a free-flowing drama.

Although a love story, the romantic track is not too heart-warming. Mahindar’s comedy is entertaining but again, for the masses rather than the classes. Emotions are completely missing. Action and dances are abundant.

Vimmi Datta’s dialogues are good at places.

Tiger Shroff shines in dances and action sequences but gets limited scope to act. Even otherwise, his mediocre acting is overshadowed by his dances and stunts. Nidhi Agerwal looks quite good, dances well and is a fair performer in her debut film. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is terrific as Mahindar but making him a dancing villain will not go down too well with his hardcore fans. Ronit Roy is good in a light role as Michael. Pankaj Tripathi has his entertaining moments in the role of Balli. Paresh Shirodkar, Bikram Swain, Jueili Vaidya and Ashish Kanojia (all four as Munna’s fast friends) lend ordinary support. Farah Khan, Chitrangda Singh and Shaan, as judges of the dance show, add star value. Shenaz Treasury and Karan are good as hosts of the dance show. Anas Chaudhary (as Michael’s friend), Hitesh Sejpal (as the Parsi doctor), Shreeradha (as the airhostess), Richa Rai (as Mahindar’s wife), Lata Shukla (as Mahindar’s mother), Sunny Charla (as Mahindar’s father) and the others provide the necessary support.

Sabbir Khan’s direction is ordinary. He has concentrated mainly on the single-screen cinema audiences while not caring for what the multiplex viewers want. Music (Meet Bros., Tanishk Bagchi, Pranaay, Vishal Mishra, Javed-Mohsin and Gourov-Roshin) is very good. ‘Main hoon’ (by Tanishk Bagchi), ‘Ding Dang’ (by Javed-Mohsin) and ‘Beparwah’ (by Gourov-Roshin) are hit numbers. A couple of other songs are also appealing. Lyrics (by Kumaar, Danish Sabri, Sabbir Khan, Pranaay and Tanishk-Vayu) go with the film’s mood. Ganesh Acharya’s choreography is excellent. Sandeep Shirodkar’s background music should’ve been more forceful. Hari Vedantam’s cinematography is good. Action scenes (by Anl Arasu and K. Ravi Verma) are excellent for the masses. Rajat Poddar’s production designing is fair. Manan Sagar’s editing is reasonably sharp.

On the whole, Munna Michael has entertainment for the single-screen cinema audiences but not much for the multiplex audiences. As such, it will not be able to reach the safety mark without the full support of multiplex viewers.

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SHAB

Anticlock Films and WSG Pictures’ Shab (A) is a story which moves on several tracks.

Sonal Modi (Raveena Tandon) is not too happy with her businessman-husband, Vivek Modi (Sanjay Suri), and seeks comfort in the arms and beds of other men. One such man, whom she treats as a toy boy, is Mohan (Ashish Bisht). She had first met Mohan when she was judging a contest to select models. Mohan had failed the contest but had managed to win Sonal’s heart. So that she could be with him, Sonal had appointed him as a personal trainer and had even changed his name to Azafar.

Azafar soon realises that Sonal was only using him while having her share of fun with other men. He is disillusioned and finds solace in the company of Afia (Arpita Chatterjee). Afia has her own back story. She has a sister who doesn’t quite respect her. She runs a restaurant with Neil (Areesz Gandhi). Neil, too, has a story of his own. He is in a gay relationship with a young man, Nishant (Shray Rai Tiwari), who ditches him, then returns to him, and then ditches him to finally marry a girl. Neil initially finds it difficult to get over Nishant but finally does when he meets Afia’s neighbour, Benoit (Simon Frenay), a French guy, who agrees to be his partner in bed.

Azafar ultimately also loses Afia because she decides to settle in France alongwith her sister. Azafar is also horrified to know the truth about Afia. What exactly is the truth about her?

Merle Kröger and Onir have written a story which is intriguing but also confusing. There are too many interrelated tracks in the story and although they are fairly interesting, they give the feeling that they are leading to nowhere. The duo’s screenplay engages the audience upto a point but the fact that almost every character is either unhappy or depressed doesn’t make for happy viewing. The drama is of the kind that would appeal to the festival circuit audience mainly. Even the ending will be found to be anything but satisfying because hardly any character in the drama gets what he/she desires. Adhiraj Singh’s dialogues are alright.

Raveena Tandon acts well. Ashish Bisht makes a fair debut and suits the role he plays. Arpita Chatterjee is quite alright. Areesz Gandhi acts ably. Simon Frenay makes his presence felt. Sanjay Suri lends able support. Raj Suri has his moments as designer Rohan. Shray Rai Tiwari, Anika Tandon (as Afia’s sister, Anu) and the others lend adequate support.

Onir’s direction goes with the drama but his quest to be different limits the appeal of his narration. The emphasis on gay characters and male body ex­posure will not go down well with many among the audience. Mithoon’s music is very good. Each of the songs has appeal. Lyrics (Amitabh S. Verma and Mithoon) are rich. Shashwat Srivastava’s background music is fair. Sachin K. Krishn’s camerawork is praiseworthy. Dhanya Pilo’s production designing is okay. Editing (by Onir and Irene Dhar) is suitably sharp.

On the whole, Shab has such limited appeal that it will go largely unnoticed except in a handful of cinemas in the country.

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JAGGA JASOOS

UTV Motion Pictures and Pictureshuru Entertainment’s Jagga Jasoos (UA) is the story of detective Jagga, narrated like a musical opera.

Jagga (Ranbir Kapoor) is a detective, who studies in school. An orphan, he has been raised by Tooti Footi Bagchi (real name Badal Bagchi; Saswata Chatterjee). Right from childhood, Jagga has been stammering. As a child, Bagchi had explained to him that those who stammer while talking don’t stammer while singing, and so, he should sing to express himself uninhibitedly. In fact, Jagga has gotten over his problem to a large extent by singing more than talking.

Unknown to little Jagga, Bagchi had been an eyewitness to arms being airdropped at Purulia in West Bengal. In fact, it was soon after witnessing the airdrop of arms by illegal arms dealer Bashir Alexandra that Bagchi had been seriously injured by the wrongdoers and saved by little Jagga. Bagchi had adopted Jagga soon after recovering. Bagchi had gone away after some time, promising to return.

But years had passed and Bagchi hadn’t returned. Jagga’s only connection with Bagchi over the years had been the annual wishes which the latter used to send him on his birthday. Jagga had grown up to be a handsome young lad who was a sharp detective.

One day, Jagga meets Shruti Sengupta (Katrina Kaif), a journalist by profession. Shruti has written a couple of articles against illegal arms trading and is being hunted by the arms traders. Her fiancé, also a journalist, had to pay with his life for exposing the arms mafia. Shruti has come to Jagga’s town from Calcutta in connection with the arms story and has, therefore, put her life in further danger. She is framed for a crime she didn’t commit, and Jagga comes as a saviour in her life. Shruti is so indebted to Jagga for coming to her rescue when she was arrested that she promises to help him if he ever needed her.

It is Jagga’s birthday and for the first time in many years, the postman doesn’t bring Bagchi’s wishes. Jagga is sad and fearful about Bagchi’s well-being. And then comes the news that Bagchi is dead. Intelligence officer Sinha (Saurabh Shukla), for whom Bagchi used to work, had actually ordered his men to kill Bagchi after he (Bagchi) had delivered a VHS casset­te which would expose the illegal arms dealers. But in a case of mix-up, Bagchi had delivered the tape containing his birthday wishes for Jagga, to Sinha. An exasperated Sinha is sure that the VHS cassette with the incriminating evidence would be with Jagga and so he contacts him. But Jagga does not have the tape. In his meeting with Sinha, Jagga gets a clue which convinces him that Bagchi isn’t dead.

He takes Shruti and goes to foreign land Mombaka in search of Bagchi whom he considers his father. He takes Shruti along because like Bagchi, Shruti is also clumsy, and Jagga has seen that Shruti makes the same mistakes as Bagchi used to make when he (Jagga) was a kid. This similarity as also the fact that both, Bagchi and Shruti, are born unlucky convince Jagga that Shruti would prove to be an asset in tracking Bagchi.

From Mombaka, Jagga and Shruti go to Sundi in search of Bagchi. They are shocked to see that Sundi is the hub of illegal arms trading. The arms mafia is busy replacing Christmas goodies, meant to be airdropped by the Pope, with guns and other arms and ammunitions. Jagga resolves to stop this and expose the illegal arms trade while tracing his father.

Do Jagga and Shruti succeed in their mission? Does Jagga unite with Bagchi?

Anurag Basu’s story is different from the usual romantic or even detective films. This is designed as a fantasy drama and written like an opera. And that is the unfortunate part – because fantasies are often not accepted by the audience, and a musical opera is almost an alien concept for the Indian viewers. The structure of the story and the screenplay (also written by Anurag Basu) is such that they don’t reveal everything in one go. Who is Bagchi, whom does he work for, who is Sinha, why did Sinha ask his men to kill Bagchi, who is Bashir Alexandra – all these questions are answered much after they crop up in the minds of the audiences. The drama, therefore, tests the viewers’ patience because nobody enjoys watching a film with so many questions remaining unanswered for a long time. Perhaps, the most terrible part of the story and screenplay is that Jagga sings while he speaks and so do several other characters while interacting with him. Even this experiment may have worked if the singing was used within bear­able limits and if the film was not made on such a huge canvas. But to expect the audience to lap up so much singing and senseless rhyming, that too, in a big film such as this, is nothing but foolhardiness. What’s more, the drama seems to be so stretched that the viewer actually feels exasperated and completely helpless.

Since Jagga is much younger than Shruti, there is no romantic angle between them through most of the film. The comedy is kiddish and so, it may be liked by only the kid audience. Emotions totally fail to touch the heart.

Samrat Chakraborty’s dialogues are hardly funny. As for the song-dialogues, penned jointly by Amitabh Bhattacharya, Anurag Basu, Samrat Chakraborty and Debatma Mandal, they are not half as interesting as they should’ve been.

Ranbir Kapoor acts ably and sincerely but he ought to realise that if he continues to associate with such trash subjects as Jagga Jasoos (and Bombay Velvet, Besharam etc.), even his fantastic acting will not win him fans. Rather, he may lose his fan following if he doesn’t select the right script. One more point – Ranbir has been made to stutter way too much for the first alphabet, making it look gimmicky rather than natural. Katrina Kaif is cute and performs well. But a few of her dialogues are not dubbed in her voice. It is an ear-sore to find her dialogues in the same scene dubbed partly by her and partly by a dubbing artiste! Saswata Chatterjee is very good as Tooti Footi Bagchi or Badal Bagchi. Saurabh Shukla fails to impress, probably due to uninteresting characterisation. Master Saravajeet Tiwari has his moments as little Jagga. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has nothing to do except make an appearance in the final scene. Chitrak Bandopadh­yay (as Debu), Sayani Gupta, Md. Sarwar Mir, Denzil Smith, Bijou Thaangjam, Rajatava Dutta and the others lend the necessary support.

Anurag Basu’s direction leaves a lot to be desired. What comes out loud and clear in the film is his over-indulgence. He has committed a blunder by making an ‘opera film’, that too, at an investment of around Rs. 125 crore (including promotion and marketing)! This is one very expensive experiment which will cost him and all the others associated with it dear. Pritam’s music is very good. Two songs – ‘Galti se mistake’ and ‘Ullu ka pattha’ – are very well-tuned. A couple of other songs are good. Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are so-so. The picturisations of ‘Galti se mistake’ and ‘Ullu ka pattha’ songs are eye-filling but because the rest of the film is so bad, the choreography (by Shiamak Davar; additional choreography by Vijay Ganguly and Ruel Dausan Varindani) looks like a mismatch. Pritam’s background music could’ve been better. S. Ravi Varman’s cinematography is splendid. Locations are simply terrific. Allan Amin’s action scenes are good. Production designing (by Rajat Poddar and Parijat Poddar) is of a fine standard. Ajay Sharma’s editing ought to have been sharper. Frankly, so much footage is used to establish things that major chunks of the film could have been deleted to advantage.

On the whole, Jagga Jasoos is a very costly experiment and a classic case of over-indulgence in a film which hardly has audience to lap it up. It is a terrible waste of resources and it should never have been made in the first place – at least and definitely not at the cost at which it has been made. At the box-office, the film will prove to be a major debacle and will be remembered as a blot on the reputations of all the people connected with it.

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MOM

Zee Studios, BSK Network & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., MAD Films and Naresh Agarwal Films’ Mom (UA) is a thriller-cum-family-drama.

Devki Sabarwal (Sreedevi Kapoor) is a school teacher who lives with her husband, Anand (Adnan Siddiqui), step-daughter, Arya (Sajal Ali), and little daughter, Priya (Riva Arora). Arya is unable to accept Devki as her mom as she misses her own mother a great deal. Because Arya studies in the school in which Devki teaches, she addresses her step-mother as Ma’am rather than mom – even at home, much to the discomfort of Anand and Devki. On her part, Devki loves Arya and Priya equally and tries her level best to come closer to an unrelenting Arya.

Devki, Anand and Arya are devastated when a horrifying incident with far-reaching ramifications takes place. The criminals responsible for the wrong perpetrated on Arya are four in number. Devki and Anand drag the four of them to court but they are acquitted, simply due to lack of enough evidence.

Devki and Anand are distraught. They feel helpless because they know, justice has been denied to them. Even the investigating police officer, Matthew Francis (Akshaye Khanna), is shocked at the court verdict. As for Arya, the defeat in the court battle shatters her completely, weaning her away from Devki even more. It is now clear that Devki would never be able to win Arya’s love and respect.

Having lost all faith in the law and the judiciary but not being able to forget the trauma the family has gone through – and is still going through – Devki approaches a private detective, Dayashankar Kapoor (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). With his help, she decides to mete out justice to the four persons who had wronged Arya. But the watchful eyes of Matthew Francis don’t let her go about her task in peace.

So what happens finally? Does Devki avenge the crime committed on step-daughter Arya by the four per­ sons? What is Matthew Francis’ stand? Is Devki able to win Arya’s love and respect?

Ravi Udyawar, Girish Kohli and Kona Venkat have written a story from the heart. The thriller part of the story may not boast of novelty but it has the additional track of the relationship between a young girl and her step-mom, which gives it a new edge. The screenplay, penned by Girish Kohli, is outstanding and almost flawless. Kohli is in complete command as he sets out to write a drama which then becomes engrossing, engaging and interesting. There are such poignant and intelligent moments in the screenplay that one can’t help but marvel at Girish Kohli’s writing. Note, for instance, the scene in which Devki tells husband Anand that with the horrific incident, all her chances of winning over Arya had been destroyed. This one scene gives Devki two solid reasons to set out on the path of revenge, instead of just one – the crime committed by the four persons on Arya, and her own (Devki’s) personal loss of never being able to find acceptance from Arya. Note again, the trigger point for Devki to feel cent per cent inclined to seek revenge – when Dayashankar Kapoor tells her that it is because God can’t be present everywhere that he had made mothers! Truly speaking, it is Girish Kohli’s inspired writing and the intelligent juxtapositioning of the thriller and the family drama, which make the screenplay so brilliant that the audience doesn’t get bored for a single minute. Yes, the courtroom drama could have been more exciting but that’s a minor aberration.

Another beautiful point about Kohli’s screenplay is that every character in the plot is well-defined and never deviates. Yet another plus point is the speed with which Girish Kohli establishes the relationships in the first 10-15 minutes and also the fast pace of the drama. Not giving Arya a single dialogue to utter in the second half till the fag end, also shows the intelligence of the writer. A few scenes are emotional. The entire drama shakes the viewers and keeps them hooked completely. Climax is exciting, and the scene in which Matthew Francis offers to overlook law will meet with applause.

Girish Kohli’s dialogues are excellent at places but not consistently so.

Sreedevi is outstanding in the role of Devki. She is so much in character that her performance becomes one of her best to-date in her long and chequered career. Her breakdown in the hospital ICU, when the doctor gives her a devastating piece of news, is so outstanding that it could easily go down as one of the most memorable melodramatic scenes in world cinema history and not just Bollywood history. Her breakdown again while she is talking to hubby Anand (who is in the USA) in a completely incoherent manner is so wonderful that it makes the audien­ce stare in disbelief. Her acting in the scene in which she traces her steps backwards to abide by the demands of a devastated Arya, as conveyed by her screams, is mind-blowing. Sreedevi is bound to win awards galore, besides acclaim, for her performance which could rate among the best performances in world cinema.

Sajal Ali, in the role of Arya, is outstanding. Her expressions and body language are to die for. The girl is so intelligent that she makes a distinction between how she insults her step-mother in front of her father and in front of her friends. Note also her acting (without speaking a single word) when she has to convey absolute hatred towards her step-mother, after losing the court battle. In one word, she is phenomenal! She looks pretty too. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, in a special appearance, proves that a great actor can leave a mark in any role, immaterial of the length. He is so entertaining that it’s a delight to watch him whenever he comes on the screen. Truly, a memorable performance by the hugely talented Siddiqui. Akshaye Khanna lends tremendous support in the role of police inspector Matthew Francis. Adnan Siddiqui gets limited scope but provides decent support as Anand Sabarwal. Abhimanyu Singh is menacing as Jagan Singh. He uses his eyes intelligently to convey his unbridled power and villainy. Adarsh Gourav Bhaghvatula is promising in the role of Mohit Chaddha. Vikas Verma makes his presence amply felt as Charles Deewan. Pitobash Tripathi has his moments as Baburam Pandey. Riva Arora is cute as Priya Sabarwal. Yuvraj Bajwa leaves a mark as Rashid, the deputy of Matthew Francis. Rajshree Deshpande (as Dayashankar’s wife) and Saiba Kapoor (as Dayashankar’s daughter) are adequate. Naresh Gosain (as Dayashankar’s client), Ivan (as the school principal) and the rest do as desired.

Ravi Udyawar’s direction is fantastic. His understanding of the medium is superb and his handling of the sensitive subject is truly remarkable. Udyawar seems to be a supremely talented director to have debuted the way he has with this film. A.R. Rahman’s background music deserves the highest praise for enhancing the impact of the scenes. The background score is one of the strong pillars of the film. A.R. Rahman’s music is good while Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are splendid. But the songs are not of the hummable variety. Anay Goswami’s cinematography, with additional cinematography by Ralph Kaechele, is terrific. The duo deserves a lot of praise for its slick camerawork. The picturisation of the scene in which the devastating incident happens is masterly. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes are lovely. Ajay-Vipin’s (Patanga Art) art direction is appropriate. Monisha R. Baldawa deserves kudos for her sharp editing.

On the whole, Mom is a beautifully written and excellently directed film with landmark performances by its cast. It will appeal to the audience and emerge victorious at the box-office despite its terribly slow start and high cost of production (total investment: Rs. 41 crore). Its word of mouth will be very strong.

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TUBELIGHT

Salman Khan Films and Kabir Khan Films’ Tubelight is a story about faith. The adage goes thus: Faith can move mountains. And that’s what the film, set in 1962, tries to prove.

Laxman Singh Bisht (Salman Khan) is a bit slow, probably because he has an underdeveloped brain. He lives in a small town called Jagatpur. Since childhood, his friends refer to him as Tubelight because, like a tubelight takes time to light up, he takes a while to understand things. His younger brother, Bharat (Sohail Khan), loves him a lot and understands his feelings. In fact, Bharat is so protective about Laxman that he doesn’t let anybody make fun of Laxman. Bharat and Laxman are orphans. Banne Chacha (Om Puri) is like their local guardian.

One day, army officer Major Rajbir Tokas (Yashpal Sharma) comes to Jagatpur to exhort young men to join the army as the growing tension on the Indo-China border could escalate into a war. While many youngsters, including Bharat, are selected, Laxman is rejected. Laxman bids a tearful adieu to younger brother Bharat when he leaves for a probable war. Unable to live without Bharat, Laxman often goes to army office Major Tokas at the base camp to enquire after his brother.

Soon, war between India and China is declared. Seeing Laxman’s predicament, concern and tension for his younger brother, Banne Chacha asks Laxman to keep his faith alive – faith that Bharat would return soon. Banne Chacha also teaches Laxman about the principles which Mahatma Gandhi stood for, such as brotherhood, compassion, faith etc. Trying to emulate Mahatma Gandhi and walk the path traversed by him, Laxman befriends a little Chinese boy, Guo (Master Matin Rey Tangu), who lives at Jagatpur with his widowed mother, Liling (Zhu Zhu). He firmly believes that his friendship with the Chinese would go a long way in ending the war between India and China. While several people in Jagatpur are anti-Chinese, there is one, Narayan (Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub), who can’t bear the sight or mention of a Chinese. Why, Narayan even wants that Guo and his family leave Jagatpur. But Guo and his family, who’ve come from Calcutta, insist that they are as Indian as any Indian because they and their ancestors have been living in India since generations. They also speak fluent Hindi.

Tension in Jagatpur keeps mounting as the war between the two countries intensifies. Some jawans from Jagatpur are killed in the war and their bodies are received by weeping family members. Laxman’s confidence is often shaken but Banne Chacha’s philosophy about Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings prompts him to keep the faith alive. One day, Narayan pokes fun at Laxman’s talk about keeping the faith alive and he challenges Laxman to move the mountain literally, with his faith. And that happens – Laxman’s faith in himself, literally moves the mountain. Although the newspaper the following day attributes the movement of the mountain to an earthquake, most of the people of Jagatpur now consider Laxman as someone who can’t be taken lightly. From Tubelight, who used to be laughed and scoffed at, Laxman has suddenly become a person to be respected. It is now the turn of the army Major to approach Laxman to use the power of his undying faith to actually stop the war between the two countries.

Will Laxman’s faith stop the Indo-China war? Will it bring back his brother to Jagatpur?

The film is an official adaptation of Hollywood film Little Boy. The story gives too much importance to faith. There’s no harm in that but the story is so half-baked that the undue importance given to faith gets on the audience’s nerves. Showing Laxman, played by Salman Khan, as dim-witted is not an intelligent move if only because Salman’s personality and image are far more overpowering than Laxman’s character. In fact, not just Salman Khan but the story as a whole also looks fake and seems to have been written without much feeling.

The screenplay, penned by Kabir Khan and Parveez Shaikh, is kiddish. The concept of ‘faith’ becomes a joke after a point of time as everyone who meets Laxman – right from Mahatma Gandhi when Laxman was a little boy, to Banne Chacha to the magician to Liling to everybody else he comes in contact with – talks about keeping the faith alive. This hardly rings true because nobody in real life attaches so much importance to faith. Even if one does attach a lot of significance to faith, everybody around him also attaching as much importance to it looks far-fetched and contrived. Banne Chacha’s lessons to Laxman are equally half-baked. The people of Jagatpur town are shown to be mocking at Laxman during the magic show but do an about-turn – and rightly so! – when Laxman’s faith moves a bottle kept on a table. In spite of having experienced this exhibition of the power of his faith, the people of Jagatpur openly mock at Laxman once again when Narayan challenges him to move the mountain by using the power of his faith, leading the audience to wonder how many times Laxman would have to prove himself. It is on such occasions that the viewer gets the feeling that it is not just Laxman who is dumb but the township as a whole comprises far dumber people. Probably worse than that is the idiosyncrasy of the people of the town to actually believe that Laxman had moved the mountain, even after the newspaper report that an earthquake was the real cause. The ultimate madness is when none other than the highly educated army Major pleads with Laxman to stop the Indo-China war, using the power of his undying faith! The scene is unintentionally hilarious!

Laxman’s mind becomes slow when it suits the writers and works normally when it is convenient for them to show that. For instance, Laxman is aware that the Chinese army men would kill the Indian soldiers in their captivity but is dumb enough to ask whether the Indian army men would be set free if the war were to end.

The screenplay is so shabbily written that the emotions fail to move the audience. Rather, making the hero – Laxman – cry every now and then looks ridiculous, never mind if he is dim-witted. Why, the hero (Laxman) even gets slapped so many times by his friend, Narayan. The writers may like to believe that shedding tears and getting slapped goes with the character of Laxman but they have failed to appreciate that firstly, Laxman is the hero of the drama and nobody likes to see a cry-baby and a stupid hero, and secondly, the actor playing Laxman is Salman Khan who has a macho image which the weak screenplay is unable to erase from the viewers’ minds. Narayan’s repeated outburst against the Chinese family seems a bit weird, especially when Laxman, whose brother is on the border, has no problem with the family! What is Narayan’s stake in the war, for him to revolt against the Chinese family more than Laxman, whose brother is fighting the war?

For those looking for the regular ingredients of a commercial fare, the drama lacks romance. Further, only a couple of emotions touch the heart. Compare this with Laxman crying every now and then, and the audiences definitely have a problem. Why, even the bonding between Laxman and Guo fails to evoke the required sentiments. There is humour but not of the kind which will have the audience laughing loudly or even smiling from ear to ear. All in all, this Tubelight has a faulty choke (story-screenplay).

Manu Rishi Chaddha’s dialogues aren’t as heart-warming and heartfelt as they should’ve been. For a film of the magnitude, scale and canvas as Tubelight, nothing short of extraordinary and patriotic dialogues would have been ideal.

Salman Khan tries to give his cent per cent to the character of Laxman/Tubelight but he succeeds only at times. That is to say, he is able to make an impact in some scenes but leaves the audience unaffected by his innocence and dim-wittedness otherwise. He looks too bulky in many scenes, and this could’ve easily been avoided. Sohail Khan gets limited scope and is strictly okay. Om Puri lends ordinary support. Zhu Zhu, as Liling, looks pretty and acts with likeable ease. Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub is earnest, as Narayan, but his hot-headed character doesn’t seem too justified, especially because nobody close to him is directly affected by the war. In other words, his characterisation is weak. Yashpal Sharma provides fair support as the army officer, Major Rajbir Tokas. Master Matin Rey Tangu impresses as little Guo. Brijendra Kala, as the shop-owner, and Isha Talwar, as Maya, get limited scope and are okay. Shah Rukh Khan adds hardly anything in a tame special appearance although his performance is good.

Kabir Khan’s direction is definitely not upto the mark. Khan seems to lack conviction in the drama. His war scenes are not half as effective as they ought to have been. His lack of consistency is evident when a few thousand people are shown assembled during the mountain-moving sequence but not even a hundred people when the town is shown paying its last respects to the army men who laid down their lives in the war. This further underlines how mentally imbalanced the inhabitants of the town must be. What’s worse is that some people are shown leaving the prayer meeting midway (after attending it) even as Laxman is paying his last respects to his brother! One doesn’t expect such inconsistencies and flaws from a director of the calibre of Kabir Khan.

Pritam’s music does not befit the canvas of the film. ‘Sajan radio’ is the best song and is a hit; the other numbers are melodious but not of the hit variety. Amitabh Bhattacharya and Kausar Munir’s lyrics are meaningful. Of the song picturisations, ‘Sajan radio’ (by Remo D’Souza) is appealing. Picturisation of the ‘Naach meri jaan’ song (by Shabina Khan) is alright but not noteworthy. Julius Packiam’s background score is nice but not outstanding. Aamar Shetty’s action choreography (with action supervision by Glenn Boswell) is fair when it should’ve been terrific. Production designing by Rajnish Hedao, Sumit Basu and Snigdha Basu (Acropolis) is of a fine standard. Rameshwar S. Bhagat’s editing is fair.

On the whole, Tubelight is a very disappointing fare and lacks entertainment value. Considering the star-cast, the technical team and the canvas, it is a letdown and a poor show. Although the producers have made a humongous profit by selling its India theatrical, Overseas, satellite, digital and music rights, its distributors will incur heavy losses. Of course, the release in the Eid week will help the film but the negative word of mouth will ultimately tell on its business.

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G KUTTA SE

SFE International’s G Kutta Se (A) is a film about honour killing in Haryana. It also underlines how unsafe the state is for girls and how rules are different for the men and the fairer sex.

Veerinder (Rajveer Singh) has a sister, Diksha (Vibha Dikshit), and a cousin, Kiran (Neha Chauhan). Both the girls bring dishonour to their respective families when their affairs with two separate boys come out in the open. Diksha’s father and mother kill her for daring to have an affair, when her MMS video becomes public. Kiran’s father, grandmother and cousin, Veerinder, are keen to mete out the same punishment to her but she proves to be smarter than Diksha. Veerinder, especially, is shocked because he had never in his wildest of dreams thought that his sisters could have affairs.

The film begins with Veerinder and his two friends waylaying a runaway couple. Preeti (Rashmi Singh Somvanshi) has eloped with her driver because she is not happy with her husband. At the end of the journey, after the lovebirds are waylaid by Veerinder and his friends, Veerinder even has physical relations with Preeti but, unlike one of his friends, he doesn’t believe in forcing himself upon any girl.

Rahul Dahiya’s story lays bare the reality of Haryana and captures it in its rawest form. His screenplay progresses at a fair pace but does get repetitive at times. Since the drama is stark, it doesn’t offer entertainment in the sense in which the audience is used to. But the foul language used in the dialogues and the intimate scenes make up for the lack of regular entertainment, to an extent only, of course. Danish Raza’s dialogues (mostly in chaste Haryanvi, partly in Hindi) are very bold and laced throughout with four-letter words. But the Haryanvi dialogues are often difficult to understand. While the dialogues will be liked by the masses, they will keep the ladies and family audiences away. It must be mentioned here that by its very nature, the story and screenplay hold appeal for the elite audience and don’t have much for the masses whereas the dialogues hold appeal for the masses.

Rajveer Singh looks good and acts well as Veerinder. Neha Chauhan is alright in the role of Kiran. Nitin Pandit impresses as Dheer. Rashmi Singh Somvanshi is natural as Preeti. Vibha Dikshit has her moments as Diksha. Sandeep Goyat, Parth Sharma and the others are adequate.

Rahul Dahiya’s direction is good as it shows life in Haryana as it is. Music (Anjo John, Peter Broderick and Rutger Zuydervelt) is functional. Anjo John’s background music is very impactful. Sachin Kabir’s camerawork, with additional cinematography by Alok Shrivastava, is lovely. Art direction (Ambika Acharya and Khushal Gupta) is nice. Editing (Pranay Nillay and Sandeep Singh Bajeli) is sharp.

On the whole, G Kutta Se is a very stark and well-made film but it holds appeal for a thin section of the audience only. As such, its commercial prospects are very limited. Given its lack of promotion, the film may go largely unnoticed.

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PHULLU

K.C. Productions Pvt. Ltd., Kapoor Films Inc. and Ambiabhi Productions’ Phullu (A) is the story of a well-meaning young man who surmounts Herculean obstacles to improve the lot of the women in his village.

Phullu (Sharib Ali Hashmi) lives with his mother (Nutan Surya) and sister, Tara (Trisha Kale). He brings pieces of cloth from the city, which women of the village take from him for use during their periods. Phullu’s mother keeps taunting him and often asks him to go to Delhi and do something worthwhile there instead of catering to the needs of the ladies, but Phullu has the good of the women at heart and hence refuses to leave. His mother selects a girl, Bigni (Jyoti Sethi), for him. Their marriage is solemnised soon. Even after his wedding, Phullu refuses to take up a decent job.

During one of his trips to the city, he learns about sanitary napkins from a lady doctor. He brings a lot of sanitary napkins to the village but his shocked mother throws him out of the house for this. He also realises that his wife suffers from infection in her private parts because she doesn’t use hygienic sanitary pads. He is convinced that the ladies of the village don’t use sanitary napkins because they are expensive. To improve the lot of all the women in the village, he decides to himself make sanitary napkins and sell them at very affordable rates. For this, he goes to Delhi and works in a unit manufacturing sanitary pads. After learning all about it, he brings the raw materials to his village and makes sanitary pads in his house. However, all hell breaks loose when he asks some ladies to use them after his mother and sister express disgust at his suggestion to them to use it. As for his wife, she has gone to her parental home as she is pregnant with his child.

How Phullu realises his dream is what the climax is all about.

Dr. Anmol Kapoor’s story is well-intentioned but all that is well-intentioned cannot be fodder for a film script – and this story underlines the fact. By its very nature, the story will make a lot of people screw up their noses in disgust despite the noble intentions. Shaheen Iqbal’s screenplay is far from engrossing, and there are several reasons for this. For one, the audience’s sympathy does not go to the hero, Phullu, because of his rigid nature; he is not bothered that his mother is so disturbed by the odd jobs that he does, he doesn’t care that the older ladies of the village speak ill about him behind his back. In this scenario, even Phullu’s noble intentions don’t succeed in making a place for Phullu in the viewers’ hearts. Again, Phullu speaking about a personal thing as sanitary napkins to the women in the village looks idiotic. Therefore, it doesn’t break the viewer’s heart when the ladies insult him in spite of his good intentions. All Phullu needed to do was to make his understanding wife talk to the ladies. Alternatively, he could easily have given every woman in the village a free sanitary napkin for trial, with their quota of cloth pieces. Shaheen Iqbal’s dialogues are good but they would make many among the audience cringe.

Sharib Ali Hashmi does a fair job as Phullu. Jyoti Sethi is quite alright in the role of Bigni. Nutan Surya shines as Phullu’s forever distressed, disturbed and fire-spitting mother. Trisha Kale is okay as Tara. Inaam-ul-haq is excellent in a special appearance as Gyan Dev. Namya Saxena has her moments as the press reporter. Shivam Pradhan makes his presence felt as the servant in the dhaaba. Kimti Anand (as Heera chacha), Namya Saxena (as Chitra), Paras Raj Gandhi (as Pramod), Seema Parihar (as Vimla), Vandana Chopra (as the lady doctor), Nirupma Gupta (as Heera chacha’s wife), Sagar (as chemist) and the others lend the desired sup­ port.

Abhishek Saxena’s direction is good in parts but not consistently so. Music (Vicky Agarwal and Troy Arif) goes well with the film’s mood. ‘Manmatanga’ song has lilt whereas the other numbers are alright. Lyrics (by Shaheen Iqbal and Raghav Dutt) are appropriate. Troy Arif’s background music is okay. Simarjet Singh Suman’s camerawork is reasonably good. Rohit Mhatre’s editing is fairly sharp.

On the whole, Phullu is good in parts only, but its drama often looks contrived and unconvincing. As such, it will not be able to make a mark at the box-office, its poor opening and dull promotion only adding to its tale of woes.

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