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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Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and V.B. Pictures Pvt. Ltd.’s Ran­ goon (UA) is a love story set against the backdrop of the Indian freedom movement.

Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), like many others, is an Indian soldier who works for the British army in India. One day, he is captured by the Japanese army but he escapes from their clutches and, after some time, resurfaces in India to serve the Britishers. Nawab is sent as top film actress Julia’s (Kan­gana Ranaut) personal security guard when she embarks on a journey to entertain soldiers in different places because her lover, actor-turned-producer Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan), sees this as the only way of making money for his company due to non-availability of imported raw stock (film negative) during the war. Rusi is married, but is also in an extra-marital relationship with Julia.

The Japanese attack Julia’s troupe but Nawab is able to save her. A few members of the troupe are killed in the attack while some go missing. Zulfi (Saharsh Shukla), Julia’s trusted spot boy, is also missing; he was last seen trying to save a trunk containing Julia’s clothes and belongings.

Nawab and Julia take days to reach India from Burma on foot and in the intervening period, their initial hatred towards each other turns into love. They also get physical.

Back in India, Rusi is happy to see Julia but he smells a rat and realises that his girlfriend may have developed fondness for Nawab. He is especially agitated because he has decided to divorce his wife so that he can marry Julia. Soon, Zulfi also surfaces again with Julia’s trunk.

Zulfi meets Nawab secretly. There is definitely something which Nawab and Zulfi are hiding. What is that? Nawab is also seen exchanging notes with an army nurse, Mema (Lin Laishram). What is the common secret that binds Nawab, Zulfi and Mema?

Soon, Zulfi and Mema are caught red-handed by the British Major General, David Harding (Richard McCabe). Does David Harding spare Zulfi and Mema? What is their crime? Julia now confronts Nawab and he lets her in on the secret. What is the secret? Does Julia become one with Nawab as far as the secret is concerned? Whom does Julia go to finally – Nawab or Rusi?

Matthew Robbins has penned an interesting love story but the war drama is a bit exaggerated. There is a sword which is shown to be so important that it has to be smuggled out and given to Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army in Burma. The audience is unable to digest the fact that one sword can be so significant for the INA. The screenplay, by Matthew Robbins, Sabrina Dhawan and Vishal Bhardwaj, is written in a way that the sword becomes the most important weapon as if its mere delivery to the Indian National Army in Burma could ensure independence for India in a jiffy. Obviously, since this cannot be the case, the viewers wonder why the entire war drama revolves around one sword! The screenplay writers are unable to completely convince the audience on this point as a result of which the entire climax or, rather, the entire second half looks far-fetched. On the plus side, the writers have infused the love story with humour and reasonable passion and tension. But the second half is too long and boring at places.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s dialogues are good and entertaining.

Kangana Ranaut is excellent in the role of Julia. She does a marvellous job of the top Hindi film actress and, in fact, transports the audience to the pre-Independence era by her clothes and per­formances. She shines with a very believable performance. Shahid Kapoor looks very handsome and acts with admirable ease. He underplays the character of Nawab Malik so beautifully that one can’t help but admire him. Saif Ali Khan is wonderful as the besotted Rusi Billimoria in the initial reels and the angst-ridden lover later. He delivers a truly fine performance. Richard McCabe makes the character of Major General David Harding entertaining; his Hindi is fun to listen to. Saharsh Shukla leaves a mark as Zulfi. Lin Laishram has her moments in the role of Mema. Alex Avery makes his presence felt as Major Williams. Nitish Pandey (as Patel), Manav Vij (as Bhairo Singh), Kashmira Irani (as Zenobia), Rushad Rana (as Hoshang Billimoria), Shriswara Dubey (as Haseena), Pooja Sarup (as Bulbul), Atul Kumar (as Chulbul), Gajraj Rao (as Ahuja), Surendra Pal (as the king), Neel (as Cyrus), Barzin (as Firdaus), Gerson D’Cunha (as Bappawa) and Kawaguchi Satoru (as Hiromichi) are adequate.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s direction is good but, like the script, his direction also loses its grip on the audience at several places in the second half. In fact, the script as well as his narrative style cater more to the class audience than the masses. Music (Vishal Bhardwaj) is appealing but it must be added that it has a period flavour to go with the era in which the film is set, and hence it will not be lapped up too much by the audience. None of the songs is very popular and that’s a minus point. Gulzar’s lyrics are good. Song picturisations (by Farah Khan and Sudesh Adhana) are eye-filling. Vishal Bhardwaj’s background music is lovely. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is excellent. Harpal Singh Palli and Ravi Kumar’s action and stunts are exciting and thrilling. Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray’s production designing is extraordinary. Aalap Majgavkar’s editing is quite good.

On the whole, Rangoon is entertaining but it is also too long, boring in parts and more class-appealing than mass-oriented. It will, therefore, do well in select multiplexes in some big cities, but this will not at all be enough to recover the huge investment in the film even after revenues from non-theatrical sources are accounted for. In the final tally, the film will entail heavy losses to the distributors concerned.

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Fox Star Studios’ Jolly LL.B 2 (UA) is the second in the Jolly LL.B series.

Jagdishwar Mishra alias Jolly (Akshay Kumar) is a lawyer in Lucknow, whom nobody takes seriously. Even Rizvi (Ram Gopal Bajaj), the boss of the law firm he works in, views him as more of an errand-running aide to his wife! Keen to prove his mettle, Jolly, who is street-smart and sharp, lies to Hina (Sayani Gupta) that his boss would fight her case, and he accepts Rs. 2 lakh from her as advance fee. But he uses the money to buy himself a chamber so that he can start his own practice. Hina, who is expecting the child of her deceased husband, commits suicide when she realises that not only has she been fleeced but also that her case will never reach the court.

Humiliated by his own father (V.M. Badola) for his action of cheating a helpless lady, Jolly now takes it upon himself to fight late Hina’s case in court. Hina’s husband, Iqbal Kasim (Manav Kaul), had been murdered by police inspector Suryaveer Singh (Kumud Mishra) in a fake encounter soon after their (Iqbal and Hina’s) wedding. Suryaveer Singh had killed Iqbal Kasim in an encounter despite knowing that he was not the dreaded terrorist, Iqbal Qadri (Inaam-ul-haq), who was wanted. Not just that, he had also injured his assistant, police inspector Baldev Singh Badhoria (Tarun Kumar) to make the encounter look real. As bad luck would have it, Badhoria had died in the hospital due to Singh’s gunshot.

Jolly files a case in the court to seek justice for Hina even though she is no more. The case accuses Suryaveer Singh of murdering Iqbal Kasim. Suryaveer Singh appoints famous lawyer Pramod Mathur (Annu Kapoor) to argue his case. The fight in the court of judge Sunder Lal Tripathi (Saurabh Shukla) is not at all easy. Not only has Jolly to contend with the name and fame of Pramod Mathur but also take on the system. The obstacles which come in the path of Jolly are numerous but his sharp brain sees him surmount each of them. How he finally succeeds in getting justice for the deceased Hina is revealed in the climax.

Subhash Kapoor has written a story which starts in a light-hearted manner but gradually takes a serious turn. However, even after the drama becomes serious, the thread of humour runs through it. The part of the drama relating to Jolly’s family life is a bit boring and looks contrived. In fact, it would have been better if Jolly was shown to be alone – without a wife (Huma Qureshi) and child (master Jehaan Khambata). The first half, especially, has several portions where the story dips and loses its grip on the audience. But after every dip, it soon involves the viewers over again. Comparatively, the post-interval portion is far better. There is a lot of humour in the second half and there are some heart-warming moments too.

Subhash Kapoor’s screenplay is intelligent. The best part of his screenplay is that it doesn’t let go of the humour till the very end. The light scenes in the courtroom are so funny that they make the courtroom drama entertaining and enjoyable. The scenes between Jolly and Pramod Mathur and between Jolly and judge Tripathi, as also between Pramod Mathur and judge Tripathi are excellent and they thoroughly entertain the viewers. Many of them evoke a lot of laughter. An obviously weak link in the screenplay in the first half is when Hina turns down Jolly’s offer to return her Rs. 2 lakh which he had taken from her by lying to her. It is not clear why she says that she doesn’t want the money back. The least anyone in her place would want is her money back. But Hina is shown to say that all she wants is justice. This sounds wrong because it is not as if justice was traded for her money. Also, the screenplay could have been tighter as that would have eliminated the dull moments.

Subhash Kapoor’s dialogues are excellent. The humorous dialogues are truly wonderful.

Akshay Kumar plays Jolly with all the conviction at his command. He makes the character believable, endearing and one for whom the audience starts rooting quite early on. His simplicity and sincerity wins the viewers over. Huma Qureshi acts well but she does not have meaty scenes to perform. Annu Kapoor is extraordinary as defence lawyer Pramod Mathur. His expressions, dialogue delivery and body language are superb. Saurabh Shukla shines in the role of judge Sunder Lal Tripathi. His acting so beautifully suits the character he plays that it is difficult to imagine any­one else in that role. Indeed, an award-winning performance! Kumud Mishra is effective as police inspector Suryaveer Singh but the role does not have enough to justify the actor’s brilliance. Sayani Gupta leaves a wonderful mark as Hina. Manav Kaul lends able support in a brief role as Iqbal Kasim. Rajiv Gupta makes his presence felt as Birbal (assistant to Jolly). Ram Gopal Bajaj has his moments as Jolly’s boss, Rizvi. Sunil Kumar Palwal is very effective and earnest as Fahim Butt. Inaam-ul-haq does a fine job as Iqbal Qadri. Avijit Dutt lends able support as SSP Paul. Dadhi R. Pandey (as Siraj Alam), Sushil Pandey (as Ram Kumar Badhoria, son of Baldev Singh Badhoria), Tarun Kumar (as police officer Baldev Singh Badhoria), Sitaram Panchal (as farmer Sitaram), Sanjay Mishra (as Guruji), Vinod Nagpal (as Zahoor Siddiqui), V.M. Badola (as Jolly’s father), master Jehaan Khambata (as Jolly’s son), Gurpal Singh (as judge Harbhajan Singh), Brijendra Kala (as Dubey), Mir Sar­war (as police inspector Hidayat Baig), Brijesh Sharma and Sudhanva Deshpande (both as CBI officers), Faiz Khan (as Pramod Mathur’s male assistant), A.R. Rama (as Mushtaq), Ganesh Kumar (as constable Vinod Tiwari), Shubhangi Latkar (as Dr. Hema Deshpande), Yakub Sayed (as Pramod Mathur’s father), Usha Kumari Yadav (as Ram Kumar Badhoria’s mother) and the others provide able support.

Subhash Kapoor’s direction is nice. But how one wishes he could have kept the narrative tighter. That would’ve made the film even more enjoyable. Music (by Junaid Wasi, Chirantan Bhatt, Manj Musik and Raftaar) is a major letdown. Not a single song is a hit number. Lyrics (Raftaar, Manj Musik, Junaid Wasi and Shabbir Ahmed) are okay. Choreography (Bosco, Raju Khan and Ganesh Acharya) is alright. Vishal Khurana and Amar Mohile’s background music is fairly nice. Kamaljeet Negi’s camerawork is good. Action scenes (composed by Parvez Shaikh) are alright. Sets (by Gautam Sen and Rashmi Sangane­ ria) are okay. Chandrashekhar Praja­ pati’s editing is good.

On the whole, Jolly LL.B 2 is an enjoyable entertainer which will definitely do well at the box-office and will keep the audience and the investors happy.

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Red Chillies Entertainment and Excel Entertainment’s Raees (U/A) is the story of a bootlegger in the state of Gujarat where prohibition was in force.

Raees (Shah Rukh Khan) grows up with the lessons taught by his mother, one of which is that no business is small, and no religion is bigger than one’s business. Right from their childhood, he and his bosom pal, Sadiq (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub), had joined bootlegger Jairaj (Atul Kulkarni). They worked for him for many years till one day, Raees decides to start his own business of bootlegging. In spite of Sadiq warning him against the pitfalls of starting his own business, Raees takes the plunge. He has the daring and the sharp business acumen needed to succeed in life. In no time, he has become a force to reckon with in the illegal business of bootlegging. In the course of his business, Raees does not bat an eyelid before killing people who come in the way of his business. But he has a heart of gold for the needy people.

Even as his business is flourishing, there comes an extremely honest police officer, Jhatak Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who comes down heavily on illegal business. On his radar is also Raees and his illicit business of bootlegging. He goes hammer and tongs against Raees and confiscates lakhs of his bottles of liquor being smuggled by him into the state. Feeling the heat and the losses, Raees loses no time in using his connections to get Majmudar transferred. But Jhatak Majmudar is a tough nut to crack. He is not the one to give up so easily. Since he has vowed to wipe out Raees’ business, he keeps track of the trade from wherever he is transferred.

Meanwhile, Raees, who is in love with Aasiya (Mahira Khan), gets married to her. The two are enjoying life and they soon have a baby. One day, the leader of the opposition, Pashabhai (Uday Tikekar), takes out a procession against alcohol consumption, purely to woo the voters. Raees, who had warned Pashabhai against taking out the procession, especially through his area, creates mayhem when the procession reaches his turf. Several people are killed in the tension that erupts. The chief minister of Gujarat (Pramod Pathak) asks Raees to go to jail for a few days to show that the state is doing its duty in punishing criminals. The chief minister promises to ensure his release in no time. But the tables turn against Raees when the chief minister and Pashabhai join forces. It is then that Raees decides to contest the Assembly elections in the state even though he is behind bars. He wins the election and also gets bail.

On a plot of land he had won as his share of commission from the chief minister for vacating people, Raees decides to build a colony of homes for the poor and the downtrodden. He exhorts them to pay him advance money and book their homes. The poor people agree as they have the utmost faith in Raees. But the chief minister pours water over his plans when, after construction work is underway on the plot of land, he declares it as a green zone in which construction activity cannot take place. Raees, whose bootlegging business is already under fire, now also feels the heat due to the green zone order. He realises that he would lose face and be accused of fleecing the poor people if he didn’t return their monies. But he has no money to return. He, therefore, turns to Musabhai (Narendra Jha) who had helped him when he had decided to start his own business after breaking free from Jairaj.

Musabhai comes to Raees’ aid but he also seeks Raees’ help in having tonnes of gold transported from one place to another. But is the deal between Raees and Musabhai so simple? Is Raees able to return the monies of the poor? Does he escape the long arm of the law and the watchful eyes of Majmudar? Does Majmudar succeed in catching Raees red-handed?

Harit Mehta, Ashish Vashi and Niraj Shukla have written a story about a law breaker and a custodian of law, which doesn’t offer too much novelty but it has plenty of twists and turns. In spite of lack of freshness, the audience remains interested and engrossed because of two reasons: the drama is fast-paced and there are plenty of twists and turns. The trio’s screenplay is also quite interesting. But there are some dull moments too. For example, the romantic track of Raees is boring and lacks both, the warmth and the fun element. To the credit of the screenplay writers, it must be mentioned that they have kept many of the tracks running through the length of the film and have not left them midway. Two such tracks are the Bhaijaan track between Raees and his friend, Sadiq, and the track of tea between Raees and Majmudar. By the end of the drama, the audience gets the feeling that although Raees cared for the poor, there wasn’t too much heroism in his actions because he worked more for his own gains than for the downtrodden. In other words, the characteristics of Raees — daring nature and sharp business acumen — do not bring to the fore heroic qualities in him as much as they do his ability to succeed as a businessman. His helplessness when the plot of land is declared a green zone will not be liked too much by the viewers. The drama has too much of tension and few fun moments, especially after a point of time. The climax may also not give the adrenaline rush one expects in this kind of a film. However, the confrontation scenes between Raees and Majmudar are excellently written.

Dialogues, written by the trio, are superb and will draw huge rounds of applause in the cinemas, especially the single-screen cinemas.

Shah Rukh Khan performs extraordinarily well. He lives the character of Raees and plays to the gallery. His get-up (with kohl in his eyes) and his costumes only add to the overall persona of the character he plays. His facial expressions to convey defiance, arrogance and other feelings are fantastic. Mahira Khan is average in looks. In her debut role, her performance is good. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is outstanding as Jhatak Majmudar. The inherent comedy in his dialogues is only accentuated by his unique dialogue delivery. Indeed, yet another memorable performance by the immensely talented Siddiqui. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub is so natural that you marvel at his acting. His gaze, his body language, his little nuances, all add up to a wonderful performance. Atul Kulkarni is beautifully restrained in the role of Jairaj. Narendra Jha lends credibility to the character of Musabhai with his acting. As his assistant, Jaideep Ahlawat is effective. Pramod Pathak (in the role of the chief minister), Uday Tikekar (as Pashabhai) and Raj Arun (as Ilyas) leave their respective marks with fully convincing performances. Sheeba Chaddha (as Raees’ mother), Utkarsh Majumdar (as the doctor), Bhagwan Tiwari (as inspector Devji), master Shubham Chintamani (as young Raees), master Shubham Tukaram (as young Sadiq), Loveleen Mishra (as Ratna madame) and Yusuf Hussain (as Aasiya’s father) lend excellent support. Others do as required.

Rahul Dholakia’s direction is very creditable as he makes the drama credible with his stylised and effective narration. Ram Sampath’s music is a major plus point. The ‘Zaalima’ song is a hit number. The remixed version of ‘Laila main Laila’ is also hit. ‘Udi udi’ song has melody. Other songs are also well-tuned. Javed Akhtar’s lyrics are very nice and easy on the lips. Choreography of the ‘Laila main Laila’ song by Bosco-Caesar is lovely. Sunny Leone’s dance on it is very mass-appealing. The choreography of the other songs (by Bosco-Caesar, Samir and Arsh Tanna, and Rajeev Surti) is also good. Ram Sampath’s background music deserves praise for the impact it has on the scenes. K.U. Mohanan’s camerawork is of a high order. Action scenes and stunts (by Ravi Verma and Sunil Rodrigues) are very mass-appealing. Production designing by Anita Rajgopalan Lata and Donald Reagan Gracy, and art direction by Chandrashekhar More and Vilas Atmaram Panchal are lovely and give the film a realistic touch. Deepa Bhatia’s editing is crisp and sharp.
On the whole, Raees will turn out to be a comfortable winner at the ticket windows. Despite a routine story, it has a lot of masala for the audience to keep them satisfied. Business in the first five-day weekend will be phenomenal. Single-screen cinemas will see surging crowds of the kind not seen too often these days.
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Film Kraft Productions’ Kaabil (U/A) is a love story and revenge drama. It is the story of a blind man’s revenge on the rapists of his wife who is also blind.

Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) is a blind young man who works as a dubbing artist to earn his livelihood. He is adept at modulating his voice and mimicking people. He meets Supriya (Yami Gautam) who is also blind like him. The two soon fall in love and decide to get married. They get married and are leading a very happy life, dreaming of a great future ahead. But their life is shattered when one day, the minister’s brother, Amit (Rohit Roy) and his friend, Wasim (Sahidur Rahaman), rape Supriya. They complain to the police but since Amit is the minister’s brother, he is soon allowed to go scot free. Also, Supriya being blind does not know who has raped her especially because the rapists were clever enough not to utter a word. The investigating police officer (Narendra Jha) and his deputy (Girish Kulkarni) are not at all sympathetic towards Rohan and Supriya. In fact, the deputy of the investigating police officer even accuses Rohan of using his wife to extort money from out of Amit and his rich and influential brother. Rohan finds himself completely handicapped due to the law not being of any help to him. On her part, Supriya offers to leave Rohan as she does not want to be a burden on him.

Then one day, Supriya commits suicide. Rohan is devastated. He gathers his wits and decides to take law into his own hands to avenge the rape and death of his beloved wife. Even as he is contemplating how to go about seeking revenge, he realises something that shakes him terribly. What is it that comes to his knowledge?

Rohan now goes to the police station and throws an open challenge to the investigating police officer that he would seek revenge in his own style. He even forewarns the police that despite this, they (police) would not be able to do anything to him. And then begins Rohan’s revenge. Is he able to get justice for the wrongs perpetrated on his wife? What action does Rohan take and against who all to seek revenge? Is he able to take revenge despite his handicap? If so, how?

Vijay Kumar Mishra has written a story which is quite different from other romantic or revenge stories. The blossoming love between two blind persons who don’t treat blindness as their handicap is heartwarming. The revenge of the visually handicapped Rohan is very exhilarating. The screenplay, penned by Vijay Kumar Mishra, is extremely fast-paced and keeps the audience glued to their seats. The first half is very fast-moving and also entertaining. The revenge drama of the second half is also pretty interesting. However, some people might feel that the modus operandi used by Rohan (not being revealed here) is quite a convenient twist in the tale. Having said that, it must be added that the foundation for Rohan’s modus operandi is laid well in the pre-interval portion and, therefore, would still be acceptable. Besides, the audience roots for Rohan so much that even though the screenplay looks somewhat contrived insofar as the tricks used by Rohan are concerned, the viewers don’t really give that too much importance. For, at the end of the day, the audiences want to see Rohan get justice for his late wife. In fact, the second half’s drama will evoke claps and whistles from the audience for the sheer genius of Rohan. Special mention must be made of the interval sequence in which Rohan openly challenges the police to catch him if they can. That sequence is so outstanding that it will be met with thunderous applause in the cinemas. The scene immediately following that, when Rohan leaves the police station, is also brilliantly conceived to show the attitude which Rohan has now adopted. The film has a fairly good dose of humour, some emotions and a fair dose of action too.

Sanjay Masoom’s dialogues are gems. The dialogues are so outstanding that they will often prompt the viewers to clap loudly.

Hrithik Roshan is extraordinary in the role of Rohan. He has delivered an award-winning performance. Whether as a lover boy or a doting husband or even as the wronged husband, he has done such wonderful work that he deserves the highest praise. He especially needs to be commended for his efforts at voice modulation and mimicry. His dance with girlfriend Supriya is simply outstanding. Yami Gautam looks pretty and plays the blind Supriya beautifully. She looks like the perfect foil to Hrithik. Ronit Roy shines. A man of few words, he underplays his character wonderfully. Rohit Roy lends very good support so that girls would detest him for being the rapist. Narendra Jha is natural to the core and leaves a lasting impression with his acting. As his assistant, Girish Kulkarni is a delight to watch. The man’s wily ways and his mannerisms as also his expressions are to die for. Suresh Menon makes his presence felt. Akhilendra Mishra leaves a mark. Sahidur Rahaman provides able support. Shaji Choudhary is good. Others lend the required support.

Sanjay Gupta’s direction is very good. He has let content prevail over style and that’s a very good thing. Rajesh Roshan’s music is fair. The film should have had at least two or three hit songs. The title song is melodious but doesn’t have the hit quality about it. Musically speaking, the other songs are fair but not hit. The remixed version of old song ‘Saara zamana’ is used to advantage as the vigorous dancing by Urvashi Rautela will be loved by the masses. Lyrics (by Nasir Faraaz and Manoj Muntashir) are nice. Song picturisations (by Ahmed Khan) are eye-filling. Ahmed’s choreography in the dance number picturised on Rohan and Supriya is exceptional. Also wonderful is the choreography of the ‘Saara zamana’ song. Salim-Sulaiman’s background music is exceptionally good. Special mention must be made of sound designer and recordist Resul Pookutty’s work. He has done a swell job of the film’s sound effects. Sudeep Chatterjee and Ayananka Bose’s cinematography is extraordinary. Sham Kaushal’s action scenes and stunts are praiseworthy. Production designing (by Sumit Basu, Snigdha Basu and Rajnish Hedao, of Acropolis) is excellent. Akiv Ali’s editing is superb.

On the whole, Kaabil is an entertaining fare with some great performances. It will do well at the box-office.

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