Dangal: Film Review – Aamir Takes Home The Gold

Verdict: We have a winner!

2016 has not been a great year for Bollywood.

A lot of films had Indians tweeting and posting in anticipation– Fan, Rustom, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Shivaay – but they didn’t manage to live up to the often-unrealistic expectations of Bollywood fans. Sultan is probably the only film that released this year that didn’t have its audiences leaving the cinemas feeling a tad let-down.

Until now.

Dangal has managed to put a happy end to a year that gave us a lot to cry about (at the movies and especially outside!). Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, starring the consistently great Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, and a fresh-faced cast, this film has a whole lot going for it. And in what must be termed a Christmas miracle in Bollywood, it fritters none of it away. The film was inspired by wrestler Geeta Phogat winning her first international gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, and the story of her life. While her life has been fictionalized to some extent, as the credits disclaim, the film does create a credible and engaging backstory for her.

 

Dangal review - BookMyShow

The first half is about what happens when Mahavir Singh Phogat, a National level, retired wrestler (played by Aamir Khan), decides to train his daughters in pehelwani, in a state where girls of 14 are usually married off to domestic hell. He had dreams of achieving an international gold for India, which he’d planned to pass on to his son, and when no son made an appearance, to his unwilling daughters. Young Geeta (Zaira Wasim) and Babita (Suhani Bhatnagar) try to follow in their determined father’s footsteps, but with little enthusiasm. The girls’ resistance, their shame, their realization of their good fortune, and the ensuing determination are the arc of this half. Zaira is outstanding as young Geeta, especially in the scene in which her father has her hair cut off, as it poses a distraction from training. Sakshi Tanwar is doing what she does best, as the dutiful and loving mother. Rohit Shankarwar is the other bright spark in this half, playing their cousin, who narrates the whole story, as he supports them in their journey. His comic timing and easy charm are impressive, and here’s hoping we see more if it in the future.

After intermission, the journey of the adult Geeta (Fatima Sana Shaikh), after winning the Nationals, unfolds. The talented wrestler is away from home and the strict guidance of her father for the first time, and starts to lose her way and many international matches. How she strays, falls and finds her way back into the fold is what this half is all about. This part also has that one clichéd character in the movie – the under-achieving, passive-aggressive coach who Geeta trains under, at the National Sports Academy. But every film needs an antagonist, and he does nicely for this story, bringing in the necessary conflicts without getting too sinister.

Dangal is a delight, almost from the start (Vivan Bhatena puts in a somewhat cringe-worthy cameo). The background score elevates the scenes that could have gotten too depressing with different music direction. The songs work beautifully in the context of the film. The performances by the child actors and the adults are laudable, including of course, Aamir Khan, who has made brilliance a habit, so it passes unremarked. The real triumph of the movie are the screenplay and narrative style. There isn’t a dull minute in the 2 hours 41 minutes of the film, and kudos to the writers for pulling that off. Nitesh Tiwari must be credited for his storytelling and the light-hearted treatment that makes even the most disturbing subjects palatable.

If we must nitpick, we can say that the dialogues stop just short of being great. No one line or scene stays with you (like Caesar’s “No” in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, or “Sattar minute” from Chak De! India). What does stay with you is the title track and a sense of empowerment, which is what the cinematic Geeta Phogat stands for.

Dangal truly deserved the standing ovation it got at the end.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:

Rarely does a Hindi film come along that is pleasing on every front – from performances to script to music. And contrary to what people may think, this is not a lecture on women empowerment. It is a film that is entertaining as it is enlightening, and definitely one the whole family can and should watch.

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Mostly Sunny Review: Jio MAMI 2016

When you settle down to watch a documentary about Sunny Leone, you expect to hear some juicy gossip and maybe even catch a glimpse of the woman Sunny was before she became a Bollywood star. And Mostly Sunny doesn’t disappoint on that score. It has many tidbits about Sunny’s entry into the adult entertainment industry, her relationship with husband Daniel Weber before they got married, and such.

What you don’t expect is to walk away with a new respect and perspective on Karenjit Kaur Vohra, the woman branded as Sunny Leone. Her refusal to be seen as somehow abused or coerced into doing pornographic films, her confidence and self-belief in the path she chose to make money, and her clear-minded vision that has made her a force to be reckoned with – all inspire praise, admiration and at the very least, respect. She is revealed to be a driven and ambitious person, but yet touchingly vulnerable and surprisingly innocent.  

The documentary shows Sunny at her old home in Sarnia, Canada – a small town in which she is still shunned by the Indian community. It delves into her early family life, which was quite the same as that of an ordinary Indian family. It explores her extremely close relationship with her brother, Sundeep, who is shown to be a pillar of support in her life, just like her husband. In bits and pieces, we hear the story of how Sunny became the Penthouse Pet of the year in 20013, and from there a porn star who went on to become a brand in herself.

It is so easy to objectify someone who used to be a porn star and whose only impact on Bollywood so far, seems to have been on the basis of her looks. The interviews with Karen (as her husband calls her), her brother and her husband shatter that two-dimensional image of her, showing her to be a loving and loved human being who is inspiring in her ability to defy norms, labels and restriction in all  she does. A woman who lives life on her own terms and dares you to do the same.

Director Dilip Mehta has not chosen a complex narrative structure to present his subject, opting for a simpler montage style of interviews and clips instead. Despite this, he manages to achieve what he set out to do – give us an intimate glimpse of the woman we know as Sunny Leone. 

Goodbye Berlin (Tschick) Review: Jio MAMI 2016

Germany has not had the best press in the last century or so. But Angela Merkel is doing her best to change that, and films like GoodBye Berlin (Tschick) will go a long way in making her job easier.

Directed by Fatih Akin, this is the story of 14-year-old Maik who is the socially invisible boy in his class. He is infatuated with class beauty, Tatjana, and dreams of someday winning her heart. When a Russian boy with strange clothes and an even stranger haircut joins his class and sits next to him, Maik does his best to distance himself from the new boy. Alas, that doesn’t work as Maik and Andrej Tschick, the new boy, are the only two people not invited to Tatjana’s birthday party. If that’s not bad enough, he’s abandoned at home as his mother goes off to rehab and his father goes off with his mistress, on the first day of the summer vacation. Desperate and alone, he gives in to Tschick’s overtures of friendship, and ends up going on a road trip with him to Walachie in a stolen Lada.
German cinema - BookMyShowTheir adventures on the journey reveal the beauty of the German landscape, less picturesque but more real than the French countryside. The village family they meet, the lake they go skinny-dipping in, and the wind turbines they camp under, all seem like an advertisement for tourism in Germany. The narrative is simple yet engaging, and the growing friendship between the two boys feels more authentic than many love stories. They make you smile, laugh and most importantly, relate to the trials and errors of growing up.

Even if you didn’t catch this at the Mumbai Film Festival, look out for a screening at Max Mueller Bhavan. This is one teen drama that is definitely worth a watch.

Dear Zindagi Teaser Is Out!

When the director of the touching and feel-good English Vinglish announced her next with Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan, the paparazzi went crazy, quite understandably. Even before the first look of the film was out, the film was more talked about than most films that spend crores on promotions. Gauri Shinde had the audience right where she wanted them – waiting with bated breath to find out what the movie was all about.

Well, we don’t need to wait any more. We already knew that Alia plays a cinematographer, Kaira, who finds a life coach in a ‘maverick’ therapist, played by Shah Rukh. The teaser or rather Dear Zindagi Take 1: Life Is A Game gives us enlightening glimpses into the personalities of their characters. Shah Rukh looks like a shaggy lion with his mane of wild hair, and Alia is at her bubbly best.

The introductory scene shows SRK’s character playing kabaddi with the waves, an act both natural and refreshing, and clearly Kaira thinks so, too. He seems to be a very hands-on therapist with unusual ways of treating his patients as he has her running towards the waves and cycling through open lanes while she bares her heart to him. And his methods seem to work as we see Kaira laughing, dancing on the roads, and hugging trees as the song ‘Love You Zindagi’ plays in the background. The film’s message comes through loud and clear – you have to make the most of the simple joys of life – which is a good point for any film to make.

If the teaser is anything to go by, this film is going to leave you with a smile on your face. But you don’t have to take our word for it – just watch it yourself.

Inferno: Film Review – To Hell And Back

Verdict: Falls short of the benchmark set by the earlier Langdon films.

When the world was first introduced to Robert Langdon on screen, we were held spell-bound. Not just by the charm Tom Hanks brought to the role, but by the world of theological and literary trivia that Dan Brown immersed us in. The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons (both directed by Ron Howard) set a high standard for integrity of plot and direction. They pulled us into the Euro-centric world even if we didn’t relate to it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Inferno, and it is for lack of trying.
Inferno - Bookmyshow

Inferno is the tale of Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), a bioengineer & billionaire, who has taken it upon himself to save the Earth and humanity from the plague of overpopulation, by spreading a virus that will halve the human population. Being pursued, he jumps to his death to prevent this virus from getting into the ‘wrong’ hands (!). But not before putting a timer on it, and using Dante’s Inferno to leave clues to its location (!). And as you may guess, Robert Langdon is the man called upon to solve these clues. But that’s in the past. The film starts a few days into the future, with Robert in a hospital bed in Florence, with a head wound and partial amnesia. He has visions in which he sees hordes of people, blistered and bloody, all around him. But he has no time to dwell on these as an Italian policewoman attempts to kill him. He manages to escape with the help of the English doctor (Felicity Jones) who was treating him and follows his work. And when he gets back on the infernal trail of the deadly virus, she joins him. They run around Europe looking for it, while being chased by several interested parties (Who doesn’t want the means to commit mass murder, as Omar Sy’s character says).

The tone of the film never leaves you in doubt of their success, with few surprises along the way (one really good one, though). The narrative is fairly linear, with no parallel plots, to thicken the soup. This wouldn’t be an issue if the primary plot was free of loopholes and clichés, but that is not the case, from the premise to the long drawn-out climax. Nor are the dialogues or interplay between characters likely to impress, with one remarkable exception.

Irrfan Khan’s character, dialogues and performance are the highlight of this movie. He breathes sparks of life into all his scenes, and makes you wish that his role had been more substantial. Which is not what you expect to be feeling at the end of a Tom Hanks movie.

The film leaves you with many ‘ifs & buts’. If only the story and screenplay were richer. If only the characters were more three-dimensional. If only the last two films hadn’t set such a high standard. But that was not to be.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:

If you love the treasure hunt-type of movie, then give this one a go. It has a strong and pertinent message to convey, even if it stutters in the saying of it. And Irrfan Khan’s performance will have you wondering if the time hasn’t come for an Indian Robert Langdon.

The Mirror Merchants Present Do Boond Roshni Ki & Murgistaan

Every time a piece of art – be it a play, a book, a poem or a movie – discusses the problems and oppression of women in society, the question is raised, “This again?” Such works are often casually dismissed as the subject matter is truly not fresh or new. So then why are they made, people ask. Perhaps, because they are still needed.

Despite the many plays and movies that have been made about it, the persecution of women in different parts of society continues. And as long as the problem still exists, we are going to have to keep talking about it to find the solution.

Do Boond Roshni Ki was an evening of two plays, and the first one, Pussy Riot, spoke about just this. And the women who dare to speak and write about this. The ridicule they face as women writing about women’s realities, sexuality and oppression was given a voice, and a very passionate one at that. Two women writers (played by Delnaz Divecha and Surabhi Subramonian) discussed the problem the world has with women expressing love and desire freely, through a recitation of controversial and sometimes banned works of other women writers, like Ismat Chughtai, Eve Ensler and Sylvia Plath. Their conversation had an intensity that mirrored what they spoke about. As these two scorned at the world’s attempts to control the sexuality of women and their sexual freedom, they encouraged the audience to do the same. By declaring the right of a woman to enjoy sex, they reminded those present to not judge them for it.

The second play, Do Boond Roshni Ki, ventured into deeper and murkier waters. Perhaps, that is why this gritty play was entirely in Hindi, unlike Pussy Riot, which was largely in English. The ‘do boond’ in this play are a prostitute and a eunuch, who fall in love but struggle to escape the shackles of their past. The wounds of the physical violence they have suffered have scabbed, but the emotional and psychological wounds were too deep to heal and are poisoning their relationship. Suhas Chatkara put up a gripping performance as the eunuch who desperately wants to be free of the ghost of the man who bought him as a boy and made him a eunuch. His energy was matched by Arnesh Ghose, who played the tor-mentor who loved him and controlled him, and though dead, controls him still. Their interaction revealed the complexity of his emotional situation. His lover (Surabhi) tries to understand it and help him, but she has her own demons to battle.

Do Boond Roshni Ki was a lot more intense and enlightening than Pussy Riot but also a lot more depressing. Pussy Riot held out a ray of hope, in that clearly these women have a voice, no matter how beleaguered it is. But it is hard to envision an escape for the protagonists in Do Boond Roshni Ki, and the many submerged voices they represent.

While a re-enactment of these two plays is some ways off, The Mirror Merchants is putting up its other production Murgistaan again this weekend. Conceived on a lighter note, this political satire tells the tale of a king and his plans to brainwash the people in his kingdom. Will he succeed? Head to Murgistaan and see for yourself!

Why Everybody Loves Vinay (Pathak)!

When you think of Vinay Pathak, you usually think of all the times he’s made you laugh. Which is quite understandable since the man is clearly a comic genius. From the sleeper hit Bheja Fry, which he owned, to the many cameo performances in movies like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, which we loved, he has proven time and again that no one can put life into an absurd character, and time a comic line quite like him.

His brilliance in comedy may have you – and some directors – thinking that he wouldn’t be able to pull off a serious role. But they could not be more wrong. He was undeniably convincing as DCP Siddharth in Jism, he was heart-wrenchingly real as the bullied employee in Dasvidaniya, and his layered performance in Gour Hari Dastaan has to be seen to be believed. No matter what character he’s playing, he gets into the skin of it and makes it memorable. Which is probably why these dialogues from his films, make us want to watch them again!

1. Bheja Fry:
Bharat Bhushan has made many an Indian crack up with his shudh Hindi gyan and absurdity. This was just one of the many gems from this annoying yet amusing character.

2. Khosla Ka Ghosla: The jugaadu Asif Iqbal knew how the world works, and if you paid attention to him, you would have picked up a tip or two, too!

3. Dasvidaniya: As the premise of the film was a bucket list, you expect it to be littered with a dying man’s epiphanies. But you don’t expect them to be so relatable and simply put.


4. Dasvidaniya:
The film, despite its serious theme, had its share of light moments. Like when wisdom was being dispensed by a Bappi Lahiri–lookalike.

5. Jism: Bipasha Basu’s white shorts and sizzling chemistry with John Abraham stole attention away from DCP Siddharth, who had some important life advice to give.

Happy Birthday, Vinay Pathak! We hope to get many more memorable performances and dialogues from you!
 

This Happens Only For Rajinikanth

Some stars content themselves with awards, some seek to hit ever-higher box office returns, and yet others seek to please the fans and the critics alike. But Superstar Rajinikanth has hit all these petty goals, and gone way beyond! He’s been synonymous with superstardom in India for years, and been our definitive answer to Chuck Norris (just Google ‘Rajinikanth jokes’ and you’ll know.) His stature is nothing short of god-like, and the kind of mania that his films excite is stuff that even Salman Khan (a demi-god himself) aspires to.

With Kabali due to release in a few days, we wanted to highlight some ‘trivial’ tributes paid to the Superstar.

1. Flight to Kabali

Air Asia has announced a special flight from Bengaluru to Chennai so fans can watch the first day, first show of Kabali in the Superstar’s home town! It is a pilgrimage that many fans are lining up to make.


2. Kabali takes you on Mumbai Darshan

While many film posters adorn the backs of autorickshaws, nothing short of a double-decker bus would do for Rajinikanth’s film. Dedicated Rajini fans can take a special Kabali tour of Mumbai, escorted by a larger-than-life cutout of the man himself.


3. Don’t bunk work for Kabali

While you are wondering what excuse can cover your absence from work, while you watch the first show of Kabali, some lucky employees out there don’t have to. These understanding employers have declared a #Kabaliday for their employees. What’s more, they’ve even gotten tickets for their staff to watch the film together. Bet you wish you worked in these offices! #CareerGoals


4. Five-stars for the Superstar

Probably for the first time in India, some of the biggest five-star hotels in Bengaluru have rolled out the red carpet for Rajinikanth fans to watch his latest release in style. Tickets for these luxurious screenings at JW Marriott, Lalit Ashok, Royal Orchid and Crown Plaza are going for INR 1300 each – a paltry sum to watch the Superstar in Super-style!


5. No water? Bathe in milk!

It is a common practice for hard-core fanatics to bathe cutouts of Rajinikanth in milk on the day of his film’s release. The Tamil milk producers’ association has requested fans to dissuade from paal abishekam (milk shower), this time, to avoid a shortage of milk supply in the city. Perhaps, the fans should stick to water to show their support in such difficult times!

Have you paid tribute to the Superstar in your own special way? Tell us how!

 

The ‘Action Heroines’ of Bollywood

How far we’ve come!’ was the thought in our heads after we saw the action-packed trailer of Akira. There was a time when actresses, in Hindi films, were just required to dress well, look pretty and cry at the director’s cue. But that’s not nearly enough for Bollywood actresses of this generation! As the films and roles available for actresses have evolved, so have the actresses approached for these films. From taking up horse-riding to learning combat sports and martial arts, these days, actresses go the whole hog in preparing for a role. We’re sure the body doubles and stunt women are not celebrating, but it is a welcome change for movie-goers, from the macho action heroes who ruled the screens in the 90s.

So, move over, Salman; watch out, Akki- here are the ‘action heroines’ of Bollywood!

Sonakshi Sinha: Hand-to-hand combat (Akira)

Sonakshi Sinha in Akira - BookMyShow
Sonakshi Sinha had to undergo rigorous training for her role as a woman seeking revenge against a corrupt cop (Anurag Kashyap), in Akira. And her efforts seem to have paid off. She has the moves of Zoe Saldana from Colombiana and the intensity of Urmila Matondkar from Ek Hasina Thi! Who would have guessed that Sonakshi would be such a natural at kicking ass!

Deepika Padukone: Archery (Bajirao Mastani)

Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani - BookMyShow
While a ten-day course in archery is no big deal for a trained athlete, Deepika made the effort to do it for her role as Mastani. She refused the option of having the scenes shot with a professional archer and her face being super-imposed on her in post-production. Way to go, D!

Priyanka Chopra: Boxing (Mary Kom)

Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom - BookMyShow
Playing a boxer convincingly is not an easy task, but it did not daunt Priyanka Chopra. The spunky actress went through a grueling fitness regime for this role, which included running miles, strength training, push-ups in freezing weather and of course, boxing. Anyone who has seen the film will vouch that it was all worth it. Priyanka’s performance was awe-inspiring. What can we say- the lady defines commitment.

Madhuri Dixit Nene: Shaolin kung-fu (Gulaab Gang)

Madhuri Dixit in Gulaab Gang - BookMyShow
Madhuri had a Shaolin master train her in hand-to-hand combat, with and without weapons, for her role in Gulaab Gang. The extremely talented dancer picked up martial arts with great ease. Director Soumik Sen‘s explanation for how masterfully Madhuri executed the moves is that as a dancer, she is already adept at timing and grace. If only it was all as effortless as Madhuri makes it look!

Nargis Fakhri: Combat (Spy)

Nargis Fakhri - bookMyshow
Nargis donned the action avatar for the Hollywood film, Spy. Her character has some exciting fight scenes with Melissa McCarthy for which she had to undergo training. Clearly, she’s a quick learner for she is quite the femme fatale in the film. Her performance was noticed by none other than Karan Johar who tweeted about it. Now we know who is definitely going places!

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: Sword-fighting (Jodhaa Akbar)

Aishwarya Rai in Jodhaa Akbar - Bookmyshow
Aishwarya’s sword fighting scenes in Jodhaa Akbar must have required some serious training because she looks like a professional as she takes on Hrithik Roshan. While she was a fury with the sword in this movie, she got a chance to show off her sword-fighting skills in the English film, The Last Legion, as well. Her wrist work as she takes on a mob single-handedly was impressive, to say the least.

Feeling inspired by these ‘action heroines’ to take up a sport yourself? Well, don’t keep it to yourself- share this inspiration with others!  

Te3n: Film Review – A One-Time Watch

Verdict: The cast is willing, but the script is weak!

It is impossible to walk into this film without any expectations. A thriller about Amitabh Bachchan solving a kidnapping is bound to be exciting, right? Add to that Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who is a brilliant actor, as the Raman Raghav 2.0 trailer playing just before this film reminds you. The only thing that can push your expectations higher is Vidya Balan. The last time this great actress starred in a thriller set in Kolkata, she made cinematic history (of course, we mean Kahaani). Te3n struggles to make the most of these three phenomenal performers and succeeds only partially.

Te3n film still of Amitabh Bachchan - BookMyShow
John Biswas (Amitabh Bachchan) and his wife have their lives disrupted by the kidnapping of their eight-year old grand-daughter, who seems to live with them after their daughter’s death. His wife is relegated to a wheelchair and John himself is unable to recover from this second loss. He spends his days trying to push the police to solve the case with daily visits, and when that fails, he tries to solve it on his own. Martin (Nawazuddin) is the cop who had failed to solve this case and become a clergyman, probably after. While Martin feels John’s loss, he is not moved to solve this case, content to accept it as the will of God. Until a second kidnapping takes place, eight years after the first, but with the same MO. Convinced it must be the same kidnapper, Sarita (Vidya Balan), the new cop in charge, decides to seek Martin’s help. Will the two be able to solve these cases at last? Or will John, working alone, get there first? You will have to watch Te3n to find out.


Te3n
had all the makings of a fantastic film, but somehow falls short. The story, based on a Korean film Montage, is not free of loopholes, but told better, it could have made a great film. Especially if the characterization had been better. Other than John Biswas, all the other characters feel two-dimensional, extracting equally flat performances from actors capable of so much more. Nawazuddin alternates between looking complacent and worried, Vidya looks unaffected even in the most critical scenes. Only Big B’s character looks convincing, and he does complete justice to it. Despite this, you don’t feel for any of the characters or get pulled into the narrative, watching only to see how it will all end.

Why You Should Watch This Movie:
Amitabh Bachchan has once again given a sterling performance, and one that stands 
out sharply in an otherwise passable film.