Share Your Thoughts

The year 2022 is drawing to a close. I have enjoyed watching and reviewing Bollywood films and shows for my readers at India Currents. There have been some great films, some good ones and some just okay. I am sharing my two cents worth synopsis with you. Perhaps you can watch them over the holidays. Enjoy!

Brahmastra, Part 1

Long awaited mega blockbuster of Aayan Mukherjee’s, in the line of legendary movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The movie was fireworks, pomp, mystery, myth and legend rolled into one. The flair, cast and showmanship is reminiscent of the great Raj Kapoor. But the love story between Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt does not pull at our heartstrings. I loved the picturesque atmosphere of the ghats of Kashi, and the song Kesariya tera ishq hai piya casts a spell. Felt I was there offering prayers to the ancient jyotir lingam.

Toolsidas Junior

Memorable performance by Rajeev Kapoor and Varun Budhdev. Sanjay Dutt left an impression with his quirky ‘local’ style. Hanging out in the old snooker clubs in Calcutta, sleeping on the bench with his eyes covered with his bandana. And then playing a remarkable game with self-developed street-smart skills. Not only is Sanjay Dutt’s character championship material, he has the sixth sense to recognize a decent player. I would recommend this movie to a youngster with athletic aspirations.

Jalsa

A stunning story about two mothers—one trapped on the crossroad of guilt and self-reflection, and the other struggling with anger and revenge. Suresh Triveni has cast the enigmatic and talented Vidya Balan who plays Maya Menon, an ambitious journalist for the TV channel, “Face the Truth.” Shefali Shah plays the housekeeper and companion to Maya’s son, Ayush, who has cerebral palsy. 

One late night Maya is involved in an accident, and what happens next throws her life into a tailspin.

Shefali Shah steals the show in her uncombed hair, small gold nose ring, puffy face, downcast eyes. A simple mangal sutra in her neck, wearing ashy, nondescript salwar kameezes. But when this domestic worker looks up, everything changes. Her eyes display a myriad of emotions, from compassion, to worry, to anger, to deep overwhelming despair of a mother. Rohini Hattangadi plays Maya’s mother. The movie has roller-coaster twists and turns, but they are worth the ride. A movie not to be missed. 

Thank God

Set up as a great game show with Kaun Banega Crorepati vibes. Ajay Devgn, as a modern-day Yamraj, cross- examines the selfish millennial real estate agent played by Varun Dhavan. Somehow, despite his good looks, his obsession with money and things money can buy, does not warm the audience to his charm. The movie teaches an important lesson about how a small white lie can change the lives of so many people. It is hard to admit fault, but the consequences of denial are far worse and devastating.

Anek

A socio-political spy thriller set in the turbulent territory of the Northeastern part of India. This movie introduced Andrea Kevichusa from Nagaland as Aido, an aspiring boxer. The movie addresses an important question of Indian identity. The NE in Anek refers to theNorth-Eastern states.

Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura are often referred to as the Seven Sisters to the big brother West Bengal. But their trade routes are squeezed into a bottleneck. What they produce cannot be delivered to the rest of India! Ayushmann Khurrana asks an important question: Kashmiris live in the North but don’t speak clear Hindi, so are they North Indian?

It is a shame that an average Indian cannot identify the names of other Indian states. Indian identity is constantly evolving. It’s an amalgamation of physique, facial features, mother tongue, and how one speaks the national language. But if we accept the responsibility of citizenship, we are not North Indian or South Indian. From Andhra Pradesh or Telangana or Odisha. We are Indian. A must watch!

Shershaah

Siddharth Malhotra shines in this biopic. A true story of a boy nextdoor, Vikram Batra, who inadvertently becomes a Kargil war hero. Kiara Adwani plays his love interest. The romantic duo has great on-screen chemistry. The songs, Raatan lambiyan and Mann Bhariyaa, are hauntingly beautiful. Overall, a neat film. Well-made and properly edited. Not too melodramatic. Insightful. Instills national pride. Has a familiar homey feel. I enjoyed it.

Jug Jugg Jeeyo

A romantic family drama with Anil Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Varun Dhawan and Kiara Adwani. Anil Kapoor plays the aging patriarch with an awesome physique and a roving eye. But he should stop playing the same old macho roles.

Hats off to Neetu Singh, who portrays a capable working woman and a Hindu housewife who has accepted the flawed domestic relationship without batting an eyelid. That part was authentic, but still the screenplay had to ruin it by casting a subversive slant, belittling the “good old wife.” The movie was heavily promoted by the star cast but could be easily missed. 

Darlings

Alia Bhatt’s first movie as a co-producer is a very surreal dark comedy in which the stellar mother daughter duo concocts a plan to teach the alcoholic, abusive husband/son-in-law a lesson. I loved the plot, enactment and unspoken dialogue between Shefali Shah, the widowed “food caterer” and Alia Bhatt, the young Badru, who is an incurable romantic who tries every trick in the trade to make her husband quit drinking. Till one day she has a rude awakening and then the tables turn!

A sad but a much-needed social sketch of what goes on behind closed doors in several households. After watching this film, perhaps people will pay heed that “wife beating is injurious to health.”

Jaadugar

A small-town sports drama/comedy film with Jitendra Kumar and Arushi Sharma in lead roles. As Meenu Narang, Kumar is comfortable in front of the camera. So is Arushi Sharma, as Disha Chhabra, when she boldly retracts Meenu’s eyelids. But after that, her role is that of a medical doctor of the town’s failing football team. 

Meenu is lacking in life goals, but is brimming with cliched wisecracking dialogues. “Main hoon Meenu, Raaton ki neend chheenu.”

The mish-mash players of the football team from the town of Neemuch yell out jijaji more than they score goals. No wonder they are so far away from the coveted Dabholkar trophy. Javed Jaffrey as Meenu’s chacha, and the self-appointed coach of Meenu’s football team, does not seem to help the motley group of players with his stammering pep talk. All in all, well played, but the magic was missing.

Laal Singh Chaddha

An Indian remake of the beloved American classic Forrest Gump. I watched both versions back-to-back. Perhaps it was not fair to the talented actor Aamir Khan, but for many reasons, Laal Singh did not leave an indelible imprint.

I loved Naga Chaitanya in the role of Laal’s friend, and the switch from shrimp in Forrest Gump to chaddi Laal Singh Chadda was smart! The sufi songs written by Amitabh Bhattacharya, and set to music by Pritam Gurbani are soul-stirring. Who can resist the magic of yellow mustard fields?

Aamir does look nice in a turban and beard. It was a good idea to show the story unfold in the second-class compartment of an Indian train, rather than on the iconic bench of Forrest Gump. To bring Kaamini Kaushal in a cameo appearance was a nice touch. Shah Rukh Khan’s appearance as the Indian Elvis looks a bit contrived. Still worth watching. A family film. The anecdotes about malaria are funny! 

Drishyam 2

A murder mystery based on the Malayalam film by Jeetu Joseph, where a father uses his grey cells to protect his young daughter and dupe the police force. A masterful mirage indeed. I like Ajay Devgn in his new avatar of not an angry young man, but a cool customer with hidden depths. Akshaye Khnanna plays his adversary as the formidable IG police of Goa, but his chess moves fall flat. Tabu, as Meera Deshmukh, the angry mother of the murdered Sam Deshmukh, who wants revenge, is phenomenal. Her angst jumps off the screen. I am sure they are already planning Drishyam 3!

Gangubai Kathiawadi

Remarkable transformation of Alia Bhatt from a naive girl to a sex worker to a formidable madam of the redlight district in Mumbai. Nostalgic cinematography of the bygone era in old Bombay. Can’t forget the scene with playful Gangu signaling from the balcony to her crush, the smitten tailor’s apprentice played by Shantanu Maheshwari.

The movie is gritty and shows gruesome violence to transform the protagonist into her “harder than nails” character. Well done, Sanjay Leela Bhansali! Your attention to detail and obsession to get it right makes the film sparkle. Love Ajay Devgn as Bhai and Vijay Raaz in an unusual role. Award-winning performance by Ms. Batt!

Sharmaji Namkeen

The swan song of “candy boy” of the Chintu baba fame who stole our hearts with Main shayar to nahin from the unforgettable love story Bobby. His undeniable charm with the ladies, and ineffable acting style, shines through his chunky “teddy bear” image as a self-made chef.

Veteran actor Parvesh Rawal’s addition to the parts Rishi Kapoor could not complete (because of his premature demise) makes the flick even more appealing and meaningful.

The story comes together at the climactic scene in the police station, like many old Bollywood comedies. Rishi Kapoor, in his ubiquitous boyish charm, spontaneity and inherent sense of timing, fits well with a bevy of girls who, if not fawning over him, swoon over his delicious food!

The movie has a true Punjabi vibe with glamorous “kitty parties” and mah ki dal, heart-shaped aloo tikkis and creamy rabadi! I will watch it again.

Monita Soni

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two...