Tag Archives: Hamida Parkar

Best Hindi Films of 2019 on Netflix and Prime

Article 15 (Netflix)

You can’t go wrong with Anubhav Sinha’s crime drama Article 15, with box office magnet Ayushmann Khurrana. City-bred and conscientious, Khurrana plays Ayan Ranjan, an Additional Superintendent of Police in Laalgaon, a small village, which operates eerily in an oppressive, caste-dominated political setup. Ayan faces resistance from Day 1 as he gets embroiled in the rape and disappearance of two Dalit girls and takes on the caste system trying to trace clues and solve the mystery. With a fantastic supporting cast and performances, Khurrana shines. Although grim and gritty, it’s also heartening and reaffirming. Keep a warm chai or a stiff drink within reach. Rating: 5 out of 5

Gully Boy (Prime)

Hell yes, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy, which released February 14, soared sky high this year. A perfect Friday night or weekend watch for a kick of fun and energy. The movie pays an ode to real-life Indian street rappers Divine and Naezy and is filled with textured, crackling characters to the brim. Ranveer Singh‘s Murad, an aspiring street rapper from Dharavi, the slums of Mumbai, finds his professional voice after meeting a local rapper Shrikant aka MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi). Street hustler Moeen (Vijay Varma), failing father Aftab (Vijay Raaz) hang on the sideline. Witness some wonderful and varied women create magic, Albina Dadarkar (Srishti Shrivastava), Razia Ahmed (Amruta Subhash) and Alia Bhatt‘s Safeena Firdausi. The writing, direction, and music shines bright. The angst and aspiration speak loud with a deft rhythm and foot-tapping emotions. Dive in and be dazzled. Rating: 5 out of 5

Section 375 (Prime)

Like it or loathe it, Section 375, a September 12 release, is one for the watch list. A filmmaker Rohan Khurrana (Rahul Bhatt) is arrested when a costume assistant Anjali Dangle (Meera Chopra) accuses him of rape. The movie plays out in a courtroom, setting the stage for Tarun Saluja (Akshaye Khanna) to step in and defend the accused while Hiral Gandhi (Richa Chaddha) fights for the survivor. There are compelling arguments and pertinent legal information. Both points of view are represented well until the final tilt and twist, which divides the audience. Talks about law vs justice appear futile when one thinks about the responsibility of the makers towards a society that is unfair to a majority of women. Does presenting the oppressed gender as oppressor work for or against the rape problem? You decide. Rating: 4 out of 5

Badla (Netflix)

A perfect movie to watch on a day when you don’t know what to do. Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu face off yet again in Badla, which released on March 8. They play Naina Sethi and Badal Gupta. She is a sharp businesswoman and he is an effective defense attorney. She faces a murder charge and narrates her side of the story, he tries to find loopholes so that he can defend her in court. The victims are her secret lover, Arjun (Tony Luke), and a stranger Sunny (Antonio Aakeel) whose mother is Rani Kaur (Amrita Singh). The treatment is like a chess game, but predictable. The ending is too convenient, but the performances and drama keep the narrative on point, making it a compelling view. Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Manikarnika (Prime)

Take a ride into herstory with Manikarnika which caused much controversy when it was released January 25, it’s fiercely outspoken leading actor Kangana Ranaut had a lot to say off camera about her decision to co-direct the movie. Nevertheless, Ranaut’s on-camera performance is glorious as she pays homage to Rani Lakshmibai from the first frame to the blazing end comparable to Nargis in Mother India. The movie methodically unravels the mardaani perception by focusing on the woman within and steers clear of ostentatious drama and emotion, striking a fine balance between fiction and facts and retaining Rani Laxmibai’s identity as well as the fervor of the freedom movement. The narrative is simple and stays with her journey. It’s a winner. Rating: 5 out of 5

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.


This article was originally published on November 23, 2019 and was edited by Culture and Media Editor, Geetika Pathania Jain.

 

Isolation Therapy: Top Five New Shows on Streaming

As the isolation period extends, feast on these delightful new shows on streaming which range from small-town slicks to big city woes.

Panchayat, Amazon Prime Video

In Prime drama Panchayat, director Deepak Kumar Mishra and writer Chandan Kumar create the perfect isolation watch, transporting us to the rural Indian world of Phulera in Uttar Pradesh. Produced by TVF, the comedy-drama follows an average engineering graduate Abhishek (Jitendra Kumar) through his reluctant journey as secretary of a Panchayat office after he misses the popular CAT exam bus. On arrival, he encounters Vikas (Chandan Roy), an office boy, Upapradhan Prahlad Pandey (Faisal Malik) and long-serving Pradhan Brij Bhushan Dubey (Raghuvir Yadav). Although he is currently fronting the office for wife Manju Devi (Neena Gupta), elected on paper (under nari quota), so he could still perform his duties. The quirky innocence of small-town characters wrapped up in simple dilemmas shine through all eight episodes even as the seemingly slick city boy tries to make his presence felt. With some fine performances, heartwarming situations and slow-cooked old charm, you cannot go wrong choosing to binge on this one.

Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega, Netflix

Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega sucks you right in with poor young-bloods determined to find their power spot in the world. Writers Trishant Srivastava, Nishank Verma, and director Soumendra Padhi keep it raw, real and intense throughout with some thrilling and chilling moments to keep you hooked. School dropouts, reckless and cut-throat, the unemployed youth of Jamtara (Jharkhand) want to make quick cash which will lead them to a successful future. Leading the pack is Sunny Mondal (Sparsh Shrivastav) who runs a money-spinning phishing scam with older cousin Rocky (Anshuman Pushkar) aided by school friends. Sunny’s partner in crime is Gudiya (Monika Panwar), ambitious with her own agenda. They are the wannabe power couple and run coaching classes together. Standing in the way of their dream and the whole racket, for different reasons, are local corrupt politician Brajesh Bhan (Amit Sial) and Dolly Sahu (Aksha Pardasany), Superintendent of Police. If you can swallow the liberally sprinkled but necessary cuss words, the show is a winner. It depicts a world very much rooted in power and its layered dynamics, depending on which side you are on.

Afsos, Amazon Prime Video

“My life story is so poorly written that I feel like I’ve written it myself.” Failed writer, lover, sibling and son Nakul (Gulshan Devaiah) has only one goal in life – he wants to end it in Afsos. After failing to go through with the act 11 times, he hires a committed assassin Upadhyay (Heeba Shah) to finish the job. After assigning the task, his luck changes dramatically, and Nakul changes his mind. The only hurdle is Upadhyay, who doesn’t like unfinished business. A dark comedy that is wicked and funny. The show’s characters are superbly enacted, irrespective of their length, even though they find themselves in some irreverent and unbelievable situations finely crafted by writers Anirban Dasgupta and Dibya Chatterjee. The only discomforting scene was when his therapist, Shloka (Anjali Patil) hands Nakul a razor knife and provokes him to kill himself. Nevertheless, director Anubhuti Kashyap balances the bustling plot with slick direction and solid attention to detail, keeping it sane, grounded and palatable. 

Mentalhood, ZEE5

If you are a Karishma Kapoor fan, you will be delighted by her foray into the digital TV world with Mentalhood, a TV show which explores the vagaries of motherhood, female solidarity and modern issues such as bullying, domestic violence, infidelity, homosexuality, and a mother’s guilt. ALTBalaji attempts to woo the family audience with a cleverly adapted Indian version of HBO show Big Little Lies which connects five mothers, Meira (Karisma), Anuja (Sandhya Mridul), Namrata (Shilpa Shukla), Diksha (Shruti Seth) and Priti (Tillotama Shome), who share lives as their children attend the same school. Director Karishma Kohli keeps the tone light, sensitive, and feminine. As a show, it doesn’t reach the high level one would expect despite the taboo topics it explores but nevertheless entertains and conveys some important messages in the process. With its troop of crackling actors and Kapoor’s fine presence, it’s definitely worth a watch.

She Netflix

She suffers from an age old problem: He. A bunch of men write and direct a female story about sexual awakening and do a huge disservice to an important topic. Producer Imtiaz Ali leads this venture, co-writing with screenwriter Divya Johri, jointly directed by Arif Ali and Avinash Das of Anarkali of Arrah fame. Bhumi Pardesi (Aaditi Pohankar), a junior police officer is chosen by Narcotics Bureau officer Jason Fernandez (Vishwas Kini) to play a prostitute in a bid to bring down a drug cartel, fronted by Sasya (Vijay Varma). The protagonist is viewed throughout from an external perspective, which is not the worst part, she rarely takes a solo decision and the little voice she has is mostly muffled by the male energy. Perhaps it is her surroundings or the fact that she is not aware of her own sexuality. She is initially embarrassed by her body, then recognizes its influence and eventually finds her power through it. This is where it becomes problematic because she starts seeing her body as a tool and the only way to get her share of power. Despite the obvious flaws, Aaditi Pohankar lends dignity to Bhumi with a layered, masterful performance. She maps the journey from timid female to an aggressive temptress effectively and smoothly. Vijay Varma is always a surprise package, with many twists to offer. It’s definitely worth a watch for the actors, some of its sparkling moments and the bold territories it travels to.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

Social Distancing With Vintage Hindi Movies

It’s easy to burn through all the new shows and movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix when you’re quarantined at home. Bet you didn’t think to go back a few decades and find films that are reminiscent of your childhood. Here is a list of vintage Hindi films to watch after you’re done working from home, of course!

Kaala Patthar (1979) Prime

Before Yash Chopra went rogue with romance in the 80s, with the exception of Mashaal (1984), he belted out all-round, thoughtful dramas with a social tinge such as Deewaar (1975), Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Trishul (1978). They were all multi-starrers, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor were common stars in all of these. Chopta finished off the decade with the rough cut diamond Kaala Patthar, inspired by Chasnala mining disaster. Shatrughan Sinha played to the gallery with a crackling performance. Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi and Poonam Dhillon had limited presence. It had a taut screenplay by hit writer-duo Salim-Javed however it had an average run at the box office. The movie is the full package though, it never misses a beat. 

Gol Maal (1979) Netflix Prime

This Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic is double trouble and multiple shots of fun for all moods, times and tides. Just give in to the craziness of the world of Gol Maal where Ramprasad/ Laxmanprasad (Amol Palekar in his elements) fools his boss Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt, outstanding) for a live hockey match and is caught in a web of lies to cover up his first one. Both  actors won Filmfare Awards (Best Actor and Best Comedian). Dina Pathak shines as the fake mother while Bindiya Goswami charms as the actor-girlfriend. Those were simple times when Mukherjee could easily swing walk-in guest appearances from Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Lata Mangeshkar. Definitely a winner!

Doosara Aadmi (1977) Prime

Yash Chopra produced Doosara Aadmi for his assistant director Ramesh Talwar, who directed his independent debut. It comes with some glaring gender-biased morality flaws but is still a refreshing take on the complex nature of frayed relationships before marriage, after marriage, during romance and in offbeat quieter friendships. Raakhee plays reclusive Nisha, an advertising professional who falls for Karan Saxena (Rishi Kapoor) as he reminds her of her late boyfriend, Shashi Saigal (Shashi Kapoor). However, Karan is newly married to Timsy (Neetu Singh) and Nisha has a close friend Bhisham who loves her. It is laced with stunning, blockbuster music by Rajesh Roshan, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. Sample the myriad moods of love with Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein and  Aao Manayen Jashn-E-Mohabbat, Jaan Meri Rooth Gayi, Nazron Se Kah Do and Ankhon Mein, Kajal Hai. It’s worth a watch or two.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976) Prime

Kabhi Kabhie tops my list of the Yash Chopra romance. It covers all seasons of love in its full glory. Amitabh Bachchan’s Amit Malhotra plays a poet to Raakhee’s pristine beauty as Pooja Khanna. Their love remains unrequited as parental love leads them to arranged marriages. Pooja marries the boisterous Vijay (Shashi Kapoor), a man with a conscience and ability to question his own flaws. In an exact opposite scenario is the quiet marriage of Amit and Anju (Waheeda Rehman). In a twist of fate, the hopeful love of the younger couple, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor) and Pinky (Neetu Singh) brings the two older pairs together. It has the usual elements of romance, drama and entertainment along with poetry, poignance and humour. The performances and music are cherry on top. Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianwi won Filmfare awards for Best Music and Lyrics. Pyaar Kar Liya To Kya remains my favourite capture of the Rishi-Neetu romance. You can’t help but shed a tear when Pooja sings Kabhi Kabhie on her wedding night even as Vijay delicately removes her wedding jewellery. I do wonder about that song though, the definition of consent has walked a considerable distance since.

Chupke Chupke (1975) Netflix Prime

For those feeling trumped and beaten, there is always a fun movie around the corner to watch. Hrishikesh Mukherjee recycled Bengali fare Chhadmabeshi to create Chupke Chupke, an all-time classic comedy for Hindi cinema. Newly married couple Sulekha Chaturvedi (Sharmila Tagore) and Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra) fool their family, Raghavendra Sharma (Om Prakash) and Sumitra Sharma (Usha Kiron), into believing they are “not married”. Joining the fun of the scheming couple are bumbling Professor Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) and sweet Vasudha Kumar (Jaya Bachchan), navigating their own new romance, and Lata Kumar Srivastav (Lily Chakravarty), Prashant Kumar Srivastav (Asrani) and Haripad Chaturvedi (David). The lyrics and music by Anand Bakshi and S. D. Burman fit in perfectly. Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein ticks all boxes of situation, performances, music, lyrics and singing. Sharmila Tagore is devilishly divine. So is the movie. 

Abhimaan (1973) Prime

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed this compelling take on professional rivalry between a singer couple, Subir (Amitabh Bachchan), professionally successful, and Uma (Jaya Bhaduri), a newly born star. Along the way, his career dives as Uma soars, becoming more successful, throwing Subir into a jealous despair and straining their marriage. A definitive masterpiece, in terms of its subject and ensemble of mature performances. And of course, the terrific music which blended beautifully into the movie, by Sachin Dev Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics

Namak Haraam (1973) Prime

While Anand (1971, also on Prime) is definitely the better known tragi-classic starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, I thought Namak Haraam was more layered and compelling as a subject. Two warring friends are caught amid rising unions of Bombay‘s textile mills and inflation in the early 1970s. Ironically, the two superstars were at opposite ends of their fates and journeys, Khanna handed the success baton to Bachchan unknowingly with this movie. Fresh from the success of Zanjeer, Amitabh had sealed the deal with the audience and together the stars made the 5th highest grossing film of 1973. Khanna’s performance was not in question at all, he excelled as loyal friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) who agrees to help out Vicky (Amitabh Bachchan) and then realises he is on the wrong side of his own ideals after closely experiencing the plight of factory workers. RD Burman’s music was right on note with Diye Jalte Hai, Nadiya Se Dariya and Main Shayar Badnaam and lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) Prime

Salim-Javed’s feminist take on double roles, inspired by Ram Aur Shyam, resulted in Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy’s second directorial venture. Hema Malini landed the role quite by chance after Mumtaz said no. She was a dynamite and an absolute hoot, winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year. A pair of identical twins (played by Hema Malini) lose their parents at birth and are also separated, they are raised by different sets of people and have distinct personalities. When they swap places, fun and madness ensues. For once, both the heroines got the centre stage to do things as she pleased while the men indulged and supported them from the sidelines. Sanjeev Kumar matched Dharmendra, dimple to dimple, charm on charm, both looked dapper, adding their candid take to the comic explosion. 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

Love Aaj Kal: The Uncomfortable Romance

Love Aaj Kal dives straight into the ambiguous, uncomfortable and unspoken parts of love. You will either jump in and love it, or straight up hate it. As a fan, I can safely declare Imtiaz Ali is back in the zany space. The movie stays true to its premise of tackling uncomfortable parts of love until it reaches its pointy end. 

The 2+2 se zyaada type of love, along with career, money, lust, cheating, boredom, fears, commitment, balance, freedom. This time Imtiaz explores the ambiguities of love before love, tackling the romance in tiny bits and pieces as only he can so beautifully, not shying away from leaving an incomplete, unresolved feeling of what love could or couldn’t be. Why we do what we do, why we act the way we act, why we hurt and disrespect the people we care about. The best part is it doesn’t attempt to explain any of these actions nor does it fairy tale love. In fact, it shows almost every character as flawed and full of contradictions, to the point where it appears all over the place, until it reaches the acceptance that life will never be a straight line, therefore neither can love.

Right in the first scene, all four characters from both eras make an entrance, 2020 pair Zoe-Veer (Sara Ali Khan, Karthik Aryan) and 1990 pair Leena-Raghu (Arushi Sharma, Karthik Aryan). Zoe and Veer are free to be with each other but struggle to connect. Leena and Raghu are on as are many social barriers in the way of their romance. As the stories progress, you see confusion, insecurities, infidelity, career, gender, the usual things one would see in an Imtiaz Ali creation, but with a more insular approach than seen in his earlier movies. It’s a splash of emotions and vignettes on screen until the final credits roll.

As for the elephant in the room, it’s a yes and a no. The story is similar in premise to Love Aaj Kal 2009 and it is the career and love dilemma all over again. But it is handled differently. You still have the older character in Randeep Hooda, all grown up and ready to dish his love wisdom. The woman struggles this time in 2020, she wants to toss it all away for love and is challenged at every point by herself, her mother, her past. What could have been better were some of the contrived sequences, the lifts on a bike, the cafe sets, and some of the usual ways in which Imtiaz tends to explore the female characters, with kid gloves. 

It’s definitely not going to be a popular movie choice. The characters unravel but do not get a chance to be put together again. Their actions, reactions, the story leaves an incomplete feeling. Actors Sara, Arushi and Karthik come across as theatre dolls, and not the stars you want them to be. The camera hovers around as their life plays out. All with good reason. It’s not Tamasha level intense. It doesn’t have the playfulness of Love Aaj Kal 2009. Both movies took the whole journey, of course. But on the whole, it works like a charm. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Love Aaj Kal 2020 is about all that happens within before love takes over. 

3.5 out of 5

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.


Love Aaj Kal. Writer & Director: Imtiaz Ali. Players: Sara Ali Khan, Karthik Aryan, Arushi Sharma, Randeep Hooda. Music: Pritam,  Ishaan Chhabra. Theatrical release: Maddock Films, Window Seat Films, Reliance Entertainment.

 

Top 10 Hindi Movies of 2019

It was a year for the creative and the restless in Hindi cinema as filmmakers told inspirational stories which balanced reality and fantasy in equal measure. Innovation won and we had some brilliant winners in the process.  Here are my top 10 picks for 2019.

1. Soni

This Netflix movie quietly and softly won hearts. Ivan Ayr spent significant time watching female police officials go about their jobs, the result shines in every frame of Soni. He also hired Kimsi Singh, his own producer to get a female perspective on the first draft of his story. It shows. It is a compelling glimpse into why India is unable to free itself from its pervading rape culture, without even showing a rape.

Rating: 5 out of 5

2. Gully Boy

A giant response from director Zoya Akhtar to her critics. She does slums as funky as the high-brow movies. Gully Boy soared sky high.  The movie paid an ode to real-life Indian street rappers Divine and Naezy and was filled with textured, crackling characters to the brim.  The writing, direction and music shone bright. The angst and aspiration speak loud with a deft rhythm and foot-tapping emotions. Dive in and be dazzled. 

Rating: 5 out of 5

3. Article 15

You can’t go wrong with Anubhav Sinha’s crime drama Article 15. Laalgaon, a small village, operates eerily in an oppressive, caste-dominated political setup. New ACP Ayan ( golden boy Ayushmann Khurrana) faces resistance as he attempts to investigate the rape and disappearance of two Dalit girls, taking on the caste system as he tries to trace the clues. Although grim and gritty, it’s also heartening and reaffirming.

Rating: 5 out of 5

4. Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota 

Director Vasan Bala creates a wonderful fantasy world inspired by his childhood of karate classes, tributes to various movies including Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan et al, and a real life story. The lead character has Congenital insensitivity to pain and goes on a mission to conquer his foes. Giving him a fight on an equal footing is his childhood friend and girlfriend. If you adore movies, this is a rockstar of a movie that you do not want to miss.

Rating: 5 out of 5

5. Laal Kaptaan

Navdeep Singh unites Saif Ali Khan and Deepak Dobriyal to satisfying results, with the historical Battle of Buxar as the backdrop. A ferocious Naga Sadhu is hungry for mukti aka salvation by exacting revenge while Deepak Dobriyal guides him with an acute sense of smell. The movie burns slowly and surely to create a fascinating human tale filled with adventure, sorrow and a sense of loss. It didn’t get the success it deserved but that doesn’t take away from its genius.

Rating: 4 out of 5

6. Sonchiriya

Set in 1970, Sonchiriya captures the ravines of Chambal with assured confidence as it captures a group of dacoits and their anguish with grit and determination – they fight to exist with caste, gender, masculinity and patriarchal issues. Abhishek Chaubey’s taut, tense and masterly narrative shines, aided by a superb cast and crackling performances.

Rating: 4 out of 5

7. Judgementall Hai Kya

Prakash Kovelamudi’s  Judgementall Hai Kya tackles complex themes of domestic violence and mental illness aided by black humour at every jump and turn in the dark narrative. The fact that Kanika Dhillon pens this quirky whodunit with a conscience makes it all the more delicious. Kangana Ranaut and Rajkummar Rao don’t play one false note and hold the movie together with panache. The film deserves applause for its quirkiness and over delivering on its thriller template.

Rating: 4 out of 5

8. Section 375

Like it or loathe it, Ajay Bahl’s Section 375 is one for the watch list. A filmmaker is arrested when a costume assistant accuses him of rape. The movie plays out in a courtroom, setting the stage for defense lawyer Tarun Saluja (Akshaye Khanna) and Hiral Gandhi (Richa Chaddha) who fights for the survivor. Both points of view are represented well until the final tilt and twist, which divides the audience. Talks about law vs justice appear futile when one thinks about the responsibility of the makers towards a society that is unfair to a majority of women. Does presenting the oppressed gender as oppressor work for or against the rape problem? You decide.

Rating: 4 out of 5

9. Bala

With Bala, Amar Kaushik delivered a superb take on how the concept of beauty affects a man who lives with alopecia (baldness). It’s funny, it’s warm, it’s empathetic. Although, it’s mainly Ayushmann Khurana’s story and he is excellent, Bhumi Pednekar and Yami Gautam make their presence felt and heard with strong turns.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

10. War 

War is a slick and sassy masala action entertainer. Hrithik Roshan hangs from the sky, breathtaking, suspending our jaws in disbelief. Tiger Shroff conquers the ground with his moves and strikes. Watching them in tandem kicking, dancing and firing guns is a lesson in balance and coordination. When a Hindi movie delivers on action, entertainment and superstars, the question about story and authenticity is automatically moot. Siddharth Anand directed this box office bonanza.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

Mirzapur: a Roller Coaster Ride

The first thirty minutes of Mirzapur dish out thrilling flavor samples for a first taste with a seasoned chef. The delicious ingredients aka the key cast are introduced with careful precision in the first episode by writers Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. We meet each character, significant or minor, except Golu (Shweta Tripathi). Golu comes later, but she stays with us. Flawless and fearless, she is much needed soft, strong female energy in the next eight episodes not only for her clear conscience, providing relief from the macho, ruthless reality of the show, but also for her desire and free expression.

Some character journeys are predictable but most of them deviate, surprise, and conquer with finesse. Casting is perfect in this slow-cooked, gripping crime feast set in a fictitious-real world which runs into a total of 421 minutes.

Set in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, the only law of this land is guns, drugs, rivalry, crime and power. Backed by taut screenplay and brilliant performances, the bar is set to the sky from the start and delivers right up to the racy, breathtaking finale. Mostly shot in Mirzapur, it also scores high on authentic locations. 

The opening scene introduces the main antagonist Munna (Divyendu Sharma), man-child brat of local don Akhandanand Tripathi aka Kaleen Bhaiyya (Pankaj Tripathi), setting the tone. Staring into the camera, Munna barks ‘Kaleen Bhaiyya – King of Mirzapur’ after a snort of cocaine. His next sentence is “To hum kaun hue… Prince”. (“And who am I… Prince”.) Next, second antagonist Kaleen Bhaiyya is introduced in a chilling scene where he watches stone-faced as a faulty gun, manufactured by his factory, explodes in his customer’s hand. 

Protagonists Guddu (Ali Fazal) and Bablu (Vikrant Massey) are introduced in a classroom, giving a sense of their life, dreams and moral fiber before life takes a U-turn. They are plonked with the dilemma of choosing a path with no return. Their decision plays a big role in setting the direction for their own lives, as well as events that follow.

An upright lawyer Ramakant (Rajesh Tailang) picks a prickly legal case, setting forth a chain of events. His commitment to justice for a murdered groom stands tall despite obstacles. His wife Vasudha (Sheeba Chaddha) is not happy with his truthful choices.

While the men are out playing with guns, the women get naughty. Golu is as comfortable masturbating in a library, with books for company, as she is trying to score votes on college elections. Her older sister Sweety (Shriya Pilgaonkar) has her eyes set on Guddu and his muscles. Then there is Beena Tripathi (Rasika Dugal), Akhandanand’s wife, who is consumed by her sexual desire as her husband is unable to satisfy her. Vasudha is dazzled by power and riches. Dimpy (Harshita Gaur) is spunky but cast as the proverbial sister, which is disappointing.


There are choices and then there is that one choice which comes with consequences. Every moment is an ominous one for Guddu and Bablu, keeping you on the brink. I usually avoid movies with pointless violence. Although come to think of it, isn’t every violent act pointless? What Mirzapur does extremely well is break violence into slices, amalgamating it into everyday life so mundane and real it is terrifying.

The story is pretty stock standard but the fresh perspective of its narrative is what gives Mirzapur its edge and quality stamp. Some scenes are designed to make audiences squirm, while others are paisa wasool on their entertainment value.

The writers are aided by a cast that live and breathe their characters perfectly. Divyendu conquers the messy, complex, layered Munna with finesse: his shifty body language, reckless behaviour, crazy streaks, and dark emotions blend into a powerful turn almost reminiscent of good old Gabbar. Ali charms as the soft and unpredictable Guddu – he wears his innocence like a burden even as his character peels it off bit by bit, with the shifting goal post. Vikrant is excellent as the sensitive, practical Bablu caught in a vortex of descent. Pankaj plays the measured evil don with panache. Veteran actor Kulbhushan stays in the background, occupying his wheelchair with the confidence of an assured performer as well as patriarch. Amit Sial and Shahnawaz Pradhan are effective as cops on opposite ends of the spectrum of duty. Rajesh is effective as the keeper of justice, Ramakant.

Quite easily, Rasika and Sheeba shine as Beena and Vasudha. Rasika is laidback and spunky, voicing her sexual needs and opinion freely, her superbly balanced act lending grace to Beena.  Vasudha is pushing boundaries of a different variety as she fulfils her material desires and tastes power for the first time. Sheeba plays her skilfully with candid innocence, as a woman  who does not think beyond the corners of her family’s existence. Shweta packs a punch as Golu, in her delicate frame, every time she appears.

Mirzapur is definitely worth taking the roller coaster ride.  Full of steep twists, it also has a thrilling climax that keeps you on edge until the last second, leaving unanswered questions for season two. Bring it on…

4 out of 5

Mirzapur. (2018- )Writers: Karan Anshuman, Puneet Krishna and Vineet Krishnan. Director: Karan Anshuman, Gurmmeet Singh, Nisha Chandra and Mihir Desai. Players: Rasika Dugal, Pankaj Tripathi,  Shriya Pilgaonkar, Ali Fazal, Shweta Tripathi, Vikrant Massey, Amit Sial, Divyendu Sharma, Shahnawaz Pradhan, Rajesh Tailang, Sheeba Chaddha, Harshita Gaur and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Prime Video Network Release: Excel Entertainment

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, tv, culture, women, and social equity. 

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Female Anger Explodes in Pataakha

Boom. Female anger explodes on the Hindi cinema screen in full frontal glory in Pataakha (2018). Who other than Vishal Bhardwaj for the job? The writer-director tackles women’s energy head on, by exploring a tempestuous relationship between two sisters, Badki and Chutki, with black humor. The mad hatter concept suspends the viewer straight into disbelief, thankfully with no hint of an apology for the fights.

I was the only audience in an empty theatre. Years ago, it was Luck By Chance (2009), Zoya Akhtar’s fantastic debut, which she hasn’t been able to surpass since. No surprises there, that the box office has little to garner from angry female leads. Pretty much like Republican Senators, who ignored the anguish of Christine Blasey Ford and anger of female protesters to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

According to expert Taran Adarsh, Pataakha collected 7.64 crores in its first week. Sui Dhaaga (2018), which released the same Friday, crossed 62.5 crores. Hardly a surprise, that. Nothing gets the cash registers ringing better than a woman who radiates good old manipulation, docility, and subordination.

Walk in with a stash of popcorn and Coke then to experience the messy goodness of Genda ‘Chhutki’ Kumari (Sanya Malhotra) and Champa ‘Badki’ Kumari (Radhika Madan) who are fiery, gritty, and spunky from start to finish. The movie starts with a paisa wasool mud scuffle over a beedi, sparked by their neighbor Dipper Naradmuni (Sunil Grover) and doused by their single father Bechara Bapu (Vijay Raaz). The relationship is fragile and competitive as they battle over clothes, a sticky forced-marriage, a smartphone, and even television. Dipper, the meddlesome Naradmuni, regularly snitches and pits them against each other, with wicked glee.

Badki and Chutki are authentic, scruffy, and imperfect as much as they are wild, spontaneous, and unpredictable. They rule their surroundings with confidence and abandon. The fury of a woman, usually confined and restrained, finds a visual arena to manifest itself externally in color. Love, love, love. Without Ranjan Palit’s colorful camerawork, this would not have been possible.

A dynamic first half shows their childhood and young adult romance. They both find men of their choice in charming romances — Chutki meets Vishnu (Abhishek Duhan) in a field and Badki encounters Jagan (Namit Das) near the river. Meanwhile, a lecherous old man, Tharki Patel (Saanand Verma) tries to score one of them as his wife, in exchange for a loan to Bapu. The girls are in a dilemma; Dipper eggs them on, but also saves them.

Post interval and wedding, the pair is confined to the same house, after they unknowingly marry brothers. After a promise to their father, they also feel obliged to stop fighting and settle into the routine of domestic life. Until they don’t. Dipper sets them off again, this time they push their husbands into a family fight. The reason behind their combustible equation is revealed in the end.  

The story is fresh and straightforward, with crispy dialogue, laughs, twists and turns. Vishal picks Charan Singh Pathik’s short story Do Behnein, based on real-life antics of wives of his brothers, published by Sahitya Kala Academy. The siblings’ divide is even compared to that between feuding neighbors India and Pakistan. The songs Pataakha, Balma, Gali, and Naina Banjare adorn the narrative seamlessly. But why jar the flow with Hello Hello, the Malaika Arora item song?

The movie rests on the excellent performances. Saanand Verma plays creepy well. Namit Das and Abhishek Duhan make a mark. Sunil Grover is superbly layered with his grey shade character. Vijay Raaz scores perfect, balancing his daughters’ energetic fights with restrained ease.  Sanya Malhotra is back with a bang and Radhika Madan makes sterling big screen debut. The actors are flawless; they hold their own individually and are crackling together.

Pataakha is super fun and entertaining. It could have been more, and falls just short of achieving greatness. Yet the importance of the red carpet it rolls out to normalize anger in women is noteworthy. Pity the audience isn’t biting.

3.5 out of 5

Pataakha. Writer & Director: Vishal Bhardwaj. Players: Sanya Malhotra, Radhika Madan, Vijay Raaz, Namit Das, Abhishek Duhan. Music: Vishal Bhardwaj. Theatrical release: KYTA Productions, Vishal Bhardwaj Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor, Geetika Pathania Jain.

 

Soorma: For The Win

Diljit Dosanjh, who won acclaim for second lead roles, gets to play his first title role as international hockey player Sandeep Singh in Soorma (2018). The best thing about the actor is the softness about him, along with an endearing earnestness. Diljit adds quiet strength, finesse, and power to this ordinary-turned-extraordinary tale of a man who fought and conquered his paralysis.

Romance shadows the first half as Sandeep Singh is more set on doing somersaults for Harpreet (Taapsee Pannu) than hockey. It is love at first flick on the hockey ground as he croons Ishq Di Baajiyan. The song is lovely and Diljit works his magic despite the rough first-cut singing. In the movie, the first picturisation looks dreamy but is a distraction later in its multiple repetitions. There is also a bromance going on with his brother Bikramjeet Singh (Angad Bedi), also his mentor and part-time trainer. Although Sandeep’s sole motivation for playing hockey is winning Harpeet, he sets about making a name in the game for himself with the help of Bikram and coach Harry (Vijay Raaz) who is impressed by his drag flick. A shocking shooting accident pushes a roadblock on his way to success, and he loses his mobility.

The story is told with heart for sure, director Shaad Ali rightly chooses a linear format, co-writing with Suyash Trivedi and Siva Ananth. This works when the player is interacting with his family, but for the sport scenes, the sense of adrenaline on field hockey pitch isn’t captured as effectively. The hunger, and taste of victory is missing. Sandeep Singh’s recovery journey account on TED Talks, where he talks about being lonely in his rehabilitation, is better than the narrative here, which is a disappointment. It is rushed and stays in the sweet, tame zone. Shaad misses building and exploring the layers of Sandeep’s internal battle, leaving those painful moments out.

The movie picks up pace after he gets back with The Soorma Anthem, when he trains with his brother. It is the best inspirational song I have heard in recent times: the strings of my heart strummed higher with every thumping beat and Mahadevan’s booming voice. It is on my loop, and a definite top scorer for gym and running playlists. On the plus side, I loved the way Sandeep is shown wearing his heart on his sleeve, and Harpreet is shown as ambitious, and they resolve the love story without judging her. The authentic locations of Shahabad, Chandigarh, and Belgrade, are captured effectively by Chirantan Das. Farooq Hundekar does a smooth job with the editing.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy roll out the rest of the songs as superbly as the first two. Good Man Di Laaltain is fun, Pardesiya is soulful, and Flicker Singh is boisterous. Gulzar digs into his Punjabi roots to string innovative words like Ding Ding, Flicker Singh! and Padhariye. And of course, there is his quirky word play in Dhajji dhajji raat purani, chhed subah ki nayi yeh kahaani and Shaam aa jaaye toh, uth ke chaand ka maatha choom loon.

The real hero of this venture is the ensemble of rock-solid performances from one and all. It is a truism that good casting makes or breaks a movie. Here it saves it from falling into the average zone. Kulbhushan Kharbanda plays the sharp, supportive chairman, and lends his solid presence with excellence. Seema Kaushal is sincere as Daljeet Kaur. Satish Kaushik as his hopeful, weary, and proud father Gurcharan Singh is superb. Vijay Raaz lights up the screen with his natural penchant for splendid.

Taapsee Pannu balances the layers between her passion for sport, ambition, and love with a wonderfully sublime act. Angad Bedi conquers with his rawness, sincerity, and strong energy. Diljit Dosanjh absorbs the heart and quiet spirit of Sandeep with a superb performance. His own earnest personality merges with Sandeep’s to work perfectly whether at home, or on field.

This inspirational outing is definitely worth a watch for its authenticity, strong cast, and a story as incredible as it is admirable.

4 out of 5

Soorma (2018). Director: Shaad Ali. Writer: Suyash Trivedi, Shaad Ali, Siva Ananth. Players: Diljit Dosanjh, Angad Bedi, Satish Kaushik, Seema Kaushal, Taapsee Pannu, Vijay Raaz, Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Lyrics: Gulzar. Theatrical release: Sony Pictures Networks India, C.S. Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

 

 

Sanju: Flawed and Zany, But Not a Terrorist

I love Sanjay Dutt. The cool Indian rockstar superstar with heart. An impossibly flawed hero who has failed many times, and repeatedly mustered up the strength to pick himself up, and face his demons.

No doubt the actor has been wed to trouble all his life. Yet he also showed up, every single time, bigger and better with rock-solid performances. After a confidently tentative debut in Rocky (1981) and the grounding comeback with Naam (1986), his graph has been consistent through the years with Saajan (1991), Sadak (1991), Khalnaayak (1993), Dushman (1998), Vaastav (1999), Mission Kashmir (2000), Kaante (2002), Munnabhai MBBS (2003), Parineeta (2005), Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006) and PK (2014).

He is the king of bad personal choices, has worn his faults openly, like badges almost, and carelessly. Quite amazingly, he, or rather his wife Manyata, have now convinced an A-list director to tell his story, and an A-list actor to play him.

No mean feat this, specially since Rajkumar (Raju) Hirani is known for being discerning in his work, questioning the paradoxes in the social fabric of our society. No one else but Ranbir Kapoor could have played Sanjay Dutt. He is so flawless that I had to remind myself this is Ranbir, and not Sanjay in some of the scenes. Mannerisms, walk, tone of voice, unhinged addiction, emotions, awkward bait, the wild spirit… he absorbs all of it.

I couldn’t help but smile at the Nargis and Raj Kapoor connection. Her son and his grandson, decades after, creating magic in a different way. Genes in full glory to perfection, with hard work and practice thrown in for good measure. Ranbir rehearsed for six months, watched Sanjay’s videos, and called him before some important scenes to understand his exact emotion.

There is also the reality that unlike the reticent Salman Khan, who had a similar journey and went into ‘fix-it’ mode with good films and social work, Sanjay has been publicly emotional, vocal, and explicit about most details. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can access the whole story, which is well-documented and easily available. Sanjay’s legacy is complicated by celebrity parents, with his pampering mother Nargis, who adored him, and a strict father Sunil Dutt, who took him to task. How he was affected by her cancer, Rocky’s debut and instant stardom, drugs, rehabilitation, second comeback, success, superstar status, losing it again with the AK-56 possession, spiraling life, criminal history, court case, sentences, jail visits and returns, struggles, love affairs, marriages, friendships, family, feuds… all of it is there.

No doubt Sanju is heavily tilted towards the controversial actor’s perspective of not being a terrorist. At the same time, Raju unreservedly portrays his flaws. They appear twice as magnified on screen, despite the countless number of print and online pages devoted to him. Any director would have probably made five sequels off those. There’s just so much of the actor, and person. His survival story is unique, incredible and mind-boggling: a mammoth job to capture in words, or on screen.

Co-writer Abhijat Joshi and writer-editor-director Raju cleverly focus on Sanjay’s emotional state of mind, and his relationship with his father Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal, at his most poignant) and friend Kamlesh Kanhaiyalal Kapasi (Vicky Kaushal, first-rate), during two prominent, ugly phases – his drug addiction and gun possession. They chart Sanjay’s story from a biographer’s point of view (Winnie Diaz, sincerely played by Anushka Sharma) – directly addressing questions many of us have around those events. In that sense, the movie is revealing and relevant for both his fans, as well as others.

Where Sanju misses the mark is on the gun track. It rushes into completion – almost as if the duo didn’t want to delve into it. Perhaps he acquired the guns as impulsively as he did the drugs. It leaves out some relevant, crucial aspects, like his first foray in jail, camaraderie with inmates, and court appearances. Blame is placed on external factors such as the drug peddler Zubin Mistry (Jim Sarbh), incessant media hounding and the underworld pressure a tad too conveniently, which rankled. The sexist judgment of a woman’s morality, not cool. The drugs phase, failing relationship, and mother’s cancer degeneration parts were excellently portrayed and sad to watch. The father-son song games were warm and fuzzy – especially the last one.

Jim aces it but please, can someone cast him in a romantic role and do justice to those sexy eyes? Diya Mirza, who played Manyata was effective but miscast. (Perhaps Kangana Ranaut would have captured her fire and zing better?) The voyeur in me also felt cheated on the details of his colorful love life: understandably that doesn’t relate to the film’s narrative. The tiny appearances, of Ruby (Sonam Kapoor, superb and spot on) and Pinky (Karishma Tanna, charming), did whet some of that appetite. We all know Ruby, I am still trying to crack who the Pinky character is. Hmmm.

The songs are d… d… dazzling, with varied composers. Main Badhiya Tu Bhi Badhiya, voiced fabulously by duo Sonu Nigam and Sunidhi Chauhan, is all kinds of fun visually, with Ranbir’s version of crazy and Rohan-Rohan’s vintage music. Vikram Montrose creates the inspirational Kar Har Maidan Fateh (Sukhwinder Singh, Shreya Ghoshal) and fun surprise package Baba Bolta Hai Bas Ho Gaya (guess who appears in end credits, tap dancing with Ranbir). A. R. Rahman breezes in to work his musical magic with the richly evocative Ruby Ruby (Shaswat Singh, Poorvi Koutish) and seductively haunting Mujhe Chaand Pe Le Chalo (Nikhita Gandhi, awesomely come-hither).

Ravi Varman’s cinematography, which brings this emotional spectacle together, is superbly aesthetic; intimate, lively, and visually stunning.

Watching Sanjay Dutt’s life is moving in parts. The spotlight is on redemption, without an attempt to hide his faults. The movie entertains, but falls short on awesomeness.

So what’s the verdict? It’s definitely worth a trip to the cinema, especially for the Ranbir experience. Watching him in Sanju is a double treat. Two actors come alive on screen, and it is hard to tell who is better. Check, and double check.

Score: 4 out of 5

Sanju (2018). Director: Rajkumar Hirani. Writers: Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani. Players: Ranbir Kapoor, Diya Mirza, Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Sonam Kapoor, Karishma Tanna. Music: AR Rahman, Rohan-Rohan and Vikram Montrose. Theatrical release: Vinod Chopra Films, Rajkumar Hirani Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

 

Be Selfish and Allow Us to Watch Race 3 For You

Woo hoo, and Salman Khan is back in his full glory, with Race 3, sleepwalking, loaded with laid back charm for his loyal fans. Fighting without purpose, charming the women, sticking up for his family, supporting the bro, smirking and frowning his way through. Can we blame the man for choosing not to act? He has already pulled in 100 crores for the opening weekend, no less.

For better or worse, he doesn’t do it alone this time. The reconfigured Race franchise gives him company, along with ex-perts Anil Kapoor and Jacqueline Fernandez, who return in different avatars. Bobby Deol, Saqib Saleem and Daisy Shah are the new recruits, and together, this pentagon team shares the burden of this arduous venture directed by Remo D’Souza. It would have definitely been a missed opportunity, if it was an opportunity in the first place.

Race 1 (2008) and Race 2 (2013) were at best well-executed flukes. Unfortunately, Remo misses the point here by a long stretch. Abbas-Mustan didn’t come without their flaws but had the death-by-betrayal formula down pat. They know how to tell a story (without having a story). Thrills, action, suspense beats, and stars are the story here. Akshay Khanna, Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham and Deepika Padukone had earned their place here. The current crew disappoints. Her business can be all hers, but this franchise definitely ain’t Daisy’s. Saqib is boy (hood) lost in the woods. The only silver lining is Bobby — great to have the charmer back but the man and his chiseled body can only do so much. With the suspense zing missing, this venture hangs precariously in suspension, unsure whether to land or fly, like the stuck helicopter in one scene between two cars.

Anil Kapoor’s Shamsher Singh, an arms kingpin, starts off this wham bam party with panache, somewhere in a middle-east desert. A helicopter is flogged and an arms factory rescued with the help of an exploding gel pen. The flock of stars are introduced to us super slow, in prolonged sequences. Yawn! Considering their achievements later in the film don’t count for much, that is as good as it gets.

So we have Shamsher’s spewing twins, daughter Sanjana (Daisy Shah) who digs extreme sports, and son Suraj (Saqib Saleem) who has a thing for nothing. Second in command to Shamsher in this no-business is Sikander Singh (Salman Khan), his adopted son, whose fancy car makes a grand arrival before him. Yash Singh (Bobby Deol) is Sikander’s right hand and general purpose eye candy. Finally, there is the routine romantic placement, Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez), only that she does her fair share of action and fights. Come to think of it, both Daily and Jacqueline are alert and dexterous, and the only ones performing with utter seriousness.

That is all there is to it, folks. Don’t risk it, I’d say. Or better still, watch Veere Di Wedding. That story looks Oscar-nomination level worthy now, if we compare notes. Oh, and the songs in Race 3 have more energy than the scenes, yarn and shaan put together. They worked better than the bland narrative. Some numbers were unintentionally amusing, some sprightly, and some onerous.

Allah Duhai Hai, rendered by Amit Mishra, Jonita Gandhi, Sreerama Chandra, and Raja Kumari, works musically, until you see the entire cast and their lost splendour together. What were they thinking (or, not) again?

I must confess that Heeriye (Deep Money, Neha Bhasin, Kamaal Khan) felt groovy as, and a welcome relief from, the ridiculous drama on screen. Jacqueline, especially, takes to the pole in the song as if her life depended on it. Like, please don’t make me go back to the scenes and dialogue again. The feisty beauty even manages to get Salman out of the stationary zone. Viral Uncleji to the rescue?

Salman and partner Iulia Vantur make some music. He writes lyrics for two songs, I Found Love and Selfish (three versions). She sings three, Selfish, Party Chale On (lively) and Saansein Hui Dhuaan (buoyant), her voice does have groove.

Selfish appears out of nowhere, and looks like it doesn’t have anywhere to disappear either. Party Chale On does its job. Salman sings I Found Love, picturised on him and Jacqueline, with care. The look and feel of the song sweeps in straight from the eighties though, seeking its lost time zone. His singing has potential in case he wants a change from (not) acting but the lyrics (sample below), err… have a life of their own.

I Found Love

Nobody knows what the future holds for us

Let’s give it our best

Oh jaana jaana jaana oh baby!

Jab saath hote hain

Jab paas hote hain

Roobaroo hote hi

Meri rooh teri rooh se kahe…

I found love, I found love

I found love, I found it in you…

 

Selfish

Ik baar baby selfish hoke

Apne liye jiyo na

If you have survived this review, pat yourself on the back. Thank me for watching Race 3 so that you don’t have to. Salman Khan fans (including yours truly) will not listen but you know better. Ik baar Baby selfisssh hokeapne liye jiyo na.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Race 3. Director: Remo D’Souza. Writer: (cough) Shiraz Ahmed. Players: Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Bobby Deol, Saqib Saleem, Daisy Shah. Music: Salim-Sulaiman. Theatrical release: Tips Films, Salman Khan Films.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.