Sunday, April 23, 2017

Noor review: "Definitely not the noor of the audience!!!"

With just a week left for "Baahubali: The Conclusion" to hit the screens, there are no other major releases in the horizon. Well it's quite understandable after all this mammoth movie will certainly swallow anything in its path in the initial phase. However, we did have women centric movies take centre stage amidst this lull with "Begum Jaan" last week & Sonakshi's "Noor" this weekend. To be frank, I didnt even know that such a movie was even going to release & hence had no expectations at all. Hmm...in such a scenario it should be easier to satisfy the audience in me isnt it, but did it mange to do that???


Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) is a journalist who aspires to be the next "Barkha" but her boss assigns her to cover news on subjects which is nowhere even remotely related to meaningful journalism. Her personal life was also a mess & she spent most parts of the day cribbing about her very existence. The only people who brought a smile to her face were her close buddies, Zara (Shibani Dandekar) & Saad (Kanan Gill). But things started to look brighter when she meets Ayan Banerjee (Purab Kohli), an ace photographer & they hit off in due time. On the professional side as well, she stumbles upon an organ harvesting scam when her domestic help, Malti (Smita Tambi) confides in her about the misfortune that had befallen on her brother. Will this story be the break that Noor was waiting for???

video

Based on Saba Imtiaz's "Karachi, You are Killing Me!" (which I haven't read), Sunhil Sippy have made a movie which is a concoction of rom-com & investigative journalism. But the sad reality is he wasn't able to do justice to either of them especially the latter one. The manner in which the protagonist goes about her job would have even made an amateur journalist cringe in embarrassment. Even when Noor messes up stuff, instead of standing up & sorting it out, Sunhil chose to make the character run away from it. The only thing that actually works (that too, partially) is the rom-com part which kinda reminded me of "Bridget Jones's Diary". 

On the technical side, Keiko Nakahara's visuals were fine while the music by Amaal Mallik was average. Even though the movie is just under 2 hours, it still manages to test our patience. Sonakshi has done a fine job in the lighthearted portions but ends up short in the other parts. Smita Tambe was brilliant while Shibani, Purab & Kanan have done justice to their parts. 

Verdict: "Noor" will struggle to stay afloat beyond this weekend even though there is no other competition. Sunhil could have surely done a lot better with the basic story line that he had, unfortunately it wasn't the case as it culminates in a muddled climax as well. In short, don't bother!!!

Rating: 2/5

Regards...Ben

Monday, April 17, 2017

Begum Jaan review: "Unlikely to be the jaan of the boxoffice!!!"

On the auspicious occasion of "Easter", may the spirit of the Lord be filled in the homes of my friends & family. It's been an extended weekend courtesy of other festivals such as "Vishu", "Puthandu" etc making it an occasion for families to spent some quality time with each other. To add to the festive mood, we have a plethora of movies hitting the screens this month after all the holiday season have started. The big release from Bollywood this week happened to be Vidya Balan's "Begum Jaan",whose trailer had made the people sit up & take notice. Will it be yet another knock out performance from the lady superstar???


After close to 200 years of slavery, India gained independence from the British in 1947 on the back of sacrifices of millions of known & unknown faces. But independence came at an additional price as well as it involved the partition of the country into India & Pakistan which led to millions being killed & rendered homeless. Sir Cyril Radcliffe was entrusted with the task & he completed the division of the provinces of Punjab & Bengal in five weeks. The boundary demarcation line between India & Pakistan was called the "Radcliffe line" & it incidentally happened to pass through a region in Punjab where a brothel stood. Begum Jaan (Vidya Balan) was the madam of the brothel & she made it amply clear in expletives strewn discourse to the government officials that they intended to stay their ground inspite of the eviction notice. As the brothel was under the patronage of Rajaji (Naseeruddin Shah) the ruler in the region; Begum Jaan was hopeful that the threat to their existence would be averted. So how was the issue resolved or was it beyond the control of her influential clients???

video

The film was helmed by reputed Bengali director Srijit Mukherji who is a familiar name when it comes to film festivals & National awards. His Bollywood directorial debut happens to be the remake of his 2015 critical hit "Rajkahini". Though I havent seen it, I have read that the only difference was in the division region as this involved the boundary line drawn through the province of Bengal. The script penned by Srijit sounded interesting but it seemed pretty bare when it was executed on the screen. Apart from the defiant stand in the latter half, hardly anything happens as neither the tragic life of the prostitutes nor the scars of partition was explored (not to mean to put fingers in all the pots, but it could have been more fleshed out).

One of the highlights were the dialogues by Srijit & Kausar Munir while the visuals by Gopi Bhagat was fine. The art department deserves praise though the BGM wasnt quite upto the mark. Anu Malik & Khayyam have created the music & have done a reasonable job. The star of the movie is undoubtedly Vidya Balan who rocked the screen as Begum & once again underlined the fact that she is still one of the very best in the Hindi film industry. Chunky Pandey finally got a meaty role & he has absolutely nailed it, expecting him to bag a couple of awards for it. Gauahar Khan & Pallavi Sharda were the only girls apart from Vidya, who got to do something significant & both of them have done reasonably well especially the former's sequence with Pitobash Tripathy. The rest of the cast have done their parts adequately.

Verdict: Since "The Fate of the Furious" have also opened on the same day, "Begum Jaan" will find it hard to get much takers for it. Even regional movies like "Sakhavu", "Power Paandi" etc & rather offbeat nature of the movie will mean it will have a tough time in the South as well. Leaving all that aside, does this movie really deserve an audience? Well Vidya, Chunky & a few others have given impressive performances but the story as such fails to satiate the appetite of the audience. In short, check it out on TV or else forget it!!!

Rating: 2.25/5

Regards...Ben






Sunday, April 2, 2017

Naam Shabana review: "Falls well short of expectations!!!"

Whenever we talk about Hindi espionage movies, one of the first few films that comes to my mind is Neeraj Pandey's "Baby". So when it was announced that Neeraj Pandey is planning a spin off prequel titled "Naam Shabana", I was pretty excited. The trailer further heightened the expectations as it showed Prithvi as the antagonist & Akki in a cameo, not to forget about Taapsee who kicked some serious ass. So it now remains to be seen whether it was able to live upto expectations & deliver what it promised???


For those who have seen "Baby", it's unlikely that you would have forgotten special agent Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu) who rocked the screen in a brief role. In "Naam Shabana", it shows as to how she was recruited into the intelligence agency. Shabana was a martial arts student who had a dark past due to which she used to confide only in her mother. When her friend, Jay (Taher Shabbir) expresses his love for her; things started to brighten up in her life until Jay meets with his death in an eve-teasing incident. At this juncture, she gets an offer from the agency that they would help her avenge Jay's death if she agrees to join them. Shabana accepts their offer but was she really upto the challenge???

Shivam Nair has called the shots & since I havent seen any of his previous movies, I dont have any reference as to how good he is as a story teller. However, since it is Neeraj Pandey's production I had huge expectations especially since he was handling the script & screenplay. Without mincing words, I would have to admit that it was nowhere in the league of "A Wednesday", "Special 26" or "Baby". The film invests an enormous amount of time on the backstory which was far from engaging & if one expects that things will get better when the mission starts, then they are grossly mistaken. The plot is wafer thin & apart from a couple of sequences, it lacks logic and finesse with the hasty predictable climax being the prime example for it. 

One of the highlights of the movie are the action sequences which were choreographed by noted French stuntman Cyril Raffaeli. Even Sudheer Palsane deserves praise for the long shot visuals while the music was pretty mediocre. Taapsee has performed admirably as the protagonist in the action sequences though in the other segments, she comes across as rather bland. Even though Prithvi is the villain, it was more like a cameo & he gets wasted in a role which lacked substance. Akshay rocks in his brief role (included keeping the box office in mind) while Manoj Bajpayee is barely allowed to do anything significant apart from talk on the phone & keep looking on the screen. 

Verdict: Since female centric action movies are quite rare in our country, it is unique in that sense. But however on saying that, more often than not Akshay's character seemed to take centre stage as the protector, rather the backup that he is projected to be. It should be able to collect a reasonable initial but once that is over, it will struggle to remain relevant. In short, keep yourself occupied watching the finals between Federer-Nadal at the Miami Masters & Sindhu-Marin at the India Open, rather than investing time for this!!!

Rating: 2.25/5

Regards...Ben


Monday, March 27, 2017

Phillauri review: "Desi ghost in a movie with a videshi feel!!!"

It's been a while since I had written the review for a movie & it had more to do with the dearth of movies which tempted me to watch. I did watch "Commando 2" & didn't feel it was worth the time to write something about. With the summer holidays fast approaching, there are a host of movies lined up for the next couple of weeks. This weekend we have Anushka Sharma's "Phillauri" hitting the screens & from the trailer, it looks pretty promising. Hopefully she wont be hurt by mediocre box office returns just like Kohli who had to retire hurt from the last match of the Ind-Aus series.


The film unfolds with Kanan (Suraj Sharma) flying down from Canada to Amritsar to marry his childhood sweetheart, Anu (Mehreen Pirzada). He didn't seem quite enthusiastic about it as he felt that they were rushing into wedlock, much to the dismay of Anu. Both their families were however moving ahead with the arrangements & one of them involved getting Kanan married to a tree to ward off the ill luck which might befall on them in future. It so happened that the tree had the spirit of Sashi (Anushka Sharma) & the ritual carried out meant he was married to her. Incidentally, he was the only one who could see her & as expected, it proves to be the trigger of mayhem. So how was Kanan going to get himself freed from Sashi or was it a figment of his imagination borne out of his weed puffing habits???

video

This is Anushka Sharma's second production after "NH10" & she has given the reins of the movie to the debutant director, Anshai Lal. It has been scripted by Anvita Dutt, the thread of which is kinda novel though there is a feel of Hollywood about it towards the climax. Unlike most movies, the first half is its weak point since apart from the initial laughs, hardly anything happens though it did have the scope for it. The second half is interesting when it focuses on the pre-independence love story & just like Imtiaz Ali's "Love Aaj Kal", this segment endears to the audience & I personally loved the climax (even though it was stretched a bit too much). The main drawback of the movie is its length as the subject as such wasnt explored adequately & it lacked substance. 

On the technical side, the CGI was done well, Sameer Uddin's BGM was impressive while Shashwat Sachdev & Jasleen Royal's music was in sync with the mood of the movie. Anushka Sharma has done a fine job along with Diljit Dosanjh, who impressed in the intense scenes. Suraj Sharma (of "Life of Pi" fame) was just about adequate while Mehreen Pirzada seemed apt for the role.

Verdict:  The film is unlikely to make such of an impact at the box office as it will cater only to the multiplex audience. But since the production cost is just 21C, it should be able to break even in a week or so. So would I suggest to watch it??? well I would if you are in a mood for a Hindi movie; but if you are in Kerala watch "Take Off" first before even thinking of anything else!!!

Rating: 2.5/5

Regards...Ben



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rangoon review: "Bleedy hell, it's well made though the story pales in comparison!!!"

The curtains have come down on the 89th Academy Awards & it did have it's share of controversies that everyone would be aware of by now. More often than not, Oscars always featured some World War dramas & this year was no different with Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge". Over the years, Hollywood has come up with numerous WWII movies but it happened to be one event in history that our film makers barely explored even though our troops played a significant part in it. Incidentally, this week we had Vishal Bhardwaj's "Rangoon" which is set during that period & the trailer looked really impressive. So is it one of Vishal's masterpieces???


The Second World Flow was in full swing as the English played an active role in it through their British Indian Army. At the same time, India made strong strides towards Independence under the leadership of Gandhiji with his principle of non-violence. However, Subash Chandra Bose wasn't convinced with Gandhiji's strategy & formed the Indian National Army (INA) with the help of the Japanese. Their combined forces made constant inroads in the Indo-Burma border & many Indian soldiers of British Indian Army were taken as PoW which included Jemadar Nawab Malik (Shahid Kapoor), who subsequently managed to escape. Elsewhere in the country, Julia (Kangana Ranaut) was the numero uno female movie star known for her breath taking daredevilry on screen. She worked for Billimoria's production house & was in an affair with Rusi Billimoria (Saif Ali Khan) who ran the show. In order to lift the spirits of the forces in the war zone, Major General David Harding (Richard McCabe) coaxes Julia & Rusi to make the trip assuring them of top notch security with Nawab Malik as her personal security. But as one would expect, anything can go wrong in a war zone & that's exactly what happened. 

video

Vishal Bharadwaj's credentials as a film maker is well established with premier movies like "Maqbool", "Omkara", "Haider" etc. which showcased a myriad of emotions. In his latest venture as well, there is no dearth of emotions all of which is encompassed within a love story against the backdrop of freedom struggle which he has scripted in the company of Matthew Robbins & Sabrina Dhawan. The war zone has been picturized realistically & the frames looked authentic in terms of art direction and costumes. The main flaw with the movie is the inability to marry the romance with the war backdrop & that would prove to be a deterrent for many in the audience. With regard to the climax, it was hurried, a bit over the top & the CGI used was pretty mediocre. On the technical side, Pankaj Kumar's visuals were fantastic while the combo of Vishal & Gulzar in the music department was excellent. However, Aalaap Majgavkar ought to have done a much better job with the editing.

Kangana absolutely rocked as Julia, whose character was undoubtedly modeled after the yester year stunt queen "Fearless Nadia". She was given a role of substance & she has done justice to it. Equally impressive were her co-stars though Shahid had more screen space. Saif Ali was an apt choice as the suave film maker but he isnt provided as much opportunity as he was given in "Omkara". Richard McCabe has done a decent job as the cunning English General while the rest of the cast were adequate as well.

Verdict: Though the trailer was brilliant & movie was exquisitely made, it still falls short of expectations as the story is rather weak. Another major drawback is the climax which turned out to be rather too melodramatic & over the top. In short, it is likely to struggle at the box office but I would still suggest to check it out!!!

Rating: 3/5

Regards...Ben

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Ghazi Attack review: "Captivates the audience!!!"

Ever since partition, our nation have constantly seen unrest at its borders as Pakistan never lost an opportunity to needle us. This has led to four fledged battles with them in 1947, 1965, 1971 & 1999; & even though we faced serious casualties, our brave soldiers ensured that we could still feel safe within our country.

The war of 1971 was unique in the sense that it wasn't fought over the Kashmir issue but due to the differences between East & West Pakistan, which eventually led to the formation of Bangladesh. One of the contributing factors for India being part of that war was the sinking of Pakistani submarine, PNS Ghazi off the east coast by INS Rajput. So this week we have Sankalp Reddy's "The Ghazi Attack" hitting the screens which is inspired from that event & hopefully it will be able to give us a gripping account as to what must have happened on that day.


The year is 1971 & India was keeping a close watch on Pakistan who was flexing their muscles on its brothers in East Pakistan, who was fighting for liberation. In order to send supplies to its forces, Pakistan decides to use the sea route but in order to do so they had to negate the threat posted by INS Vikrant. The task is entrusted to Commander Razaq (Rahul Singh) & his crew of PNS Ghazi. Indian Intelligence gets wind of it & the Eastern Naval Command at Vishakhapatnam assign S21 under the leadership of Captain Rannvijay Singh to patrol the region. As Rannvijay is known for his impulsive, hot headed nature, Lt Commander Arjun Varma (Rana Daggubati) is also accorded equal responsibilities to ensure orders are followed as per the book. This naturally causes sparks to fly between the two as Executive Officer, Devraj (Atul Kulkarni) plays peace broker. In due time, S21 locates Ghazi but how they went about their task with two contrast characters at the helm forms the crux of the movie. 

video

Scripted & directed by debutant Sankalp Reddy, "The Ghazi Attack" is the first submarine war movie that has been made in our country. With regard to the story, it was mentioned in the credits itself that it is a fictional creation of an incident that has been shrouded in mystery. Whatever might be the case, the story is brilliantly conveyed & executed as well. The tension is palpable & provides an edge of the seat experience for the audience in majority of the sequences in the second half. Though I found the patriotic fervour a bit too overpowering & artificial in the end, it had all the other emotions in apt measure & the director made sure that he didnt squeeze in any romantic angle or song-dance sequence into the proceedings. The interiors of the submarine were well depicted but the special effects & Madhi's visuals could have been better.

Rana Daggubati has acted in a mature & restrained manner which was apt for the character. Kay Kay Menon was excellent as the impulsive Captain who didnt care a shit about orders. Atul Kulkarni also deserves praise for a convincing performance while the rest of the cast seemed adequate. The reason for including Taapsee defies logic as she had nothing to do apart from look shell shocked in the doorways.

Verdict: Having seen movies like "Crimson Tide", "K19", etc, this one would feel amateurish at times, but it is absolutely unfair to make such a comparison due to the disparity in production costs. However, on saying that Sankalp succeeds in making a movie which is both engrossing & interesting. It might not take the box-office by storm but it's definitely worth checking out. In short, dont miss it!!!

Rating: 3/5

Regards...Ben






Monday, February 13, 2017

Singham 3 review: "Roars louder & ticks most boxes needed as a potboiler!!!"

"Singham", the most popular franchise in the Tamil film industry which has even inspired Bollywood to recreate it is back with the third installment. The latest sequel was supposed to have released during Diwali but it got postponed due to various factors before finding itself a suitable date last weekend. Even as the political situation in Tamil Nadu is in limbo, the makers would be hoping that "Singham 3" would roar longer & louder than its predecessors. So will this mass masala entertainer endear to one & all or just the fans???


The Andhra Pradesh Assembly was rattled by the murder of City Commissioner Ramakrishna (Jayaprakash) & the Home Minister, K Satyanarayana (Sarath Babu) proposes to entrust the case to DCP Durai Singham (Suriya) of Tamil Nadu police force. All the legal formalities are cleared in a jiffy & Singham takes up charge in Vishakhapatnam under CBI. As expected, he ruffles the feathers of Madhusudhana Reddy (Sharat Saxena), the main gangster who was behind the murder of the commissioner & Singham moves in swiftly to nab the culprits. However, he soon realizes that the mastermind behind the murder wasn't Reddy & the reasons behind it was much more serious than he had anticipated.

video

Hari is synonymous for masala blockbusters with movies like "Saamy" & "Singham" series adorning his resume. If "Singham" & "Singham 2" had the protagonist growing in stature from the one who was hesitant to move away from his family to the one who was proficient in dealing with whatever challenges that were thrown at him in Thoothukudi. In the latest sequel, he is a super cop whose conquests have reached the ears of the neighboring state & seeks his help. Hari has scripted it as well & incorporated whatever is required for a masala entertainer. The core subject is unique & deserves praise with over the top action sequences which would have even made Chinese martial art flicks pale in comparison (though to be frank I enjoyed it). But the film has flaws as well with the most significant being the antagonist, who is undoubtedly the weakest among the lot as he lacks the aura to stand up to Singham. Even the comedy sequences were unbearable & the scenes with Shruti Hasan were cringe worthy.

Suriya is heart & soul of "Singham" series which is evident in each & every shot. He has done utmost justice to the role & carries the movies on his shoulders. As mentioned earlier, the antagonist played by Thakur Anoop Singh didnt quite match upto being a formidable opponent like Prakash Raj. Anushka Shetty had a miniscule role which she has done aptly while Shruti Hasan & Soori was pathetic. With regard to the rest, Sarath Saxena, Robo Shankar, Sarath Babu etc didnt have much to do, but they were fine. In the technical department, Haris Jayaraj disappoints with his music while V T Vijay & T S Jay was successful in giving the movie a racy feel. Even Priyan deserves praise for the visuals.

Verdict: The latest installment is bigger & louder than the prequels & in terms of quality, the second best in the franchise. It ticks most of the boxes that is expected of a mass entertainer as Suriya rocks with his brilliant performance. There are surely flaws & will be a pain to the ears at most times, though it delivers what it promises. In short, it wont hurt to give it a try!!!

Rating: 2.5/5

Regards...Ben