Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aligarh review: "Slow paced yet impactful performances!!!"

It might sound ironic but the truth is though we are in 2016 some of our rules are still so archaic or rather grossly misunderstood. Section 377 is one such law which made headlines over the years as it criminalizes homosexual acts. Though it was decriminalized in 2009, this stance lasted only for a short time. However, about a fortnight back the Supreme Court has referred the plea against it to a 5 judge constitutional bench. It is at this juncture that Hansal Mehta comes with "Aligarh" which is a real life take on the plight of a Prof in Aligarh University who fell victim to this discrimination. 



Prof S R Siras (Manoj Bajpai) was the Chair of Modern Indian Languages and taught Marathi at the Aligarh university. On the night of Feb 8th, 2010; he was filmed with a male lover in bed in a sting operation by a local TV channel. The administration lost no time in suspending him as they believed that his homosexual act was immoral & against the rules of the university. It virtually brought his life to a standstill as he was treated like an untouchable or rather an anomaly among the people. On the behest of activists & friends, he engages in a legal battle against the university & wins the verdict in his favour. The film in total gives us a sense as to what he had to go through just coz he was gay.

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Hansal Mehta might not quite be a household name but his recent releases have all been highly regarded among the movie connoisseurs be it "Shahid" for which he was awarded the National Award or "Citylights". It's definitely off-beat in nature, but what makes it appealing is that it is realistic in all sense of the word. Even his latest venture "Aligarh" belongs to the same league as it has been brilliantly shot with an impeccable eye for detail. It does focus on the victimization of the protagonist but at the same time also throws light on his loneliness and literary tastes. But the climax ought to have been more impactful & it should have also delved about his family. There is no denying that the film moves at a snail's pace at times which does test our patience, but the powerful performances enables us to tide over it to an extent. 

Manoj Bajpai's credentials as an actor is well known & as Prof Sirsa he was absolutely mind blowing. His appearance, body language & pensive expressions were spot on that we are totally hooked to the character. Equally impressive was Rajkummar Rao (who incidentally plays a Malayali & does mouth a few Malayalam dialogues as well) who plays the role of a young, talented and empathic journalist with conviction. Ashish Vidyarthi also deserves praise for his brief role.

Verdict: Due to it's off-beat nature, it's kinda difficult to say whether the people will be encouraged to check it out. I do admit that it gets damn slow paced at times for our comfort but it has some power packed performances which deserve to be watched!!!

Rating: 3.25/5

Regards...Ben

Monday, February 22, 2016

Neerja review: "Extraordinary display of courage which will leave us teary-eyed!!!"

Life abounds with stories of unbelievable feats of courage & resilience of ordinary people on the face of crisis. If January saw Bollywood capture the exemplary valour of Ranjit Katyal (modeled after numerous brave individuals) during the Gulf War through "Airlift", then this month is about Neerja Bhanot who is revered for her extraordinary display of courage which saved the passengers of the Pan Am airlines in 1986. She was honoured posthumously with the Ashoka Chakra & was the youngest recipient of it apart from other honours from the US and Pakistan. So will "Neerja" be able to do justice to the exceptional spirit of this great female???


For those who arent quite well versed about the tragic events that unfolded on the fateful night of September 5th, 1986; I will just give a brief overview.  Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) was the darling of her parents, who instilled confidence & courage in her to pursue her dreams even when life inflicted a harsh blow in the form of a failed marriage. Two days prior to her 23rd birthday, she was on her maiden flight as the senior flight purser of Pan Am 73 from Mumbai to New York via Karachi. Incidentally, four armed terrorists of the Abu Nidal Organization was plotting to hijack the plane from Karachi in exchange for their men in prison. As planned, the terrorists managed to hijack the plane however Neerja's timely alert ensured that the pilots escaped leaving the plane stranded on the tarmac. As the patience of the terrorists wore thin, so did the hopes of the passengers on board but Neerja was determined to protect as many as possible. How this incredible female managed to pull off this daring feat forms the crux of the movie.

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The movie has been helmed by Ram Madhvani who has made it appear as authentic as possible rather than make it into a stylish thriller that we are so used to nowadays. As a matter of fact, the jerky cinematography coupled with the apt choice of lighting by Mitesh Mirchandani really helps in providing the impact. With regard to the screenplay, Saiwyn Quadras has done a praise worthy job for most parts especially the portions which shows flashbacks of her past & how she gathers strength from that. However, I felt the parts which focused on the incidents inside the plane lacked detail & seemed more like just reading the wikipedia page. 

It's no secret that Sonam Kapoor isn't a talented actress as is evident by most of her performances to date. But she definitely impresses this time around & likely to be in pole position to swoop up awards. From a physical appearance point of view, Sonam was spot on & does her part well also, but I believe Kangana Ranaut could have been a better choice. The best performance in the movie however belonged to Shabana Azmi who just owns the scene every time she came on screen & equally awesome was Yogendra Tiku (as Neerja's father) (the scene where both talk over the phone comforting each other was brilliant). As for the rest, they were average & didnt have much to do. 

Verdict: The film will not take the box office by storm but it will have the word of mouth in its favour which will help it in the long run. It's not about how captivated we will be on watching the movie, but rather it's an occasion to be inspired by a young female who sacrificed her life in the line of duty & more importantly, to protect the life of her fellow beings. So do check it out as it will surely move your heart, it sure did for me!!!

Rating: 3/5

Regards...Ben