Yeh Meri Family – Summer of ’98

Binge watch alert!

If you are a 80s kid like me and have a fetish for engaging storytelling this is it. This is IT!

A TV series released just about a month and a half ago with only seven episodes out so far this one won my heart. Every minute of the 30-ish minute episode is a treat and one that I would watch over and over again.

This is the story of a middle class family in Jaipur (my other hometown!) with a father, mother, two sons and a daughter. The story is narrated through the middle child  Harshu’s voice and the beauty of the art is that he breaks through the fourth wall by directly talking to the viewer as he narrates the happenings in his family life. Harshu is the rebel in the family, sandwiched between a studious and obedient elder brother and a little, playful baby sister. His father is a loving family man who is an investment broker with a bank and his mother is the ever-doting torn into a million directions housewife always looking out for her family. Harshu also has a wiser-than-his-age friend, Shanky, who is Harshu’s advisor for every life situation.

Each episode is a marvel of little emotional chunks of entertainment. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old you’ll see what he thinks about each of this family members, the love-hate relationship he has with them and what his hopes and desires are. At the end of each episode he comes to the realization that his family is what makes him tick.

This family is just so endearing that I feel like jumping through the TV and giving them a big group hug.

Hats of to Saurabh Khanna and Sameer Saxena for catching minute details of the 1998 setting, beautifully penning it down and then flawlessly bringing it to life on screen. From picking boy names in a cricket roster representative of late 90s fashion names to making the overweight father sit in two plastic lawn chairs, to the prints of the mother’s saris, to every single detail in the late 90’s Indian household – this is a masterpiece frozen in time!

For those of you with a penchant for personal finance you will love hearing the father’s analogies for mutual fund investing smartly woven into his everyday conversations. Love this educational angle by the writer.

In a day and age where TV serials are full of saas bahu politics, vengeance, snake ladies and black magic this is the best thing that happened to Indian television since Dekh Bhai Dekh and Hum Paanch. (10/10)

YMF

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Stree

The day I run out of synonyms for the word “brilliance” I’ll just start using “Rajkumar Rao”. This man is sheer amazingness when it comes to acting! He is the only reason I went to watch this movie and he remained the only reason I sat through it. Ok, to be fair, Aparshakti Khurana’s and Abhishek Banerjee’s acting wasn’t bad either.

I am all for respecting women, treating them fairly, giving them all the opportunities they deserve etc. but my pendulum doesn’t swing to the far extreme of feminism where I feel like tooting the women empowerment horn at every crossing. So the rather convoluted feminist agenda of this movie didn’t rock my boat so much, nor am I a fan of ghost movies and horror but the pure genius of Rajkumar Rao’s acting skills makes this a somewhat enjoyable watch.

The attempt to combine a social message with horror and comedy at the same time is certainly novel and applaud-worthy but the movie just stretches a bit too far into the weird to be perfect for any genre – and maybe that’s intended.

If only they had picked another actress instead of the stone-faced Shraddha Kapoor it could have tipped the scale for me. (5/10)

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Crazy Rich Asians

One of the most predictable plot lines of all times has been turned into a Bollywood-esque American-Asian RomCom. It pushes every pleasure-button of awww-whispering romance lovers. Middle class girl, sole heir of a Billionaire family, fancy parties, sparking jewelry, fast cars, glitzy dresses, magnanimous houses. Check, check, check.

There has been a lot of hype about this movie but to be honest it was just a notch above the average love story. The conflict between the protagonists was somewhat subdued – or maybe I am  just used to a lot more drama having been exposed to Bollywood movies and real life conundrum that’s far more tension-filled.

Let me compare what happened in Crazy Rich Asians (pardon my belittling of Rachel’s issues) and what happens in the Indian context.

Chinese version:

Middle class girl & crazy rich boy fall in love. Poor little girl has to wear fancy clothes, get a make up artist, wear jewels, eat foods that she can’t pronounce. Rich mother-in-law doesn’t approve of the relationship but is straightforward enough to tell the girl that it won’t work out because she is not up to the mark.

Indian version:

Affluent girl & middle class boy get married. Middle class mother-in-law goes about town boasting what a stallion her son is as he was able to fetch an affluent – if lucky then also beautiful – girl. She uses the girl as a poster of her newfound riches all the while keeping the daughter-in-law in check.

Chinese version:

Girlfriend confronts would be mother-in-law: “There is no win! If he chooses me, he loses his family. If he loses me he will resent you for the rest of his life.” Mother-in-law sees complete sense in this dialogue and quickly slips off her fancy shizzle emerald and diamond ring off her finger to pass it on to the middle class girlfriend.

Indian version:

Wife begins to live a demonstrative middle class life because otherwise she is reprimanded for behaving ‘out-of-control’ and still trying to live like her ‘old family’. Husband starts having an affair because he can. If the wife complains about it she is going to get the boot. When wife confronts the husband his reaction is: “No problem! I’ll divorce you. You were just a trophy daughter-in-law for my mother to begin with. She has found another dowry-cow to milk.”

So while Crazy Rich Asians has the making of a commercial box office hit it is not really a home run story. Some scenes are so exaggerated, such as the friend’s bachelerotte party, that you feel you are watching any American chick flick.  Fine to watch once for a few giggles here and there and to admire the wealthy of Singapore but certainly not a 10er. (6/10)

 

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Karwaan

A masterful ode to relativity theory! You don’t feel the presence of something until you know what its absence feels like – and vice versa.

This movie looks simple on the surface but like a great artist the director has left hidden messages strewn all throughout the plot.

The death of Avinash’s father sets in motion a journey that forms unusual friendships, relationships with complete strangers, the budding of a love story and a deep understanding of what the world looks like through other people’s eyes.

Irfan Khan portrays a very unique kind of funny with his in-the-moment character. He is a person with a huge heart but one that commands due respect, a gentleman with a penchant for the proper.

Dulquer Salmaan, an established Malayali actor, is fantastic in his Hindi debut. Just the perfect amount of restrained emotion, everyday guy looks and an ease with which he attracts the attention of the viewer for the entire two hours.

Mithila Palkar, a rebellious teenager with a skewed sense of right and wrong, is trying to find herself as she inches towards adulthood.

Each of theses three characters have different family circumstances, especially when it comes to the relationships with their fathers and each find their solace in different ways.

If you are expecting a fast paced, glamorous, somewhat predictable movie, this is not it. Watch it for all that’s happening in the “now” of the plot and dare to read between the lines. (9/10)

Karwaan

Sanju

Pack your bags Khan brethren! Today’s heroes are about to pull the rug out from under your feet because of their acting skills and not just their superstar cult following.

Mukesh Chhabra deserves a hat tip for putting together a cast that is sheer brilliance. Ranbir Kapoor dazzles in all his Sanjay Dutt avatars. What Ayurvedic dope was he consuming to draw out a performance this stunning? Not only his physical appearance but also his walk, talk, mannerisms, body tilts – he has really hit it out of the ballpark as Sanju. Putting yourself into someone else’s skin and life so convincingly is no easy feat. I cannot imagine any other actor emulating the complicated life of Sanjay Dutt so authentically.

For a movie this epic it wouldn’t have been enough to just have one character put in their heart and soul. The entire supporting cast was magnificent – Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt, Vicky Kaushal as Sanju’s best friend and many more. Vicky Kaushal, by the way, is one to watch out for. Same caliber and some hunger as a Rajkumar Rao to make it in an industry of Khans.

The only character that felt a bit out of place was Anushka Sharma with her head of curls and scary – almost sci-fi – blue eyes. Her character seemed a little less sculpted – sort of left between a writer, a detective and a relationship mender.

People are criticizing the lack of airtime for his wives, sisters and other friends but to portray a life as complicated as Sanjay Dutt’s the director had to choose what he was going to highlight to make it a taut overall narrative versus a sprinkling of all the flavors in his life. The spotlight is on Sanjay Dutt’s relationship with his parents – primarily his father – and his friends who influenced how he got into and out of drug addiction.

There is also critique about the authenticity of the happenings but movie goers can be very double-minded at times: On the one hand they demand bona fide details about every incident, on the other hand they want the movie watching experience to be entertaining. Duh! Rajkumar Hirani struck the perfect balance by not glorifying Sanjay Dutt to make him look like a saint and at the same time creating sympathy for his character through endearments.

The opening of Sanju states that “bad choices make for good stories” – I’d say shedding light on those bad choices made for an excellent story! (9/10)

Sanju

 

 

Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety

While Indians are collectively wasting three digit crores on watching Veere di Wedding and Race 3 here is a movie that went almost unnoticed at the box office despite having so much going for it.

The actors may be newbies but they acted better than many established Bollywood billionaires in a movie with an actual plot, story flow and character development. There was drama in the form of a genuine bromance, family frolic, a challenge between protagonists, beautiful sets, emotion and comedy.

With some movies the pace is such a drag that I wouldn’t mind taking a quick stroll through the park in between but the pacing of this one was just perfect to want to stick with each and every scene.

Literally every single song was quite the ear worm and a chartbuster over the last couple of months.

Sonu and Titu are very tight childhood friends – almost brothers – who watch out for each other to the extent that if one is in trouble the other will go to any lengths to save his bro. That emotion is nicely shown through comedy, camaraderie, and conning. Nishrat plays a fabulous villainista with very well measured acting. (9/10)

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Race 3

By God (Bhagvan/Allah/Jesus – or anyone else you may believe in) RACE as fast as you can in the opposite direction of the ticket counter.

Imagine…you go to a restaurant once and get served Paneer Butter Masala, the second time you go you get served Kadhai Paneer. With your expectations as high as they should be by this time on your third visit you are served a plate of rotten stinky onions. Yup, that’s exactly what happened to me here. After watching Race and Race 2, both of which were some of my most favorite thrillers, Race 3 was so anticlimactically bad that I am never going to trust another Race sequel blindly. And yes, there will be another sequel as announced by Salam Khan in the closing scene. Please just don’t let him be part of it!

The Race series is known for its plot twists, style, polish, glamour and class. Enter Salman Khan! The plot twists are still there but some of them more obvious than the sun rising from the East. Style, polish, glamour and class all gone to the dogs. All that’s left is Salman Khan cleaning the floor with his homegrown dance moves, dialogues that are cringeworthy, and his front-seat-whistle-inducing antiques.

Race is supposed to be an out and out thriller but since Salman took over he had to add his forced humor to the mix. The Bhojpuri dialect totally robbed the last graces off the plot and made this one a big dud!

I almost slipped off my plush movie theatre chair when the song “I found love” came on. Was this satirical content as part of the plot? The five words skirting my tongue the whole time were “Is this $#!+ for realz?!” … I found love … I found love in you … Salman Khan and Jacqueline Fernandez super awkwardly posing on rocks and lifting their booties to twist their legs…I can’t get it out of my head!

Costumes likely didn’t cost much. Jacqueline’s designer ordered a bunch of monochrome bedsheets from Amazon, tore them up in different places and hung them on her. Salman and Bobby were rolling in some desert shirtless last I woke up to check how much longer until I can go home.

Overall, this movie served as a solid dose of diphenhydramine (main ingredient of sleeping pills) for me. I slept through about 30% off it and suffered through the remaining 70%. (1/10)

 

 

 

race 3