Kesari

No offense to the original heroes of Saragarhi, their courage, their sacrifice and their loyalty but some stories are better left sacrosanct by telling them verbally than visually.

By the way, I watched this movie in 4D instead of the 2D I paid for. Sauna like temperatures and sweaty desi armpit smells included – for free!  I was packed like a hen in a 300 people theater hall with sweaty desis that had smuggled in their onion-laden food into a hall with a broken air-conditioner and ventilation system. I moved all the way from the last row, where I was sandwiched between five 10 year old boys, to the fourth from the front row because I thought I was going to faint from the smells in that dingy back row. Little did I know that the front rows were sporting their own aroma of nausea inducing smells. While Akshay Kumar was fighting his battle on screen I was fighting mine in my seat. Anyhow…

Kesari turned out to be another great example of ‘the intention was good but the execution was crappy’. It’s still very hard for Indian commercial directors and actors to get passed the ‘har tareh ka masala bharna hai jisse sabh ko pasand aa jaye’ mentality. They forget that today’s discerning Indian movie goer has better taste and does not want to see a warrior cracking slapstick jokes, singing imaginary romantic songs and acting cute in his innocence. Give the warrior the edge he deserves.

The first half of the movie is slow, boring, filled with unnecessary scenes of British cruelty, hen fights (literally!) and jokes that simply had no place in a plot like this. The second half is a seemingly never-ending saga of 21 Sikh soldiers slaying as many of the 10,000 Afghans as they can lay a hand on. It took the director almost an hour and a half to get 21 soldiers killed by those 10,000. Either he put us in some time warp or he wanted to imply that the Afghanis were dumber than physically possible. I get that the true story underlying this movie was pretty incredulous to begin with but I have a feeling the real warriors acted a bit smarter at least. Every time a Kesari movie soldier died four other would drop everything they were doing and start reminiscing with the fallen soldier for a good 5-10 minutes before they got back to their war. Go figure!

The climax takes the cake though! Akshay Kumar is standing as the lone soldier – other than one more who locked himself up in the tower because he was too young, too scared and served as the morse code transmitter to the other forts – surrounded by I guess at least 3,000 leftover Afghani soldiers. Now the Afghanis all of a sudden become very ‘pehle aap – pehle aap’. They only send one soldier at a time and that too to be slayed by AK’s sword. You know, one by one, patiently awaiting their turn. Not until our hero slit open at least 500 of them did he fall to the ground. Maybe that’s how many the director thought would be necessary to all of a sudden turn the cruel Afghan leader onto the moral highway of not wanting to take the Sardar’s pagdi.

Ok, I get it. This was supposed to be an epic war film with a solid story of courage at its base but it clearly didn’t rock my boat. It’s not even that I don’t like patriotic themed movies. I do! This one just didn’t cut it for me – pun intended. (3/10)

P.S.: If anyone finds out the significance of that random transgender Afghan woman peeping through the rocks and aiming at Akshay Kumar please enlighten me.

Kesari

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Badla

In the 90s and early 2000s Bollywood wanted you to leave your brains at home before going to the theaters. Now they are not only encouraging you to bring it along in its most alert state but they are also asking you to fasten a belt around it because the jolts and plot twists may make it go for quite a ride.

Granted Badla is a remake of The Invisible Guest, a 2016 Spanish movie, but I’d rather see a well copied story than a bad original one. Watch this movie carefully and don’t go to the bathroom. If you miss a few scenes you will be out of the loop of constant puzzling together the pieces of the rather convoluted story. Once unraveled it seems like the most logical course of happenings – given the circumstances – but the journey of getting there is what makes this movie so watch-worthy.

Amitabh Bachchan for once was not annoying as he has been in his recent movies like 102 Not Out. He is believable in his character, looks the part and acts the part. Taapsee Pannu is good as usual but her lack of emotions during the three hour ‘hearing’ makes her character a bit one-dimensional. Amrita Singh had a great comeback with this movie though I have never been a big fan of her acting even in her hay days.

Save the few irrationalities (the South Indian accented boyfriend trying to pass as an Ajay Mehta and the otherwise rather simple father’s brain on steroids) the movie is well made, captivating and tightly told within the confines of a single room and some flashback shots. (8/10)

Badla

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga

Taking on a serious social issue and turning that into a good – ideally great – movie is a big responsibility…one that Shelly Chopra Dhar fell a bit short on. She tried to not only take on something as sensitive and culturally disputed as lesbianism and essay it in a mere 121 minutes but for good measure she also threw in a dash of divorce stigma, a spoonful of gender roles in the kitchen, an inter-racial marriage issue, a rich dad – self made son issue, an old age romance storyline and bouts of unnecessary comedy.

As a lover of great stories and good storytelling I left the theatre rather disappointed to see five different scripts sharing screen time and making this a social issues fest of  unequal helpings.

Besides the fact that Sonam Kapoor doesn’t know how to act and is wearing incredibly unflattering clothes (which by the way has nothing to do with the fact that she is playing a lesbian character) she and her partner – Regina Cassandra  are just not believable in their roles. I wish they had actually spent some time with lesbians and learnt their mannerisms better to bring them and their dilemma to life on screen.

Poor Rajkumar Rao with all his acting brilliance got the pretty one-dimensional role of playing  facilitator in this movie.

Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla’s acting was the only saving grace though their roles were also very cookie cutter and shallow. No clue what Biji (the grandmother) was doing in the entire movie, except for being loud and telling Anil Kapoor to not cook.

The climax scene in which Rajkumar Rao is directing a lesbian love story play is so unpolished and in your face obvious that it made me cringe. No room for character development, no room for proper conflict creation and resolution…basically crappy storytelling all around. (3/10)

 

Sadqay Tumhare (Pakistani TV Drama)

27 binge-worthy episodes to explore your full range of emotions and be a little damaged for days to come by the injustice of it all.

I finished 27 episodes in three binge sessions with the last one being less than 24 hours ago and I am still going through life in disbelief and wanting to re-write this story so badly. What makes it even sadder is that it is the real story of the writer, Khalil-ul-Rehman’s, life.

Pakistani dramas are hauntingly addictive to the extent that I was almost sleep-walking at work this Thursday from only having slept 3 hours the previous night. Like any other Pakistani drama director worth his metal Mohammed Ehteshamuddin let’s you explore everything from giddy excitement for a budding love story, to utter disgust for a character’s evil, to sadness that turns into pain, to despair to want to jump into the scene and change the course of things. I smiled, I laughed, I rejoiced and I cried…a lot! The last episode broke my heart and I am still carrying that pain with me.

This drama is about a love that is beyond its usual form of attraction, needs no trigger, has no physical manifestation, is free of norms and cannot be captured in words or any other form of comprehension. The closest I can come to describing it is “worship”…pure worship without any expectations.

Khalil & Shano, the protagonists, couldn’t be more different in so many ways but their reverence for each other is so out-of-this-world that they become the definition of “two bodies – one soul”.

Rasheeda, Shano’s mother’s, acting is so excellent that you can feel nothing but hatred for her until the penultimate episode where her motivation softens the blow of your hatred a little bit. What I love most about Pakistani drama’s is that no character is ever completely black. They are on a spectrum from white to dark grey and while Rasheeda seems very very dark even she has a side that makes you sympathize with her character.

Unlike other Pakistani dramas Sadqay Tumhare has some flaws when it comes to dialogues, Adnan’s acting and a few plot flaws but I was happy to ignore all of it for the sheer beauty of Shano and Khalil’s love story. (9/10)

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Uri: The Surgical Strike

It boggles my mind to see what extents of pain and sacrifice military men and women endure to protect their country and for all practical purposes earn their living. It’s unfortunate that they are not nearly as celebrated outside of their own circles as successful people in business, entertainment and other industries.

Just like Rustom and Raazi, Uri also has the charm of Military etiquette and decor. In this case though it is nestled among sheer courage and brute force. My favorite part of the movie is Vicky Kaushal’s impeccable acting. Watch out for the scene at his brother-in-law’s funeral where he is standing tall like an Army man is supposed to but without speaking a word he emotes a whole litany of feelings. Now that is art!

Vicky Kaushal doesn’t have the most typically attractive face but he sure is one of the most handsome and most skilled actors in Bollywood right now. TDH of Mills and Boones fame finds a meaning in him.

The movie is a great entertainer showing both the strategic and physical demands of an Army job and for the first time ever you see our Army men making use of modern technology – drones, infrared trackers, signal blockers, etc.

The climax is made using excellent videography putting the viewer in the middle of the surgical strike – as close as you and I will likely ever get to a heart-pumping situation like this.

The only ‘huh?’ moment was seeing a highly skilled Army Intelligence agent deployed as a surveillance nurse at the protagonists home for a while but then something had to be done to get the Bollywood romance going. (8/10)

uri

Simmba

Simmba was quite the disgrace to Singham – and the Lion King too – until the real Singham shows up and the Dolby Surround Sound waale mukke start resonating through the movie theatre.

Ranveer Singh was an interesting casting choice. He looks tough, his acting can be great but it’s also tainted a bit much with his off-screen personality, especially during humorous scenes. I am generally a much bigger fan of Ranveer Singh’s than Ajay Devgan’s but, sorry, Ranveer has nothing on the real Singham! Maybe it is Simmba’s character, which by the way flip flops 180 degrees all of a sudden in the movie (bheja mat lagana!), or maybe it is his over the top acting that takes away the gravitas that Singham brought to the screen.

Granted Rohit Shetty wasn’t first in line when logic was being distributed by God but a little more subtlety wouldn’t harm him either. The movie is Captain Obvious throughout. Not only can you predict every scene, just in case you are also a bit dimly lit up there the characters explain it verbally too.

Sara Ali Khan is literally a tiffinwaali in this movie and that’s it. There was absolutely no reason for her to waste a few reels. She wasn’t even able to make chai in one of the final scenes. Watch out for this in the movie for a chuckle.

Sonu Sood made up for a lot of other crap in Simmba by delivering a solid performance and looking his best ever. What is it with tall, broad shouldered men in white kurtas??

Ashutosh Rana made me do a double take. When did he turn from a Sikander Khan into a pudgy old constable? His character is Simmba’s moral compass but fails to draw what an Ashutosh Rana can do.

Putting aside the ghisi piti story, the very clear and loud social lecturing on India’s rape “culture” – certainly with great intent but poor execution – and the ok but not outstanding acting this is an ok-ish sequel of Singham with some funny moments and two solid action sequences.

My favorite part of the movie –  and why I am bumping it a point higher than it deserves – is the absolutely amazing choreography of Aankh Mare. I loved the song in its original, I love it now and I have become a fangirl of the choreography. (5/10)

simmba

Zero

Brahmagupta was a man with foresight. 1,400 years ago he set rules to compute with ‘zero’ but this wise man knew one day ‘zero’ will be needed to label Shah Rukh Khan and his talent. (Please note: Talent and Luck are not one and the same!)

It took me two days to mend my mental bruises I carried away from watching Zero on opening day. I am still scarred but here is an attempt at saving some more casualties:

Zero…reason you should waste 164 minutes of your precious life

Zero…Dollars/Euro/Rupees/[insert your own currency] you should spend on sitting all this time in a torture chamber

Zero…pollutants you should add to the environment by driving to the movie theatre

Zero…sense you can expect this story to make: A mega star kisses a village dwarf and takes him into her house and life. He forces her to throw him out and ends up floating around in space to impress his physically challenged lady love. No, this is not me being delusional. This is truly how ridiculously bad the story (or lack of it) is.

Zero…chances Shah Rukh Khan should be given to star in a movie again.

On the one hand Bollywood churned out masterpieces like Andhadhun, Badhai Ho, Raazi, Sanju, Karwaan this year. I am no filmmaker but my guess is the process for movies as excellent as these starts with a story in mind, followed by a script, character development and then lots of thought into who fits the role. On the other hand there is crap like Zero where the process presumably looks like this: Shah Rukh Khan has too much money itching in his pocket (again) and feels it is time for some more self-validation. Gauri unlocks the tijori, starts throwing around money left and right to brainwash a director, every who’s who of Bollywood to appear for a cameo and popular actresses to benefit from the marketing machine that is SRK. Everyone gets high, hallucinates a “plot” and gets to work.

Shah Rukh Khan makes me believe in astrology. Why? This man may be charming when he speaks in person but he has Zero acting skills, scores a Zero on looks, is part of the worst movies in Indian cinema and yet is one of the biggest superstars walking the earth. All his shanis and mangals must be dancing in the right houses!

In case you are still on the fence for wanting to watch this atrocity, just know that Zero makes Happy New Year look like a good watch. (0/10)

zero