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)

 

 

 

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Bhavesh Joshi Superhero

The reality of a corrupt country meets our comic book superhero – minus superpowers.

Three college graduates who are bothered by the state of corruption in Mumbai and the inconveniences that causes to the common man are all inclined to make a change – yet at different levels of passion. When one of them dies pursuing the cause another one is left with a choice to carry on his friend’s mission or move to America for a cushy job. As he feels guilty for his friend’s death he dons a superhero mask and sets out to take on the bad guys.

Had Siku’s character been a bit more realistic this could have turned into a solid drama hitting the nerve of the national PITA (pain in the a$$). Or if Vikramaditya Motwane had given Siku a few superpowers I could have stopped being bothered by a 9-5 engineer’s sudden courage and action skills and just enjoyed this as an out and out superhero movie. Trying to make it a blend of both took away credibility from both genres.

After seeing Harshvardhan’s rather dismal first attempt at acting Bhavesh Joshi Superhero – his second movie – seemed a lot better. Despite being an action movie he didn’t puff up to an extent that would make him look unreal, nor is he trying to (sorely) stand out with over the top acting.

The storyline was there; so much so that the annoyances endured by people in the plot start getting under your skin but the resolution of them in a half-baked superhero attempt don’t allow me to give this one more than half the rating points. (5/10)

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Veere di Wedding

Veere di Wedding – brought to you by the big ad rupees of the Indian consumer goods industry! This movie is the perfect case study for Marketing 101 in Business School on the topic “product placement gone wrong”. I want to know how much Anil Kapoor charged Bikaji to show four bathing attire clad pretend 20-somethings sit at the pool in Phuket and chomp out of aluminum Bikaji Bhujia bags. I also want to know how much Amul paid him to show the mandatory fat person in the group of four girls eat tub after tub of Amul ice cream with a chocolate  laden tray in the foreground of the scene. Once I get the economics of that maybe Videocon, Uber, and the at least three other brands that I am losing track of care to share how much they paid to get artificially placed into the scenes killing the mojo of the movie. Oh, wait! Did I say mojo? There was none!

Call me old school, call me prude, I have little patience for movies that are interpreting feminism to be the impersonification of vulgar, vagina-driven and very very immature. I used to not enjoy Hollywood movies for their excessive use of the f-word (506 times in The Wolf of Wall Street) and here we are making a full-circle aping the West with the c-word. Believe you me, I am likely the rare Indian outlier that doesn’t believe in marriage for the sake of marriage unless it has meaning, commitment and real intent but the way genuine issues were handled unnecessarily loudly in this movie was a complete put off.

Every stereotype found a place in this movie and was exaggerated to suit the Indian movie goer palate: extramarital affair, gay couple, broken family, NRI marriage, big fat Punjabi wedding, wedding rituals, one smart friend – one fat friend – one pretty friend – one rich friend group.

Shashanka Ghosh should focus on directing Indian TV serials because they could make good use of his over the top drama seen here and in his previous movie Khubsoorat. Poor direction and worse cinematography. (1/10)

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Raazi

After a six week hiatus & figuring out why I have more <randomstringofletters>@outlook.com blog followers than Donald Trump has typos in his tweets I am back!

I may have been slacking with writing reviews but rest assured I was on the top of my game watching movies! Let me start with the best:

Raazi, a beautiful play on word, signifying a young girls’ willingness to marry an unknown man, join an unknown family, call a rival country her new ‘home’ and her willingness to put all on the line to become a spy for her motherland. A deep bow of respect for real life Sehmat whose heart beat for more than just her own wellbeing.

Alia Bhatt is putting nepotism claims to rest with yet another talent-filled portrayal of the protagonist. What a nice contrast to pelvic thrusting, half-clad, dunked in a pot of make up heroins! Mind you, this wasn’t an easy character to play. It was equal parts grief and determination, confidence and sub-ordinance, hope and despair, courage and fear. Yet she brought each of these to life without flinching an eye.

Vicky Kaushal was a true surprise. How handsomely he slipped into a Pakistani army man’s, a son’s, a brother’s and a husband’s character. Ouuff! It’s not the first time I am asking and also not the last: “Where do they make men like these anymore??” Accomplished yet humble, not sappily romantic yet loving and caring in ways that don’t need words…

The direction was powerful, subtle and had just the perfect amount of patriotism, pride and clever.

Bonus: If Dilbaro doesn’t get you crying at “Babul ki Duayein Leti Ja” levels go get your eyes or your heart checked! (10/10)

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Bhoomi

This movie with a message went unnoticed because either our society is becoming immune to constant messaging about India’s rape “culture” or they see enough of it being shared around on social media that they didn’t care noticing this mirror of Indian society.

This is the story of a daughter and her father in a small town whose life gets turned upside down by one man’s inability to handle rejection of his one-sided love. What follows is a sequence of abduction, gang rape, an unsuccessful attempt at seeking justice through the legal system, humiliation by law and society and the eventual revenge by father and daughter.

If you can ignore the non-sensical last 10 minutes of the movie it’s a pretty well made film, with great context setting, moving plot line, just enough detail to invoke anger, disgust and pain. Aditi Rao Hydari and Sharad Kelkar have acted brilliantly. Sanjay Dutt conveyed more with his eyes than his emotions. (8/10)

This movie is sadly far too relevant this week in light of what happened to little Asifa and unfortunately thousands of other unnamed girls and women across India. Expressing your anger through social media is one thing but thinking through solutions is another. There is so much psychological cause and effect and an unsettling level of voyeurism going on that it begs the question if the way to address this problem needs to be solved with the same weapons.

I strongly believe that crime and resource scarcity cannot just be curbed by patches like better education and better infrastructure. They are important but shouldn’t be the only focus. To nib the issue in the bud you have to solve for population growth control. Just like that rapes cannot be stopped by raising awareness on social media and candle marches. It’s time to nib the issue in the bud!

I am no psychiatrist but here is my very simplified – but not simplistic – attempt at understanding this situation:

Monsters rape because they are either mentally ill, have a desire to execute power over someone who is weaker than them (also a psychological disorder), are influenced by wrong interpretations of religion or its centuries old manifestation that men are a superior species. All of these causes are tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. Let’s park this thought for a second.

Many women’s plight never comes to light because of fear of repercussion, what will society say, the fear of their families being ostracized, the fear of living a life pinned by painful stares and if someone is so “benevolent” accompanied by some pity. Fear of all of this is also tightly related to the emotional centers of a human’s brain. These women have already endured the utmost test of physical cruelty. Now their neurons become hyper-sensitive to emotional cruelty. Let’s park this second thought too for a second.

Clearly, the sharing of such crimes on social media, television, newspapers, documentaries is not doing anything. I have no insight into statistics but I doubt the number of rapes are going down. And dare I say the Indian legal system is not (yet) equipped to handle these cases with the seriousness that they require to create consequences that are harsh enough to deter criminals.

Let’s go back to the two points I made earlier. If the perpetrators are driven by causes related to their psychology and the victims are put to silence by consequences related to their psychology — isn’t it high time this issue be addressed with a psychological war?!

There is a saying and a fact: The only way to cut a diamond is with a diamond.

The only way to end this psychological disorder is through psychological warfare!

Again, this is far more than two hours of my thinking can solve but this movie made me think how much more effective it would be to give these monsters a taste of their own medicine. Killing them by death penalty would be too easy of an end to their lives and likely not a shocking enough deterrent to future criminals. But killing them with their own weapons of fear, isolation and mind torture a little every day is worth a thousand deaths by execution.

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October

Bematlab ki sadness. That’s the feeling I left the theatre with.

I certainly don’t mind movies on the dark side of the emotional spectrum, ones that are more tragic than comic or take a bit of interpretation but this one kept me waiting for two hours for something to happen.

I later learnt it’s about unconditional love without expectations but there is zero character development or explanation of any sort about the protagonist. I kept wondering the entire time if he is of low IQ, mentally unstable, distracted, has some violent background that will later be revealed or if he has some history with the girl he is so besotted with. Nothing! Nada! He just happens to pretty much give up his daily routine, job, family, friends to be by the side of a bed-ridden girl who was nothing more than a colleague before.

The plot moves slower than it takes an iceberg to melt. Varun Dhawan’s acting is not bad but at times belabored. Gitanjali Rao tried her best but I didn’t see much of an emotion in many scenes where I expected to.

As for the title – just like the movie – it’s a far cry from sensible. Girl’s name is Shiuli which means Jasmine. Jasmine blooms in October. Let’s call the movie October. Let alone ‘bloom’ the girl meets a much worse fate. Kuch bhi! (3/10)

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