Budhia Singh – Born To Run

This one is Dangal gone a bit awry. The movie itself wasn’t bad, nor was the execution of the story. Maybe the story itself just didn’t deliver that feel-good ending and hence didn’t provide the same uplift of spirits as Dangal did.

This is a true story about a poor 5 year old boy who gets raised by a coach because he  discovers his running talent and wants him to represent India in the Olympics. Progressively, he trains the child to run longer and longer marathons – 48 of them! -, which culminates in his desire to have him run a 70+ km marathon. The kid gets a lot of attention from the media and government and eventually the child welfare commission steps in and takes him away from the coach as they deem it cruel for a little child to run that long. Similar to Dangal there is a merciless drive in the coach but with this one you really question the coach’s motives. He has a much darker shade of grey than Aamir Khan had. He’ll go to any length, including dangling a water bottle in front of a running 5 year old boy to make him run longer when he is about to collapse from thirst. Eventually the child gets taken away from him and the coach is killed by local politicians. Today, Budhia Singh is in a boarding school for sports but he is not allowed to run marathons by the government. The ending of the movie is a call to action to do something about it and help Budhia live his passion.

Manoj Bajpai is as fine of an actor as it can get. He slips under the skin of any character but his madness for fame as Biranchi Das, the coach, made you want to punch him multiple times during the movie, which the director tried to soften up a bit by inserting a scene or two showing his softer side.

Overall, a good movie without the fairy dust of a Dangal. (7/10)

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Sarbjit

This one is based on a true story of a brother and sister that fought for over two decades to get a governmental mistake corrected. They endured years of torture and trauma, an uphill battle against the India-Pakistan hatred, and the eventual death of the brother. As many disastrous endings this one took its beginnings in alcohol. The brother got too drunk with a friend in the fields of Punjab one night. Instead of walking home he walked over the India-Pakistan border and got captured as a terrorist suspect. He was given a mistaken identity and tortured to – well – death over the next 20+ years while his family, led by his strong sister Daljeet fought for his release only to get his ashes back one day.

How many innocent people fall victim to false suspicions or maybe even intentional malice is anyone’s guess but for an individual and his family a small mistake like this can literally be life-changing – for the worst.

The casting director, while doing a location tour in Punjab, must’ve inhaled way too many drugs to make the call to cast Aishwarya Rai for a role like this! I appreciate the fact that she wants to branch out from her “pretty-face-roles” but she should also have the self-awareness that she can simply NOT act. Her dialogue delivery and expressions are one of the worst I have seen among Bollywood actresses. A very serious character role is simply not her forte. Randeep Hooda on the other hand should win an award for portraying Sarbjit. You can read fear and despair off of his face. Acting out a tortured, dilapidated prisoner was likely the hardest role he’s had yet but he did it with a lot of conviction. (5/10)

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Trapped

Low budget. High thrill.

A story can barely get any simpler than this yet here is a one hour 45 minute movie keeping you glued to your seat. Love story turns into urgent housing situation turns into desperate apartment search turns into unfortunate lock in turns into a mind-boggling thriller.

There is barely any dialogue in the movie and yet you feel so attached to the protagonist’s fate. After all, you could have been Shaurya.

What would you do if you were trapped in an apartment on the 35th floor of a completely empty building without electricity and water? (8/10)

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The Girl On The Train

Hardly a well kept secret but a good reminder that I should read the novel before I watch the movie. What was a bestselling novel by Paula Hawkins turned into a mediocre thriller on celluloid. It’s rare that someone can turn an intricate thriller into an equally well-made movie – as was the case with Gone Girl.

Emily Bunt’s acting is spot on but her deranged look and coldness never lets the viewer sympathize with her condition. For the first half of the movie she establishes herself as an annoying psychopath and when the plot turns things end so quickly that you never have the chance to celebrate her existence in any way.

Certainly watchable but not worth preparing for shivers and screams. (4/10)

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Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

Living more with less has been a quest that’s been intriguing me for quite some time. My family often thinks I have gone cookoo when I decline their offer to buy me new fancy clothes from India, more stuff for the kitchen or when I am unable to let them know what I want for my birthday. But in all honesty, I find more peace when I own less “stuff” and whatever I own is organized. To the extent that last year (and this year again) I went through an exercise around Diwali that looked like this.

While I am not an extremist that lives in an empty apartment with just one chair and mattress I like to keep things streamlined and neat. A few things that help me do that are to constantly ask myself a few questions:

  • Have I used this item in the last six months? Or am I going to use it in the next six months?
  • Does this item bring me joy?
  • When I die will my family look at this and ask “what did she need THIS for”?

Having said that, I have the hardest time letting go of things that have any sort of emotional value but then you could say they bring me joy so I keep them around.

Minimalism is a documentary that kept me engaged throughout its 79 minutes runtime because it’s from the heart, not extreme in any way and shows you how this concept has changed the lives of many people that have adapted this lifetime in whatever way they saw fit. It also rebels against the corporate “lock up” that I also feel a bit burdened by from time to time. What an irony that I work in the advertising industry which essentially goes against my grain to the hilt. Maybe early retirement is a dream that may come true one day.

There are ways to live a more meaningful life and this documentary shows you stories of many that are. (10/10)

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Dangal

Knock out! A total 10 count knock out!!

What do you call it when you have tears in your eyes throughout a two hour forty minute movie because you are experiencing every emotion ranging from sheer happiness to the pain of evolution to exhilaration fueled by grit? I call it a paisa gazab ka wasool watch!

Aamir Khan is the epitome of quality over quantity. He may only make a movie every year or two but his attention to detail clearly pays off for the viewer, at the box office and most importantly for the final work he produces.

Imagine a man who has the determination to alter every inch of his body to fit the part will likely have left no stone unturned to research the world of wrestling before making this piece of work.

The casting director deserves a big fat hug for finding THE most appropriate Geetas and Babitas there could have possibly been. Both the younger and grown up versions of them are born actresses.

A majority of the story is narrated by Mahavir Singh Phogat’s (Aamir’s character) nephew, which gives the script the flavor of a perfect third party narrated bestselling novel. The tone is carefully measured, the jokes are subtle and on point, the dialogues are crisp – never too much or too little. Not a hint of Bollywoodesque over-dramatization, masaalapanti or plain out popular tastelessness.

One may question a father’s cruel ways of raising his daughters to fulfill his dreams, not asking if it’s theirs too, but a beautiful scene between three girls so craftily puts into perspective the difference between no dream and “a” dream. Sometimes it’s better to give your children direction than not giving them anything at all except a bleak beaten future.

This movie touches upon so many topics, including the obvious one of women empowerment. What caught my attention was the relationship between a father and his children. Often, children discount their parents’ advice or never even truly seek it because they don’t trust it will help them reach their goals. They believe progress lies in places outside their parents’ reach and unknowingly follow paths that are regressive rather than progressive. Yet, a parent swallows the pain and stands behind their children like a solid wall of support. I saw many shades of my own father’s journey in this story. Despite what he thinks may be the right course of life things have developed differently in our lives. Yet, time and again he continues to be on our sides every step of the way. (I know he will likely not be reading this but here goes a silent Thank You to my father.)

It’s hard to make a good film but you know what’s harder? To make a film like Dangal after a Mary Kom and a Sultan and still make the other two look like they bit the dust! (10/10)

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Befikre

India is a country of dichotomies: old and new, rich and poor, love and war, spice and sweet…who knew these contrasts were going to carry over to the world of media? 2016 is the year when India (for a short period of time) banned pornographic content in media and it’s also the year India came out with Befikre, which is nothing more and nothing less than soft porn. The movie solely sold on the 23 kissing scenes between the actors and the “clothing optional” attitude of the filmmaker. Based on its box office performance of merely 43 crore so far it looks like even that doesn’t really have a market.

Ranveer Singh took his off-screen personality just a notch too far. I can’t tell if his character changed at all throughout the movie because I couldn’t watch this waste of a patch of reel for more than half an hour but it’s exactly characters like him and his friend with benefits that are contributing to a rapid decline of any sort of relationship values.

Plot-less, cloth-less, sense-less – don’t let it lessen your bank balance. Stay home! (1/10)

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