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)

Stree

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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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Mubarakan

It’s borderline harmful to have to watch Arjun Kapoor not only once but twice in a movie. Big daddy money at work at its best. I know not to be superficial but hey Bollywood is Bollywood. If you can’t act, at least look good. </politicalincorrectness>

Think of this as the classier, most tasteful version of a Sajid Khan movie. Many loud characters, convoluted story, senselessness…but Anil Kapoor, Ratna Pathak and Pavan Malhotra were the saving grace. Athiya Shetty causes visual dissonance in my head. I just cannot get Sunil Shetty out of my head when I see the lower half of her face. A trick to make it less obvious would be to avoid wearing magenta lipsticks…just sayin’. Nice settings, classy Indian clothing and tolerable songs rounded it up to a 5/10.

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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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Naam Shabana

Just like the second kid can rarely be as good as the first one (hoping my sister is not reading this!) the sequel to a movie often doesn’t measure up to the expectations set by the original.

The Director tried to use Baby’s recipe, including many of the key cast members but wasn’t able to replicate the taut storyline and magic of Baby. Danny’s scenes got cut down from four to two, Manoj Bajpai has been added as another layer of administrativia, and Akshay Kumar has only been hired to hold Taapsee’s arm and drag her through buildings as if she can’t walk on her own. Also, who in the world hires someone as handsome as Prithviraj Sukumaran as the bad man?

Awkward dialogues, lack of a good story and absolutely no explanation as to why they needed to cast a woman in the role of the secret agent when Akshay Kumar could have done all she does makes this a meh watch. Everyone these days is just trying to ride on the feminism gravy train which failed in this case. (5/10)

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Delhi In A Day

A drama set between the haves and have-nots of Delhi. It subtly portrays the satirical lives of the nouveau-riche in Delhi. Sometimes it’s the household help making fun of the “maaliks” and sometimes it’s the grandfather who can’t stand the fake society his children ask him to be part of.

Jasper, a foreign bright-eyed tourist, is trapped between his idealistic thoughts of what India should be and what his host, Kalpana, turns the experience into. When his money disappears suddenly all blame is put on the household help. The remainder of the movie shows how money can mean something completely different to people depending on what end of the social strata they belong to. The most interesting thing that comes out of the pressure to find the money is the beauty of relationships and trust among the have-nots and the lack of conscience of the haves.

Overall, a slow watch despite its short runtime of 88 minutes with a particularly frustrating end as Jasper never gets closure on where his money went. (5/10)

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Ki & Ka

Indian cinema is rapidly coming of age and exploring topics that reflect what is on society’s subconscious mind. While “western influence” and social media have their undoubted pitfalls for the rich heritage of India they deserve a bit of credit for brining a changing tide of curious minds, the ability to question norms and in the process hopefully unroot some beliefs that no longer hold true in contemporary times.

Ki & Ka explores the role of a man and a woman in life, in their relationships and in the eyes of society. For two hours imagine what the world could look like if there was no concept of gender. Why limit y0urself to the confines of your gender when your skills and desires lie elsewhere? R. Balki brought some really interesting topics of discussion to the surface that will likely become less taboo a decade, maybe two or three, down the line. While the theme of the movie is very unique and interesting the director used cookie cutter stereotypes and swung too much in the opposite direction to make his point. Handled a lot more subtly and with nuance this could have been a much better movie. (5/10)

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