Pad Man

It’s commendable to see an actor use his celebrity to spread awareness about a serious issue plaguing the country. Akshay Kumar is no stranger to putting his muscle to use for good causes, be it supporting the Armed Forces, drawing attention to farmer suicides or now making sure the taboo around what’s part of a woman being fertile no longer stays a taboo.

This movie, based on Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, explores how menstruation is associated with shame and how women themselves make something as routine as this an issue of impurity. On the one hand certain cultures in India celebrate the coming-of-age of young teenage girls when they get their first period with grand fanfare, on the other hand they are told periods are impure, they have to sleep outside the house, cannot visit the temple, cannot enter the kitchen and the list goes on. The moment you ask “Why?” you get a big imposing stare translating into “How dare you ask?” because even the people setting the rules don’t know the answers. Just like human evolution or creation (whichever you believe in) created the digestive system to keep the energy flow going it also created menstruation to support a woman’s fertility. Why is that a problem?

The movie has some slightly preachy, edging towards documentary style dialogues at the beginning which is understandable because many of its viewers may not even know why female hygiene is important and how big of an issue that is. From there unfolds the underdog to hero story that may not be incredibly entertaining but with an actor as fine as Akshay Kumar still becomes an interesting watch.

The crescendo of his skill comes to bear during his final speech at the United Nations where he is more convincing than many trained public speakers I have watched. This one doesn’t go to feminism, or entertainment, or any other motif of movie making. This one is an ode to innovation, perseverance and purely goes to Askhay Kumar’s acting ability. (7/10)



Dhobi Ghat

This is the story of four very different people whose worlds collide in the big brawny city of Mumbai. They find themselves drawn into intertwined relationships: Shai – an investment banker turned photographer on sabbatical, Arun – a lonely painter, Munna – the “dhobi” who aspires to become an actor and Yasmin – using her camcorder to “write letters” to her brother who has never been to Mumbai. The film follows how their lives are changed by the presence and absence of one another.

Completely off the beaten path, not your typical Bollywood film. Part documentary, part indi-touch it provides plenty of food for thought as you see four characters very unlike each other deeply caring about one another. Munna likes Shai, Shai likes Arun and Arun is shocked by Yasmin’s diary.

Very laid back watch for a day you don’t want Bollywood glitz and glamor on your screen. (7/10)



One ticket – Two stories

This mystery thriller is a remake of the 1969 movie starring Rajesh Khanna and Nanda. I haven’t seen the original but this is an entertaining watch with a good storyline that has reveals lined up as the movie progresses. Most of it takes place inside the apartment of Maya, a bored housewife indulging in an affair that adds interesting twists to the plot.

Akshaye Khanna’s acting chops are to watch out for. He’s found his genre and I hope to see him doing more of what he does so well.

Abhay Chopra tried to please too many audiences at once and introduced humor that simply has no place in a thriller. Do one thing and do it well, sir!

Good one time watch but no sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat experience. (7/10)


Secret Superstar

The medium may not have been the most illustrative but the message was rock solid! Domestic violence is unfortunately a common occurrence – not only in the lowest echelons of society but everywhere. Physical violence, as in this movie, is visible but emotional abuse is a struggle not only grossly overlooked but one that women are often blamed for even if they are the victim. Anyhow, I digress.

Insu is a very headstrong 15 year old wanting more from life than the beatings her father gives her mother. She has a beautiful relationship with her mother in which she is at times the daughter and at times the mother. Her own strength blinds her to the sacrifices her mother has made and the reasons why she is not willing to divorce her father. However, since actions speak louder than words Insu’s determination eventually rubs off on her mother and this time she decides to put her foot down not inspite her children but because of her children.

A special shout out to the casting director who found the perfect actors for each character. Aamir Khan wasn’t the star of the movie. Meher Vij and Zaira Wasim shone much brighter this time! They looked like a real life mother daughter duo and acted so well that you could fever along with them as they went through the ups and downs of their journey.

Unlike other Aamir Khan productions this one was a little blurry at the edges with incongruencies – be it the way he portrayed social media to be a messiah of the passionate or the grandmother’s role that literally just existed to tell Insu how her mother saved her from being aborted. Overall a great watch and that will hopefully give more women the courage to be equals. (7/10)


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)

Budhia singh

Begum Jaan

Interesting walk through history as well as the profession of prostitution on the Indian continent. Much loathed but rarely understood. Where do these women come from? What kind of homes did they belong to? How did they end up in a brothel? And most importantly WHY did they end up in a brothel? Why do they exist?? Who frequents them?? You can’t blame the flame for burning down the forest without raising an eye at the match stick that lit it on fire!

This movie starts and ends on a provocative scene of an old lady/girl baring herself in front of assaulters – both times forcing them to step back in shame due to their age. What happens in between is the story of Begum Jaan who runs a brothel at a place that is to be separated by the India-Pakistan border in 1947 forcing her to give up her home. It’s a story of hope, despair, will, deceit, grit and gut that will hopefully be the beginning to an end of this entire vicious cycle.

Powerful acting by everyone. A dark but interesting watch. (7/10)

Begum Jaan

Badrinath Ki Dulhania

Kavya from ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania’ saw the Women’s Rights movement making the rounds around the globe, jumped on the bandwagon and came out as a transformed modern day woman called Vaidehi on the other end to now become ‘Badrinath ki Dulhania’.

‘Tis the story of a very real struggle of women who grow up in homes where an early marriage is the ONLY dream they are allowed to harbor and their parents bend their backs collecting dowry because grooms are sold according to the size of their daddy’s homes, cars and egos. Marriage brokers that come to your house and ask for “kitna lagaenge shaadi mein” as soon as they plant their derrières on your couch really do exist – I am speaking from experience that almost made me lose my composure and shoot darts at them before I nudged my parents to throw them out of our house.

There is a nice ying and yang between aspiration and realism in this movie which hits the pulse of today’s day and age. Though some scenes are really cliched and added for pure mass entertainment, such as Kritika’s swayamwar, her clarity in thought about who she is marrying is commendable. Vaidehi, too, is marrying “under her league” but she finds the unexpected in Badri which is all that a relationship sometimes needs to work out.

I found it interesting that the filmmaker chose to broach the topic of rebellion against a deep engrained system of patriarchy in which sons are merely puppets of their dangerously commandeering parents. Helping them move along with the times is as much their children’s responsibility as their own. For all the Vaidehis out there – if your Badri is not willing to create a reasonable environment for you two to live in within the fiefdom of his dad – run, run as fast as you can!

Alia Bhatt’s acting is like a cheese pizza from the same shop. Consistently good but always tastes the same. I can’t wait to see her in a more subdued, silent, thoughtful character. Even though Udta Punjab was quite different her angst filled role was very familiar.

Varun Dhawan tried visibly hard to act like the UP ke bhaiya but he was skirting at the edge of authenticity and childishness. Comic roles are not his forté. He did much better in a far more serious Badlapur.

Oh, and taking away a point for horrendously butchering Tamma Tamma when we know that remixes can be as good as the original – look at Humma Humma. (7/10)