Baazaar

I am surprised Jains all over India haven’t created a ruckus about the misrepresentation and straight out disrespect of Jainism in this movie yet. Disclaimer: By no means am I claiming that there aren’t immoral Jain business people out there. There are a dime and a dozen for all I know. However, we Jain clearly don’t sit in opera houses to chant Michhami Dukkadam with our butts in cushy chairs and our hands waiving through the air. Also, temples are not places where business is conducted and cops and their likes walk in and out with their shoes on as they please to disrupt meditative practices.

Aside from that the movie had a solid plot, some good dialogues, great background scoring and a refreshing cast. Rohan Mehra was the perfect choice for the Allahabad ka middle class ladka who quickly grows on you as the big city ways groom him. This was his first movie so he may not be in the league of his co-actors just yet but he certainly has potential. What a great movie and role to be launched with!

A shrewd business sense, greed and hunger to succeed is what this movie is all about. It is no secret that “too much” education makes bad businessmen. Some of the most successful businessmen are the ones that have a raw edge to themselves where sophistication is replaced with courage, curiosity and a ‘what-have-I-got-to-lose-attitude’!

Saif Ali Khan may not look like a typical Gujju businessman but he stood his ground. Despite never making it mainstream I feel Chitrangada Singh is one of the most attractive actresses out there. If only I could age like her. Radhika Apte is putting the make up industry out of business with her not-pretty-but-you’ll-still-notice looks. (7/10)

P.S.: No. Angadiyas don’t put 40 carat diamonds in 10-year-olds peanut wrappers!

Bazaar

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Badhai Ho

Badhai Ho…to Ayushman Khurana for not just one but two entertaining, incredibly well-made, masterpieces of Indian cinema in a row!

For just over two hours I was in middle of the lives of three generations of a middle class Delhi family and fell in love with each and every character. The credibility that the scriptwriter, director and actors have lent to each family member from grandmother to grandchildren is palpably real: a loud, nagging grandmother who is figuratively and literally the center of the household, a somewhat kanjus but very loving father, the proverbial middle class Indian mother who lives for her family and nothing else, an elder son who is not only stepping up to elevate the family conditions but also takes responsibility for every member of the family and a younger brother who is a bit pampered yet secretly in awe of his elder brother.

And then there’s this THING that happens. 17 years after the younger son is born the mother gets pregnant again and all hell breaks lose within the immediate family, extended family and of course – the neighborhood! Each family member, including the pregnant mother and her husband go through feelings of shame imposed on themselves by themselves and their surroundings. Now this is a topic that could have easily been handled very vulgarly and disrespectfully. However, the director did an incredible job of using the topic to further form his characters and strengthen their bonds from many different angles. Be it mother – son, mother-in-law – daughter-in-law, father – son, husband – wife, brother – brother, every single relationship got perfect air time with the right amount of emotion.

Nakul’s girlfriend was only needed as a contrast and to add some external tension but even that was handled wisely despite leaving a few questions unanswered.

Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta, Surekha Sikri, Ayushman Khurana are all what we like to call “manje hue” actors. Every millimeter of facial movement conveys a message and they know how to measure those movements with finesse! (9/10)

BH

 

Yeh Meri Family – Summer of ’98

Binge watch alert!

If you are a 80s kid like me and have a fetish for engaging storytelling this is it. This is IT!

A TV series released just about a month and a half ago with only seven episodes out so far this one won my heart. Every minute of the 30-ish minute episode is a treat and one that I would watch over and over again.

This is the story of a middle class family in Jaipur (my other hometown!) with a father, mother, two sons and a daughter. The story is narrated through the middle child  Harshu’s voice and the beauty of the art is that he breaks through the fourth wall by directly talking to the viewer as he narrates the happenings in his family life. Harshu is the rebel in the family, sandwiched between a studious and obedient elder brother and a little, playful baby sister. His father is a loving family man who is an investment broker with a bank and his mother is the ever-doting torn into a million directions housewife always looking out for her family. Harshu also has a wiser-than-his-age friend, Shanky, who is Harshu’s advisor for every life situation.

Each episode is a marvel of little emotional chunks of entertainment. Through the eyes of a 12-year-old you’ll see what he thinks about each of this family members, the love-hate relationship he has with them and what his hopes and desires are. At the end of each episode he comes to the realization that his family is what makes him tick.

This family is just so endearing that I feel like jumping through the TV and giving them a big group hug.

Hats of to Saurabh Khanna and Sameer Saxena for catching minute details of the 1998 setting, beautifully penning it down and then flawlessly bringing it to life on screen. From picking boy names in a cricket roster representative of late 90s fashion names to making the overweight father sit in two plastic lawn chairs, to the prints of the mother’s saris, to every single detail in the late 90’s Indian household – this is a masterpiece frozen in time!

For those of you with a penchant for personal finance you will love hearing the father’s analogies for mutual fund investing smartly woven into his everyday conversations. Love this educational angle by the writer.

In a day and age where TV serials are full of saas bahu politics, vengeance, snake ladies and black magic this is the best thing that happened to Indian television since Dekh Bhai Dekh and Hum Paanch. (10/10)

YMF

Crazy Rich Asians

One of the most predictable plot lines of all times has been turned into a Bollywood-esque American-Asian RomCom. It pushes every pleasure-button of awww-whispering romance lovers. Middle class girl, sole heir of a Billionaire family, fancy parties, sparking jewelry, fast cars, glitzy dresses, magnanimous houses. Check, check, check.

There has been a lot of hype about this movie but to be honest it was just a notch above the average love story. The conflict between the protagonists was somewhat subdued – or maybe I am  just used to a lot more drama having been exposed to Bollywood movies and real life conundrum that’s far more tension-filled.

Let me compare what happened in Crazy Rich Asians (pardon my belittling of Rachel’s issues) and what happens in the Indian context.

Chinese version:

Middle class girl & crazy rich boy fall in love. Poor little girl has to wear fancy clothes, get a make up artist, wear jewels, eat foods that she can’t pronounce. Rich mother-in-law doesn’t approve of the relationship but is straightforward enough to tell the girl that it won’t work out because she is not up to the mark.

Indian version:

Affluent girl & middle class boy get married. Middle class mother-in-law goes about town boasting what a stallion her son is as he was able to fetch an affluent – if lucky then also beautiful – girl. She uses the girl as a poster of her newfound riches all the while keeping the daughter-in-law in check.

Chinese version:

Girlfriend confronts would be mother-in-law: “There is no win! If he chooses me, he loses his family. If he loses me he will resent you for the rest of his life.” Mother-in-law sees complete sense in this dialogue and quickly slips off her fancy shizzle emerald and diamond ring off her finger to pass it on to the middle class girlfriend.

Indian version:

Wife begins to live a demonstrative middle class life because otherwise she is reprimanded for behaving ‘out-of-control’ and still trying to live like her ‘old family’. Husband starts having an affair because he can. If the wife complains about it she is going to get the boot. When wife confronts the husband his reaction is: “No problem! I’ll divorce you. You were just a trophy daughter-in-law for my mother to begin with. She has found another dowry-cow to milk.”

So while Crazy Rich Asians has the making of a commercial box office hit it is not really a home run story. Some scenes are so exaggerated, such as the friend’s bachelerotte party, that you feel you are watching any American chick flick.  Fine to watch once for a few giggles here and there and to admire the wealthy of Singapore but certainly not a 10er. (6/10)

 

CRA

Karwaan

A masterful ode to relativity theory! You don’t feel the presence of something until you know what its absence feels like – and vice versa.

This movie looks simple on the surface but like a great artist the director has left hidden messages strewn all throughout the plot.

The death of Avinash’s father sets in motion a journey that forms unusual friendships, relationships with complete strangers, the budding of a love story and a deep understanding of what the world looks like through other people’s eyes.

Irfan Khan portrays a very unique kind of funny with his in-the-moment character. He is a person with a huge heart but one that commands due respect, a gentleman with a penchant for the proper.

Dulquer Salmaan, an established Malayali actor, is fantastic in his Hindi debut. Just the perfect amount of restrained emotion, everyday guy looks and an ease with which he attracts the attention of the viewer for the entire two hours.

Mithila Palkar, a rebellious teenager with a skewed sense of right and wrong, is trying to find herself as she inches towards adulthood.

Each of theses three characters have different family circumstances, especially when it comes to the relationships with their fathers and each find their solace in different ways.

If you are expecting a fast paced, glamorous, somewhat predictable movie, this is not it. Watch it for all that’s happening in the “now” of the plot and dare to read between the lines. (9/10)

Karwaan

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)

STS

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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