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

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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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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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The 15:17 to Paris

Maybe Clint Eastwood is just trying to burn through his money in his Golden years now. There is no other rhyme or reason why he would choose to make a movie like this. The 15:17 to Paris is based on the true story of three American soldiers that prevented a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. By no means am I diminishing their heroic feat but what could have been told in a 10 minute YouTube clip turned into a 1 hour 36 min ordeal that was entirely unnecessary. The story starts with the childhood of these three boys in elaborate detail which has absolutely nothing to do with the incidence on the train, goes into how they all join the army, shows them awkwardly traveling through Europe with the last 15 minutes actually showing the incident on the train.

Bad acting, awkward dialogues and a script not worth the paper it’s written on. (1/10)

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The Shape of Water

I am the last person to go watch a science fiction movie but I am so glad I took the plunge on The Shape of Water. This isn’t the first movie made on alien creatures but certainly one that clearly shows it’s made for the art of moviemaking and not to fill the coffers of the producer – though hopefully that will happen too.

An amphibious alien creature, believed to be a water God is being held captive at an American lab in the 1960s. The director of the lab is every shade of cruel one can imagine, both in his professional and personal life. He is up against the Russians to gain intelligence on this creature even if that means killing and dissecting it. Meanwhile, a mute girl, Elisa, who cleans the lab uncovers this alien has the propensity to understand language and has emotions. When she finds out the director is about to get him killed she plans a successful escape from the lab and nurtures the alien in her bathtub with the help of her neighbor, her colleague and the Russian doctor who under disguise of being an American was taking care of the alien at the lab. Elisa and the alien grow fond of each other and connect on levels beyond the spoken word. There is a generosity of spirit at display that comes from being a misfit in society with Elisa being a mute person and the alien, well, being an alien. The day Elisa is about to release him back to his natural habitat of open waters the director finds out their whereabouts and tries to kill them. However, what would an alien God be without healing powers? They both live happily ever after – under water!

There is something about the making of this movie that is almost zen like despite some gross bloody scenes. Characters are well built out, they are given purpose, there is tension to resolve and as a viewer you feel along with the happenings on screen. (8/10)

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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)

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