Film Review: Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

Young Ganga (Alia Bhatt) wants to become an actress and in order to fulfill her dreams, she elopes with her boyfriend to Mumbai but in all excitement of such a young age, she never realizes the horror that awaits her. Her boyfriend sells her for Rs.1000 to a brothel and the broken Ganga becomes Gangu. And after earning a reputation amongst her fellow prostitutes, she becomes Gangubai.

This is a real-life story based on Gangubai Kothewali. She was the queen of the infamous prostitution-hub Kamathipura and did a lot for the prostitutes and orphans for decades. As expected, the film dramatized the true bond of respect between Gangubai and Karim Lala as in those times it was widely known that treat each other like siblings and no one would consider messing around with Gangubai when Lala was ruling the underworld.

I don’t have enough knowledge of Gangubai because this film is based on Hussain Zaidi‘s book, “Mafia Queens of Mumbai” and I didn’t read that. And at the start of the film, there is a disclaimer that confirms that liberty has been taken for cinematic appeal and entertainment despite being based on the book so I am not sure how many facts were changed.

And I have written many times on different platforms that Bollywood is still not ready for making bio dramas because of many reasons. And one of the reasons is that the Hindi films are generally produced for cashing from commercial business and do not provide enough facts to justify their case for being a bio-drama. Sadly, Gangubai Kathiawadi faces the same critical issue. And despite all the elements of impressions implemented for beautifying the film, Gangubai Kathiawadi is more sort of a mainstream entertainer rather than a genuine bio-drama.

One of the many problems of this film is the average direction. Sanjay Leela Bhansali never disappoints when it comes to visual artistry. He is someone who is fond of showing things in a beautiful way. Even if something is ugly, he will apply makeup on it to look a beautiful ugly.

Now observe the productional set in this film and I ask Mumbaikars here, is Mumbai’s oldest and the largest red-light district Kamathipura that beautiful as depicted in the film? And Bhansali throughout the film glorifies Gangubai as if she was some symbol of national heroism. In the final scene, after observing the celebration, I felt as if Gangubai won some presidential election in the United States.

And this is why Bhansali makes beautiful films to cover the overdramatic screenplay of ordinary storytelling that qualifies for Bollywood aesthetics. Just like his previous films, this film also gives the audience a feel of absolute noir-meet-broadway theatrical rhapsody. Superb costume and production designing. This film is zenith when it comes to technical brilliance besides two of the most important things this film lacks, and that are necessary for the making; writing and direction. All the technicalities aside, the film is below-par with many plotholes.

How come Shaukat doesn’t listen from the other door when Kamli loudly informs Gangu that Bilal has gone to inform Rahim about him? Not sure how Gangu recovered from brutal injuries after Shaukat beat her. Did the time period jump? But how far has the time passed? Not a single facial scar or a scratch! How perfectly a heavy makeup can hide the gashes? She looked exactly like she was before beaten.

One of the plusses of this film is a bunch of supporting performances coming from some well-known actors in their brief roles like Seema Pahwa, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz, and Ajay Devgn. Vijay Raaz as transwoman Raziabai was all about his characterization and he did a fair job. I am surprised many are furious over Vijay Raaz’s and are questioning why a transgender was not picked? Not sure how is this a problem now. It is not mandatory that the role of a trans must have to go to a real-life trans. Otherwise, what is the beauty of judging the actor’s performance at all? How often do the trans people get offers to play the role of non-trans or non-LGBTQ roles? This is a nonsense controversy. 

Speaking of Ajay Devgn’s extended cameo playing the role of Rahim Lala that is based on one of the three biggest Mumbai dons of that time, Karim Lala. See, I don’t like Ajay Devgn’s acting, I love his acting. And he has played character roles and has had many great performances in the past. But here I blame Bhansali over the selection because, in my opinion, this has to be the worst ever portrayal of Karim Lala. First thing, Ajay doesn’t remind me of Lala nor does he has a typical Afghani Pashto accent. Lala was pretty tall, in Hussain Zaidi’s book and in some internet sources, Lala is thought to be around 7-feet tall; Ajay is hardly 6-feet. 

Ajay’s role doesn’t remind me of Karim Lala but Ajay himself. He literally did nothing different to stay in the character. I am sure many will notice that Ajay’s this performance was exactly similar to his role of Mallik in Company. And that makes me realize something. What’s up with Ajay playing the roles of some infamous mafia dons? His Company’s role was based on Chhota Rajan. In Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, his don role was based on Haji Mastan. And now Karim Lala. Who is he playing in the future? Vardhabhai?

Coming back to the point before I slip writing other than review, there are plus points too. The film successfully addressed the social issue of the prostitutes and dramatized in a way that despite all the charms and merriness they used in their makeup to perform hanging on the doors and street, they were all bunch of eternal sadists with tragic origin stories. Gangu helped many of those unfortunate cases and the film showed that those damsels in distress were re-purchased by Gangu for a hefty amount to provide them a better life. No wonder how many such stories circulated on those streets of Kamathipura.

Before I end my review, I will definitely write about the biggest plus and the most impressive factor of the film, Alia Bhatt. This was a much-needed moment in Alia’s career since she became one of the biggest victims of nepotism charges from the global netizens after Sushant Singh Rajput‘s suicide. A kind of role that challenges her to come back and prove how her body language can perfectly construct her role. There was everything to praise about Alia’s Gangu. Of course, the film revolves around Gangu but maybe the spirit would have diminished if this wasn’t for Alia. 

I have no idea what the real Gangu looked like when she was young as there is not much about her on the internet. The information about her and even her pictures are extremely finite. But Alia gave a splendid performance. And there are a few scenes where one can judge how impressively Alia executed reactions and mannerisms.

What a magnificent scene that was when rookie Gangu stands at the door and others give her tips for seducing customers. Bhansali shot that scene with quite a thought. And Alia perfected the physical behavior of an amateur harlot. In the ‘Dholida‘ track, she has a one-minute one-shot scene of enraging her dance while other women react blankly and she executes her madness so well. There is another scene where she speaks to her mom and the line is about to cut in thirty seconds and Gangu loses her temper. Some incredible portrayal of desperation was performed there. In Gangu’s first scene at the brothel, when she gets deceived and locked; I think Alia has perfected such a scenario after similar acts in Highway and Udta Punjab.

Gangubai Kathiawadi for me is a disappointment in direction and storytelling. Its technical aspects and Alia’s mindblowing performance makes this ordinary film look extraordinary.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: Jhund (2022)

Vijay Borade (Amitabh Bachchan) is about to retire from college as a sports teacher. One day, he notices some boys and girls in the slum area playing football with remarkable skills. Vijay finds new enthusiasm and after his retirement, he works with them and makes a valuable effort for the development of football in the slum area for the underprivileged children.

Jhund is based on the real-life story of Vijay Barse, a resident of Nagpur who founded Slum Soccer Organization after watching a lot of slum kids playing impressive football.

See, it is a fresh idea. A lot of sports films are showing up in Bollywood every year but this one is quite different from the others.  The reason is that this sports drama doesn’t focus on a legendary player and his/her personal and professional life. This is about some children of different ages, boys and a few girls, who were involved in drugs and hoodlum. This is about the birth of a football organization that paved way for the street children throughout the country to participate, play football, and make their name.

Jhund’s aesthetics are genuine. You get a feel of a slum and I have not researched but I have a feeling that those children were all actually from the slum areas. Because those characters were so real to judge. If they really are from the slums then kudos to the makers to come up with this idea and give them a chance to work on the screen and that too with none other than Amitabh Bachchan, the only known cast of the entire film. Besides Big B, almost every actor in the film has marked his/her debut which makes me think that perhaps those people are really from the slums but not professional actors.

Unfortunately, despite a command over the story and Amitabh’s presence keeping me hooked throughout the film, Jhund has a lot of critical errors. The biggest issue is screen time and no way is this film suppose to clock nearly three hours, absolutely not! Jhund’s plot has variations and lengthy continuity for sure but the screenplay is overstretching. 

Believe it or not! there is literally a half-an-hour sequence of a football match. I get it, that was the most important scene of the film that changed the lives of slum kids and made Vijay Borade devise a plan for the foundation. But thirty minutes of a match is just too much. And even a very predictable one. And I am not sure if such a match actually occurred in a reality where those kids defeated some well-trained football team of a college with a comeback from 5-0. My mind doesn’t accept that. But when they began to score over the college team, it became highly predictable that they will stretch this whole sequence to a thrilling penalty shoot-out and win. With a better direction, this football match could have been reduced to fifteen minutes easily.

And the direction is the problem. With a lengthy screenplay, one can easily notice that the pace of the film picks up and sometimes get slow. Yes, there are scenes that needed to grow on the audience and I felt it was the need of the hour like Vijay repeatedly offering the kids to play for money and the efforts by those kids with their family and friends in submitting forms and passports for the World Cup. The latter part needed emphasis and the director dramatized all those scenes well. I liked the sequences of Monica’s struggle to make a passport with her father. This is what the audience needs to watch; some harsh realities about efforts made for one passport. Ankush’s story was heartbreaking and one of the thousand stories in India whose fate keeps twisting even if he wants to leave his tragic past behind to become better. Jagdish’s backstory had a special sequence that rightfully addressed the audience about those who give up and try to commit suicide. He becomes the team’s goalkeeper.

There are a lot of plotholes in the film that indicates a rookie direction of Nagraj Manjule. I have no idea how the court allowed Vijay to give a five-minute speech and that too openly instead of sending him to the witness box. How come a team played a football match in the tournament without a goalkeeper before Jagdish asked to fill the place? How come a college agreed on a football match against the slum kids in the first place, and that too with the criminal backgrounds and drug consumption? 

Jhund is an inspiring film, and thanks to Aamir Khan‘s show Satyamev Jayate which introduced Vijay Barse and gave him the chance to narrate his story.

No doubt, Jhund is a fresh and exciting film that highlights so many social issues and encourages the audience to spare a thought and do something good or right for others. 

RATINGS: 7/10

Film Review: Thar (2022)

Inspector Surekha Singh (Anil Kapoor) is a veteran policeman who is posted in Munabao village of Rajasthan. He regrets that he never got a promotion in his line of work. In 1985, when he is closing toward retirement, he gets a case by chance when a psycho killer begins to haunt the village. Meanwhile, an antique dealer Siddharth (Harshvardhan Kapoor) arrives at this village for business and crosses paths with the police inspector.

Thar is an action-thriller directed by Raj Singh Chaudhary. By the style of filmmaking, it is quite obvious that the production methods are pretty much inspired by Western noir and therefore I felt very fresh by watching something different. I like when the director tries to do something different from the way the films are usually shot. Not exaggerating but when I watch this Western-inspired film that makes me think that if the Italian filmmakers can introduce Spaghetti Western subgenre, why not Bollywood introduce Curry Western? Sholay was inspired by the Spaghetti Western and I don’t remember a single that took inspiration from this subgenre after Sholay ignite this genre in 1975. So, Thar deserves its piece of appreciation.

Due to applying this subgenre, Thar reminds me of a few films like Sonchiriya and No Country For Old Men. With a very limited plotline, the screentime of around 110 minutes justifies and despite being slow-paced, doesn’t bore at all. Thar holds a strong command of technical brilliance. Adopting a Western demands excellence in cinematography and action sequences. This film qualifies both. I am amazed by the dramatizing of physical torture the film has depicted. And those tortured characters performed with really great intensity.

Costume and production design are far excellent too especially the latter. The production setting plays a significant role in presenting an accurate sketch of a shot the makers are willing to film especially in such cases and due to high standards, Thar looks very impressive.

The performances are average. Not that the actors didn’t perform well but the actors do not contribute much to the performances when the action is more in command. In many portions of the film, all you will watch is beating, killing, and car-chasing, so there is not much room to have plentiful scenes in the film where the actors have their time to dramatize their characters. And this is not their fault, the film is like that.

But I want this Harshvardhan Kapoor to pick films more often. In six years, this is only his fifth film. Of which one was a cameo and one was an anthological part of the whole film.  He is someone who picks the rhythm of the character too quickly and settles himself well. And he is a better talent than many new faces who belongs to a strong film fraternity.

There are a lot of films to be released as Bollywood is nearing towards halfway mark. But I sense that by the end of the year, Thar is going to be one of the best films of this year. If this film doesn’t get its deserving praise from the critics and the audience, not sure what filmgoers are really willing to get impressed with.

RATINGS: 8.6/10

Film Review: Jalsa (2022)

Jalsa is a hit-and-run thriller revolving around two women from different backgrounds. Maya Menon (Vidya Balan) is an influential television journalist and Rukhsana Mohammad (Shefali Shah) is the servant at Maya’s residence who looks after their cooking and her son with cerebral palsy. One night while returning from her work she gets heavily sleepy and unfortunately hits a girl who luckily survives but is in critical condition. But Maya in a panic doesn’t help her out but runs away. The next day, the news is broken to her that the girl is Rukhsana’s daughter.

First of all, what a magnificent story! And then a superb script that, at a low pace, builds the consequences on nerves and depicts the reality from both sides. If regret has a face, just look at Maya throughout the film after the accident. The definition of misery is flawlessly installed in Rukhsana.

Jalsa’s aim was to show us how both parties are affected by the accident. And it is so complicated on Maya’s part as she would have never imagined that in the entire city of around twenty million people, it had to be Rukhsana’s daughter.

The film gives enough space to both Maya and Rukhsana to boil themselves with regret and fury respectively. Rukhsana demands an answer to who hit her daughter whereas Maya tries to settle herself but the norms keep compromising due to Rukhsana’s existence. 

Maya is already troubled with her personal life due to her divorce and then her only child with challenges. And then her nature of work going live to her millions of television viewers was also heavy. So this is one solid reason for her questioning herself to either help the victim or run away. 

Director Suresh Triveni previously worked with Vidya Balan in Tumhari Sulu. But the directions of both films are quite different. Tumhari Sulu was quite an entertainer but Jalsa is very dark and gritty. This shows that Suresh Triveni is flexible with scripts. But one common thread is improvising Vidya’s character. Vidya in Jalsa is incredible. A tone she has set for Maya after the accident doesn’t evaluate if her performance is for reel or real. Many of her scenes break you like when she screams in the parking lot, throwing her anger at her son, when her car is stuck in the rally, during her argument with her mother, or when she accuses Rukhsana of laziness and demands not to show up again. This is easily her best performance since Tumhari Sulu.

When the film developed from the accident, I was very sure that Shefali as a heartbroken poor mother will nail this role.  She had comparatively less challenging scenes than Vidya but whatever she got in her part, she did exceptionally. See her superb desperation when she beats a guy in the shop.

Yes, Jalsa has plotholes and some are beyond logic. When Vidya screamed in the parking lot, how come no one listened to her? If the security guard slept in the CCTV room, how come he didn’t check the recording later? Unarguably the most senseless scene was Maya’s mother letting Rukhsana take her son to the beach. How did she allow that? Knowing that Maya is always furious about not letting her know first, how come she allowed without checking Maya? 

And just another Bollywood film where the director failed to conclude the film where it should have. That final scene was totally rubbish and made no sense at all. It could have been so better if the film would have ended with Maya’s car stuck because of the political rally and Rukhsana on the other hand assumingly taking her revenge. You needed no more justification after that. 

I didn’t get why the film was titled Jalsa. Why not Sadak? It would have made more sense with the latter as the same sadak had constable More been bribed, Maya’s car hitting the girl and then her car stuck on the same road in the rally when her son was in danger.

Jalsa is remarkable storytelling with two powerful performances.

RATINGS: 8.3/10

TV Review: Seinfeld


“I’m A Great Quitter. It’s One Of The Few Things I Do Well.” – George Costanza


PREFACE

Sometimes, I begin to write a review and ask myself, how will I ever type the words I want to express my feelings about a television show or a film that I just watched and loved a lot. It becomes a mental challenge for me to find and complete words because there is a range of writing that is assigned for certain things.

I had watched a few episodes of Seinfeld in the past but never happened to complete them. Thanks to Netflix which gave me the chance to stream the episodes. And now I ask again, what am I going to write to justify my fondness for the show. I will try and hope Seinfeld lovers will accept this.


“The Sea Was Angry That Day My Friends.” – George Costanza


NEW YORK

Picture this, the late 1980s. New York, the city of immigrants. People land here and imagine the American dream, they bring their ambitions with them. The smokey streets of New York make the sound day and night. People of humor struggle their life to write something that makes the audience laugh. New York is the heritage of cultures and trends, call it mafia, call it fashion, call it comics, call it music, call it a comedy. Call it anything, New York is a dream most of us wish for. If I speak of comedy, so many comedy clubs came into existence fifty years ago. Comic Strip Live is arguably the most prominent of all comedy showcases where many great comedians performed and made their name. Jerry Seinfeld was one of them.

So picture this New York story. Jerry fictionalizes his own life story with his friend, writing partner, and the show’s co. creator Larry David trying to break into showbiz by convincing NBC executives to give them a shot. A middle-class fellow living in an apartment has a neighbor and ex-girlfriend to circulate his life around. With only four central characters, they have a lot to talk about. A very limited content for story continuity, the city’s four bachelors roam around, complain, whine, shout, argue, and fail. They are some bunch of losers who are meeting no progress in life. But the show goes on like that because Seinfeld is the show about nothing.

The idea of this sitcom was not bought by anyone in the NBC office. They had to wait one year to expect a kick-off to get a season that happened by chance. The order of the first season was of mere five episodes and that is considered to be the smallest sitcom order in television history. The first season didn’t run in favorable numbers but attracted a young male audience. So the producers gave a green signal to continue and the rest is history.


“Serenity Now!” – Frank Costanza


WRITING

SEINFELD — “The Pilot: Part 1 & 2” Episode 23&24 — Pictured: (l-r) Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld as Himself (Photo by Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

There are a lot of things about the show that was admired and praised. For me, the biggest talking point about Seinfeld was the writing, it was phenomenal, and it was compulsive. The humor had the quality of making the simplest jokes lively and funny. Seinfeld had nothing much to do with the story but the writing was so sharp that Larry and Jerry developed tons of ideas out of nowhere to start at the restaurant’s table as conversational humor and play it rightly for the next twenty-three minutes. Just, for example, a comedy about a pen, shoes, a red dot, a marine biologist, etc. The writers had an entire episode in a parking garage about a missing car. All this shows, how talented were the writers.

I still want to emphasize the show’s writing by speaking about the importance of a story. There were many unforgettable sitcoms before Seinfeld and those shows were heavily constructed on the humor as well as the plotline. And this is where Seinfeld distinguishes itself from the others, it didn’t have a story at all. And if there was, it was ordinary. Four strugglers hanging around a restaurant talking about their minutiae of lives and coming up with the episode’s topic of the day. So it is between the lines spoken by these friends that brings a lot of responsibility to the heads of the writing staff mostly led by Larry. In one of the documentaries I watched on YouTube called ‘The Making of Seinfeld‘, the writing staff confirmed that Larry was the one who orchestrated the show’s quality of writing. He was the one to approve and finalize every single line of humor to be used in each episode. Picking every line for scrutiny is why Seinfeld, to this day, is fresh and full of life.


“No soup for you!” – Soup Nazi


CHARACTERS

In my opinion, two factors are heavily involved to make a sitcom successful. One is writing and the other is picking the most suitable actors to fit in that writing. Yes, the latter condition is applicable in all genres of television shows and films. But here, I am stressing about the role of producers and the casting directors auditioning and deciding the right actor to fit in a role to captivate the audience by being funny. Because making people laugh is one of the most difficult arts in showbiz. Seinfeld, in both the factors, was collectively blessed with. As Jerry played his own role, the show found three of the most perfect choices who fitted in the shoes of Elaine Benes, George Costanza, and Cosmo KramerJulia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards.

Julia brought a lot of strength in her character that struggles to find work, meets plenty of boyfriends, and is stuck in bizarre situations. Jason Alexander as George gave his character physically the sorriest look of being a loser and a pervert who always fails, gets jealous, overthinks relations, and shouts and throws his anger. Speaking of the character’s superiority in being unlucky, I’ll be jocular to find Jason himself and inform the readers of his being the unluckiest actor to be nominated for a record seven times without winning ‘Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series‘ for the role.

Michael Richards was around 40 years old and the oldest of the four when he got the role of Kramer. This role will go into the history books of the American comedy shows when an audience of all ages and times will remember him as Kramer to be one of the most beloved characters. A physical comedian of that age and lanky height with the agility of a young man and rib-tickling slapsticks is a blessing for the audience and a luxury to the show. If the audience ever found any of the Seinfeld episodes boring and all the characters underperforming, they knew they can rely on Kramer to torch laughter in all his silliness. He was cordially acceptable even if there was a chance of his being offensive. He was the most beloved character of the show who many times saved the episode from falling flat.

With central characters came the recurring and minor characters who never looked to be just an extra effort of filling the space in the episode. Those were also well-written. Like Jerry Stiller as George’s hot-tempered war veteran Frank Costanza, John O’Hurley as Elaine’s boss Mr. Peterman with a peculiar speaking style of a radio jokey of the golden era, or Wayne Knight as Kramer’s overdramatic best friend Newman who loathes Jerry. Even in extremely short appearances, the show made us laugh watching the characters of African-American lawyer Jackie Chiles and a Pakistani restaurant owner Babu Bhatt. Although, the character of George Steinbrenner as George’s boss was never depicted from the front but his scenes were always shot from the back. I find it hilarious but the character became a question to me when his face was still not discovered in the finale. So what was the point of keeping his face away from the audience then?


“A Festivus for the rest of us” – Frank Costanza


SCENES

I am not sure how often this happened before the show’s creation but it was innovative to start and finish almost every episode of the first seven seasons with Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy routines with his thoughtful and chucklesome observational jokes. That was also because Jerry played his own role so it made sense. However, the routine scenes were not mostly related to the episodes. It just tried to give importance to the character’s job. But in some episodes, Larry and Jerry wisely connected the routine scenes by depicting the life of a stand-up comedian who quests for moments that make him develop humor to use on the stage.

The finale of the fourth season “The Pilot” showed Jerry being recognized by one of the producers at the NBC that he cannot act because of his being a stand-up comedian. This covered the accuracy of the sitcom’s ugliest fact that Jerry Seinfeld really wasn’t a good actor at all. His writing and jokes protected his legacy and the other three characters also made his performance vulnerable.

As I talked about Elaine’s character above, on a few occasions, I felt Elaine’s character weight over her personal and economic life was given a sharp contrast as she was a lonely character like Kramer and the only female character in central. The backgrounds of Elaine and Kramer were not that much brought to attention as compared to Jerry and George who had their parents in the supporting roles and a lot of minutes and dozens of episodes were invested in them. If I am not wrong, the backgrounds of Kramer and Elaine were rarely touched. Once Kramer’s mother appeared in “The Switch” where we came to know that his first name was Cosmo. Elaine’s father appeared once in “The Jacket”.

So my point is that Elaine’s lone female character in the men’s world was challenging and several times gave attention to detailing woman’s struggles in personal and economic life. Like in ‘The Subway’ episode when she feels insecure stuck on the train and overthinks that someone will harass her. Or once in a restaurant, she is outraged witnessing all the hired big-breast waitresses that happened in the finale of the fourth season “The Pilot”. She was once in relation with a psycho in “The Opera” who attempted to be threatening to her and she pepper-sprayed him and ran away. In “The Pick“, she felt massively insecure when her nipple shows up on a Christmas card without her notice. There was certain awkwardness in her personality that made Jerry and George insecure. It was funny that they had no courage to admit to Elaine that they felt uncomfortable as she looked weird while dancing at the party as Elaine danced in “The Little Kicks”, only once in the entire show.

Babu Bhatt’s character of a Pakistani immigrant trying to do his restaurant business was quite a representation of those many thousands of South Asian low-scale/mid-scale workers who try to somehow settle outside their countries, especially in American and European regions but their visa/immigration situation becomes a problem. So comic story aside, I think it was interesting that the writers highlighted this issue.

From the seventh season, there was continuity in the comical incidents. The humor from the previous episodes of this season was mentioned in the coming episodes like the barking dog that disturbed Elaine and the pact between Jerry and George of changing their lives in “The Engagement” were mentioned later in that season. Maybe Larry and Jerry tried some new ideas for this season as this was the former’s final season as a producer and the writing head.


“Yada, Yada, Yada” – Elaine Benes


SEIN-VERSE?

There is room for a lot of ideas after we observe plenty of comebacks and returns from the original works in the shape of prequels, sequels, and spin-offs that become memorable on television and film formats. I don’t believe in the continuity of Seinfeld as it is a sin to even consider a one-season stretch for the sake of the audience missing it and regretting the consequences. Larry and Jerry have built their legacies around this show, with Jason, Michael, and Julia also.

But after watching this series and seeing the developments the other memorable programs are meeting ahead on different networks, I think of a few ideas that can get commissioned for max one limited series.

I think of a limited project about Kramer’s background story before he met Seinfeld. I think of Newman’s character post-Seinfeld. Or reflecting on Frank Costanza’s military life about his embarrassing series of mishaps and later as a traveling businessman. How about a funny courtroom drama about Jackie Chiles, no matter if pre- or post-Seinfeld. Seinfeld chronicles have a lot of potential to spare a thought and create a universe.


“Boy, these pretzels are makin’ me thirsty.” – Cosmo Kramer


GREATEST?

SEINFELD, from left: Barney Martin and Liz Sheridan addressing studio audience, 1990-98. photo: ©Castle Rock Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

This has been a decades-long debate if Seinfeld is the greatest television show of all time or at least in the United States. If I check Seinfeld’s rank amongst the greatest in the most popular magazines or the media companies of the United States, it will prove that the show has been almost every critic’s staunch favorite and has been stamped with great honors and regard.

One of the strongest American foundations for the writers, the Writers Guild of America, considers the show the second best-written television series after The Sopranos. Both Rolling Stones and Entertainer Weekly have ranked the show third amongst the all-time greatest.

Seinfeld tops on TV Guide and the most interesting part about this is that Seinfeld is NBC’s property and TV Guide is owned by CBS. This top 50 list was created by the TV Guide editors. They had 16 CBS shows on this list but crowned Seinfeld.

I have a lot to catch to understand if Seinfeld really is the greatest sitcom of all time if not overall genres. I have watched plenty of sitcoms from the 1990s and so far I believe, Seinfeld has to be the greatest sitcom of that decade. But I will not declare this because I am yet to watch Frasier.


“How long it takes to find a bra? What’s going on in there? You ask me to get a pair of underwear, I’m back in two seconds…you know about the cup sizes and all? They have different cups.” – Frank Costanza


CLOSING REMARKS

NBC
Seinfeld
(l-r) Jerry Stiller, Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander

Seinfeld is typically an authentic New Yorker sitcom that gives an honest portrayal and feel of the city. In my sitcom-watching experience, the only other sitcom that had attractive New York aesthetics before I watched Seinfeld was Taxi. Seinfeld is one of the most deadly combinations of comic writing and comic acting. This is one of those classic sitcoms that proves that you don’t need to use curse words or talk about sex in all your comic lines to captivate the interest of the audience to maintain ratings. Apart from the first season which was quite average, I think the third, fourth, eighth, and ninth seasons were the show’s peak.

Seinfeld’s finale was watched by over 76 million U.S. television viewers which put them third in the list of most-watched series finales in the U.S. behind M*A*S*H and Cheers. The respect that this show earned was so vast that when this episode was aired, TV Land decided not to run any program at that time and rather showed a closed office door with some handwritten notes that said “We’re TV Fans so… we’re watching the last episode of Seinfeld. Will return at 10pm et, 7pm pt.” Such incidents hardly surface.

When the show was closest to farewell, the second last episode ‘The Chronicle’ recapped most of the memorable scenes that happened throughout the show with impressive editing and played Green Day‘s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) in the background. The feeling was strong, my emotions were hurt, my heart was breaking, and I was in denial that the time is up and Seinfeld is wrapping up. I may watch it again but that impression of watching and completing the show in its entirety the first time is something else. That will never happen. If this is how I felt while watching this on Netflix, I wonder how the world reacted when the show was concluded in 1998.

When you immensely love a tv show, its characters, its continuity, you imagine that the show will never end. Seinfeld is one of those television shows that sentenced me to eternal grief that its life, that I thoroughly enjoyed and lived with, was finally expired.

SEINFELD — “The Finale: Part 1&2” Episode 23 & 24 — Pictured: (l-r) Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer, Jerry Seinfeld as Jerry Seinfeld — Photo by: Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

“George, we’ve had it with you. Understand? We love you like a son, but even parents have limits.” – Frank Costanza


FAVORITE SEINFELD EPISODES

S01 E01 – The Seinfeld Chronicles
S01 E04 – Male Unbonding
S02 E02 – The Pony Remark
S02 E03 – The Jacket
S02 E08 – The Heart Attack
S03 E01 – The Note
S03 E03 – The Pen
S03 E05 – The Library
S03 E06 – The Parking Garage
S03 E07 – The Cafe
S03 E12 – The Red Dot
S03 E13 – The Subway
S03 E14 – The Pez Dispenser
S04 E09 – The Opera
S04 E11 – The Contest
S04 E14 – The Movie
S04 E16 – The Shoes
S04 E17 – The Outing
S04 E23 – The Pilot (1)
S04 E24 – The Pilot (2)
S05 E03 – The Glasses
S05 E06 – The Lip Reader
S05 E10 – The Cigar Store Indian
S05 E11 – The Conversion
S05 E12 – The Stall
S05 E14 – The Marine Biologist
S06 E08 – The Mom & Pop Store
S06 E09 – The Secretary
S06 E13 – The Scofflaw
S06 E16 – The Beard
S06 E18 – The Doorman
S06 E21 – The Fusilli Jerry
S06 E22 – The Diplomat’s Club
S06 E23 – The Face Painter
S06 E24 – The Understudy
S07 E05 – The Hot Tub
S07 E06 – The Soup Nazi
S07 E12 – The Caddy
S07 E16 – The Shower Head
S08 E01 – The Foundation
S08 E03 – The Bizarro Jerry
S08 E04 – The Little Kicks
S08 E05 – The Package
S08 E06 – The Fatigues
S08 E09 – The Abstinence
S08 E10 – The Andrea Doria
S08 E11 – The Little Jerry
S08 E12 – The Money
S08 E13 – The Comeback
S08 E17 – The English Patient
S08 E19 – The Yada Yada
S08 E21 – The Muffin Tops
S09 E03 – The Serenity Now
S09 E06 – The Merv Griffin Show
S09 E08 – The Betrayal
S09 E10 – The Strike
S09 E11 – The Dealership
S09 E12 – The Reverse Peephole
S09 E17 – The Bookstore
S09 E18 – The Frogger
S09 E20 – The Puerto Rican Day
S09 E23 – The Finale (1)
S09 E24 – The Finale (2)


“It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous.” – Jackie Chiles


Film Review: Sharmaji Namkeen (2022)

Brij Gopal Sharma (Rishi Kapoor and Paresh Rawal) has been retired from the company at the age of 58. Now, Sharma struggles to adjust to his second inning but faces difficulties. Through the help of his friend, he gets into temporary assignments of cooking for kitty parties. As time moves on, his eldest son begins to feel more insecure than ever due to some life crisis.

Sharmaji Namkeen is a posthumous release of Rishi Kapoor’s final film who died back in 2019. He couldn’t complete half of the film due to his battle with cancer. Therefore, Paresh Rawal was offered the role to complete the remaining portions of Rishi’s role. It is widely regarded as the first instance in the Indian film industry or maybe anywhere to complete a film with two different actors playing the same role without sharing the screen.

Usually, the films get shelved or re-shot but Sharmaji Namkeen continued with the other actor to fill Rishi’s shoes. It was quite an innovative approach to complete a film with expectations from the audience to accept this two-in-one idea. And it worked pretty well. The film never looked to exaggerate this idea at all.

This two-in-one approach will give an idea to the audience about film editing and how the makers and the crew shoot and complete films by working on different scenes in an unarranged order. Many of the viewers are not aware of the fact that the shooting of the film begins not in the exact order as depicted in the film’s theatrical cut but whatever scene fits in the schedule with all the contributors available. So this film will give you a precise look at what scenes Rishi got to shoot first and what scenes did he miss for Paresh to complete.

Both the performances were equally excellent. For a much broader scope of filmmaking, I felt if this film can be reimagined with what if Rishi Kapoor had played those Paresh scenes and vice versa. I also reimagined if Sharma thinks of himself settling into twin personalities and living life. Not a bad idea at all.

I think the film made a promising start and raised a very critical old-age issue of an elder who loses his/her job or gets retired and tries to fit in a new life where he/she is more at home or meeting people in the social circle more often. At this age, it becomes a lot harder to adopt a hobby or try to enjoy life as Sharma’s sons suggest.

And I liked how Sharma’s character had so much of a real feel. He was keeping a mini booklet to check the dates and things to do. His clumsy behavior, discomforts, and social criticism were on the point. There is a forty-second scene calling Susheel that had nothing to do with the story but the scene depicted to the audience the difference in the mode of conversation and concerns in the old-age people as compared to the younger ones which are completely different.

There are a few moments in the film that demanded pressing but didn’t occur. I waited for the humiliation to cause its fury on father and sons when his dancing video is shown at home. Silence looked pretty unnatural. I was expecting his eldest son to shatter his father’s shambling embarrassment in front of the others. In the next scene, the father and son did have an argument and Rishi gave such a brilliant act of an embarrassed father making failed attempts to convince his son about his new line of work. But that conversation also didn’t get a solid sequence. When Sharma comes to know that he is leaving, the son abruptly leaves and the scene ends. I was expecting Rishi’s typical angry avatar to rise on his son who kept this news from his father.

With time, the film began to lose the thickness of the plot and apply lame jokes to slip the story’s intensity towards a weaker conclusion. And that happened in the last half-an-hour when Sharma’s son is in trouble and all the ladies shoulder Sharma breaking into the police station shouting and losing all their canyons of richship over his son’s atrocity. Despite the fact that the son was wrong in all sorts, the film shows him in defense, and a mayor steps into the station and clears the case just like that. The film ended so awkwardly.

In the past couple of days, I have observed that in recent Hindi films that I have watched, the story held promise but the screenwriting shattered the essence of the film. The scriptwriter must always know how to conclude a story.

It was so good to see Juhi Chawla paired with Chintuji one last time as they have appeared together a lot of times in the 1990s. Sharmaji Namkeen is a one-timer but also our last chance to see him perform once again.

RATINGS: 6.5/10

(I would like to end my review with a brief note of thanks to Chintuji for his contribution to the cinema. Perhaps, he was the only leading male actor from the mid-1970s, besides Amitabh Bachchan, who was playing major roles frequently. He really began to perform when he was no more joking, flirting, and dancing with young girls as their lover boy. Thank Lord! Chintu’s that hero phase somehow met an end and we watched a lot of great character-driven performances from him).

Film Review: Cobalt Blue (2022)

Tanay (Dr. Neelay Mehendale) belongs to a traditional Marathi family and is a story narrator, commentator, and an exciting author who meets a family tragedy when the elders pass away. That leads to emptying the room of the deceased and is decided that they will add a paying guest into their house.

When a handsome paying guest joins the family, Tanay develops an interest in him and starts a secret passionate affair until an unwelcoming event hits the family further.

Cobalt Blue is based on a Marathi novel with the same title that Sachin Kundalkar wrote back in 2003. Decades later, Sachin writes and directs this film. So the creative control of the film is in Sachin’s hands. So that means it is totally okay if he takes liberty from his own novel to use it in the film with as many alterations as he wishes to.

Cobalt Blue heavily reminds me of Call Me By Your Name but it is quite a surprise that none of these copied each other because both were based on different novels. Call Me By Your Name was published four years after Sachin published Cobalt Blue.

Cobalt Blue is visually striking and very artistic. And when the filmmaking of such films gives cinematography its deserve piece of respect, the detailing of relation starts to look more compelling. This is a coming-of-age film that defines the first strike of love spell with authenticity. The film’s major win is the chemistry, two souls melting with eroticism and finding opportunities to quench their thirst. The depiction of rawness in the love affair is terrific. 

Sachin Kundalkar has made sure that quality literature plays an important role as Tanay is fittingly a dreamer who is excited about sharing beautiful moments with the paying guest.

When I watched Cobalt Blue, I felt as if I am reading Arundhati Roy‘s The God Of Small Things. So if you are also getting the same vibes, that means Cobalt Blue has an excellent narrative design.

Cobalt Blue tests patience because, with a screen time of around 115 minutes, this film looks quite lengthy. And is visibly slow. Prateik Babbar was average but Dr. Mehendale gave a terrific performance.

If you are willing to watch a coming-of-age film that has quality writing about sexuality, I’ll suggest checking this film on Netflix.

RATINGS: 7.5/10

Film Review: Badhaai Do (2022)

Police officer Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and physical education teacher Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar) are homosexuals. They are fed up with their families who pressurize them to marry someone. Shardul and Sumi happen to meet somehow and after knowing their sexual orientation, they decide to marry to silence their concerns. But the matters get worse and they keep hiding from their families.

Badhaai Do is considered a ghost sequel to Badhaai Ho so a sexual issue is addressed to ‘perhaps’ continue the series and commercialize the awareness. Two factors play important role in such an impressive story. One, South Asian families are too demanding to their young ones and strictly make their life decisions and believe they are right and the young ones are opposite. Why their wishes and ambitions are never asked? Why their future is decided by the elders? Only they can explain this but this matter is wonderfully exaggerated in Badhaai Do. Two, the existence of homosexuality is almost impossible to express for the LGBTQ community, and unfortunately have to lie all their lives to avoid any social havoc. Because of their being homos, the balance of life hangs around whether the family and society will accept them or not. And this also is brilliantly picturized in the film.

If these two central characters are played by Rajkummar and Bhumi, more than half of the film is guaranteed either commercial success or acceptance by the general public. These actors along with Ayushmann Khurrana have successfully addressed social issues existing in India that need the audience’s attention.

Badhaai Do is quite a lengthy film for the subject. Because the story didn’t have enough detailing to make it to 147 minutes. Around half an hour is spent on the songs out of nowhere. Besides the tracks, a lot of the film’s screenplay is written about Shardul and Sumi struggling to escape from the whys and hows of their marriage.

The film got serious after over a hundred minutes and addressed the issue. And at this point, I detected that the screentime would have easily been reduced. There were many instances where they would have been exposed.

In the last few years, the makers have raised a lot of social issues. They even start on a promising note but the plot is lost in the middle and ends either abruptly with no technical conclusion or is very predictable. And that is the same problem with this film. The hatred of family about homosexuality turns into accepting their choices so abnormally. Absolutely no consequences on the homos from the elders. Maybe the elders are aware that the film is finishing so let us just drop our egos and embrace them.  

The director had his best chance to finish the film at the LGBTQ rally on the highway with Shardul wearing that mask and smiling at his friends. Anyway, the performances are first-rate. Both Rajkummar and Bhumi were excellent. Seema Pahwa and Sheeba Chaddha are superb but I am afraid they are getting typecasted, especially Seema Pahwa. Most of the time she shows up in the film, Seema will be stuck in similar roles.

Badhaai Do deserves praise for raising such a sensitive issue.

RATINGS: 7/10

Film Review: Dasvi (2022)

Ganga Ram Chaudhary (Abhishek Bachchan) is an uneducated politician and Chief Minister of his state who is imprisoned for a scam. His arrogancy leads to weakening his rank in his party especially after he appoints his wife Bimla Devi acting CM. During his time in prison, he pretends to earn his right to complete his education as an excuse to avoid labor work. But after reading a few history pages, he develops an interest. With time, he realizes that completing education is the key to succeeding in elections by building optimism through individual development.

Dasvi is like Sardar Ka Grandson, a thoughtful and impressive story but weak execution. But the difference is that the former had better comic timing and applied sensitivity in humor quite well in the middle whereas the latter had no decency to push for an emotional tale by applying extremely forced humor.

Secondly, Dasvi also looks to reimagine the Munnabhai duology but calling it copied from the latter will be incorrect because the director tried to separate the elements of the Munnabhai series in Dasvi. There is a glimpse of matching the plotline but both films run in different parallels.

Yes, Dasvi is an exaggerated comedy but the film can be qualified as a political satire. Abhishek Bachchan, who I believe has begun his second inning from Manmarziyaan and has been selective in picking films and roles, has found the momentum in Dasvi where the audience will accept him and give him another chance. He has always been a good actor but his past choices and being compared to his father ridiculed his career. But this is the first time I feel that like many actors in the past few years, Abhishek is building a repo and may come out of being underrated for more than a decade.

Although, Abhishek’s performance in Dasvi wasn’t really as impressive as he has performed like this in the past. But if someone has watched him in a lot of films, will observe that in the past films he didn’t have the confidence to act nor did most of the directors try to dig his hidden artistry. But now, he is a learned actor making rounds.

But more than Abhishek, Nimrat Kaur is the winner here. Her character development was impressive. Her transition from a clueless and illiterate housewife becoming an interim CM to a refined one was splendid. Also, I must mention Yami Gautam‘s supporting role. Looks like she is getting serious about playing character roles.

Dasvi deserved a better script to do justice to the story.

RATINGS: 4/10

Film Review: Gehraiyaan (2022)

Alisha Khanna’s (Deepika Padukone) personal life has been through a lot of torments due to her parents’ marital failure which led to her personal battles with anxiety and depression. She is a yoga instructor and struggling in a live-in relationship with Karan (Dhairya Karwa) who is a writer but not yet employed. Her cousin Tia (Ananya Panday) is engaged with businessman Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and invites Alisha and Karan to their beach house. And there, Alisha finds Zain in similitude through understanding and trauma of their disturbing past. In a couple of meetings, they sense unusual and a secret love affair begins.

Okay, we all have our opinions about this film but let me admit this, Gehraiyaan has an ordinary story, a typical soap drama where relations keep changing. But Gehraiyaan has more things to offer than the story itself. Gehraiyaan has technical brilliance in direction, background score, cinematography, dialogues, editing, and credible performances. The story is ordinary but the screenplay gives a lot of depth to relations and human behavior complexity which is the biggest plus of the film.

For once, we have to keep our opinions aside if the story is toxic or vulgar, put yourself in Alisha or Zain’s shoes and feel the air. That guilty vibe releases a lot of negative energy but also makes people suffer from heavy consequences, and this film perfected both situations. A lot of factors are involved in making this rectangle complicated. Alisha and Tia are cousins, Tia’s money is involved in Zain’s business, Alisha’s yoga app has Zain’s investment, and Alisha-Zain’s chemistry occurs at the wrongest possible time. And Karan is someone who is mostly not in the picture because he is usually occupied with writing and looking for a publisher to invest in him. Alisha is the provider but basically, they both are strugglers. When all this is happening in the rectangle, it becomes highly unlikely to lose one of the ropes. So I feel Gehraiyaan gave us a look at the relationship and the cost of digging a forbidden well.

Shakun Batra surely has some particular sentiments that help him describe toxicities and omens of relations so well. He did that brilliantly in Kapoor & Sons and now this. The realism of Gehraiyaan’s tense emotional hiccups hinges on the capricious tone of uninvited events that keeps knocking on the broken doors. There are loose ends in the middle of the film but emotional fluctuations have excellent depictions. Alisha’s poignant individuality and scattered melancholy is a remarkable observation. I like how she connects small things with her past and explains perfectly how a shattered tragic past keeps haunting and agonizing a human.

The continuity of such a screenplay is blessed with a very unfeigned and heartfelt background score, very indie and blue. When it comes to performances, Deepika and Siddhant have stolen the show. Their body language and facial fluctuations are superb. Observe Siddhant when Jitesh shouts at Zain to separate his love life from business, and you see how he mentally breaks in replying. Siddhant seems to be a promising actor to me now; this performance and the one in Gully Boy are quite different and settled himself into his characters which is one of the few critical things the actor must learn. Deepika’s breakdowns are just phenomenal. Her Alisha’s anger toward her father, her verbal heated exchange with Karan when he doesn’t inform her of his leaving, her tense buildup in Zain’s office when the studio gets closed, her emotional breakdown in Jitesh’s car, her heated imbroglio with Zain outside the building, and her fight with Zain in the cruise, and maybe the scenes of Alisha goes on and on to describe what a sensational performance Deepika has exhibited.

This is the first time I watched a film featuring Ananya. Not good but also not a bad actress at all. There are glimpses of establishing her name but will take time. But she has her moments where she played her role well, most prominently in her scenes with Zain; like the one where she doubts who the contractor contact is. Observe her facial expressions when she immediately places Zain’s phone back. Naseeruddin Shah and Rajat Kapoor gave strong supporting roles, especially Rajat.

Gehraiyaan met its low in the last half an hour. From the cruise to the shocking development from the will of Tia’s father, I detected that the film could have concluded somewhere better than what it showed. But I also sense that ending on a simpler note of breakup after Tia gets to know would have killed the story because we all knew that this is the most understood theory and no one would be happy. But I am impressed with the final scene. It was a smart technical finish where the audience can build a lot of theories.

I noticed a severe backlash about the film, the unacceptance of the audience, and their being dismissive of the relationship. I think India is still not ready for a film like Gehraiyaan. Perhaps, the audience will understand this film in a few years.

Gehraiyaan is for those who have been through an emotionally disturbing past and are stuck in relations that certainly had a present but no future at all. Gehraiyaan has a genuine score of wants, goals, and desires. The film does not exaggerate the chemistry but gives realism to how the not-so-promising love affair ignites the emotion code.

RATINGS: 8.2/10

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