Film Review: Milestone (2021)

Milestone is about the fallout of a night-shift truck driver Ghalib who has recently lost his wife, has to compensate to his in-laws, has a terrible backache, has to train a new intern, has to shoulder his friend who has lost his job, and (I am not done) is in danger of losing his own job. So basically, Milestone is a 90-minute art movie about the mental and physical struggle of a broken man who is lost in the wake of tragedy.

When I watched this film on Netflix, it reminded me of the peak era of Bollywood’s parallel cinema of the 1970s and 80s when the directors like Shyam Benegal, Mahesh Bhatt, Mrinal Sen, Goutam Ghose, Govind Nihalani, and many more were producing the best of art films. Or maybe this is some homage or tribute to their works.

It is a slow-burner and may not buy the mainstream audience or perhaps even the sensible viewers. But for those who are keen to watch some really good artwork, Milestone is that product to ask your 90 minutes.

There is no music, no songs, no entertainment, simple and on several occasions very thought dialogues. Direction and cinematography are unusual. The film clearly shows that the filmmakers were serious to present quality work.

Yes, I won’t miss my usual and favorite part of the review at all, writing/screenwriting. See the story is frankly about a few days of man after the tragedy. The real piece of work is in screenwriting. Some impressive detailing and camera shots made this film sublime. The director stretched pretty much time on a few scenes that may demand attention. For example, there is a scene in the truck when the intern asks Ghalib why he left and he responds if he knows who Saddam Hussein was. The intern is blank and Ghalib stares at him. So the director exhausts the scene on the audience to understand the depth of agony and political tense when millions of Indians were stuck in the Gulf war and left in the early 90s.

Milestone has been screened in some international films festivals and has made some distinctions. This film is highly recommended to that sensible audience who are eager to watch some quality film in a 90-minute slow-burn. For me, this pretty much is one of the best films of the year.

Ratings: 8.6/10

Film Review: Dhamaka (2021)

TV news anchor Arjun Pathak gets his biggest break when he interviews a terrorist who has just tried to blow a bridge alarming the national security sensing a high-level terror attack. With time, catching the terrorist becomes complicated due to his demands and Pathak struggles to find the solution to end this madness.
Dhamaka is the official remake of the South Korean film, The Terror Live. Directed by Ram Madhvani who made Neerja. There is no doubt that just like Neerja, Dhamaka is another top-class nerve-building intensity and the first half is the clear proof. The film lifts up the attention in a few minutes at the start and successfully attracts the audience and builds curiosity.
Dhamaka offers a few scenes that have been shot with careful direction like the entire build-up of Arjun struggling to recover after he vomited. Or another scene of giving a hope of possible reunion that ends up with a tragedy when the bridge collapses.
Technical excellence? Impressive sound design throughout the film and compelling screenplay and direction in the first half. Amruta Subhash had an impressive supporting role and Mrunal Thakur is one of the new talents who are serious about the profession and trying to make the name. This has to be Karthik Aaryan‘s best performance to date and maybe one of the best leading performances of the year. His expressional timing and behavioral attitude were sharp and handled with delicacy.
But handling the continuity of such a potential plot towards the last phase lowed the anticipation. A well-settled first 40 minutes into the film held a lot of promises but numerous plotholes raised the eyebrows.

SPOILERS ALERT!!!

One major problem is the dramatization of a typical newsroom trying to break a news on air. The seriousness and hullabaloo of the room get an odd feeling about the authenticity over covering a national outcry of terrorism. If the terrorist is so prepared to blow the proportions of the building, how come he believes in a theory that a minister can come to the show to apologize when he could have asked for forgiveness from any platform. If he was eventually hiding in the building, how come the anti-corruption unit did not spot out and took so long to trace out? The film shows that the call on the phone was coming from the IT room. How come no one noticed that?
When Arjun depicted that his earphone had the bomb, the police began to solve the mystery of who would fix that in his ear. I don’t understand how come no one in the newsroom identified the possibility. This is their daily routine and they all know each other who is assigned what work. What politician doesn’t cooperate with such sensitive issues on air and put the lives of many at-risk after suggesting that he must not enrage him? A journalist died in the bridge collapse and there were no injuries when the body was found. Really?
Yes, the film successfully shows the reality behind the news media politics and all the black efforts that are made to dramatize/sensationalize the events. But Dhamaka will be remembered for Karthik’s performance who looked like the captain of the sinking ship. If the efforts were made in dramatizing more compelling writing on the situational tense and newsroom drama, this may have been one of the best films of the year.
Ratings: 6.5/10

Film Review: Bombay Rose (2021)

Bombay Rose is an animated film about flower sellers Kamala and Salim who falls in love but are reluctant due to some restraints.

This 90-minute drama is an exuberant work of art because it took 60 artists to produce frame-by-frame painted animation on the computer for more than a year. The credit should be given where it is due, Bombay Rose is kaleidoscopic and vibrant.

And then the film was not just about Kamala and Salim’s romanticism. Director Gitanjali Rao scented this artistic work with some impressive detailing in the screenwriting. For example, the character of Ms. Desouza was life. A yesteryear actress of the 1950s, her melancholic loneliness, visiting graveyard, and the scene where she walks with Kamala’s sister Tara and the epoch changes.

A few may observe that the director pressed the importance of cats in the film. It is not like it just showed up in one scene but a few screen minutes were given to keeping and caring for pets. Two characters kept cats, one was Ms. Desouza and the other was Tipu. Desouza was old and lonely while Tipu was mute and deaf. Figurative and thoughtful.

The film also highlighted the social issue of child labor. They also interconnected the thickness of the plot within the frame like Ms. Desouza’s grave visit and Salim’s flower business was so much everyday walk-the-talk society moments. Usage of old Bollywood hit songs in the film enhanced the grace of the presentation. Some well-known versatile artists like Makarand Deshpande, Anurag Kashyap, Shishir Sharma, Virendra Saxena, and Amardeep Jha gave voice to the characters.

Bombay Rose also gives a sharp image of the typical middle-road stories that remind you of the 1970s Bombay. The dialogues are natural and character-driven; differ with the characters and give a real feel instead of a reel. If the film was transformed from animation to live-action, the direction will somewhere give you a feel of old-school quality social-drama directions of Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

Bombay Rose was screened in Venice and Toronto film festivals and has met with the deserving critical acclaim. The film is a marvelous state of finesse in mosaic and cinematic poetry of a typical Bombay street diary.

Ratings: 8.7/10

TV Review: The Golden Girls

Four old women, Dorothy (Beatrice Arthur), her 80yo mother Sophia (Estelle Getty), Rose (Betty White), and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) live together in Miami and become fast friends for years. During this time, these girls come across many incidents, relationships, women issues, and funny events. It is an unbreakable bond that keeps you entertain.

The Golden Girls was one of the earliest sitcoms that was majorly or fully based on women. A show that was run by an all-female lead cast back in the 1980s was a bold move for any producer in those times. We as the audience hardly remember such sitcoms where the female lead ran the business in the right direction. A few ‘female’ sitcoms that I remember to be released before The Golden Girls were Maude, The Facts of Life, The Mary Tyle Moore Show, and Laverne & Shirley. But the distinction The Golden Girls had was that the show was genuinely run by the four leading women. None of the male cast of the show had any capacity of a potential supporting character. Besides a few, mostly showed up in special appearances in one or a couple of episodes.

THE GOLDEN GIRLS — “One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest: Part 1 & 2” Episode 05/09/1992 — Pictured: (l-r) Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo; Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak; Betty White as Rose Nylund; Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux– Photo by: Joseph Del Valle/NBCU Photo Bank

And the four golden girls were all talented artists. Rue had Maude and Mama’s Family in her credits and Estelle made her name in the theaters and got recognition from this show. Betty White was already a tv legend and Beatrice Arthur was an immensely popular feminist actress in theater and television. It was magic when they appeared together. The formula of their presence and collective comic timing worked thanks to solid writing throughout seven seasons and 180 episodes. It was not only a sitcom as a source of guffaws but also an opportunity to raise any concerns that women felt an obstacle in their walks of life like the elders facing the upstart generation, the status of a homosexual in the society, being overweight, choosing a career at an old age and facing the challenges, and many more.

The writing and performances in The Golden Girls are the heart and soul. The writers had so much to talk about and would construct a well-timed comic line. Each of the four leading characters carried weight and were tough on each other. You cannot say that Sophia was the show stealer for her being a tough Sicilian mother and getting the best jokes from the others. The others played prominent roles as well. Sophia’s daughter Dorothy, a school teacher, had the command in the house. Horny Blanche was obsessed with men and slept with many dozens of them. Swedish immigrant Rose was the group’s dumbest individual who just couldn’t get the point in the conversation and believe anything she is told.

I must mention how strange the chemistry of the Petrillo mother and daughter was. Estelle Getty who played mother Sophia was actually a year younger than Dorothy actress Beatrice Arthur. It was such an impressive make-up that used to take three hours to shape her into the character. But what an enjoyable character that turned out to be.

The Golden Girls has a loyal following within the LGBTQ community. That is because of the story arcs that brought gay characters to highlight their distinction. The sitcom was one of the first to tackle the issue of HIV/AIDS. All four leading actresses were gay supporters.

Legendary celebrities like Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Julio Iglesias, Sonny Bono, and Burt Reynolds appeared as guests in the sitcom that guaranteed the audience sticking to their television.

Here is one shocking FUN FACT! The-then unknown extra Quentin Tarantino impersonated Elvis Presley in one of the episodes, Sophia’s Wedding. That episode was so popular that the residual checks that Tarantino earned by its repeated airing helped him in the making of his debut film, Reservoir Dogs.

Not to forget, George Clooney showed up in one episode for a small role. He wanted a part in the show so he can qualify for his union medical insurance.

It has been almost three decades to this sitcom and as much as the voice of feminism has met its global recognition now, The Golden Girls represents the true nature of liberty and advocates the rights of women and their rank in society. This sitcom with four old ladies met huge success in the decade that was dominated by The Cosby Show, Married With Children, and Cheers. The popularity of the sitcom can be judged this way that the final episode of the show in 1992 was watched by 27.2 million people. The show is recommended to those who are willing to watch a comedy with a different plot and content.

My favorite episodes of The Golden Girls:
S01 – E02 – Guess Who’s Coming to the Wedding?
S01 – E03 – Rose The Prude
S01 – E04 – Transplant
S01 – E20 – Adult Education
S01 – E23 – Blind Ambitions
S02 – E01 – End of the Curse
S02 – E02 – Ladies of the Evening
S02 – E06 – Big Daddy’s Little Lady
S02 – E09 – Joust Between Friends
S02 – E23 – Son-In-law Dearest
S03 – E01 – Old Friends
S03 – E10 – The Audit
S03 – E14 – Blanche’s Little Girl
S03 – E23 – Mixed Belonging
S04 – E06 – Sophia’s Wedding (1)
S04 – E07 – Sophia’s Wedding (2)
S04 – E10 – Stan Takes a Wife
S04 – E17 – You Gotta Have Hope
S04 – E19 – Till Death Do We Volley
S04 – E21 – Little Sister
S05 – E03 – The Accurate Conception
S05 – E04 – Rose Fights Back
S05 – E11 – Edd Tide
S05 – E16 – Clinton Avenue Memoirs
S05 – E18 – An Illegitimate Concern
S06 – E06 – Wham, Bam, Thank You, Mammy
S06 – E09 – Mrs. George Devereaux
S06 – E12 – Ebbtide’s Revenge
S06 – E14 – Sisters of the Bride
S06 – E19 – Melodrama
S06 – E23 – Love for Sale
S07 – E03 – Beauty and the Beast
S07 – E04 – That’s For Me to Know
S07 – E11 – Room 7
S07 – E15 – Goodbye Mr. Gordon
S07 – E16 – The Commitments
S07 – E19 – Journey to the Center of Attention
S07 – E22 – Rose: Portrait of a Woman
S07 – E23 – Home Again, Rose (1)
S07 – E24 – Home Again, Rose (2)
S07 – E25 – One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest (1)
S07 – E26 – One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest (2)

TV Review: Good Times

Good Times was a very popular African-American sitcom of CBS in the 1970s that carried the torch of the Black American television entertainment legacy from Sanford And Son and passed it to The Jeffersons.

Good Times, Maude‘s official spin-off, existed in the All In The Family comedy universe released and aired as the third major sitcom. It was also developed by Norman Lear and created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans (who played George Jefferson‘s son Lionel in All In The Family and The Jeffersons).

And this sitcom was the need of the hour because All In The Family focused on a white working-class family on the Bunkers and Maude focused on a white rich family of the Findlays centering around a woman who believed in feminism and liberalism. So, developing a black American story became mandatory and this happened through the creation of Florida Evan‘s character who became the maid at the Findlays in Maude.

In Maude, Florida’s husband gets a job in Chicago and moves to the new locality, a ghetto, a poor neighborhood in the city where the African-Americans reside in the majority and the crime rate along with the police brutality is high.

Good Times focuses on the poor black family of the Evans comprised of husband James (John Amos), wife Florida (Esther Rolle), and their teenage kids J.J. (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (BernNadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter). The episodes develop their characters based on social and economic issues of the family along with age growth and family bonding.

John Amos and Esther Rolle as Mr. and Mrs. Evans were like a universal binding; they were so fitting together and the onscreen chemistry and their collective performances really helped make this show better and better.

But then there was their eldest son, J.J. who was the real deal of humor and the main soul of a terrific comedy that balanced humor with strong issues. And when I say ‘real deal’, Jimmie Walker as J.J. was the real deal. Every sitcom has a character who keeps the sitcom wild and exciting like Edith Bunker in All In The Family, Dr. Arthur in Maude, and Florence in The Jeffersons; J.J., was that product of comic relief.

It will be a surprise if I tell you that from AITFverse and between four major successful sitcoms of the 1970s, Good Times was the weakest. And by weakest, I mean the bar the standard this comedy-verse has is very high enough to consider Good Times amongst the greats.

The reason I call this show the weakest of all four is that the makers of the show, after a very promising start, began to give J.J.’s character the center stage more often. As much as Good Times could have raised much severe social and economic issues and challenges a poor Black family was suffering, this consideration became secondary to J.J.’s buffoonish acts getting more time than usual and shouting his catchphrase ‘Dy-No-Mite’ almost every episode. Sometimes, I felt his being too silly became more important than his family always being on the brink of getting evicted.

Esther Rolle and John Amos both passed their public opinions about such dislikeness where the sitcom was going and that became quite visible when J.J.’s catchphrase was used pretty less straight from the fourth season. But with sharp criticism came consequences. John Amos was infamously fired and his character was killed from the fourth season after his creativity conflicts with the writers.

And as expected, firing John Amos turned out to be the worst decision, and his character was badly missed in the remaining half of the show. Although, the writers killed the character very smartly but the show never looked the same. One positivity from killing the character helped in maturing J.J.’s character as becoming the man of the family. But the writing was more centralized towards family matters that were not really something of significance the audience was waiting to watch like Wilona and Thelma’s everchanging boyfriends, Florida dating Carl from nowhere, etc.

From left, American actors Ralph Carter, Esther Rolle (1920 – 1998), John Amos, Jimmie Walker, and BernNadette Stanis gather in the kitchen in a scene from the television show ‘Good Times,’ Los Angeles, California, 1975. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Another minus was Michael Evans’ disappointing character development who was called the militant midget for his black activism in the first half of the show when he was hardly 12 or 13 but that passion met cold and Michael was more of a lover boy later. Even his screen minutes drastically got less with time. Season 5 was easily the worst of all the seasons with no Florida Evans.

Yes, there were many plusses as mentioned above and the one I must not forget to write is Janet Jackson‘s character of a teenage girl who suffered child abuse from her mentally unstable mother. It was one of the critical issues that were highlighted in the show and the character gets justice when Wilona became her guardian.

Besides all the issues Good Times gets messed up with, the show is still unforgettable with its comic writing and content. For those, who are willing to watch a black sitcom or a family sitcom, Good Times is the one that will give you more joy and excitement.

Here are my favorite episodes from the show:
Episodes:
01. S01E03 – Getting Up The Rent
02. S01E06 – Sex And The Evans Family
03. S01E12 – The Check Up
04. So2E01 – Florida Flips
05. S02E06 – Thelma’s Young Man
06. S02E12 – The Windfall
07. S02E15 – Florida Goes To School
08. S02E16 – The Nude
09. S02E19 – The Dinner Party
10. S03E01 – A Real Cool Job
11. S03E02 – The Family Gun
12. S03E08 – Michael’s Big Fall
13. S03E14 – Cousin Cleatus
14. S03E15 – The Family Tree
15. S03E16 – A Place To Die
16. S04E02 – The Big Move (2)
17. S04E08 – J.J.’s New Career (2)
18. S04E09 – Grandpa’s Visit
19. S04E17 – Willona’s Surprise
20. S04E19 – A Stormy Relationship
21. S04E24 – Love Has A Spot On His Lung (2)
22. S05E01 – The Evans Get Involved (1)
23. S05E02 – The Evans Get Involved (2)
24. S05E03 – The Evans Get Involved (3)
25. S05E04 – The Evans Get Involved (4)
26. S05E20 – Willona, The Other Woman
27. S05E22 – Willona’s New Job
28. S06E06 – Stomach Mumps
29. S06E07 – J.J. The Teacher
30. S06E13 – House Hunting
31. S06E15 – Florida’s Favorite Passenger (2)
32. S06E17 – Where Have All The Doctors Gone?
33. S06E20 – A Matter Of Mothers
34. S06E21 – The End Of The Rainbow
35. S06E22 – The Evans’ Dilemma

TV Review: The Jeffersons

The story of CBSThe Jeffersons came into existence from the other CBS show All In The Family which focused on the lives of the Bunkers in the working-class area of Queens. A few characters of the Jeffersons family were playing supporting roles and extended cameos as Bunker’s neighbors.

The Jeffersons was the third and last most significant spin-off of All In The Family. Maude and Maude’s own spin-off Good Times were already airing before.

Norman Lear, the creator and developer of this comedy universe, had no such plans to have a separate sitcom for Bunker’s neighbors. It was the members of the Black Panther Party who met Norman Lear in his office and raised the topic of black portrayals in these existing sitcoms that gave birth to the idea of separating the Jeffersons from the Bunkers and give a try. The outcome was groundbreaking and culturally significant in US television history.

All In The Family ran for 9 seasons but The Jeffersons ran for 11 seasons and became one of the longest-running American sitcoms ever. The decade of 70s was also a milestone for black television entertainment with The Jeffersons being one of the pillars of the black sitcom cementing the trend for many dozens of Black sitcoms to lead in the following decades; the others being Sanford And Son (1972) and Good Times (1974). Soul Train in music and Roots in history were the other accomplishments on television for Black entertainment that decade.

Coming back to the review of this sitcom, the Jeffersons move from Queens to Manhattan after the patriarch George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) meets initial success in the dry-cleaning business.

Moving to a new lavish apartment, new characters in the neighborhood makes this sitcom even more special. The most prominent was the Willises (Tom and Helen), an interracial couple who became friends of George’s wife Louise (Isabel Sanford) and headache for George; their daughter Jenny (Berlinda Tolbert) who becomes Lionel‘s (Mike Evans) girlfriend and later his wife, Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict) the British neighbor who works for the UN, and Florence (Marla Gibbs) the talkative house-maid who is always on George’s nerve.

George is fond of no one in the new neighborhood and is greedy about generating more money all the time. His verbal one-on-one with Florence in every episode is the highest point of any rib-tickling humor in the show and worth enjoying.

Actress Marla Gibbs (as maid Florence Johnston) and actor Sherman Hemsley (as her boss, George Jefferson), appear together in the “Mr. Piano Man” episode of The Jeffersons.

The Jeffersons was communally significant for the black Americans to present a portrayal of a struggler who gives a shot into making money and becomes a successful entrepreneur. There was no such story centering around a black American who is rich and successful on which a comedy can really stretch to many seasons, this sitcom achieved it.

With 253 episodes, The Jeffersons held the record for most episodes in any black sitcom for around 25 years until House Of Payne broke in its 8th season.

In my observation, I believe the humor of the sitcom began to decline from its 8th season. I felt Norman Lear was stretching to create new tv records. The new arcs in the story, by that time, were not really that interesting. But the biggest disappointment about the show was CBS canceling the show, not bothering to inform the lead actors about the news, and not giving the show its proper and deserving finale. It was an insult after 11 years of the legacy of the sitcom and the hard work of the actors, writers, and directors.

Lastly, The Jeffersons will always be remembered for being the greatest black sitcom any American network has ever produced. I want to personally thank Norman Lear for creating this entire universe and to the Black Panther Party. Had they not stepped into his office, The Jeffersons would have never happened.