TV Review: The Tower

Sergeant Collins (Gemma Whelan) and constable Bradshaw (Jimmy Akingbola) are immediately called to reach the southeast of London where a veteran constable and a teenage girl have died by falling from a tower. When Collins reaches the roof of the building, she finds a young rookie officer Lizzie Adama (Tahirah Sharif), and a five-year-old boy alive. When the investigation begins, Lizzie disappears and the crime investigation gets intense when Collins discovers that Lizzie is a prime witness against a gangster.

The Tower is a limited series by ITV that presents just another British excellence in the portrayal of crime investigations. The show’s plot twists and the complexity of the characters are interesting but the suspense is flat. It is quite easy to guess what exactly would have happened on the roof.

What I liked the most about the show was how one crime case connects to the other. The show is too smart to make the audience understand that there are elements of racism in the police and sometimes, the deception jeopardizes their lives. The best case was PC Hadley who looked like a decent fellow for most of the time until there was proof that he did pass racist remarks. The audience is compelled to believe that Hadley could have never been at fault.

I think The Tower also accomplishes in stretching the matter of the witness being silent due to the trauma or the threat. The more the show expands Lizzie Adama’s character, the depth of silence becomes noisier with the flashbacks and her meetings with Shaw.

Gemma Whelan as DS Collins deserves praise for quite an impressive performance. I like how Collins is written in the show that looked like some sad cop running from some personal tragedy and also striving to solve a crime at the same time.

The way the show has ended, there is an indication that the show is just warming up. Because this show is based on the book ‘Post Mortem‘ which was the first in Kate London‘s trilogy book series. If that is so, I am eager to see how the screenwriting does justice in the continuity of an excellent police crime drama.

TV Review: The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age is a significant period in American history that began in the 1870s and lasted until the 1890s. This period is considered the golden age of industrialization and rapid growth in the American economy. This era witnessed the birth of many business giants, important inventions, and the rise of many wealthiest families. This was also the period of the shifting of wealthy generations where the old and new families were struggling to join the rank of elites and high societies. Julian Fellowes‘ latest creation is based on that struggle.

The HBO drama focuses on two rich families. The old money van Rhijn-Brook family and the new money Russell family. The latter is inspired by the real-life Vanderbilts who once were the-then wealthiest family in the United States. A sense of rivalry exists when the race of joining the elite ignites within the society and during all this hullabaloo, young Marian Brook became a lively figure between the two families when she moves from Pennsylvania to New York to live with her estranged aunts.

As true to the aristocratic nature and Julian Fellowes accurately admitting, The Gilded Age is the American Downton Abbey or shall I say, the American answer to Downton Abbey that was also created by Fellowes. Not sure if I must suggest that the dramas written by Fellowes are for rich people but there is no harm in developing an interest in dramas about the noble or upper-class lifestyle that proudly displays a fine exhibition of the aristocracy.

The show has taken good care of small accuracies and being a period drama, the costume and the production design are just marvelous. There is a scene, I think in the pilot or the second episode when the party host announces that she will organize a card game of Cinch. I found the name interesting so I googled it and I discovered that Cinch, which is also known as High Five, was the game that developed in Denver, Colorado in the same timeline where this drama is shot.

Downton Abbey fans are in for a treat as the music score, powerful dialogues and direction reminds you of the Downton Abbey show. Not only that, many characters of The Gilded Age will make the audience recall some Downton Abbey characters. The biggest one is Lady Agnes van Rhijn whose quick-witted one-liners will make you remember Lady Violet in Downton Abbey. Then there is Mr. Bannister, the butler who holds the same commands as Mr. Carson. The young chemistry of Jack and Bridget in the servant class is similar to Daisy and Alfred in Downton Abbey.

But one aspect where The Gilded Age edges over Downton Abbey is the representation of the Blacks. Downton Abbey have extremely shorter and limited roles but The Gilded Age has quite a take on the lives of African Americans. And their representation is the most different from most of the shows that are doing a favor to diversity. The show is giving its audience a sharp look at the certain existence of ‘elite’ African Americans which is quite disappearing from the script pages when we watch a historical drama where the Black Americans are mostly portrayed as slaves. One guarantee of trusting the Black representation is accurate is hiring Erica Armstrong Dunbar who is a Rutgers University history professor who specializes in Black American women of the 18th and 19th centuries, as a historical consultant.

The audience must also remember that this show is taking place in New York in 1882 which is around 17 years after Lincoln‘s historic Emancipation Proclamation, the ratification of the US constitution’s 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. So yes, the presentation is accurate, and more than that, the show still threw the shades of racial segregation and portrayed them as some second-grade citizens. Because this was still a fresh struggle for recognition.

Lady Agnes’ son Oscar is shown as bisexual and the flow of the characterization clearly proved that making him bisexual looked terribly forced. His being in relation to John has nothing to do with the story but just wanted the audience to recognize that LGBTQ+ existed in those times. And forced portrayals have this very problem in the films and tv shows that the writing and the direction of such chemistries do not come up with some genuine addressing.

Many of the cast have given fair performances but I will pick both the leading ladies Christine Baranski and Carrie Coon as Lady Agnes and Bertha Russell who gave top performances. Stage actress Louisa Jacobson, Meryl Streep‘s daughter, was first-rate and will take time to learn a lot since this is the beginning of her career. She made a television debut in such a bigger project.

Just like Downton Abbey, the show will be covering a lot of historical events and present portrayals of famous American people like the first season managed to do on a few occasions. For example, Linda Emond as Clara Barton who was the founder of the American Red Cross, and Ashlie Atkinson as Mamie Fish who was a lavish party-throwing socialite. There is a scene where Thomas Edison lights up the New York Times building, a historic moment in New York city’s history that is a real incident with few
changes for the dramatic effect. It was a mesmerizing shot to end one of the episodes and give the real incident its due respect to define the best moments of the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age is a spectacular portrayal of elite American history. Those who are enthusiastic about period dramas will surely love watching this. I am believing that The Gilded Age is definitely increasing its fanbase, especially amongst the Downton Abbey loyalists. The story has a lot of potential to stretch the drama to at least five seasons.

My Bollywood’s Best of 2021

INTRODUCTION

I have done blogging my own version of Filmfare for seven straight years. Since the late 1990s, I have observed and got annoyed on many occasions when I witnessed the prestigious awards show of Filmfare losing its credibility. Therefore, I have been managing to scrutinize and make my own list of honors who, I believe, deserved the most and need to be recognized.

Since 2014, I have been passing my annual report of Bollywood’s best every year. My Bollywood’s best had 21 categories that are segregated into three different sections which are musical (5), technical (10), and major (6) sections. This time, I have added one more category in technical that is ‘Best Makeup & Hairstyling’. I felt that is the need of the hour as things have changed and improved in the Hindi-film industry.

And yes, the industry is changing, in a sense that the new generation of writers and directors, a collective group of veteran actors and new artists, are trying to do new and attract the audience in the industry. Just, for example, Kajol picked a pretty different film last year, Tribhanga. Akshay Kumar, out of the equation, played a supporting role in Atrangi Re which is quite not his thing. Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, with all the highly talented ensemble cast, got the critical acclaim it deserved. A few years ago, this wasn’t possible due to a large inclination towards mainstream cinema. But now we observe flexibility and the audience is willing to try innovative.


MY BOLLYWOOD’S BEST OF THE PAST YEARS

Those who want to read my previous annual reports of Bollywood’s best, click on any of the following links:

2014  2015  2016  2017  2018  2019 2020


SELECTED HINDI FILMS FOR THE 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

For music, I keep my options open and there is no limit to the number of films because quality work in music can happen in any film. But besides music, I chose the following Hindi films released last year under my scrutiny to judge for all the categories:

Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi, Pagglait, Tribhanga, Nail Polish, Kaagaz, 12’o’Clock, Jamun, The Girl on the Train, Bombay Rose, Ahaan, Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar, Silence… Can You Hear It?, Milestone, Sardar Ka Grandson, Skater Girl, Sherni, Haseen Dilruba, Toofan, Mimi, Dial 100, Shershaah, 200 Halla Ho, Chehre, Thalaivii, Ankahi Kahaniya, Rashmi Rocket, Sardar Udham, Hum Do Hamaare Do, 83, Dhamaka, Atrangi Re, and Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui.


HOW MY ANNUAL REPORT IS PREPARED?

So how do I work myself as a film critic honoring in the blogs every year?

  1. I judge and pass my reviews of the selected films.
  2. After watching each and every selected film, I make notes about the plusses and minuses, and further note down in what categories these films qualify.
  3. From this year, each of the 22 categories will have a maximum of 5 nominations and for the first time in eight years, I will now rank my nominations. No more ‘Other Notable Works’ or ‘Special Mention’. If I feel I need to write a few lines in any category, I will.
  4. After I am done with honors, I will write down the total number of nominations and wins submitted in my report as stat fun.

MY BOLLYWOOD’S BEST OF 2021

The wait is over…

Allow me to honor Bollywood’s artistic and technical excellence in 2021 according to Sami Naik.

MUSICAL SECTION

BEST BACKGROUND SCORE

A.R.RAHMAN (ATRANGI RE)

2nd. Shantanu Moitra (Sardar Udham)

3rd. Benedict Taylor & Naren Chandavarkar (Sherni)

4th. Sanjay Wandrekar (Nail Polish)

 

BEST MALE PLAYBACK SINGER

HARICHARAN SESHADRI (TERE RANG – ATRANGI RE)

2nd. Jubin Nautiyal (Hanjugam – Bhuj: The Pride of India)

3rd. B Praak (Raanjha – Shershaah)

 

BEST FEMALE PLAYBACK SINGER

SAINDHAVI PRAKASH (NAIN BANDHE NAINO SE – THALAIVII)

2nd. Priya Saraiya (Kalle Kalle – Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui)

3rd. Shreya Ghoshal (Chaka Chak – Atrangi Re)

 

BEST SONG & LYRICS

RAANJHA (JASLEEN ROYAL, B PRAAK, ROMY, ANVITA DUTT – SHERSHAAH)

2nd. Tere Rang (Haricharan Seshadri, Shreya Ghoshal, Irshad Kamil, A.R.Rahman – Atrangi Re)

3rd. Ananya (Arijit Singh, Javed Akhtar, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy – Toofan)

4th. Nain Bandhe Naino Se (Saindhavi Prakash, Irshad Kamil, G. V. Prakash Kumar – Thalaivii)

5th. Main Teri Ho Gayi (Millind Gaba, Pallavi Gaba, Happy Raikoti, Tanishk Bagchi – Sardar Ka Grandson)

 

BEST MUSIC

A. R. RAHMAN (ATRANGI RE)

2nd. Tanishk Bagchi, Jasleen Royal, Javed-Mohsin, Vikram Montrose, B Praak (Shershaah)

3rd. Sachin-Jigar & Tanishk Bagchi (Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui)


TECHNICAL SECTION

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

DEEPALI NOOR & NEETA LULLA (THALAIVII)

Kangana Ranaut, Arvind Swamy in Thalaivi Movie Images HD

2nd. Veera Kapur (Sardar Udham)

3rd. Shivank Kapoor (Chehre)

4th. Rohit Chaturvedi (Pagglait)

5th. Darshan Jalan & Manish Tiwari (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

 

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

PATTANAM RASHEED, RAMESH MOHANTY & SURESH MOHANTY (THALAIVII)

2nd. Vikram Gaekwad & Mariann Coletta (83)

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

PRIYA SUHAS (CHEHRE)

2nd. Parijat Poddar (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

3rd. Priya Ahluwaliya (Skater Girl)

4th. Devika Dave (Sherni)

5th. Mansi Dhruv Mehta & Dmitrii Malich (Sardar Udham)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

ANISH JOHN (SHERNI)

2nd. Dipankar Jojo Chaki & Nihar Ranjan Samal (Sardar Udham)

3rd. Manas Choudhary (Dhamaka)

 

BEST EDITING

SANDEEP SETHY (SILENCE… CAN YOU HEAR IT?)

2nd. Sangeeth Varghese (The Girl on the Train)

3rd. Jabeen Merchant (Tribhanga)

4th. Chandrashekhar Prajapati (Sardar Udham)

5th. Deepika Kalra (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

ANGELLO FACCINI (MILESTONE)

2nd. Avik Mukhopadhyay (Sardar Udham)

3rd. Tribhuvan Babu Sadineni (The Girl on the Train)

4th. Rakesh Haridas (Sherni)

5th. Rafey Mahmood (Pagglait)

 

BEST ACTION

STEFAN RITCHER & SUNIL RODRIQUES (SHERSHAAH)

 

BEST STORY

MANJARI MAKIJANY & VINATI MAKIJANY (SKATER GIRL)

2nd. Aastha Tiku (Sherni)

3rd. Renuka Shahane (Tribhanga)

4th. Umesh Bist (Pagglait)

5th. Laxman Utekar & Rohan Shankar (Mimi)

 

BEST SCREENPLAY

ABAN BARUCHA DEOHANS (SILENCE… CAN YOU HEAR IT?)

2nd. Ivan Ayr & Neel Manikant (Milestone)

3rd. Manjari Makijany & Vinati Makhijany (Skater Girl)

4th. Seema Pahwa (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

5th. Nadja Damouchel & Gitanjali Rao (Bombay Rose)

 

BEST DIALOGUES

SEEMA PAHWA (RAMPRASAD KI TEHRVI)

2nd. Bugs Bhargava & Sudeep Naik (Nail Polish)

3rd. Yashaswi Mishra & Amit V. Masurkar (Sherni)

4th. Asad Hussain (Bombay Rose)

5th. Ranjit Kapoor & Rumy Jafry (Chehre)

 

BEST SCENE

JALLIANWALA BAGH MASSACRE (SARDAR UDHAM)

There can be no better scene than dramatizing this horrifying part of pre-independence history. This scene was kept on wait after two hours well spent on developing the story and Udham’s character in entirety. The intensity and provocation of that bloodshed were extremely detailed. This scene was deliberately shot violent. The graphic detailing of this three-minute scene full of gunshots and painful cries was more savage than what Lord Attenborough showed in Gandhi. It was a scene that boiled the emotions and broke the hearts. Udham’s commentary about his fury for this incident all this time made his case.

2nd. Sardar Revisiting her Lahore House (Sardar Ka Grandson)

3rd. Sandy Loses Her Child (Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar)

4th. Arjun Thakur Recovering from Vomitting (Dhamaka)

5th. The revelation of Maanvi (Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui)


MAJOR SECTION

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

PARESH RAWAL (TOOFAN)

2nd. Manoj Pahwa (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

3rd. Arjun Rampal (Nail Polish)

4th. Raghubir Yadav (Pagglait)

5th. Vijay Raaz (Sherni)

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

SAKSHI TANWAR (DIAL 100)

2nd. Sheeba Chaddha (Pagglait)

3rd. Amruta Subhash (Dhamaka)

4th. Tanvi Azmi (Tribhanga)

5th. Kirti Kulhari (The Girl on the Train)

 

BEST ACTOR

VICKY KAUSHAL (SARDAR UDHAM)

 

Vicky as Sardar will be remembered as one of the best performances in Hindi cinema for this new decade. You feel pain when his portrayal agonizes. There is much discomfort to watch his rage and hatred for British Imperialism and he has perfected that genuity you want to watch in the films about Indian freedom against the British. His tense courtroom scene of justification and in a lengthy struggle of saving many lives after the massacre are the best examples of Vicky’s notable performance.

2nd. Manav Kaul (Nail Polish)

3rd. Raghubir Yadav (Jamun)

4th. Manoj Bajpayee (Silence… Can You Hear It?)

5th. Pankaj Tripathi (Kaagaz)

 

BEST ACTRESS

PARINEETI CHOPRA (SANDEEP AUR PINKY FARAAR)

Parineeti has to be the most improved actress of the last year who gave not one but two brilliant performances. But this role, she had the grip. When a role for a woman in desperate help or seeking freedom from her misery requires a solid actress to perfect it, talented actresses like Aliya Bhatt, Taapsee, and Bhumi are coming to your mind. So Dibakar chose Parineeti and gave her the platform. You observe her when she loses her child, when she gets scared on a lot of occasions, or when she tries to escape the rape attempt. A marvelous display of mental and emotional acting.

2nd. Sanya Malhotra (Pagglait)

3rd. Shweta Basu Prasad (Jamun)

4th. Parineeti Chopra (The Girl on the Train)

5th. Kangana Ranaut (Thalaivii)

 

BEST DIRECTOR

SHOOJIT SIRCAR (SARDAR UDHAM)

Sardar Udham is one of the best directed Hindi films I have watched in recent years. Shoojit’s presentation makes me wonder if Sardar Udham actually is an Indian film. It is some accomplishment. The courtroom scenes, Sardar speaking about freedom alone in the park, Sardar’s quest for O’ Dwyer, and most significantly, the horrifying Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and its extremely lengthy aftermath are the bullet reasons why I feel that Shoojit has set the standards and raised the bar of directional artistry too high.

2nd. Manjari Makijany (Skater Girl)

3rd. Seema Pahwa (Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi)

4th. Bugs Bhargava (Nail Polish)

5th. Gitanjali Rao (Bombay Rose)

 

BEST FILM

SKATER GIRL

Believe me! Honoring the best film of the year is the most challenging judgment. And being a film critic, it is my responsibility to make a decision that supports the purpose of being the best. Milestone focused on the struggle of a broken man in the wake of tragedy; while Nail Polish highlighted a complicated criminal case. Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi was a family drama but with a real-feel dramatization. Sardar Udham shows the darker side of the freedom fighter. All these films had elements that have been watched before but were extraordinary films.

Skater Girl is a totally different rhythm and beat that sparks attraction to its audience with a fresh direction, and a catchy screenplay. A story about a village girl who finds her heart in skating after two foreigners introduce skateboarding is a genuine love story to filmmaking.

The writers spent one year getting the feel of the village and creating the characters that stamp some quality portrayals. And this is exactly why Skater Girl looks so real and close to life.

2nd. Sardar Udham

3rd. Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi

4th. Nail Polish

5th. Milestone


TABLE OF MULTIPLE WINS & NOMINATIONS

MULTIPLE WINS & NOMINATIONS
WINS NOMS FILMS
3 10 Sardar Udham
3 5 Atrangi Re
3 5 Thalaivii
2 5 Skater Girl
2 4 Shershaah
2 3 Silence… Can You Hear It?
1 8 Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi
1 7 Sherni
1 3 Chehre
1 3 Milestone
1 2 Toofan
1 2 Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar
1 1 Dial 100
6 Nail Polish
6 Pagglait
4 The Girl on the Train
3 Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui
3 Dhamaka
3 Tribhanga
3 Bombay Rose
2 Sardar Ka Grandson
2 Jamun
1 Bhuj: The Pride of India
1 83
1 Mimi
1 Kaagaz

Thank you for reading my annual Bollywood honors report. I will return with a new report next year. Share your opinion below. Stay safe.

Film Review: Elmer Gantry (1960)

A mounteback named Elmer Gantry is a traveling salesman who has a magnetic personality and looks for an opportunity to make money by sweet talks, and by permeating the words of the Bible in his passionate speeches. One day, he finds a purpose in life when he spectates an evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer and joins her organization.

Elmer Gantry is an American film produced in 1960 and was adapted from Sinclair Lewis‘s famous novel with the same title. By the time, the novel was published and released, the book received uproar and was widely criticized for writing out some bold details about the religious business and revivalism that happened in the United States a century ago. It was a satirical novel that gave the readers some idea of manipulating the staunch loyalist members of the evangelistic church and raising the money for the business.

The same case is with the film that sparks a lot of attention in the eyebrow-raising dialogues; especially when Elmer and Sister meet the other church leaders. The film takes quite a liberty to expose the concept of Revivalism. The way the organization is depicted functioning and the church leaders are portrayed concerning the religious affairs to cash their personal gains ridicules the traditional beliefs and practices of organized Christianity. Director Richard Brooks dared to touch the subject but the productional aesthetics are so sharp that the portrayal of selling religion in America is on the razor edge for the audience. Gantry and Sister Sharon are the messiahs of this cult for the White Americans. Observe a short church scene at the start where the African-Americans sang a hymn, their method distinguishes and Elmer, despite all the religious dedication to singing along with them, chooses to move on and look for a better market.

Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry is a blessing to the eyes of the audience. A role of a lifetime, a performance that occurs rarely in a generation. I felt that Burt and Elmer were to admire each other’s work and someone had a mission to unite them on a platform. From the beginning until the end, Burt mesmerized me and surely most of the viewers with his incredible performance. His pitch, his sermon, his body language, everything was just incredible. A lively and charming characterization of Gantry was made possible by Burt and I hardly believe anyone from that era would have nailed this role. I think of Gregory Peck but he would have looked too rich for Gantry. I think Anthony Quinn or Kirk Douglas would have pulled a performance if Burt was not given this role. Burt’s performance meets variations with time. When Gantry meets criticism after being caught in the scandal, he is shamed in the hall by limited angry spectators. They throw eggs and vegetables on him and he is mute and lost allowing them to throw their rage on him. What a magnificent shot that was when the trumpeter plays on his face and back, as he walks away in shame and people keep throwing the mess on him.

Elmer Gantry was not only enviable due to Burt’s phenomenal performance but also due to the superb assistance of the supporting performances of Jean Simmons as Sister Sharon and Shirley Jones as Lulu Bains.

If this film is remade, I would want Paul Thomas Anderson to direct with any of Joaquin Phoenix or Oscar Isaac being considered to play Elmer Gantry, Rooney Mara as Sister Sharon (plus she resembles Jean Simmons a lot), and Anya Taylor-Joy as Lulu.

The film is the winner of three Academy Awards that includes a deserving Oscar for Burt as the Best Actor. I think Elmer Gantry is one of the earliest pinnacles of portraying the deception of being some false messiah or a prophet. The quality of depicting hypocrisy, the corrupted hearts of showrunners, people being foolish, and some being gold-diggers is very well dramatized. Elmer Gantry is quite a cinematic example of compromising faith by applying materialism in the obscure art of selling religion.

Ratings: 8.4/10

Film Review: After Love (2021)

Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) is a British convert who is married to a Pakistani immigrant Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia). Ahmed unexpectedly passes away and leaves the widow isolated in grief. Soon after his death, she finds out that Ahmed secretly had married a French lady Genevieve (Nathalie Richard) with whom Ahmed also has a son.

Okay, first thing! Thank you BBC and BFI to come up with such a heartwarming emotional drama, After Love. Although, I have watched this plot many times in my life, but from the British productional aesthetics, perhaps this means a lot to show a story of two women in different situations, but both being Ahmed’s wives. What was striking about the film is the writing growth that solidifies Mary’s emotional development in the first forty minutes.

There are many touching moments in the film starting from the jawdropping first scene that builds the intensity followed by a one-shot consolation scene of Mary surrounded by lamenting women. Joanna has really given a terrific all-round performance. I am all sold when the directors take special care of small details. There is a scene where Mary in her prayer forgets a verse of Fatiha and tries to remember. It is a brilliant moment to develop theories about this scene. One is she actually forgot the line and felt embarrassed about it. Perhaps Ahmed used to help her remember the lines while praying and she happened to bring that memory back. Or maybe she was a new convert or had recently started to pray and made sense to forget. Or maybe the verse where she stopped had a translation she knew would break her.

I felt it was pretty unnatural on Genevieve not to doubt Mary’s facial shock and silence in the first meeting. Genevieve also didn’t consider a background check on her but rather trust her enough to lend her a copy of the house key. The film is slow-burn but I think the pace could have progressed if the director had considered also picturizing Mary-Ahmed’s happy moments from the past. Despite being a ninety-minute drama, the film was pretty long due to an extremely short plot.

Joanna Scanlan is the heart and soul of this film. This is the first time I have watched her performance and I believe it was a tremendous performance. Her facial expressions were very touching. The film is a quality definition to understand grief, tragedy, and shock. Especially, the elements of emotional surprises blend so well.

After Love also challenges the character to reevaluate the understanding of the religion and test her faith on both bullet incidents. One that she lost her husband and two, she discovered that there was another house and family he kept without her notice. It brings a lot of questions about the plot and Mary’s quest for the answers she never imagined to ask; did Ahmed lie or cheat with Mary? Was Ahmed scared to inform her and maintained the secret? Was Mary the one to lose her temper had Ahmed ever let her know? Because at least the French connection was aware that Ahmed had a wife in Dover and preferred to stay with her. Was religion or the teachings Ahmed had educated Mary were misleading with his deception or an unwanted defense? Was Ahmed to be adjudged amongst one of those thousands of global immigrants who marry a local citizen to get nationalize? It is nowhere propaganda against one nation as the director Aleem Khan himself is a British Pakistani.

After Love is melancholic and a sad tale of losing your beloved and struggling to react to the choices made by the deceased. The plot has made rounds but the detailing and the trajection of hypnosis that carries the burden on the characters is what makes this film a brilliant case study of human affairs.

Ratings: 8/10

TV Review: Pam & Tommy

Superstar couples Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) get married and tape very private recordings on their camera. After Tommy refuses to pay the money to the carpenter Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen), he steals his case where he finds the tape that turns many fortunes and fates.

The experience of watching Pam & Tommy was like watching the American Crime Story. There is no surprise that the show was to attract a lot of audience due to a compelling story but more than that it is the makeup and hairstyling and powerful performances by Lily, Sebastian, and Seth that alarmed the enthusiasm. James Franco was supposed to play Tommy before Sebastian signed.

Lily James has to be a well-observed casting in recent times for a television show whose four-month high-tech gym sessions, incredible make-up, and hyper-realistic prosthetics for large breasts made her the most perfect choice to portray the Baywatch blonde girl.

One major issue this show is successful to address is the consequences of leaking private videos. In the era of the mid-1990s when the internet was a global sensation. Pamela Anderson’s leaked tape was one of the biggest headlines that brought incredible traffic on the internet. During the whole situation, Pamela is the one who went mentally disturbed because this was neither pornographic content nor was there consent from their side to put on the internet and make millions of dollars of business. None of Pam and Tommy signed a release to reach that far. And that difference is remarkably recognized.

Another significant factor that made the writing of the show critically on point was the gender value of the leaked tape. Tommy was less affected than Pam and Tommy couldn’t understand how it was different for her than him when both were in the video. Despite being the most iconic figure of sex-symbol of the 1990s, Pam had her feminine side to be concerned of and it was highly sensitive. After all, she was a model but not an actress from the adult film industry. And this is why the supporting role of Taylor Schilling as adult actress Erica carried a lot of weight.

The show also highlighted Pam’s association with both Playboy and Penthouse, and the business role Seth Warshavsky of Internet Entertainment Group played in all this saga.

Based on the 2014 Rolling Stone article “Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape” by Amanda Chicago Lewis, the show holds a lot of accuracy about the details like Rand being on Tommy’s gunpoint, the heist, Tommy speaking to his own penis, Pam and Tommy’s first meeting with the lick and their wedding, Seth’s proposal to the couple, etc.

Pam & Tommy’s biggest win is giving the real feel of humiliation, the media adding insult to the emotional damage, and showing the audience how the introduction of the website took the internet users in those times by storm. Makeup, hairstyling, and costume design make this show even better. There must be an Emmy winner between Lily, Sebastian, and Seth.

Film Review: Spider-Man No Way Home (2021)

After Peter‘s identity is revealed and is framed for the drone attack and Mysterio‘s death, Peter struggles to escape from the backlashes and overcome the damage of his being the main reason behind terrorizing the city. When he seeks help from Strange, he casts a spell for good. But the spell is corrupted due to Peter’s repeated interference that leads to opening doors for people from other universes.

I think it was a fantastic plot and the continuity of the never-ending ever-growing universe has met strong parallels. The concept of multiverses will go further wide that is certain to happen in Doctor Strange’s upcoming sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. But my reason for the plot being really impressive has to do with the characterization of New York’s friendly neighbor. Whatever happened to New York in this film was because Peter couldn’t tolerate the revelation of his identity. The consequences were strong. But Peter made the mess by corrupting Strange’s spell. After all, Peter is a boy, he is not mature. If you notice, he has always needed support from the others in this universe, majorly from Tony Stark. He was Peter’s godfather and after all the support Peter got, Tony died and re-orphaned him. Peter also got the support of Nick Fury and took Mysterio as a crime-fighting partner. In this film, Murdock saved his ass from the charges.

If Peter was mature, he would have faced the consequences after the revelation. He would have never come to Sanctum Sanctorium. Strange further squeezed Peter’s childishness when he couldn’t believe that he didn’t even ‘convince them’ and reached for his help without making an effort. It was a very funny scene and I hit my palm on my forehead but simultaneously that is what Peter Parker in a human was best picturized all this time. After this film, there is no argument about who the best spidey is. Tom Holland‘s Spider-Man is the most ideal portrayal of all time.

At the same time, I was also met with surprises for the wrong reasons. One critical angle that is downplayed is Doctor Strange. Being the new leader of this universe and literally the one who holds the fate of the world by sorcery, how can he ever think of brainwashing the entire world just to make people forget that Peter is Spidey? How come Strange didn’t believe in the critical consequences of what he was attempting? I know it was too funny that he was wandering in the Grand Canyon for half a day. But why? How come he doesn’t have the power to open a portal and return? I don’t have knowledge if that ancient relic was the only support Strange had.

Peter escaping from charges at the start had zero potential to give a dark outcome and face trials and wait for the answers of his non-committed crimes. Director Jon Watts could have given us a gripping segment of his worst phase with all doors closing to his heroism. But all those moments were skipped with Murdock’s one call and Peter all of a sudden goes clean. Murdock’s character would have made more rounds instead of a cameo if we had that difficult phase for at least thirty minutes. All the hype that was built in the end credits of Spidey’s previous chapter met hardly ten minutes.

It was exciting to see all those major villains of the previous Spidey films but their characters and villainous elements were toned down. They looked humble and generous to respond to Spidey and agree for help. Those bad guys were all together and could have easily invaded the city. But Peter taking them to his home looked extremely flat and non-sensical. How can Peter be that dumb and not understand that believing your enemies to help you is straight foolishness? He believed his instincts so much that he decided to snatch the relic from Strange and help the villains?

With the arrival of both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the Spideys of the other universes, the entertainment doubled and also gave us the chance to see them together. I liked the onscreen chemistry that was built between the three. The screenwriting on them was wonderful and heart-touching. It was absolutely fun to watch them trying to understand each other. What an exciting moment that was when Garfield’s Spider-Man saves MJ.

No Way Home has plot issues but also has one of the best continuities of the universe. The film carries too much forced-comedy that tears the thick lines of the writing in the first half but the film also gave us the moments that were essential to make a superhero film genuine like Peter’s character development that I wrote in length above, the chemistry of three Spideys, Aunt May‘s death, Peter-MJ final moments at Liberty and then in the shop.

What is Tom’s Peter’s future in MCU now? There is every possibility that Tom’s Peter will return in the future. If Tobey at 46 and Garfield at 38 can return with an idea, so can Tom who is just 25. Kevin Feige should put a brake on this Peter for some years and introduce Miles Morales. Miles will be heavily inspired by Peter’s heroics and become like him just like Clint‘s inspiration on Kate in Hawkeye. I will ask for Miles’ introduction in a separate Disney+ show where Tom can appear for a minor supporting role.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is a superb entertainer and has moved in the right direction.

Ratings: 8.3/10

Film Review: Licorice Pizza (2021)

So I am writing about someone who himself is some institute of filmmaking, Paul Thomas Anderson. Looking at the plethora of critical acclaim his films earn every time his new work is presented, I waited this moment to watch his latest venture, Licorice Pizza. And I knew the spark is there, the spark is just there.

Two hours of beautiful feeling and those instincts of cold whispers amongst young bloods that brood or shroud the gospel of emotions from head to toe. A kind of blue-ish feeling when a young boy Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and a girl Alana Kane (Alana Haim) meet each other first time and try to reason the birth of those unaccomplished meetings. We have watched trillions of times but there is a way to make young kids take their chances, accept or refuse, make a joke out of it, or make a point out of all seriousness. Paul made us feel that in some boozy vibrance. A magnitude of spectacle.

The warmth of the chemistry proceeds like the flourishing pinnacle. The relation leads to thick surprises and their excitement being together is the epitome of the symphony. Even when they are not together, impatience grows. I felt a lot, a bloody lot, when Gary and Alana phone each other and say nothing. The depth of the story surprises and gives its whataboutery of awkwardness. I embrace the entirety of the intense moment when the cops arrest Gary from nowhere; what a spectacular shot when Alana runs and tells him not to worry, and the handcuffed Gary stares at her like a d***head.

Licorice Pizza also tests the complicated relationship in some situational comic moments that also occurs out of nowhere because life is so uncertain. Alana grabs the opportunity to gather with big boys and make Gary feel. The whole change in shift to the restaurant and that silly stunt was necessary as the story assumed that humans, in all complications, can reach different places reasoning and finding their own identity until they slip and realize. A kind of this scene may have never appealed but Paul’s writing about the complicated relationship of two confused kids was berzerk.

How smartly the gas issue was raised?! The film portrays California of 1973 and OPEC‘s oil embargo also occurred the same year. Bradley Cooper as John Peters was so perfect! Very impressive soundtracks were played. The Mikado hotel reference also hints that Paul did this on purpose to show the early years of the first Japanese restaurant in San Fernando Valley that approves meticulous writing. And why not? After all, Paul’s film aesthetics are usually centered around San Fernando Valley.

I loved the onscreen pairing of amateur actors, Cooper and Alana. Looking at their personalities and stature, they do not remind you of some ideal figures but the story of common people. Both made their debuts and how impressive were they. For Paul, this was a friendly project as Cooper is the son of late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alana is an established music celebrity from the pop-rock band Haim for whom Paul has directed many music videos.

If the audience has ever loved Paul’s Boogie Nights, they will definitely love watching Licorice Pizza. Talk about a coming-of-age, raw buildup of young relations, desperate attempts of making money, and a few more, Licorice Pizza is an exceptional masterpiece.

Ratings: 8.8/10

Film Review: Drive My Car (2021)

After his wife’s unexpected death, theater veteran Yūsuke Kafuku seeks to escape from the sadness of her loss and works on a new theater project. During the project, he meets new people and a young chauffeur with whom he quests for the answers that have been missing for a while.

Why a Japanese film like Drive My Car is essential for the audience? I ask the same for those who listen to podcasts. The critical reason is that many are disturbed in their lives and try to find a source of their ultimate escapism through various mediums. Some find peace in reading books, and some find their missing puzzle in listening to podcasts. In the same way, this three-hour drama captivates that particular audience who searches for answers after losing something really precious. The years pass by, but the mind and the soul doesn’t obstinate to pull new strings and ease the pain unattached.

This masterpiece runs in your veins and grows with time. Almost every point the director Ryusuke Hamaguchi chose to make was punching, accurate, and so well crafted. On so many occasions, this film hit me and I asked myself how excellent were the shots taken. Like Kafuku returning home after the flight gets canceled, or Kafuku’s supporting actors trying to continue the performance or Takatsuki’s 12-minute conversation with Kafuku in the car, or the heartbreaking moment of Watari showing Kafuku her childhood home, or the mute girl cheering the old character in the final act.

I think it is the method that keeps all this storytelling, shooting a scene and making it look beautiful, compelling performances roll into one and give a product that stops your breath for a second or makes you thoughtful. Films like this move you because Drive My Car is one of the best visual translations of human emotions.

Even if I corner the tragic parts of the film aside, there is still a tremendous depth and buildup in writing. From audition to the final product, the film constructs an accurate understanding of the theater project.

There is a reason why this film made it to the Oscars and became the first-ever Japanese to reach Best Picture. Drive My Car recently created history to become the first non-American film to win Best Picture from all three major prestigious American critics groups which are NYFCC, NSFC, and LAFCA. And I strongly feel that Drive My Car will win Best International Feature Film at the Oscars.

Everyone performed well but Hidetoshi Nishijima as Kafuku was the soul of the film. Drive My Car is a cinematic marvel. The audience must watch this masterpiece.

Ratings: 9/10

Book Review: The Leopard and the Fox (2006)

LAHORE, PAKISTAN, APR 08: Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz leaving
after court case hearing, at High Court in Lahore on Monday, April 08, 2019. The Lahore High
Court (LHC) granted Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader, Hamza Shahbaz pre-arrest bail till
April 17 and restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him in cases
pertaining to ownership of assets beyond means. (Babar Shah/PPI Images).

WHO IS TARIQ ALI?

Tariq Ali is a well-known British political activist and author of many significant political and historical books like 1968 and After: Inside the Revolution (1978), Clash of Fundamentalisms (2002), Bush in Babylon (2003), 5 novels of his Islam Quintet, and many more.

Born to a Pakistan Times journalist Mazhar Ali Khan and one of Communist Party of Pakistan (CCP)’s founding members Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, Tariq Ali inherited Marxism and journalism from them. But more than that, Tariq Ali came to prominence through activism and being part of some social and political rallies. He became part of the New Left and also joined the International Marxist Group in the late 1960s.

Tariq Ali was the president of the Oxford Union in 1965 where he met Malcolm X. He also conducted an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the Red Mole newspaper in 1971. The Rolling Stones’ most political song “Street Fighting Man” was written for Tariq Ali after he participated in the infamous 1968 anti-war rally at London’s US embassy. He also wrote a screenplay for Oliver Stone’s 2009 documentary ‘South of the Border‘.


THE BIRTH OF THE BBC PROJECT

Tariq Ali’s book ‘The Leopard and the Fox’ was published in 2006 but the inception, of what became a British problem for the broadcasting company tackling with the foreign policy, occurred twenty years back. In mid-1985, BBC’s Head of Drama, Robin Midgley approached Tariq Ali and commissioned him to write a three-part limited series about the trials and execution of Pakistan’s former prime minister and the founder of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The author agreed and worked on the story for the next few months.

At the beginning of the next year, Tariq Ali had completed his writing. In fact, the discussions went to the next phase about the casting for the political characters where Ziya Mohyeddin and Naseeruddin Shah were opined to play General Zia-ul-Haq and Bhutto respectively. Further discussions suggested that the makers wanted Angelica Huston and Sian Thomas to play Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto respectively. But things stood without motion and in a few weeks, the proceedings halted when the hierarchy of BBC took the rounds of reading Tariq’s script in its entirety and asked Tariq to meet and discuss.

Eventually, the meetings failed to reach some agreement and the project was shelved after the script made the big bosses uncomfortable. The fire that was to rise, the spark that was to shine, the flame that was to ignite, all watered down.


WHAT WERE THE ODDS?

The most obvious reason for that the BBC dodged and overlooked the production is the interference of the government who didn’t want to bring their position on the West fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in jeopardy. General Zia was the US’s most valuable ally and airing a limited series about Zia in a negative portrayal would have risen the political eyebrows and questioned their government about their cooperation and commitment.

The American interests came between the productional body, and the environment within the BBC became more political than the upcoming BBC show. This gives an impression that perhaps BBC wanted to air a show that pleases American friends. But they made the mistake of offering the project to Tariq Ali. Maybe because they were not aware of his rebellious nature. Tariq Ali had been in the rallies against the Pakistan military and the US wars in the past. So I refuse to believe that they were not aware of him. It is just an assumption.

But it is quite awkward from the British part that BBC will make a mistake to offer him. Tariq Ali landed on British soil for the very reason of his anti-military nature. His military uncle warned his parents that he will not be able to protect him if he continued his lobby against the military. Therefore, his parents moved him to the UK and admitted him to Exeter College, Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE).

If things were not going in BBC’s way, they could also have changed the writer with a new script draft instead of shelving the project. So I am not sure about the circumstances.


THE BOOK, THE BAD, AND THE UGLINESS

106 scenes in 167 pages were written about the final days of Bhutto. I am believing that all that was written was not at all true but partially fictional. Because if 80% of what is all written in the book is accurate, the book richly deserves to release its television adaptation.

Being a film critic myself, reading a script based on Pakistan’s infamous political event that set the example of the most brutal military dictatorship and authoritative enforcements made me visualize how the military meetings and suppression of the Bhuttos in the book would have made it on the camera. Imagining Rawalpindi aerial shots with the demonstrators clashing with the police, the sound recording of the bullets firing on the roaring protestors, and the sound of tear gas would have given adrenalin if the chosen director would have shot this with meticulous care. Imagine someone like Oliver Stone, Roman Polanksi, or Ridley Scott shooting this demonstration scene.

Bhutto’s parties were written that develop a dubious environment where chess players find corners to establish evil whispers and understand the political game. Whiskey was a common drink in the entire book and it is an open secret that Bhutto was addicted to drinking. The military is portrayed not as a powerful force but puppets who are to follow the orders of the outsiders and change the political environment. The military maintains innocence and tries to convince that they have no ambition in politics. Bhutto has a dark theory since the start of the book that they wanted their head and bottoms out of leadership for purpose.

 Reading this book got exciting when the script began to scream where Bhutto was losing his strength as the country’s leader and the military was about to take the advantage of his jaw-dropping speech. The intensity of the story from scene 33 is unusual. The buildup of the military’s takeover and Bhutto’s first two arrests are written exceptionally well. It gives you that horror that you do not ask for while you try to say peace at night and suddenly all hell breaks down. The application of that hell was gripping.

Some references were funny, interesting, and thoughtful. Like Bhutto mentioning Kissinger’s curse, and the wife of a famous politician who stole panties in Marks and Spencers. No name was mentioned in the book as the incident was enough to guess who brought shame with this crime of shoplifting. It was Wali Khan’s wife Nasim Wali Khan who was caught red-handed at Kensington in the late 1970s. There is an interesting guess when the Chief Justice asks the judge if he has a nephew in the army. That would be the author Tariq Ali himself who was a nephew to a military uncle.

The courtroom scenes were pretty short and Bhutto’s episodic speech ran with the change of dates. Here, I expected broader detailing because a story like this humongously demands an enormous courtroom scene where the trials and tribunals make the reader (and the television audience) pessimistic and thoughtful at the same time. A specific courtroom scene edges you to incline on one part of the theory but the book in its entirety is strictly biased towards one side. I feel some portions of writing must have compelled both the leopard and the fox to challenge the goods, the bads, and the ugliness of their characters. I am on Bhutto’s side but as a reader or an observer, I wanted to see both the parties being judged on the same scale, I wanted to see the wrongs of Bhutto and the rights of General Zia too.

I also wanted to realize how the episodes were separated. There is no division of episodes at all. Pretty sure the story didn’t conclude well. I mean the reader knows how the story will end but unfortunately, the technical finishing was missing. After all the buildup of Bhutto’s final days as the leader, the trials, and Zia’s martial law, the story abruptly ended in a jiffy.


CLOSING REMARKS

The book holds a lot of questions. Reading both the appendices is a must. Because when you read those appendices, a lot of theories and questions give birth. The value of the subject is computed. The assumptions and probabilities from the trials and the military meetings are figured out. The complexity of the global politics that was played in the 1970s, the conflicts that were raised from the West, USSR, Gulf, and the South Asian countries were vast and the talks were unprecedented. Writing aside, a history check is a must.

Why do the Americans want Bhutto’s ass out of the equation as the ruling head? Was the then US government giving orders to the generals in Pakistan? Was Bhutto’s execution necessary? Were the judges involved in the conspiracy?

Anyone can read this book. The book has a simple vocabulary. No strong advanced literature. It is a script, you may imagine as a theatrical play. The Leopard and the Fox is not a history book but a play about history. So you may say that the writing is inspired by true events.

Is reading this story important? See, if you are looking for some answers, you may not get it but reading about this infamous event will give birth to an idea that changed Pakistan’s political situation forever. For those who seek, they can learn a lot of deal about one segment of international politics.

It doesn’t matter if you were or are on the leopard’s side or the fox’s because the painful fact is that between the lines of Bhutto-Zia political rivalry and the interference of the then American government, it was Pakistan as a whole that met social, cultural, political, and economic damages and couldn’t ever recover after that.


FAVORITE SCENES

06, 09, 14, 18, 19, 22, 24, 28, 32, 36, 39, 41, 43, 45, 56, 59, 64-72, 75, 80, 81, 85, 88, 89, 93-96, 101, 102