Tag Archives: Bollywood

Film Review: Darlings (2022)

Badrunnisa (Alia Bhatt) and Hamza Shaikh (Vijay Varma) are young lovers. On one of their dates, Hamza surprises her that he is getting the job and will marry her soon. After three years of marriage, Hamza is addicted to drinking which makes him a wife-beater.

Darlings is one of those millions of brown society marital stories where the couples try their best to stretch the bond in the early years of marriage and also believe that once their munna (baby) arrives in this world, he or she will become the blessing and the fights will decrease. And the couples will spend quality time. Alas, the alcohol is strong enough to intoxicate and destroy the marriage.

I am not sure whose idea was it but I opine that Darlings has missed their chance to address a highly sensitive social, domestic, and marital concern – domestic abuse. Instead of utilizing the plot and using the best source of Aliya, Vijay, and Shefali, and nailing a staunch reality into a significant family drama, the makers chose to make Darlings a dramedy.

Most of the methods of cinematic appeal for Darlings is senseless and clueless. The continuity of the screenplay raises a lot of hows and whys. Unimpressive direction proves that the debutant director Jasmeet K Reen is a complete novice.


MINUSES

Let me write you a few of my bullet disagreements:

1. UNDEVELOPED PROCEEDINGS

In scene 1, Hamza breaks the news to Badru about his job and marriage, and hugs. In scene 2, three years later, Hamza beats Badru for a bad dinner. I get it, the makers wanted to send a chill in the audience with this shocking development but where is the impact?

The audience missed three years of unwanted marital decline that caused the downfall of the marriage. Hence, the development of the central characters, their chemistry, and the entire fallout of marital respect that fluctuates between love and rage is absent which makes the proceedings flat. For this factor, I understand that television dramas play a vital role but the films can still highlight a few minutes of my objection above and justify the screenplay.

2. DRAMEDY???

A subject so crucial and sensitive is taken too lightly and irresponsibly that compromises realism. After the death of the child, how can there ever possibly be comedy at all? All the sequences with the police and police station were utter nonsense. The art of lying in Indian films is the fakest of all fakes that I have never understood. And Darlings maintains the tradition of the characters lying to the other and the latter buying it.

3. WHERE IS THE DOMESTIC ABUSE???

A film based on domestic abuse doesn’t have enough much intensity to dramatize the marital violence besides that shocking scene where Hamza lets Badru fall resulting in a miscarriage. On a few occasions, when Hamza is about to beat Badru, the scene shifts towards the salon where the salon lady routinely hears the screaming. Why not dramatize violence and make the audience cold? When Hamza breaks Badru’s finger with a high-heel sandal, the scene doesn’t show the hit but we listen to the cracking sound.

4. PLOTHOLES

In almost every couple of scenes, there is a plothole. Darlings is a directional disaster where most of the scenes raise questions and make no sense. How come not a single neighbor wakes up or shows up spectating Hamza throwing Badru out of the house late at night? How come the hospital didn’t report to the police the domestic violence that resulted in miscarriage. Section 312 in the Indian Penal Code imprisons such for a minimum of three years, and perhaps with a fine also. Why do the mother and daughter plan to torture Hamza for killing the child instead of making a police case against him as they were intending to do earlier until Badru gave him a chance? Why is Zulfi speaking in sign language and making the mother and daughter guess where Hamza is when the police squad is not with them? Again, how come no one spectates in the society that not one but three people are trying to throw Hamza from the terrace?


PLUSES

If there are pluses, that lies only in the performances. Let me brief you on those:

1. ALIA BHATT

The central casting is Darlings’ positive frame. Alia Bhatt’s performance shuts every possible disagreement that she cannot perform. Those who encourage boycotting films because Alia features are fooling themselves. Her existence and presence in the film are one of the major reasons why at 29, she can run the business of her films on her own despite Bollywood being a typical male-oriented film industry. Her emotional fallouts and dramatizing pain and disappointment are always spot on.

2. SHEFALI SHAH

A versatile actress like Shefali knows what true dedication is portraying an important character. Even in her comic stance, Shefali as Badru’s mother makes you forget for a moment that some of her scenes were funny but her funny performance converted into awkwardness while applying method acting. Out of nowhere, she tells the story of a frog and a scorpion. Asks Hamza to keep hitting his head on the wall. But she goes to another parallel when Hamza hits her or when she confesses.

3. VIJAY VARMA

The biggest responsibility of the antagonist is to create hatred for himself/herself and Vijay as Hamza does that. His physical presence is a piece of genuinely bad news for both mother and daughter. And his mental breakdown gives you a precise idea about a violent husband. It was an excellent performance.


CLOSING REMARKS

Darlings surprisingly has met immense respect from the critics and the audience. They all are entitled to their opinion. I firmly believe that Darlings has missed the chance of portraying realism about domestic abuse with a distinction that held a lot of promises due to its quality casting.

RATINGS = 4/10

Film Review: The Gray Man (2022)

When the CIA’s assassin ‘Sierra Six’ finds out that the man he was assigned to kill was a former CIA assassin like him and has evidence of the corruption of the CIA’s lead agent on the assassination mission, Denny Carmichael, Six decides to go rebel and escape. Carmichael hires Lloyd Hansen to track him down and collect the evidence.

The Gray Man can be considered an unofficial tribute to old-school action films and I must admit that it takes courage for the Russo brothers to take such a risk of making an action-thriller with such an ensemble cast.

I noticed in the fighting sequences that there was something about the use of colors during the fights. When Six fights the target in Bangkok, colorful firecrackers enchant the whole scene. Then pink flares are enthralled when Six fights in the plane. It is interesting that there were some particular elements involved to make the fights look interesting.

But there are numerous plotholes and the continuity of the story does not impress. I mean there is nothing much to appeal to the audience. The story is an expired cake, the whole screenplay renders a predictable conclusion. It is not some phenomenal direction even. When you have actors like Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in the lead with such an impressive supporting lineup of Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Jessica Hanwick, and Wagner Moura, the expectations are higher.

Dhanush got some decent minutes in the film and was really impressed with his action sequences. I thought he may get a couple of scenes like any Indian film star in an American film. Perhaps the Russo brothers are considering actors from the Indian film industry to join their films for supporting roles. Randeep Hooda had mesmerizing fighting sequences with Chris Hemsworth in ‘Extraction‘ that the Russo brothers produced.

The one actor that impressed me a lot was little butterfly Julia Butters who displayed a really delicate performance that surely gave all the viewers a feeling of amazement.

The Gray Man is certainly neither bad nor boring. The one action sequence that gave me a thrill was when Six is arrested in Vienna and the mercenaries try to down him. This scene was stretched to around ten minutes. Keeping the whole common sense aside, it was an exciting scene to be entertained. So this is a typical action thriller that can be enjoyed when your friends crash into your room along with popcorn, chips, and soft drinks.

RATINGS: 4/10

Film Review: Anek (2022)

Anek is about a government official secret agent Aman who is sent to the Northeast region to negotiate a peace deal between the government and the separatist groups.

A director-actor combo of Anubhav Sinha and Ayushmann Khurrana who are enjoying the peak of their careers for the last few years come up with a very sensitive socio-political subject of the North Indian people.

It is good to observe that a few films have been produced in recent years that are based on the racism that the Northern Indians have been facing for quite some time. Communal subjects have gradually increased over the last decade which indicates that the audience is now enthusiast to try watching different content.

Unfortunately and to my own surprise, Anek neither picks screentime from a solid-looking plot nor the writing does any justice during the prosecution of the film. There is no impression from the aesthetics besides action sequences. The film is over-talkative and some scenes are overstretched. Around 150 minutes of screentime with an uninspiring plot leads to nowhere but disappointment.

There are a few scenes that were shot well though. There is a scene where Aman and Anjaiyyah argue about how to define an Indian, it was a thoughtful conversation. Then the performance of Niko’s mother when she mourns and cavils to Aman at the funeral. For me, the best scene of the film was that one-shot scene in the village when Niko witnesses a series of arrests and some parts of the place put to fire.

Anek could have been a masterpiece if the screenplay was engrossing and held a grip on an important subject. The film visibly began to collapse after approximately thirty minutes.

RATINGS: 4/10

Book Review: Far More Than A Game (2020)

“The modern-day journalists and the media professionals would not have even imagined the difficulties and the hiccups that I and other reporters of my generation had endured during the 1950s and onwards.”

Chapter 30 Page 289


INTRODUCTION

Since the 1960s, Qamar Ahmed, the author of the book, has covered more than 450 tests, 700 one-day internationals, and nine World Cups (the first eight and then 2019) as a journalist for many agencies like BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, AFP, Reuters, just to name a few.

The cricketing journey of the author is not about the history of Pakistan cricket but international cricket. It is a passion that leads you to eternal respect that you earn after a love affair with the game.

Far More Than A Game is divided into thirty chapters that are spread over almost 300 pages. Most of the details are the author’s first-hand experience due to the nature of this book being autobiographic with an assistance of a few national and international books.

The reading of this book is easy, comprehensive, punched detailing with straight incidents from different timelines, and with complete liberty of his opinions.


 PERSONAL ACCOUNT

This autobiography is pretty personal and perhaps I can say the book is a rollercoaster ride about Qamar Ahmed’s life. By latter, I mean that he is totally open to all the parallels if he feels to speak about and thinks of no consequence about a series of questions he may be asked about his life. And I liked the nature of his openness that describes his personality and the autobiography being put to the best use of it. The reader won’t feel the sensationalism of the literature but the admittance about his life that he moved on but were vital to being written in the book.

The author depicted his disappointment in General Zia-ul-Haq’s leadership which was so disturbing to him that he refused to shake hands at a party. There is an entire chapter (no.22) about the two incidents that soured his relationship with Imran Khan. The writing of this chapter clearly indicates an agitation that should be addressed to the reader due to the fact that this eighteen-page chapter is surprisingly the lengthiest of all the chapters he wrote along with another chapter about his first-class career. I do not question the author’s motive but I am writing my honest observation about the writing of the book that this particular chapter was stretched as compared to the other interesting chapters that required more detailing than this. If this chapter had eighteen pages of details, then I reckon that a chapter about the road trip from London to Pakistan (no.14) deserves a separate book.

There are several personal accounts that help in shaping the authenticity of an autobiography. In one chapter (no.9), he writes about a life that was wasted in college because his parents wanted him to pursue a career in science rather than wanting him to choose his own career. An octogenarian passes an important piece of information to the readers about his younghood that his life decisions were made by his parents that succumb to a traditional parental syndrome in South Asia which has been emotionally attached in this region for quite a long time. Deciding about the life of a kid is understood but someone who passes his childhood and enters into college hood has the right to make his/her own decisions. The author addressed this matter, advocated liberty, and encouraged the readers to follow their passion rather than a silly tradition.

There was a French girl he was seeing in 1965 who was in England to learn the English language (no.11). Only a few paragraphs were written about her but nothing much. I liked the idea of keeping it short just like a brief series of meeting in life. It is like a gust of wind that blew from one direction towards the other once in life. It is a special mention of interest people at old age remember despite the time has passed around fifty years to that.


“Never for one moment as a schoolboy then I had even the slightest of inkling of what the destiny had in store for us and what was to come which would not only change the life of my family and that of many others and that of the country itself which would influence also the course of history.”

Chapter 1 Page 20


EUROPEAN PERK AND HISTORY LESSON

Far More Than A Game is a fascinating read for more than one reason but the most significant point to consider reading this life story is that the author was one of those few Pakistanis who got European, especially a British exposure to a socioeconomic life that fetched a lot of international diversity. Living a life in a multicultural country develops individualism and helps in socializing with people from different diversity. So that worldly experience fetched a lot of stories and incidents that happened with the author.

And then the author belongs to the greatest generation who experienced the partition of India. A lifetime that the next generations can neither feel nor imagine the suffering. So his personal account from the earlier chapters is a source of real history that the readers are unable to find in the books that are provided by their academic authorities.

The book starts with a sorry tale of partition and his childhood memories in the first chapter followed by a gripping narrative of his family’s migration from Chapra to Hyderabad. There are two chapters that are history lessons, one is about Hyderabad city and the other is about his ancestors, a knowledge that was treasured to him by his uncle from Mairwa, a city in Bihar state.


UNFORGETTABLE MEETINGS

One of the luxuries in the field of journalism is meeting important people from different walks of life, and so did the author. Qamar Ahmed missed no chance detail in separate chapters about his once-in-a-lifetime moments when he met Kerry Packer (no.15), Sir Don Bradman (no.16), and Nelson Mandela (no.21). Touring India was mostly personal for Qamar Ahmed due to his origins. But he holds the distinction to have met with the Indian film industry’s greats. Imagine people in those times like the author getting the honor of meeting the great Raj Kapoor at his residence where along with the Kapoors, they also get to meet Dilip Kumar. Meeting two of the biggest superstars of the golden age at the same place is surely one of the best memories of a lifetime.


CRITICAL CHAPTERS

Far More Than A Game is not only about history and the people he met in his lifetime, it is also about some very serious highlights that were needed to be addressed that occurred in the last chapters of the book. One was about Salim Malik and the kind of world he entered to regret for life.

There is a special place for Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar in his heart and the twentieth chapter is dedicated to him to talk about some situations which may have gone unheard of. It was shocking to understand that Sunny was stopped by the MCC staff twice to enter the Lord’s cricket ground. The details about these incidents are covered in the chapter.

A much-needed drive to address some controversial incidents like the Gatting-Rana altercation, the Inzamam-Hair ball-tampering controversy, the bus attack on the Sri Lankan team, etc through his experience made rounds in the book.

The twenty-eighth chapter is full of funny and priceless moments that the readers will read with keen interest. I like a few of his moments like the historic moment of South Africa’s re-entry into international cricket, his brawl with a mugger, mistakenly calling Alec StewartHansie’, a cricket manager asking to sacrifice a black sheep, and many more. If I was sitting along with the author when he called Alec Stewart ‘Hansie’, I would have seriously couldn’t stop myself from laughing my ass out. It was a really funny and ‘innocent’ blunder.


CHAPTERS ARRANGEMENT

Arranging and compiling chapters in a book, especially in autobiographies are very vital. I have read a few autobiographies and being a bibliophile, I have this idea that there are two different arts involved in shaping and publishing a book; one is writing it as a whole, and the other is giving the whole writing the best possible finishing in a way that reader is captivated to read a life story.

I will be a little critical here about the arrangement of the chapters. As per my reading experience, Far More Than A Game didn’t conclude fittingly. I think the thirtieth and the second-last chapter where he wrote about the evolution of sports journalism and the use of technology, would have been the perfect end with a personal message or some inspiring words for the readers.


“When checking out to proceed to Calcutta (Kolkata) for the sixth and final test of the ongoing series between Pakistan and India, I requested the receptionist at the hotel for my bill.

The reception officials gave me a pleasing smile to say: “No bill Sir, we know who you are. We have been told by Dr. Hari about you that this was your house before you left for Pakistan as a schoolboy.””

Chapter 4 Page 47


The first three chapters in the book highlight in detail about his childhood, migration, and painful history. And then in the next chapter, he remembers his return to India. That fourth chapter needed to be distanced from the previous chapters and arranged in the middle of the reading.

With a gap of a few chapters and crossing the time to the late 1970s, this reunion moment would have melted the emotions more. It is my opinion that talking about the reunion in just the fourth chapter of the book was way too soon.  The editor or compiler of the publishing company should have considered giving the sentimental feel to the reader by arranging this chapter somewhere far from the earliest details.

The fourth chapter has an amazing detailing of reuniting, giving the readers a staunch view that partition gave us a lot of painful stories and reunions of a lifetime. Imagine if hatred had its say and those landlords had killed Qamar and his family? There would be no story to tell us, there would be no legacy of cricket journalism and broadcasting, and there would be no reunions or faith in humanity to hope from those tragedies.


CLOSING REMARKS

“Far More Than A Game” is the anatomy of cricket journalism, a pocket dictionary to the evolution of cricket, a time-traveling diary that settles nowhere but gives you an experience of a lifetime. A cricketing life to celebrate, thank you so much for your lifetime contribution and service to this beautiful game.


“I always believed that if you are good with people they are good with you and in turn respect you for what you do. That is how I thought a journalist should be when dealing with a story or with people related to it.”

Chapter 22 Page 207

The autograph of the legend himself…

Film Review: Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022)

Reet Thakur (Kiara Advani) along with another traveler Ruhaan Randhawa (Karthik Aaryan) travels to her hometown to marry her fiancée when she discovers that her sister loves him. Unwilling to marry, Reet plots to get her sister married to him by faking her death. When the family gets suspicious of her being alive in the mansion, Ruhaan covers her identity by giving a false idea that he has the ability to see the unseen that coincides with the reappearance of Manjulika’s spirit that was imprisoned in one of the rooms of the mansion for eighteen years.

The first thing that the audience must understand is that Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is not the continuity from Priyadarshan‘s Bhool Bhulaiyaa, the 2007 big hit that achieved cult status. Nor the film needs to be compared with it. There are a lot of emotions the fans attached to the original work due to the memorable roles of Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan, Priyadarshan’s typical comedy, and Pritam‘s music, especially the title song.

Akshay’s role going to Karthik also raised eyebrows including mine because I felt it was too risky to hand over this role. The role was made for Akshay and vice versa. Not sure if any other actor would have done justice. The only similarity in the casting was Rajpal Yadav‘s memorable role of Chhote Pandit played again.

Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is the reimagining of the original story with some smart elements in writing that makes bring back Manjulika but I think the writer fails to conclude the story for preferring to sensationalize the climax. Some portions of humor were silly and lame but some were funny. Karthik did a fair job in his capacity but nowhere close to what Akshay did. That element was badly missing.

The wisest decision in making this film was signing Tabu for Manjulika, a role that Vidya perfected in the previous film and gave her her first shot at recognition as a promising actress that later on shaped a wonderful acting career. Who else could have played this difficult role other than Tabu? Tabu is senior to Vidya in age and career so I was concerned about the character’s strength and body language but I later realized that this is a different Manjulika. And I must pause my review and express that I was hypnotized at Tabu. She looked so young and beautiful for a 51-year-old actress. And unsurprisingly an excellent performance.

Was the second part necessary? I think it is not about the need. There is no harm if the director reimagines the whole story to go in a different direction. If I do not assume this film to have any respective link with the previous film, it may look acceptable to some extent. For me, this film keeps reminding me of the former which is a sentimental form of judging the current film. Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is an entertainer and this is what clicking here.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: Runway 34 (2022)

Captain Vikrant Khanna (Ajay Devgn) is an accomplished and self-possessed pilot whose next mission is to fly Skyline Airway from Dubai to Cochin along with his First Officer Tanya Albuquerque (Rakul Preet Singh) but the aerial journey gets complicated when a cyclone hits Cochin and are diverted to Trivandrum. A miscommunication jeopardizes their landing because Trivandrum is also affected by the bad weather. And during all this, Captain Vikrant attempts to save all the lives from an aviation disaster.

Runway 34 is a thriller film also starring Amitabh Bachchan and Boman Irani. And within a film, there are two films or shall I say a film easily divided into two different parts of the continuity. The first half of the screentime is about the flight, the aerial sequence of Vikrant and Tanya; and the second half is about the courtroom drama, the inquiry about facts and findings to determine whether the pilots were at fault or not.

My observation is also divided into two and perhaps this is why Runway 34 failed at the box office but that is the other debate to look after. The first half was a remarkable aviation tale to dramatize. An interesting build-up to a flight. Ajay Devgn, the director himself, presented the character of Vikrant in a way to the audience that we realize that the captain is self-possessed, cold, confident, problem-fixer, and eideticker. And then the preparation of flying the plane. Here, I liked the editing of the film, in fact, the whole first half had the drama holding distinction in the editing. Yes, I expected a better ambiance building from the passengers due to the low-scale acting. But more than that, the first half gave us quite an intensity you really do not expect from a mainstream film from B-town. Not an expert or hold some advanced knowledge about aviation so really cannot judge the entire pilot-to-pilot conversation or the one with the air traffic control tower.

review of ‘Runway 34’.

As much as the first half peaked with excellence in most aspects, the second half lets you down. It was easily one of the worst follow-ups from an impressive first half I have watched in recent years. And I am surprised because usually, the dramatizing of courtroom sequences is mostly the one that captivates the audience. Even Hindi films from the past decade hold quite an impressive track record of courtroom dramas. And here, that should have been a piece of a delicious red velvet cake, and moreover that having the luxury of two highly impressive lengthy dialogue-speaking actors, Ajay and Amitabh, the courtroom drama failed to live up to the hype and ruined the film.

The settlement of the courtroom and the entire proceeding was boring, predictable, and built on dubious writing. Amitabh’s Narayan Vedant, the head of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) was certainly a brain teaser in the courtroom sequences but the character was not developed nor did we get a magnitude of investigation on a broad scale. Narayan’s fact-finding needed a lot of minutes. There was no heat between Vikrant and Narayan. I wanted to see the same intensity in the courtroom sequences as Ajay Devgn built in the flight sequences. Vikrant’s wife being so cool about discovering that her husband was partying with some Anjali that the whole night looked so artificial. How did the passenger, whose mother died, get Vikrant’s number? In light humor, Ajay Devgn was quite inclined to advertise smoking cigarettes throughout the film.

Acting-wise, they were all to their usual, nothing special. We have watched Amitabh giving lengthy addresses quite a lot in his recent films. Rakul perhaps gets a career boost through this film.

I have observed most of the audience on social media comparing Runway 34 to Clint Eastwood‘s Sully and Robert ZemeckisFlight and declaring it copied which is utter nonsense. Runway 34 is based on the real incident that happened in 2015 when Jet Airways flight 9W 555, a Boeing 737-800, flew from Doha to Kochi but the pilot decided to divert to Trivandrum.

The viewers need to fact-check because due to the negativity, the idea of watching a certain film is taken into a negative perspective. As far as I can write about this film, Runway 34’s biggest disappointment is the second half which ruined a promising first half. The execution went wrong; therefore the film missed out on talking about a quality aviation story.

RATINGS: 6/10

Film Review: The Kashmir Files (2022)

The film centers around Kashmir Valley in 1989 or 1990 when the hatred for the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits ignite and the Islamic militant terrorists begins to butcher them in their way. This is the story of an old teacher Pushkar Nath Pandit (Anupam Kher) who witnesses the riots and protects his grandson Krishna (Darshan Kumar) but loses everyone in the family who are murdered by his own former student Farooq Malik Bitta (Chinmay Mandlekar) who is now the militant commander of the terrorist organization there.

I assume ‘The Kashmir Files‘ is the second chapter of director Vivek Agnihotri‘s Files Trilogy because Vivek’s previous film was The Tashkent Files and his next project is The Delhi Files. So it is quite an interesting and bold step towards planning to make films in Bollywood in a particular direction that is out of stereotypical masala entertainment which is still the usual existence. Plus a type of casting in both Tashkent and Kashmir indicates that the director is selective to rope actors where he believes that they suit the roles. He is not prioritizing his options to commercialize the chances of generating a lot of money but addresses issues through his stories.

His previous film Tashkent was a necessary wake-up call to the audience for remembering India’s former PM Lal Bahadur Shastri whose death is still a mystery. And now he raises the political issue of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in the latest film. A subject hardly anyone had been raising for decades. Genocide of Kashmiri Hindus that, to my surprise, is termed their exodus. Being impressed with how Vivek executed Tashkent, I was interested to see how he directed Kashmir. With a cordial disappointment, ‘The Kashmir Files’ heavily turns out to be some propaganda film.

I do not deny the sufferings of Kashmiri Pandits who became refugees in their own country nor do I whitewash the tragic chapters of Kashmir’s history. It is the awful screenplay that indicates that the intention of the director was more to highlight straight visible hatred for the Muslim community rather than addressing the political event’s bullet anecdotes. Almost all the sequences that involved a Muslim character portrayed some special kind of evil sent on the earth to uproot the existence of Hindus in the state.

A stereotypical portrayal of the Muslims was something else we have watched in Indian films for decades but this film looks intentionally clear sending a wrong message to raise hatred for the Muslims. In one particular scene, a woman seeks advice from an elder Muslim with a Jinnah cap and reddish-brown dyed beard about her son’s education. In reply, out of nowhere, the man goes pervert and starts harassing her. Crazy writing!

I can judge the film by considering any of the two possibilities. One is that the hatred of Kashmiri Muslims for the Hindu Pandits was as real as portrayed in the film and involved no intentional agenda of misleading the general population of India believing that the Muslim community is the root cause of the evil that aims to kill their race. Second, the director chose one side of the story to address the fate of Kashmiri Pandits by dragging the Muslims in a villainous nature and labeling it a religious matter rather than a political matter. I choose the latter.

Why? Because every single Muslim character had a negative portrayal that sparks the intentions of the director and raises eyebrows. There were no sides to the coin, the story of the film was genuinely one-dimensional which made me think if Vivek Agnihotri directed the film or Narendra Modi? Did RSS finance this film? At such a terribly slow pace of almost a three-hour film, I felt as if this was some experimental film where the makers decided to treat Muslims like Nazis and Hindus like Jews.

Again, I do not deny the historic events of the Kashmiri Pandits’ genocide and indeed Muslims were the ones involved in their killings but the film played a vital role in making this an issue of religion rather than politics. As compared to all the agenda films produced in Bollywood, The Kashmir Files got unusual publicity, media coverage, and endorsement from the ruling party despite mixed reviews from the critics. The film was screened at around 600 cinemas across India which speaks a lot. Narendra Modi himself endorsed the film by stating the film as a truth that was suppressed for years.

Coming back to my review, the motive of watching the film was not only to observe the nature and the aesthetics of the film but to judge the technical aspects that made my case for watching the film right. I feel that ‘The Kashmir Files’ was made personally for Anupam Kher who has his sentiments involved in the story. Not only is he a Kashmiri Pandit but the name of his father was also Pushkar Nath. It is like an offer for a lifetime he cannot refuse and this is why we watch a different Anupam Kher that we never observed in his past 500 films. Surely his best performance since ‘Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara‘. Mithun Chakraborty also gave quite an impressive performance. At first, I was concerned about how come a Bengali actor will portray a Kashmiri as Mithun’s usual accent doesn’t change while playing any character at all. But the name of Mithun’s character is Brahma Dutt and Dutt are Bengali Kayasthas so his role in Kashmir fits. Cinematography is one of the film’s plusses.

The Kashmir Files is bleak, one-dimensional, and committed to factual inaccuracies with awful script and direction leading to nowhere but encouraging hate speech by generalizing Islamophobia.

RATINGS: 3/10

Film Review: Jayeshbhai Jordaar (2022)

Jayesh lives in a traditional and conservative Gujarati household and is the son of a sarpanch. Jayesh is married to Mudra and has a nine-year-old girl, Siddhi. To give birth to a boy, Mudra has miscarried six times and is expecting a girl again. Therefore, Jayesh protects his wife and daughter by secretly running their way out.

Jayeshbhai Jordaar is a satire that raises the issue of women’s rights and gender complexity over the consequences of a pregnancy. But the film misses out on broadening the thickness of the plot. JJ started pretty impressively in the first half and then left a massive gap in writing in the second half. The film became a never-ending cat-and-mouse-chase.

As the film reflects on the social issues that I am not aware of in the Gujarati culture, a kind of superstition that the film has presented could have been managed with better care. But the problem lies in the continuity of the plot I wrote before. The director was compromised about the tone of the screenplay. At my first phase of observation looked like will settle on Jayesh protecting his family with true spirit. However, the film after the second half was pretty lost and the final thirty minutes became impossible to tolerate.

Somewhere the humor was flat and somewhere I liked the applied comedy the director reasoned for, like when Jayesh’s sister makes everyone unconscious, or the couple along with daughter faking the beatings to the elders, etc. Ranveer Singh, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak, and even Shalini Pandey performed above average, one of the few plusses to talk about. I like how Ranveer performs this particular Gujarati role. Not an expert on the culture but this is totally different Ranveer than we usually watch. He was excellent in Gully Boy and at this scale of choices he is making at his career peak, this shows that Ranveer is serious about making his name as an actor who wants challenges.

The film deserved better writing with such a vital message. Inconsistent writing led to damages and Jayeshbhai fails to impress. The audience should watch the film for Ranveer’s performance, the rest is shattered and broken. A film that had potential is ruined by miles.

RATINGS: 3/10

Film Review: Toolsidas Junior (2022)

Toolsidas (Rajiv Kapoor) is a snooker player who, every year, loses the final of the Snooker Championship to Jimmy Tandon (Dilip Tahil). Humiliated by the losing streak, Toolsidas’s son Midi vows to learn snooker and defeat his father’s rival and settle the dust.

Toolsidas Junior is the director Mridul Mahendra‘s story. So if this story is true then he holds the liberty to dramatize his account if he wants to. It is an interesting story and from the cinematic point of view, a very predictable film. Besides, this story is unable to justify its importance due to extremely weak filmmaking that subdues plotholes and stretches the script needlessly.

Due to inexperience in film direction, the director fails to understand what scenes didn’t need to stretch and which scenes had the potential to expand. Just for an example, Midi’s coach arrives in the tournament’s final to watch him. The staff knows him and are surprised that he is none other than the former Snooker champion who trained him; and here the audience will realize that there was something about the coach the director failed to include – some character development. Our instincts will develop a theory here that perhaps they knew him personally or met in their primes. It would have been so better if the director had bothered to reflect on the coach’s character.

The first forty minutes of screen time gave me a regret-feel because the buildup in the plot was unimpressive and a needless comedy was very forced. The writing of this film was really below-par.

Sanjay Dutt as Midi’s coach Mohammad Salaam is the biggest plus of the film. After a long time, the audience will get excited to watch his performance. In his usual baba-style, it looks very inspiring when he tries to inject spirit in Midi that the game is not played for winning but for playing. The Midi kid Varun Buddhadev was quite an excellent selection and showed some glimpses of acting promises.

I just don’t understand one point. What took so long for Rajiv Kapoor to return to the film industry? He returned to the silver screen in more than thirty years. I am not saying that he was impressive but he fairly played his role and I feel he could have been in a lot of films doing some average or above-average supporting roles. Unfortunately, this was Rajiv’s final film as he died last year. Therefore, Toolsidas Junior is a posthumous release.

One thing I liked about the film is that I happened to watch a sports drama based on a very different sport. So India doesn’t stick to one sport and the filmmakers are eager to focus on different sports stories. Yes, I believe that the film deserved a better director to give justice to Mridul’s story.

RATINGS: 4/10

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