Lifelong friends Amit, Om, and Javed decide to take a trek to the Everest Base Camp when their close friend Bhupen passes away.
Uunchai is an emotional drama and a journey towards a mark where travelers seek the meaning of life. Four old friends visibly in their late 60s and 70s meeting, parting, singing, dancing, and enjoying whatever is left in their life. Uunchai is about a burning desire that one has longed to fulfill for ages. Uunchai is about learning and tolerating from a generational gap. Uunchai is about holding hands, bringing back memories, and hugs. Uunchai is about climbing. Uunchai is about lost love.
The biggest plus of the film is the story. To my heavy surprise, Bollywood is very limited in basing its films on friendships. And here, Uunchai talks about old-age friendships. The audience deserves to get attention through thoughtful plots.
I refuse to believe that the film is directed by Sooraj R. Barjatya. His filmmaking aesthetics for Uunchai are completely different from what he presented to the audience in his previous films. Maybe someone else directed Uunchai under his name or maybe he has learned with time that if he has to survive and make successful films amongst the current crop of excellent directors, then he has to change the directional techniques. I say this because Bollywood history is full of disappointing comebacks.
With such an impressive plot and fabulous casting, Uunchai could have been one of the best films of 2022. But one negative factor declined this film from achieving that purpose – length! This film is almost a three-hour film. So what to blame when the length becomes the issue? Indeed, screenwriting! It was a simple plot but the screenplay was massively stretched on the journey to Everest and then on the climbing.
Technically, stretching on the climbing was acceptable because trekking to Mount Everest for their friend was actually the core of the story. It is their journey in the middle portion of the film that bought a lot of time. Lying to Javed’s wife, then taking her on the journey to be dropped at the daughter’s house. When things do not work then consider meeting Om’s family and then drop her. And then another arc of taking a lady during the journey who turns out to be Bhupen’s lost love, Mala.
To my calculation, all these developments took 50 minutes of the film. Not saying that Sooraj Barjatya should have avoided all this but he could have shortened this journey length. Let’s say 20 minutes instead of 50 and a few more minutes from the whole climbing part of the film. And then the film picturized a lot of songs. The film at stretch could have been a 120-minute film, absolutely not 170.
The second half had a lot of plotholes and raised a lot of questions. Why would the local villagers cross the bridge when they observe that the climbers are already struggling to cross it? How did the tour guide allow Amit to continue the journey after knowing what he suffers from? Amit is given oxygen when he collapses again. I was wondering, why was he not using it while trying to reach it in the first place.
UUNCHAI MUST HAVE BEEN NON-LINEAR
I think Uunchai should have been a non-linear film. The reason is that Sooraj Barjatya was firm to stretch on the friendship but the problem is that Bhupen’s character died within half an hour. So there was no growth in such a friendship quartet and at the time of Bhupen’s death, the real impact of sentiments fall flat. It would have been an extraordinary direction of film running with two different timelines concluding over Bhupen’s death in one parallel and throwing his ashes on the base camp in the other parallel.
Uunchai sustains Rajshri Productions‘ long hold on traditional and culturally influenced family values. Here, the film focused more on friendship. I think this film is for all ages and in the development of the continuity, it emotionally relates to us somehow. You can absolutely watch this along with your family.
In a world full of stories and incidents, things with you happen for a reason. Bhupen bought the tickets for trekking but died. His friends paid their final respect and went on an emotional and spiritual journey. And during this journey, until reaching that mark, they came across a lot of things in life that taught them a lot. Had Bhupen not died perhaps Amit would never happen to speak to his wife, Om would never consider a change in business nor would he ever realized how many grudges his relatives were holding for him, Javed and his wife would have never understood their daughter’s domestic situation, Amit would have never understood the value of his books, Mala would never get the second chance, and last of all Bhupen’s friends would have never realized his obsession with Mount Everest and the girl he loved the most.
So, friends, things happen for a reason.
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Detective John Luther is unable to trace the whereabouts of a young hostage Callum Aldrich when he is jailed for his illegal acts as a police officer. Years later, Callum and other hostages are brutally murdered and the serial killer teases Luther for fun.
Luther was a critically acclaimed detective series by BBC that concluded in 2019 after five seasons. The show was widely praised for its crime screenwriting, direction, and performances of Idris Elba as detective John Luther and Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan.
It is a difficult task to continue the story of a television series into a film due to limitations in the screen length. There is also a certainty that the development of the existing characters and their arcs from the television series will suffocate in the film when connected to the main plotline. Alas, this is precisely what happened with ‘Luther: The Fallen Sun‘.
The usual dynamics of Luther’s storytelling looks visibly compromised. The biggest spine-breaker is the story that is rotten, stereotypical, and carries plenty of repeated content. The whole plotline is extremely predictable. Luther tries his sources to help him break the jail and of course, it is certain to happen. The new officer DCI Odette, played by very talented Cynthia Erivo, replaces Luther and takes him completely wrong but then trusts him, and then fights together, is a whole new level of an overbaked script of a super action film.
Luther television series was known for impressive suspense. Regrettably, there is no element of suspense about who the antagonist is. We the audience are exposed in the beginning that Andy Serkis is a serial killer. And absolutely gutted about his hair.
Maybe it makes sense but for me, it is strange that the serial killer planned for the victims to commit suicides from the top of various buildings but no surveillance monitored more than one hostage scene from the top.
I am also confused about Luther’s fate in the final 15 minutes. After the job is done, Luther gets handcuffed but ends up in a safe house. Which means Luther does not go to jail. Is that so? He broke the jail. He was shamed for his crimes as an officer. Is he pardoned by the law or what? We observed angry media backlash at the beginning in favor of his arrest.
‘Luther: The Fallen Sun’ is easily the weakest Luther project so far. Yes, Idris Elba as Luther never disappoints but the rest. Looking at the development in the final scene, Luther’s sequel surely is considered. And I hope that part outdo this because this is a disappointing film overall.
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Maja Ma is about a Gujarati boy Tejas who is in love with Esha and wants to get married. During the parents’ meetup, a rumor sparks in society about Tejas’ mother Pallavi when she is exposed in the video admitting to her daughter Tara that she is a lesbian.
Maja Ma has a lot of social issues to work on. A typical middle-class Gujarati family marrying into NRI. Then Tejas’ sister, who is an activist for LGBTQIA+ rights. And then the mystery behind Tejas’ mother who is highly insecure and unable to decide if she must tell the world what she is. Three different elements in the same plot challenge writing and grows a lot of responsibility on the director’s shoulders. Sadly, Maja Ma collapses itself by staying in the bubble and not provoking the resistance.
Within half an hour to the start, Tara finds out that mom is lesbian, just before Esha and her parents are reaching India from the US. There was no buildup before the revelation so the reaction was flat.
Director Anand Tiwari didn’t bother to take risks at all. When Tejas’ family receives Esha’s at the airport, the director didn’t show how both parents interact. The biggest directional miss of the film was when Pallavi is exposed in the festival, the aftermath is skipped and then Pallavi is depicted to be on her bed with her family taking care of her. How can you not shoot the moments after she got exposed in front of society and Esha’s parents?
I am further surprised that the continuity didn’t even bother to reflect on the reaction of Pallavi’s husband Manohar. He looked quite normal.
I don’t know why but Esha and her parents’ American accents sounded to me pretty fake. And then Esha’s father using a lie detector on Pallavi was too far a stretch. How can a family marry their boy in a house where the girl’s father uses this machine on the boy’s mother? How come Tejas didn’t protest or oppose? How come the family didn’t take a stand against it? I can understand the girl’s father testing the boy but his parents? That is low.
Another miss was leaving the culprit behind who made the video viral. How did the culprit escape? How was the elephant in the room not addressed? So, Maja Ma suffers from careless writing.
The film had some good performances. Gajraj Rao continues his superb form and what impresses me about him is his body language hits the right tone. His style of communication is very natural. Srishti Shrivastava and Simone Singh in supporting roles are excellent though. The biggest plus was the heart of the film Madhuri Dixit. She proves again why is she such a phenomenal actress and one of the biggest legends of the cinema. Just look at her facial tone when Tara presses for a response. In fact, the mother/daughter arguments were intense.
Maja Ma wasted a life out of the story and couldn’t do justice to the points the film wanted to speak about. A mother/wife in a typical household turning out to be a lesbian is something we do not think of in the film. The film deserved a better script and needed to execute the project like that of ‘2 States‘.
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Lala and Sapna are childhood lovers but Lala is delaying getting married to her because he promised his dying mother that he will settle after marrying his four sisters into suitable homes.
Raksha Bandhan brings back the lost essence in Bollywood which is the traditional and family values. What made my mind to add Raksha Bandhan to my watchlist was the plot that highlights a very critical social problem which is marrying your daughters, and your sisters in the best possible families. A responsibility, the heaviest in weight and socially one of the significant scrutinies that hold the most critical center of attraction. This a much-needed storytelling in today’s Bollywood to bring awareness of how tough it is for a father or a brother particularly in middle and lower-class families to search for the most suitable man and give their girl to him.
Raksha Bandhan was released with Laal Singh Chaddha on the same date and both failed to make any impression. On ₹70 crores of the production budget, the film grossed only ₹52 crores at home. Was the film that bad? It surely was a disappointment but I think the reason for failure was more political than economic.
One of the good aspects of the writing is that the story didn’t waste time in showing Lala and Sapna falling in love and dancing on the streets with all the pedestrians joining them in dancing in Sri Lankan rain, Swiss snow, Egyptian pyramids, Piccadilly Circus, or Time Square. Because it was unnecessary and better focused on the central plot.
Despite the fact that the film’s intention to showcase the social problem is in the right direction, the directional value rotates back to entertainment and misses a large part to emphasize. Three of the four sisters have particular traits. One is manly, the other is dark-skinned, and another is fat. The latter two carry critical concerns as a girl being dark or fat brings more difficulty in making her case acceptable to the boy’s family than the boy’s. And both the issues of color and weight surprisingly don’t get stretchy content in the film.
The problem with Raksha Bandhan revolves around screenwriting. It is a comedy-drama but a very important issue slips the element of realism due to its being too entertaining. And needless songs and story arc of Lala-Sapna eat the screen length.
Director Aanand L. Rai has a habit of running the film on a high musical score that disturbs the momentum and triggers the seriousness of the sequence. In the most shocking moment of the film, the death in the family, is madly ruined by loud music in the background. This was a jaw-dropping scene because development occurred out of nowhere and here, Aanand Rai must have collapsed the tone instead of making it a melodrama.
Raksha Bandhan confuses and messes with the story development. Lala goes physical on the harassers when they whistle his sisters but doesn’t even lift his hand on the in-laws of his sister. Sisters really don’t have much to add to the screen time. They are mostly together with typical dialogues and backing their brother. A film that is fully based on them fails to give them their screen importance.
And then Bollywood’s biggest predicament, fatal conclusion. Yet again, the writer-director fails to finish the film on a high note. Outrageous final fifteen minutes! And the final scenes that were about how the sisters progressed later were what should have been a significant portion connecting the main plot in the first place.
WHY ARE OLD LEADING ACTRESSES NOT CONSIDERED?
Although Bhumi Pednekar fitted into the role and did her part well. But a kind of story that followed with Lala keeping his girl waiting to marry for almost a decade. I wondered if 55-year-old Akshay Kumar can play the part of an assumingly fifteen years younger man, then why not the leading actress in the same capacity can get her role? After all, the role of Bhumi was of someone who was waiting for years. So she definitely wasn’t playing the role of a girl in her 20s but older than that.
And this is where Bollywood is beyond my understanding. How come the actors in their 50s and 60s get to play the role of the man in his 30s and 40s but actresses of the same age bracket mostly get ignored to fill in a young actress? Why the heroines of the ’90s are heavily ignored in Bollywood?
I thoroughly enjoyed the comedy. After a long time, I watched a film that really had funny dialogue and that too without making it sleazy. The collective performances were impressive, particularly Neeraj Sood, he was fabulous. Impressive anger and comic timing. Observe his performance when he humiliates Lala after his sister’s wedding.
The biggest plus of the film, the only reason for which I can easily recommend you to watch is Akshay Kumar. After so many years, I have watched that hilariously troubled Akshay Kumar of the old times making me laugh. And not just his comedy, this was an incredible performance.
Just watch him when he gets the news of his sister’s wedding. His reaction and the entire walk of honor, pride, and joy. And then when he gets the shocking news that makes him leave the house and cries in the first fifteen seconds of running on the streets. And then the scene after the funeral after he opens the shop and goes mad. Raksha Bandhan is definitely Akshay Kumar’s best performance since Pad Man and one of the best of his career.
Raksha Bandhan is a missed opportunity that couldn’t do justice to a social message due to bad writing and unimpressive aesthetics. The film relied on Akshay Kumar instead of a promising plot. It is a one-timer but a blessing for the eyes of Akshay Kumar fans.
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Laal Singh Chaddha narrates his incredible story on the train to the nearby passengers as he travels to meet the love of his life.
Laal Singh Chaddha is the official adaptation of the Oscar-winning film ‘Forrest Gump‘ with Aamir Khan returning to the silver screen after a gap of four years to play the Indian version of Tom Hanks‘ most memorable and one of Hollywood’s iconic roles ever.
So obviously, considering what ‘Forrest Gump’ means to the audience and the reputation it has built for decades being the darling of the global audience, there was immense pressure on Aamir Khan and the crew to put on a show that gives at least half-decent remake of the original classic. Most regrettably, Laal Singh Chaddha stands nowhere close to an average crafted film, forget about being a remake.
It is a classic disaster thanks to Aamir Khan that the mighty collapses right from the beginning when he opens his mouth to speak to the passenger on the train. It is no surprise that the center of satisfaction from the film rests on Aamir Khan’s shoulders. What surprises me is the actor, Mr. Perfectionist, who is well-known for his original takes on some interesting characters he has played throughout his career, is attempting to imitate Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump instead of bringing his own method. And in this process, Aamir Khan is neither convincing the audience nor appealing. And this is one of the major reasons for the film’s box-office failure.
When you listen to his Punjabi accent, it clearly sounds that something is not right. Aamir is certainly not the right choice for a Punjabi character and that was visible in Rang de Basanti. And then the younger version of Laal that he acted, it was like watching Aamir in ‘3 Idiots‘ and ‘PK‘. Same facial expressions and performance. And it is disappointing that an actor known for perfectly adjusting himself to the character has given identical performances in not one but three different films. In the younger version, he looked more mentally unstable than he was as a child. Extreme overacting.
WRITING NEXT TO NONSENSE!
The entire continuity questions the credibility of the screenwriting which is second to nonsense. Spreading humor in a drama for average entertainment is acceptable if executed well. But here, I feel as if the director was confused about how to justify the remake and connect the dots. First, he ridiculed India’s historic timeline to settle Laal’s stupendous journey to legacy. Second, he overstretched the plot and suffocated the audience in an awful second half. And third, the entire film looks like a Google translation.
Laal’s childhood highlights India’s state of Emergency under former PM Indira Gandhi, India’s World Cup winning moment occurs minutes later, and then the Anti-Sikh riots in Amritsar. If you have watched the film with active brains, you will realize that these three incidents occurred in different years. The emergency event happened in the mid-70s, India won the World Cup in 1983 and the riots occurred the next year. So how is the young boy Laal Singh Chaddha not growing for approximately eight to nine years? Or if the director is depicting that all three events happened one after the other which is more silly. In both cases, there is a big hole in the writing.
I must mention the supporting character of Bala played by Naga Chaitanya in his Hindi debut. It must have to be the most annoying character of 2022 or maybe of recent years. Playing the original role of Bubba from Forrest Gump, it was sickening to watch him repeat his passion for undergarments and remake scene-to-scene from the original source.
When you remake an original source, the writing demands a re-introduction on a whole new level of presentation expecting that the writer will come up with a thoughtful story adapting from the original idea. But here, Laal Singh Chaddha shows no intention to play a different beat. Besides adjusting Laal’s life story with the Indian side of historical moments, almost every plot development, almost every scene is straight from ‘Forrest Gump’. And this is one of the reasons why the audience disliked the film. The writer made absolutely no effort in coming up with their own idea to revise the whole plot.
WHAT A MISS!
In order to settle Laal’s life story with some historic moments, the film shows how the local boy of Delhi become a megastar in Bollywood with Shah Rukh Khan playing his own role. It was funny that his iconic arms-stretched-out pose was joked to be inspired by Laal. But what I want to complain about is a big miss. Amongst the three major Khans, the two who have never shared the screen as the lead or starred in the same film are Shah Rukh and Aamir. Salman Khan has starred with both of them in the past. And Shah Rukh and Aamir shared the screen for a few seconds in a cameo in Ashutosh Gowariker‘s “Pehla Nasha“. Despite the fact that Aamir Khan is the producer of this film and roped in Shah Rukh to play a cameo, they still didn’t share the same screen. How idiotic! What a miss!
Yes, ironically there are a few pluses like Satyajit Pande‘s cinematography and Tanuj Tiku‘s background score. A couple of tracks were good too. The makers raised the issue of domestic abuse well. But the biggest plus of the film that impressed me was Mona Singh who played Laal Singh Chaddha’s mother. She was impressive throughout the film. Watch her, particularly in the scene of the riots.
So Laal Singh Chaddha has all the reasons to terribly fail at the box office and disappoint the audience. This has to be Aamir Khan’s worst performance in ages. He needs to become choosy again about the selection of his films because his recent run has been awful. Those who have never watched Forrest Gump can enjoy this translated version.
Was Laal Singh Chaddha that bad to be rejected in India? I don’t think so. We have watched worse Indian films than Laal Singh Chaddha. Then what happened?
I feel there was a particular hate campaign by the Hindu nationalists of the ruling party on a large scale that played its part. Back in 2015, Aamir Khan expressed his insecurity about living in India in one interview. That circulated before the film’s release.
The ruling party pushed its supporters to share more than 200,000 tweets demanding to boycott film with the hashtag ‘Boycott Laal Singh Chaddha’. That flamed severe hatred and due to this reason, Laal Singh Chaddha earned only ₹58.73 crore in India against a production budget of ₹180 crore.
Charlie is an English teacher and suffers from morbid obesity. He carries 600 pounds and lives an isolated life. Nearing his death, he wishes to reconnect with his wife and daughter.
‘The Whale‘ is a play written in 2012 by playwright Samuel D. Hunter. It was then dramatized in different theatres and Darren Aronofsky happened to watch one of the productions which made him decide to direct the play as the film with the same title with Samuel as the screenwriter.
So why the inception of ‘The Whale‘ took around ten years? Because Darren was not able to find the right actor who can play such a difficult role until Brendan Fraser.
The actor himself had been struggling for years with health issues and personal losses. And he was looking for the right project that would bring him back into the game. ‘The Whale’ is now the biggest talking point in Fraser’s acting career.
‘The Whale’ is a psychological drama set on Charlie’s last five living days at home. The film has extremely limited characters and only revolves around Charlie’s residence. Therefore, the film has the rich ambiance of a theatrical play. Charlie has a nurse Liz whom he considers his only friend. A visitor from the New Life Church often visits to him for spiritual rebirth but neither he takes interest nor Liz. The core of the drama is centralized on the complex relationship between Charlie and his estranged daughter Ellie.
This film is a huge favor for the audience to understand how the pain of a personal loss deteriorates health. And due to psychological problems, he also suffers from binge-eating disorder (BED). He is an introvert and due to his weight issue, he is highly insecure to socialize with people.
One of the story arcs of the film is his behind-the-door effort for formal conversation with a pizza delivery guy which was interesting. Here, Charlie is depicted to have tried to socialize after he never showed up at the door to receive pizzas. During the online classes, he switches his webcam off. So the detailing of his behavioral attitude will grow on the audience.
Something that I never expected from Brendan Fraser was him to be that good. I know, he is a good actor and had been trying to raise the bar of his performance and fame to be remembered. But being so magnificent was out of line. It is not easy to sit your ass six hours a day and wear nearly 300 pounds of prosthetics every day shooting with that emotional accuracy and acting consistency.
One can rub off the claim that it is just the support of prosthetics that makes his performance look legit. That is not the case. Watch how he grunts in pain when he syllabically reads the sentences. Watch him in the last sequence when he confesses while inhaling laboriously and then cries in pain. And the most heartbreaking was when he begs Mary and says “I need to know that I have done one thing right in my life”. Those are not prosthetics, those are gems of human emotions superbly performed.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO…
Academy Award for Best Actor? Honestly, it is a tie between him and Austin Butler for Elvis. Both are magnificent performances for two entirely different roles. One cannot say that one of them bettered the other at all. For the first time at the Oscars, I would love to observe the joint Best Actor awards. The only way that will do justice.
‘The Whale’ is a tragic tale that will depress and kill you from the inside. The reality behind feeling better after reading the Moby-Dick essay is the new parallel of loving someone. Almost the entire review has been about Brendan Fraser because that is the reality. It is his presence and the story is fully centered around his character. Watch the performance of a lifetime.
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My fellow brownies! There were days in our lives when we children along with our parents used to sit together to watch a family drama with rich elements of humor and episodic stories so relatable.
Neither the parents were reluctant nor the children embarrassed that the show would ever startle a cringe tone with a subject to insecure or discomfort its loyal household viewers at any moment.
But now, the quality of humor has drastically changed. Alas! those golden moments of our lives are missing. Great writers and storytellers have disappeared. And the contents of romance and sex, and the importance of woke, political correctness, and LGBTQ+ make more rounds. And in all this process, the evening get-together of a family for a show to watch on the television has lost the spark.
But I have a piece of good news for you. An Indian family drama by The Viral Fever (TVF) circulated on my radar and after years or maybe a couple of decades, I finally found a family drama that is technically a masterpiece in performance, screenplay, writing, and direction. And more than that, a show that wittingly addresses a social satire and domesticity in the most convenient manner – Gullak.
STORY and WRITING
Gullak is a Hindi word that means a saving jar. In other words, it is also called a piggy bank. Displayed on different furniture with time, Gullak narrates the everyday incidents that occur in the house of the Mishras.
A family consisting of the parents (Papa Santosh and Mummy Shanti) and their two sons (Annu the eldest and Aman) struggles to survive the unwanted challenges that drag them to plenty of obstacles.
The Mishras represent millions and millions of middle-class houses and their average life spent on blaming, forgetting, mistaking, and taunting. Winning minor battles of arguments over each other, tolerating bad habits, lying to survive one day without wife or mother scolding. The writers of the show presented an authentic look at the domestic incidents between the four walls and the ceiling.
The most convincing element of the writing of Gullak is that the snippets of the incidents and dialogues in all the episodes are extremely relatable. The global audience especially the South Asian audience will feel it and remember their time. And when you watch the episodes of Gullak and naturally relate the moments to yours, that is the success point of the show’s presentation.
Gullak also guarantees the story growing in the audience due to the fact that because of incredibly rich aesthetics, the art of storytelling sketches unfiltered emotions. The dramatization doesn’t look artificial at all. The parents fight about the relatives, the youngest family member Aman spending more time in the toilet, the mother taking tension about the eldest son Annu being late reaching home, father and sons in agreement on the matriarch preparing the usual food they hate to eat, written phone numbers inside the bedsheet, Aman asking mom to visit the hospital because it smells good, and so many incidents.
The dialogues matter more when the characters in the limited storyline have to develop and Gullak exceeded that expectation too. Santosh hitting the nerve on his wife Shanti while arguing about tying the knot was superbly dramatized. Especially when Santosh crossed the limit by insulting her that her marriage proposal before him was not accepted due to head lice.
AAPKO NAHIN PATA?
If I am not wrong, every episode had a “Don’t You Know?” sketch. The question of the episode emphasizes a social satire of keeping the incidental records of the neighbors and this trend made some really impressive rounds. Another point that cannot be missed to point out is the assistance of the talkative neighbor, Bittu’s mummy. Her spicy presence made the atmosphere more exciting.
I hold only two objections to this show. One is needless music score which has been a cultural norm in presenting a film in India. That could have easily been controlled instead of being a distraction on countless shots.
The other objection which I believe is a massive miss from the content of Gullak is not adding a family member in the Mishras – a daughter. Where the writing of the Mishras nearly perfected their character strength, the absence of a daughter in the house was terribly missed. The story arc of a daughter would have thoroughly completed the Mishras and Gullak.
It is hard to point out one actor who surpassed other actors in performance. Jameel Khan as Santosh gives you the same vibes as his iconic Asghar from Gangs of Wasseypur. Vaibhav Raj Gupta and Harsh Mayar were impressive. Especially Vaibhav’s aggression in the character was natural. But I think Gitanjali Kulkarni as Shanti Mishra has to be singled out for giving so much strength to the character and raising the bar for an onscreen mother.
There were topics in Gullak that brought a lot of attention and were important to address. The hard-hitting point was when Santosh is hospitalized. It was a remarkable piece of detailing, and so emotional and so well performed.
If you notice, Annu rushes to the hospital bare feet and Aman remembers to collect his father’s slippers. While Annu runs to buy medicines, Aman drops his father’s slippers on his feet. Despite being shorter in size, he wears and leaves.
It was a commanding message. The role of a father was shifting to his eldest son through those pair of slippers. And this is what I am talking about. Gullak is a show about incidents and this show has addressed, portrayed, and dramatized to zeal.
Gullak is the reminder of good-old Indian and Pakistani family dramas of the 1980s that had a stupendous blend of writing, direction, and performances with exuberant comedy.
Three seasons have been aired and I sincerely hope that Gullak continues writing about the Mishras because there is a lot to happen in this family. By ‘a lot to happen’, I mean to say as Gullak continuously emphasizes incidents, but not stories.
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S. Hussain Zaidi is a former crime reporter, investigative journalist, and novelist whose books based on Mumbai crime became bestsellers. His in-depth extensive research on the Mumbai underworld set a platform for the Bollywood industry and international authors.
Dongri to Dubai is a complete chronicle of the Mumbai mafia. It took six years of research, compilation, verification, and writing the entire material that Zaidi gathered and shaped into a book.
Dongri to Dubai is a favor to all the historophiles who are enthusiastic to go deep in thinking and questioning the origins of the crime that shaped the most powerful syndicate in Mumbai for decades. It is a treasure that the hunters were in quest of while wandering on the mysterious island.
Mumbai and to some extent Karachi are historically the South Asian New Yorks that cultivate a lot of communal and regional backgrounds due to immigration. Dongri to Dubai educated me a lot about the criminal history of Mumbai. It is unusual and geographically diverse.
Decades ago, the Mumbai mafia was ruled by three powerful dons and none of them were Marathis. Two of them were Tamilar and the other was a Pathan, all immigrants.
One arrived in Mumbai with his father from Panankulum when he was eight years old. He worked in a cycle repair shop and earned 5 rupees a day for 12 years. And then worked as a coolie at the dock for three years. Met an Arab sheikh, began smuggling for him, proved his loyalty, became his partner, and during this progress, ruled the South West Mumbai – Mastan Mirza (also known as Haji Mastan).
The other came from Vellore where he was an errand boy at a photography studio when he was seven. In Mumbai, he also started as coolie but at a railway station. There he connected with people who were involved in the liquor trade. His progress in the liquor mafia rose to the emergence and soon became the don of Central Mumbai – Sathuvachari Varadarajan Mudaliar (also known as Varda Bhai and Kala Babu).
And the Pathan came from Peshawar when he was in his mid-twenties. He first started his gambling den. Then he became a moneylender. A Kabuliwallah standing almost 7 feet tall! He became a haunting figure in kicking people out of their residences. Abdul Karim Khan (also known as Karim Lala).
Although Zaidi writes about many dons and gangsters but ‘Dongri to Dubai’ centrally focuses on the one who outsmarted all the previous dons in the city – Dawood Ibrahim.
I liked the idea of introducing the central character after eight chapters. Zaidi settled the readers to understand the origins of Mumbai crimes and their big daddies before making us read the story of the Godfather.
I wholeheartedly appreciate the effort Zaidi made in the entire research that gave the readers an idea about how the city suffered bloodshed, violence, and heinous crimes when Dawood emerged as the new don. It was as if I wasn’t reading about Don but the script of a film where the leading actor is a don as well as an antihero. Son of an honest policeman, a close friend of a journalist, the failure of his first love affair, a brother brutally murdered by his enemies, a cop assisting him to outdo his rivals, etc.
One of the most captivating aspects of reading this book is the wild enmity between the Pathans of Karim Lala and the Kaskar brothers led by Dawood. It was intense and they were bloodthirsty to dominate each other. Almost half of the book is about this saga. And the continuity is so intriguing that the reader cannot discontinue reading at all. The research of the author indicates that Karim Lala’s goons were bigger trouble than the Kaskars.
I have watched Hindi films all my life and observing the stories of the film centralized on crime action thrillers, I always wondered why this was usually a norm to cash the audience’s money besides romance. If you travel back to the 1950s when that Bollywood phase was considered the golden age, rarely did a film based on crime and action developed for the audience. The crime-action thrillers began to make rounds in the 1960s and more prominently from the 1970s, a trend that shaped the entire existence of the industry.
Almost every single don’s origin story followed by interesting minor and major events reminds me of old Bollywood action films of the 1970s and 80s. How much were the directors obsessed with and influenced to make the films for the audience to tell their stories? Thanks to this book that makes me realize that Dilip Kumar–Amitabh Bachchan starrer Shakti is pretty much about Dawood Ibrahim and his father Ibrahim Kaskar who was an honest cop but the former chose the bad side.
The partnership of Inspector Ranbeer Likha and Dawood Ibrahim reminds me of Zanjeer but Pran’s iconic role of Sher Khan was more of Karim Lala. In my further cognizance after reading this book, Aamir Khan’s Ghulam may not have come to anyone’s radar but I think that too was based on Dawood. His brother was killed like Dawood’s own and Sharat Saxena’s villainous muscle character of Ronak Singh was definitely based on Baashu Dada, the wrestler and goon of the Teli Mohalla neighborhood. Ghulam concluded with Ronak badly beaten by Siddhu and running away in humiliation exactly like Dawood and his boys beat Baashu and his gang and made them run away as described in the book.
The book is divided into two halves. The first half has 35 chapters and the next has 28. The author emphasizes in the latter that Dawood was helped by ISI and Pakistan government in the 1993 Serial Bombings as an act of Muslim revenge on the Hindus demolishing the historic Babri Mosque. Not only did the author connect the dots but he even wrote about his running mafia while living in Karachi after a few years of residing in Dubai. The book also presses that Chota Shakeel and Iqbal Memon were in Karachi with Dawood when they were searching for Chota Rajan around the world.
MY FAVORITE MOMENTS/HIGHLIGHTS IN THE BOOK
There are dozens of moments where Zaidi’s description made me WOW. I will just drop ten unranked moments from the book that are still sharp in my mind.
Meeting of two Tamil dons at the police station.
Dawood and his gang beating Baashu Dada and his pehelwans.
Killing of Iqbal Natiq.
Khaled Pehelwan’s brutality on Ayyub Lala and Saeed Batla.
The rivalry between Ibrahim Dada and Bada Johnny.
Chota Rajan escaping death in Bangkok.
Shootout at Lokhandwala.
Shabir Ibrahim’s murder.
Gulshan Kumar’s murder.
Assembling of all rival gangsters at Haji Mastan’s residence.
There is a lot to write about the book and I know the details that I am still missing. But to review this book needs its own book or a documentary. Because the ‘Dongri to Dubai’ saga is written in almost 400 pages and details dozens of stories and I cannot touch each of these in my review.
The book heavily condemns the failures of the police, the court, and the government. But also describe their efforts to somehow control the crime rate. It was important to inform the readers that if the police failed on some occasions, then the police also played their part in their war against the mafia.
‘Dongri to Dubai’ successfully declares that Dawood indeed is the biggest don of the city. He is irreplaceable due to the social and cultural impact he has set. Readers who are enthusiastic about reading a criminal history of a certain geographic area should read this. Especially if the reader is a hardcore fan of Bollywood films of all ages.
Now the most complicated argument for a Pakistani reader of ‘Dongri to Dubai’. Where is Dawood? Is he really in Pakistan if not Dubai? Did ISI or the Pakistani government really play their part by partnering with Dawood? It all sounds above the clouds to me.
Several years ago, I tried to read this book twice. First, I read a few chapters but the workload halted my reading progress. Second, I finished almost half of the book and got to know that Dawood is expected to settle in Pakistan. I didn’t make up my mind to read further because, at that time, I felt that the book might turn out to be a fake narration to convince the theory that Dawood is in Karachi and somehow the Pakistan military or the government is involved.
On my third attempt, I finished reading it. And I must admit that a book about the Mumbai underworld requires bullet detailing, a strong narrative, and perspective. And ‘Dongri to Dubai’ is a profitable outcome in the name of research about the criminal history of the city.
From a constable catching some Pathan robbers after the money heist in 1947 to Dawood Ibrahim showing up in Forbes ‘Most Powerful People’ in 2009, Zaidi has covered plenty of crime sagas in almost 400 pages.
See, I have no knowledge about Pakistani terrorism on India’s land and vice versa. There is no peace in fighting wars. A lot of theories can be developed in the historic rivalry between the two countries. But as far as Dawood’s whereabouts are concerned, yes there is a possibility that he may be in Karachi or in any other remote area hiding somewhere or living openly and lavishly. Why not? If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Osama Bin Laden can be found in Pakistan, then why cannot Dawood Ibrahim?
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Sunny is an artist and Firoz, is a printer. Both of them work in a printing press that is run by Sunny’s grandfather. When the printing business hit a crisis and runs out of solutions, Sunny decides to generate money by making counterfeit money.
Released on Amazon Prime Video, Farzi is an Indian black-comedy action series starring Shahid Kapoor. During its eight-episode run, we come to know that the show is set in the same universe as Manoj Bajpayee-starrer ‘The Family Man‘. Directed by the filmmaking duo Raj & DK, Farzi was first planned to be a film years ago but then they decided to make a series.
Looking at its story and the continuity, Farzi is a kind of project that is flexible to be shaped into a film as well as a tv series. The plus point for deciding to stretch Farzi is that the audience got the whole exposure of printing currency and running a business out of it. Officer Michael’s life was focused as well as Megha’s.
But when you stretch the details, the screenplay of the tv series notions development in the central story. I feel this is the area where Farzi is weak because Farzi easily could have been a four-episode show. The writing’s commitment to action and comedy drops the quality in the second half of the season.
I like the plot, it is fresh for the audience with a Narcos-tic narration by Shahid Kapoor. Some minor points raised were sharp like the minister and other attendees not listening to the presentation, Megha and her mother’s typical calls, Michael speaking with his wife and family in Tamil and English, etc. I wanted Michael’s scenes with his family completely without Hindi but it is okay.
Presenting the show in a non-linear way was also a good idea. The dialogues were natural but on several counts, I felt the dialogues went cheesy.
Farzi has plenty of errors in writing. Officer Michael’s disrespectful conduct in conversation with the minister was quite surprising. Just because you have his private pictures, doesn’t mean that you can try to annoy a minister that often and he will tolerate that much.
I have never understood the Bollywood logic. Why the friend of the leading character is always silly and ultra-loyalist to him? Why cannot the directors level the personalities of two or more friends? When the press is demanded to open, uncle Yasir goes cold as the dead body. How come the police and Megha do not suspect Yasir of lying or hiding something from them?
The action sequence in the season finale was quite stretched and boring. The cops repeatedly running towards the front and back was so stupid.
The worst character of the show is Mansoor Dalal played by such a quality actor like Kay Kay Menon. A very stereotypical villain who thinks he is funny but merciless. There was no originality in his antagonism. It was like just another clone of a psycho pretending to be a psycho.
What propels me to watch ‘Farzi’ is the continuity of the story that is set toward the next season and Shahid Kapoor’s performance. With age, his mental strength in acting has gone better, and improved his skill in depicting anger and frustration.
I am not sure if Vijay Sethupati has worked on a Hindi project before but it was absolute fun to listen to him uttering thick curse words in his Tamilian Hindi. I am happy to see Amol Palekar but it looks visible that his acting has faded. What took him so long to return to acting?
Those who are willing to try a black-comedy action series with an interesting plot can try this.
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In 1985, prosecutors Julio César Strassera and Luis Moreno Ocampo fights a criminal case against the military dictators that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. When Strassera is unable to recruit lawyers to form his prosecution team, then Ocampo joins his cause and shockingly recruits a bunch of young law graduates and amateur lawyers to take on the most powerful people in the country.
The Argentine military led by Jorge Rafael Videla seized political power during the 1976 coup against Isabel Perón. When the military established their government, they proceeded to launch their state terrorism campaign which is famously known as the ‘Dirty War‘ that lasted until 1983.
Under this campaign, around 9,000 to 30,000 civilians including the supporters of Perón were either killed or forcibly disappeared. Many of the victims were tortured and were put to extrajudicial murder.
For these intolerable crimes against humanity, the ‘Trial of the Juntas‘ happened two years after the military dictatorship collapsed in 1983 severely after losing the Falklands War against the British. This trial was a historical moment because, for the first time, a civil justice convicted a military dictatorship. And this trial is what the film ‘Argentina, 1985‘ is based on.
The film with all its seriousness finds a narrative way that is convincing for the audience. It is a well-directed film. In 140 screen minutes, the film covers the difficulties the prosecutor Strassera faced, the efforts of the young prosecution team in building a solid case against the criminals, the addresses of the victims that were painful, and many more.
Strassera is the central figure of the film where the writing acknowledges how stressful it was to take the case as well as look after the family. Ocampo, who worked with him in this trial, was also severely under-pressure. There is a sequence where Ocampo is scared of something bad occurring in the court. I liked that part of giving the audience a horror image of the prosecutors who are playing with fire and are unable to hold their temporary mental catastrophe.
The courtroom drama is absolutely not dramatic to the usual standards that we often watch. And due to this reason, the audience will get a real feel of the proceedings. The real heart of the film is in the middle that will boil the blood listening to the tortures the witnesses suffered when they testify in the cross-examination phase, particularly of Adriana Calvo.
As far as accuracy is concerned, the film has used real footage to level the dramatization. A few aspects of the writing are true but some of the scenes looked to be exaggerated like the prosecutor and Viola making insulting gestures, judges at the restaurant, Judith mocking the lawyer, and the interviews of the young graduates, etc.
Strassera’s closing argument is around nine minutes of screen time which indicates how significant this address was for justice and the people of Argentina. The audience may feel that the closing argument had no intensity and Strassera just read the argument. But this is exactly how Strassera, in real, addressed the court. The spectators getting jubilant and emotional with a standing ovation is all in the footage.
The makers surely had plenty of options to entitle the film. The most fitting could have been ‘Juicio a las Juntas’ (Trial of the Juntas) but they chose ‘Argentina, 1985’. That leads to a few theories that make this title a more fitting title than ‘Juicio a las Juntas’. The most compelling theory is that this year was a defining moment in the country’s history that learned from the political mess and shaped the country for better economic and social growth.
I am not sure how often an Argentine or Spanish film has dramatized this event before. But I feel that this was the need of the hour. The fall of the military dictatorship is considered the re-independence of the country.
This historical drama successfully highlights how the judicial system of a country sets an example for others and brings dangerous people to justice. I wanted to watch a short dramatization of military violence to initiate this film. Looks incomplete without it. But in all sorts, ‘Argentina, 1985’ has set the bar high for courtroom dramas. And addressed their national crisis with justice.
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