Tag Archives: Indian Cinema

Film Review: Sanju (2018)

It is my firm believe that when the producers and the director decides to make a film based on an individual, your account your narration your presentation should be precise especially in a case when the individual has a disturbed life blended with the personal violence, shattered image, serious accusations, drug abuse and complicated relations with the family and friends.

The Indian cinema with many unforgettable celebrities offer scores of background stories which has the required material to translate their lives in the reels. Sanjay Dutt is one such story and when the project was announced, I was excited. But when the news broke that Rajkumar Hirani would be directing this, my court of judgments objected the announcement with a question mark bigger than the one in the headline of the cropped newspaper from the scene.

Because Raju Hirani is known to present the subjects and messages to the viewers with a screenplay which can adjust a well equipped rib-tickling comedy. Munnabhai duology, 3 Idiots and PK worked well with the humor because the stories of all the four films were fictional and flexible enough to bend with a typical Hirani humor.

But Baba’s story is dark, real, serious, traumatic, painful and disturbing. Will Raju Hirani make his first serious film or will his directional artistry of presenting sensitive subjects in a cleverly humorous way, this time on the real subject, will work again?

When the teaser and trailer were released, the presentations didn’t buy me at all. Because the seriousness of the content was glorified and looked entertaining instead of thought-provoking. So I said to myself, let me watch the film first and decide if the biopic justifies.

Now that I have watched on Netflix, I am much convinced to conclude that Sanju is easily one of the worst biographic films I have ever watched. This work is easily Raju’s worst. Raju making Sanju is like Taika Waititi making Thor: Ragnarok.

Sanju is bad, really bad, on many counts. One major reason is that when you watch the film and if you are a good observer, you realize that the motive of this film is to give a visual presentation of Sanjay Dutt by his close friend Raju Hirani concluding “Look guys! he was a bad boy, now he is a good boy, so please forgive him”. Baba doesn’t need to earn his name, people love him, people adore him. He has one of the biggest fan-following among the South Asians on a global stage. So stop being naive and focus on the most sensitive incidents of his life because this film is extremely sympathetic to the actor.

And that is where Sanju disappoints me. The screenplay dreadfully emphasizes on his drug usage and relation with his father than anything. You make a lengthy 160-minute film avoiding many important moments and touching a couple of topics is not a smart move. A director can do a lot of things in a screen time of 160 minutes.

MISSTAKES

Fine! Sanju has to be a miniseries to focus and touch all the vital portions of his disturbed timeline. Fine! everything cannot be presented in a very limited screen length. The director may have to divide the film into two like Gangs of Wasseypur, or consider sequel or trilogy, or overtake Tamas, LOC Kargil, and Mera Naam Joker to make the longest Hindi-language film ever to justify Baba’s life story. But I am not asking or expecting to somehow show a complete Sanjay Dutt story. At least mention or give the reference of the missing parts.

How disappointing is it to watch only the current wife, Manyata Dutt, but completely ignoring his other two wives? Especially the first one, Richa Sharma, who died of the brain tumor and was mentally disturbed by the rumors of her husband getting married to Madhuri Dixit. Speaking of the latter, Sanjay-Madhuri affair being once the most famous talk of the town got no space in the screenwriting of the film. With this effect, Baba’s eldest daughter Trishala is automatically out of the frame and shows only two young kids from the current wife, Manyata.

It is strange that Baba admits to the biographer to have slept with at least 300 women including the harlots but the director is scared of speaking a few close ones in his life. Neither his off-screen affair with Tina Munim comes to exist nor Madhuri in the film. But a character Ruby is perhaps intermingled to many of his relationships. Ruby is portrayed by Sonam Kapoor in a short role but gives an impressive performance.

Another strange application is Baba’s friendship with a Gujarati New Yorker (based on his real best friend, Paresh Ghelani) to an extent of his being a major supporting role bigger than his father’s in the film but ignoring the popular jigarship with Kumar Gaurav, the actor and friend who risked his acting career and fame requesting his actor-father Rajendra Kumar to give his friend Sanjay Dutt the role of his brother in Mahesh Bhatt‘s Naam. Result? Sanjay Dutt’s good time in acting career began from this film. This Kumar Gaurav is someone about whom Baba once admitted to shedding his blood for him if required. A friend who is even the husband of his sister Namrata has no mention at all.

And Jim Sarbh‘s Borat look-alike character. It was an important role but I wonder if the director forgets to bring him back in the frame after he speaks to the biographer to check Kamlesh. His role ends pretty prematurely.

DUTTS

Only Baba’s father, Sunil Dutt, is the center of attraction from the entire Dutt parivar. Paresh Rawal plays the senior Dutt’s role which is quite an odd choice. Neither the personality nor the voice of Sunil Dutt reminds you of Paresh Rawal. Paresh Rawal’s role wasn’t close to the senior Dutt but was similar to what he did in Paa. Aamir Khan was offered Sunil Dutt’s role which he refused because of Dangal’s shooting. Paresh and Aamir both were bad choices. In fact, it is hard to find someone like Sunil Dutt to play that role. Surendra Pal perhaps. Unfortunately, there are no heart-melting scenes of the onscreen father-son to take back, neither the seaport scene nor the magic-hug scene.

Baba’s sisters hardly spoke any dialogues in the film. The mother-son onscreen chemistry is shockingly overlooked. Manisha Koirala playing his famous actress-mother Nargis has to be the only satisfying selection in the entire casting. Not only Manisha does resemble but even acts like Nargis so well and alas, she is there for only a few minutes.

At least 1993 Bombay bombings made it into the script among the traumatic incidents of Dutt’s life but even here, Raju Hirani was not interested to go deeper in details and tell us about Sanjay Dutt’s connection with Abu Salem or any terrorist involved in the tragic incident.

BAD USE OF WOMANIZING HUMOR

It is quite bizarre to observe how womanizing is taken so light because it is a sympathetic script based on Baba to clean his image. If this film was based on a notorious criminal, the confession of completing a triple century on the bed would have dropped a nuclear weapon on the viewers. On the contrary, when Baba confesses, Manyata chuckles and the biographer is impressed and it looks way odd for entertainment. Not only this, Baba’s one-night stand with his best friend’s girlfriend hardly makes any sense. This incident is true as per Paresh Ghelani but the portrayal of a well-cultured Gujarati girl shy of wearing a nightie for her man at Baba’s house suddenly turning into Venus bold enough to shamelessly expose her skin to Baba and show a willingness to make out with him looked overdramatic. From Sita to Monroe in 40 seconds, a typical Bollywood u-turn for the viewers! And what is this five-minute sequence even doing in the film in the first place? Was this sequence relevant?

These 160 minutes could have been better utilized or reduced if Raju Hirani would not have pulled a Taika Waititi. Needless and forced humor damaged the screenplay. Not only Gujarati girl scene, many irrelevant scenes like a sleepy politician, over exaggerating Tripathi’s Bapu-Sanju comparison, hospital scene with the death of Ruby’s father, Ruby’s change of heart over her favorite animal, Sanju’s scenes with Bandu Dada also made it in the cut.

RANBIR KAPOOR AS SANJAY DUTT

Now about Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt. See, the first matter of fact is to admit that if there is anyone who can play Baba’s role is Baba himself because finding an actor to play him is most likely unworkable. So the selection of Ranbir for the role is by far the closest a director can think of because Ranbir naturally carries two exceptional qualities of Baba. One is height and the other is the voice.

No offense but sometimes I feel if Ranbir is Baba’s son more than Chintu‘s. Ali Asgar has to be Chintu’s son. Anyway, the struggle over being Baba has to be tougher because on the screen we do see Ranbir giving his best Sanjay Dutt impression as much as he can. Height and voice naturally helped Ranbir. The rest was the bravura of the makeup and styling artist whoever he/she was.

Let’s not say if this is Ranbir’s best performance to date because I believe his performance in Rockstar and Barfi was far superior to this. Because it is all about the execution of the role. Ranbir’s presentation of pain and grief in Rockstar is more compliant than in Sanju. His role in Barfi was more challenging and handicapped.

Ranbir with the gifted height and voice had strong assistance of makeup, styling and costume designing helping further to assume him Baba. But after all the tools and despite carefully adopting Baba’s mannerism, Ranbir reminds Ranbir.

There is one really intense scene in the jail when the pot overflows. Baba loses patience and gets emotionally disturbed. He repeatedly knocks the door while the water touches his feet. This is the time when I wait to see how Ranbir as Baba loses his patience and go maniac. But then the scene ends and moves two months later?!?!


It is not that the film is completely nil. Being a biopic, it do has some accuracies like Baba ticking all the drugs while filling the form, trying to commit suicide, the judge clearing him from terrorism, hiding heroin in his shoes while traveling with his sisters, Nargis dying a few days before Rocky‘s premiere, Tabu giving Filmfare Award for Munnabhai MBBS etc. Makeup, styling and costume designing are also top notch.

But then so many technical mistakes like chronological inconsistencies over most of the vehicles used in different timelines. Look at the KFC chain behind Baba during his struggle to reach New York. That is the current branding philosophy of the chain applied. That scene is from the 80s and KFC branding philosophy was extremely different back then.

Unnecessary tracks stretch the length and the background score is extremely ordinary. Leaves me towards Raju’s direction which I believe is the weakest of all the films he has directed. The story and the screenplay don’t buy me at all.

The filmmakers have to decide if the Indian cinema is ready for biopics. And when I say biopics, that means an honest and accurate biopics. Another point which comes to my mind is that the director must believe that a biopic can win the audience even without being concerned to entertain and box-office results.

I must appreciate that Ranbir did his best being Baba. He is a very talented actor. I am sure if project Sanju would have gone to the right man, may have pulled the right strings.

Ratings: 3/10

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SRIDEVI – THE ART, THE CHARISMA (LAST PART)

(This blog is the second and last part of my eulogy on Sridevi who died in February. Before beginning to read the sequel, I suggest reading the first part here.)

In the previous blog, I gave tribute to Sridevi by highlighting some of her memorable roles/films. In this part, I am writing some segments about her prominence and recognition towards a successful career. I am focusing on some of the factors which made Sridevi one of the greatest stars ever produced in India. What makes us remember her for ages? I will do my best to give my observation a fair justice to her name and legacy.

ACTRESS ACCEPTED WITH HUMOUR

Generally, when it comes to comedy, you do not expect from women to take that stand as comedy has been widely a man’s profession from the black and white era till now. Notably, in the Indian cinema whose history now stretches to over a century, the comedian remains the comedian all his/her life and doesn’t take the centre stage to lead the film. The concept of hero/heroine in Indian cinema among the leading actors has been running for decades where the man is the lover, the fighter, and may add humour in some portion of his role but the Indian cinematic culture is so that it will be very odd to see the leading lady with the comic recipe.

Some actresses did pull a comic show in their careers but that was to a limit. The leading actresses would prefer to stay as the heroine of her hero in the entire film, dance with him, sing and romanticize the script. The humour part was for the supporting actors both male and female who may play a role in bringing the lovebirds closer. Anyhow, most of the scripts didn’t encourage the leading actress to be funny.

Sridevi is someone whose slapsticks went recognized and acceptable to the audience. The best examples are Chaalbaaz and Mr India. In the latter, Sridevi pulled a famous Charlie Chaplin sequence of almost eight minutes. I am mentally not going to accept if any leading actress could perform comedy that long in those times. She did set the standards among the leading actresses to perform comedy as the lead heroine of the film. The trend continued and was successfully followed by Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Karishma Kapoor.

NAGIN DANCE

This is one for the ages. Because there are a very few moments in the Indian cinema when the film topped the box office majorly because of one particular dance number.

Two years before Madhuri’s Ek Do Teen in Tezaab, Sridevi’s Main Teri Dushman in Nagina happened. Both were choreographed by Saroj Khan. Easily one of the most scintillating performances by the leading actress in any video song in any Indian film. Sridevi’s incredible and unparallel performance is the biggest reason why the main cobra theme of the song Main Teri Dushman became a blockbuster hit and is still remembered due to an obvious reason. From comedy to seriousness, Sridevi was a blessed talent. Forget what I wrote above about her comedic timing and performances because this number was completely opposite to the above mentioned.

Sridevi’s facial expressions and the rage on her round face with a display of large scary eyes graced the song. The striking of evil in her behind the closed doors seeks the attention. Her body language in the song cannot be explained, in simple words, there can be no challenge to the other leading actresses to do what she did. Her dancing confidence in the songs was always unmatched but here, she was sensational. Note the moment when she is called. She fixes her eyes on Amrish Puri and looks nowhere. She runs down the stairs in her dance without looking down. This is not so easy. Obviously, a plenty of rehearsals were done before the final shot but then I question to myself, how many takes did she perfect running down the stairs without looking down while dancing. 

FILM ICON IN AN UNFAMILIAR LANGUAGE

This point will recognize Sridevi’s legacy that it was constructed on her verbal intuition. This is an undeniable fact that Sridevi was from Tami Nadu and became the icon of the Indian film industry by working in Hindi-language films with a domination which is not the case with many of the leading actors in the Hindi cinema. And Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth cannot be included in this kind of achievement. They did enter Hindi cinema and worked in dozens of films but their legacy is limited to working in the films of non-Hindi language.

Her direct rival was Madhuri Dixit and she was a Maharashtrian. The only leading actress who shared the domination with her in the 80s was Jaya Prada. Sridevi maintained her remarkable stardom in Tamil and Telugu film industries for at least two decades during the period of entering in the Hindi language film industry.

Sridevi’s massive verbal acting struggle was so exhausting that she didn’t dub her voice in the early phase of her Hindi-films career. Yesteryear actress, Kumari Naaz, used to dub in many of her films for a decade. It is cruel that the Hindi voice used on Sridevi in her early career went so badly unrecognized. Rekha famously dubbed Sridevi’s voice in Akhree Raasta. Sridevi dubbed her own voice for the first time in Chandni. Imagine, many many Hindi hit films happened before Chandni. 

ACCEPTING CHALLENGING ROLES AT A YOUNG AGE

And when I say young age, I mean it. She was a child artist who began her career at the age of 4. But it was the Malayalam film, Poompatta, where she gave a promising display at the age of 8. That remarkable crying scene stretched to almost a couple of minutes was a proof that she was born to do wonders.

The same year, she gave another top performance in Tamil film, Babu, as the adopted daughter of Shivaji Ganesan. The scene where Shivaji recognizes the untidy girl, that facial and physical performance is almost impossible to expect from an 8-year-old artist.

At 13, Sridevi did the unthinkable. She played the role of the-then 25 yo Rajinikanth’s stepmother.

Sridevi in her early teen was accepting adult roles and sensitive scenes like a molesting sequence in Priya at 15. I really am not aware of how, for an extremely young girl, were such scenes allowed to be performed. In 16 Vayathinile, Sridevi played the central role of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers. Sridevi was 14 when she played this leading role between Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth. At 18, Sridevi starred in Moondram Pirai and played the role of a girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. Convincing to say that Sridevi had built a potential experience to enter the Hindi cinema.

A DEDICATED ACTRESS

Three of her career trivia confirms that she was an example of pure dedication and professional commitment.

Gumrah is the only collaboration of Mahesh Bhatt and Sridevi. And there is no surprise that Mahesh Bhatt did some work on her acting because Sridevi’s mental language and timing were spectacular in the film. But last month, Star Plus released Mahesh Bhatt’s emotional tribute to Sridevi when he was speaking to the contestants of the program, “India’s Next Superstars Ki Paathshaala“.

Mahesh Bhatt explained to the contestants how dedicated Sridevi was. Bhatt informed them that the shooting of Gumrah was in its final phase when they had to shoot a scene in the water which involved Sridevi. Producer Yash Johar confirmed to him that she had a 102 something fever. Bhatt suggested to cancel the shooting that day but Sridevi didn’t accept the suggestion and gave her confirmation that she will give the shot. After sharing this experience, Bhatt broke the news of her death to the contestants.

Lamhe was the second and last collaboration between Yash Chopra and Sridevi. But a tragedy occurred in Sridevi’s life when during the shooting of the film in London, she lost her father. She could have requested a deserving short break from the producer but she displayed nobility of her profession. She flew back to India to pay her final respects to her father and returned to work after only 16 days to shoot a comedy sequence. This was revealed in an interview with Yash Chopra.

Chaalbaaz is a very popular film of the 80s and the biggest reason for the popularity of this film is that one song which became a sensational hit, “Na Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hay“. The song was shot in a studio with artificial rain heavily pouring down. The video of this song itself is 7 minutes of the screen time which is pretty insane by coming to our knowledge that while shooting this song, Sridevi had a fever of 103 degrees. Now I am not aware if Sridevi still had a fever in the released video song but her dedication to the work is admirable that with that fever, she performed and danced in so many takes. It was the magic of ill Sridevi which helped the song gets its share of being an unforgettable track and awarded choreographer Saroj Khan a Filmfare for Best Choreography for this song.


Sridevi was one of the few actresses who collaborated and shared the screen with many notable leading male actors like Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Ashok Kumar, Rajinikanth, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Kamal Haasan, Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and a few more.

Famous Indian film director, Shekhar Kapur, confirmed that the sequel of Mr India was on the cards in his emotional tribute on his Instagram account.

Kamal Hassan confirmed in his tribute that he and Sridevi collaborated in a film 27 times together. Kamal-Sridevi pair was the centre of attraction in the Tamil cinema of the 70s.

Ram Gopal Verma, in his extensive tribute on his Facebook notes, made shocking revelations about her disturbed life. He detailed broadly about her sufferings including a tragic death of her father and how her husband helped her in her worst crises.

Sridevi broke in tears while sending a video message to her Pakistani co-stars Adnan Siddiqui and Sajal Ali while the film was premiered in India without them.

Annu Kapoor, in his tribute, spoke the incident in the making of Mr India that when Sridevi’s mother demanded 9 lac rupees for the film, Boney Kapoor responded with the offer of 11 lac rupees.

The latest Academy Award ceremony included Sridevi and Shashi Kapoor in the memorium montage. Sridevi won a posthumous National Award for the Best Actress for Mom.

Sridevi is an art, Sridevi is a charisma. Hindi cinema is incomplete without Sridevi. A leading actress in India will never get that recognition and acceptation like her. Nowadays, a leading actress on her domination in the industry cannot be expected to attempt slapsticks. The culture has changed, the dressing sense in Indian film industry has changed and today’s actress will not wear a saree for a shot. Sadma cannot be repeated, Mr India cannot be repeated. ‘Na Jane Kahan Se Ayi Hai’ cannot bring that magic and if anyone dared to, then the leading actress won’t dance with the fever of 103.

Sridevi is the name of devotion. She is the example of the coming generations of this line of the profession should learn from. Leaving her legacy behind and making millions of her fans miss forever, Sridevi will remain one of the most important wax sculpture of the cinematic museum of India. Thank you, Mr Boney Kapoor, for assisting and supporting her when she needed the most. Thank you, K. Raghavendra Rao, for believing in Sridevi and making her superstar. Your dream of collaborating with her for the 25th time couldn’t meet the destiny but Sridevi accepted the offer in advance by considering it as an honour during Mom’s press meeting in Hyderabad. Thank you late Yash Chopra for gifting us Bollywood’s Chandni.

My words won’t meet a perfect tribute no matter how much I try because your beauty, your essence, your panache, your phenomenon is indescribable.

 

Film Review: Mom (2017)

Mom is about a stepmother (Sridevi) who strives to win her stepdaughter, Arya (Sajal Ali). One night, Arya is gang-raped, a family is broken and loses the case in the court against the culprits. Mom musters her courage and wills to get her daughter justice.
 
In my opinion, it is a story which has been repeated a thousand times in the Indian cinema. The subject of revenge and fight for justice were pretty common subjects back in the 80s and 90s of action-era. The above plot will much remind the filmgoers a Rajiv Rai cult classic, Mohra which was based on precisely these lines.
 
The impression lies in the film editing and direction with the help of impressive performances by all the main cast constructed on a typical script.
 
The film definitely helps to raise the reputation of STEPmother in a South Asian society but also makes the viewer observe the mental and physical capacity of the rape victim because, in most of the Indian films, the woman dies after the rape. Sajal Ali steals the show when she does the screaming and Adnan Siddiqui (father) tries to ease the pain.
 
Another gem of a jaw-dropping scene was of Sridevi when she is informed by the doctor of Arya’s rape. The degree of the display of shock and agony by Sridevi was colossal. Both these scenes were one of the best scenes in 2017.
 
Some aspects of the film are pretty odd. The performance of the culprits before the rape is so 90s i.e., unrealistic. A.R.Rahman‘s background score in many scenes is forced and unnecessary. Sridevi looks like a champion killer in her revenge attempts, even her Need-For-Speed mode of driving to catch the culprit on his bike and breaking/entering the house doesn’t buy you. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a spy in an unusual getup is a waste. The second half of the film is very stretched. And the biggest issue above all these points is that Sridevi is the face of the film, not the subject. At any given circumstance, husband and wife could have equally played their part in the revenge but the film shows that the director wanted to focus only on Sridevi.
 
Mom is a solo show by Sridevi who features for the last time in her acting career in a leading role after a sudden demise. Mom is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable performances by Sridevi. The film will annoy the viewers with the fact that if the angel of death had not followed her for a while, Sridevi in her 50s would have done wonders and gracefully stretched her already 50-year acting career.
 
RATINGS: 7/10

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Film Review: Dangal (2016)

Aamir Khan‘s Dangal has collected over ₹1,500 crore and is becoming the highest-grossing Indian film but when I watched the film after a six-months wait, I found the film wasn’t worth even ₹1.50 crore. 
Dangal is about a man, once a national wrestling champion, who gives up his career due to the shortage of money but sees his dream of winning Gold medal coming true in his daughters, Geeta (played by Fatima Sana Shaikh) and Babita (played by Sanya Malhotra). Being based on Indian wrestling family of Phogat, Dangal is a huge insult in the name of the real-life facts accuracy. In short, it is heavily fictionalized with more than 80% of the story dramatized. I have collected a few points which I found from various media sources.
 
1) According to the authorized biography of Mahavir Singh Phogat, Akhada, it was his wife Daya, who was disappointed that the first child wasn’t a boy.
 
2) The coach is depicted as villainous who is dummy enough to give wrong techniques every time he trains Geeta; whereas the real coach has claimed that only mechanism was changed, not the techniques.
 
3) Geeta losing first-round tournaments globally is completely wrong. The film shows her winning her first Gold medal in international competition in the Commonwealth game whereas she did win a gold medal a year before in Jalandhar.
 
4) Geeta didn’t cut her hair before the Commonwealth games. The video of the final game shows Geeta with long hair.
 
5) Aamir getting locked before the final fight is very incorrect. As per the biography mentioned above, Mahavir did watch the final.
 
6) The final game wasn’t that competitive; in fact, it was a one-sided two-round victory by Geeta with the score 3-0, 8-0.
 
Even besides the factual accuracies, the director Nitesh Tiwari, who is heavily praised and accoladed for his direction, has made the silliest of mistakes as few examples below:
 
1) The referee changes between the scenes in young Mahavir’s early fight. Can you believe it?
 
2) When Mahavir moves Patiala for six months, he is financially low but minutes later he owns a scooter and even books a whole theater to watch the DVD of his daughter’s fight? *claps*
 
3) Mahavir gets locked and not a single security guy bothers to watch the series of unfortunate events happening in such an international competition?
 
Performances? Yes, performances were the first rate but let me talk about Aamir Khan. He finally won a Filmfare Award in 16 years but the question is, what was so challenging about this role? Body transformation does count when the acting is judged but you will watch Aamir’s fatty character in the whole film as the young muscular phase of his role hardly is on the screen for 15 minutes.
 
If I judge his performance as a standout from two different criteria, which is 1) best performances of the year 2016, and 2) Amir’s best performances in the last 15 years, this role is still nowhere. So Filmfare yet again made a blunder in awarding it to a wrong individual.
 
Film’s technical aspects are not convincing at all. A running time of 160 minutes does not justify at all due to lengthy fight sequences and unnecessary songs.
 
Dangal is a one-timer and can be watched on a repeat mode for the sake of entertainment.
Ratings: 4/10
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