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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.

 

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SRIDEVI – The Art, The Charisma (First Part)

The clock struck 12 and it was the 25th of February when I was driving the street and returning back to home after a dinner with my friend when my 19yo brother on Facebook questioned who Sridevi is. I obviously got the clue but for a couple of minutes, I just couldn’t believe that Sridevi, the queen of hearts, is no more.

Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit were the top-billed heroines of the Hindi cinema of the 80s and 90s. Both dominated the film industry, achieved marvellous success and numerous awards, and occupied the hearts of millions of fans around the world. Both were fabulous dancers and both had the quality and ability to compete with the leading male actors on box office by running the film on their own. The reason for stating this is because of the cinematic culture of India where the business of the film heavily depends on the leading male actor. These two unchallenged queens of divas never starred in a film together which speaks of an obvious professional rivalry.

My earliest memory of Sridevi is watching her in ChaalBaaz which I happened to watch on VHS. ChaalBaaz was the remake of Ramesh Sippy‘s Seeta Aur Geeta and Sridevi played a spectacular double-role. Later on, I watched dozens of films in which Sridevi starred like Mr. India, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, Janbaaz, Aakhree Raasta, Himmatwala, Joshilaay, Khuda Gawah, Laadlaa and many more.

It is hard for today’s generation to understand the hype of Sridevi’s demise and what she meant to the Indian cinema. Her contribution is stupendous. In honour of her memory and dedication to the Indian cinema, I began writing this eulogy for Sridevi, to whose beauty I am deeply gratified, after knowing about her demise. Let me try to highlight a few segments of her career.

16 VAYATHINILE

It has been forty years to P.Bharathiraja‘s classic 16 Vayathinile which starred Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, and 13-year-old Sridevi. The film was about a 16-year-old village girl who wishes to become a teacher but her life is stuck between the two lovers.

The emotional performance in 16 Vayanthinile was incredible. The scenes when her character Mayil is spotted by the rich doctor, or when the doctor takes his chance on her, and a few more scenes. It is very tough at 13 to play such emotional roles. Such a sensitive scene like Rajini’s rape attempt on her showed that the actress was daring and courageous enough to grab any given role.

MOONDRAM PIRAI/SADMA

It is surprisingly strange that in the Indian cinema, we hardly see the leading ladies taking a challenge of playing the character of a mentally or physically challenged woman. Tell at least three such roles in the next 10 seconds! Tough isn’t it? The best to our memory is Rani Mukerji/Ayesha Kapur in Black, Priyanka Chopra in Barfi, or Jaya Bachchan in Koshish.

Sridevi is among the very few leading actresses to have played such a tougher role and the obvious evidence is Balu Mahendra‘s Tamil film, Moondram Pirai and its Hindi version, Sadma (released a year later). Sridevi took months in the preparation for the role of a young girl who suffered retrograde amnesia after a car accident. It was her versatility at such a young age that she displayed a stunning performance straight from the scene when she opens her eyes and widens her big eyes to see two strange people standing in front of them who are actually her parents. While the parents try to comfort her, she is unable to recognize them.

From that scene until she recovers, her mental performance and body language were unbelievable. The way she observes the puppy dog and plays with it, the funny fight scene and saree scene with Somu (Kamal Haasan). Sadma was only her 2nd Hindi film but at 20, she already had established her name in Indian film industries of other languages.

Here, I must mention the name of Kamal Haasan, and praise and thank him for his contribution to the film. Because the characters of Kamal and Sridevi in the films were one of the most unusual pairings and their extraordinary performances helped the films to be remembered for decades. Balu’s direction and their onscreen presence aided the film to conclude at one of the most dramatic and emotional ends. I recommend the readers to read Subhash K. Jha’s excellent film review for the Indian Express. In my opinion, Moondram Pirai/Sadma were Sridevi’s best performances of her prestigious career.

MR. INDIA

Shekhar Kapur‘s Mr India was memorable for not one but many reasons. Count Amrish Puri‘s unforgettable villainous role of Mogambo, and Anil Kapoor‘s title role, but Sridevi was also a major factor in the film’s outstanding success for not one but at least three reasons.

One was her comic performance in the film at numerous occasion most memorably in that Charlie Chaplin sequence.

Then her performance in the song Hawa Hawaii, her slapsticks and moves. The song made singer Kavita Krishnamurthy a stellar.

Then another song, “I Love You“. Sridevi in a blue saree for me is still more sensual than nowadays skin shows. Although both Hawa Hawaii and I Love You were one of Sridevi’s biggest hit numbers of her career but the significance of the latter is the solo show in the entire six and a half minutes of the song. Sridevi here proved that the choreography of the song can run solely on a woman with the masculine voice in the background. Sridevi’s sex appeal in the song is still considered one of the hottest choreographies in the Hindi cinema. She was just out of the world.

CHANDNI/LAMHE

There had to be something in Yash Chopra‘s mind that after a series of back to back failures and below average performances of his films starting from Kaala Patthar to Vijay that he chose to cast Sridevi for the first time as the leading cast to play the title role of Chandni. Yash Chopra wanted to change the action era of the 80s by making a romantic film and announced Chandni.

Being a female-centric film, Sridevi proved to be the perfect girl to play Chandni one can imagine. If the blue saree in Mr India wasn’t enough to melt our hearts, comes white churidar and kurta with a leheriya dupatta which looked incredibly simple and beautiful on Sridevi.

Sridevi made Chandni a cult classic. The legacy is that the film inspired the women to buy the Chandni white dress in Chandni Chowk. Two famous numbers from Chandni graced Sridevi’s career.

One was ‘Mere Haathon Mein’ which became India’s most famous chooriyan (bangles) song.

And then the classical tandav dance number where she turned into some mythical Goddess again in the white dress. Sridevi looked some Venus in that dance sequence but then, when did she never looked Venus?

The moment in the song Mitwa when the flute begins to play Tere Mere Honton Pe and Sridevi releases herself from Rishi Kapoor‘s arms and begins stepping to dance slowly, it is so mesmerizing! It is like an angel of love has descended down to comfort our souls.

Two years later, when the action era in Bollywood continued to race furthermore years, Lamhe happened. Yash Chopra again cast Sridevi and this time for a double role. In my opinion, Lamhe wasn’t Sridevi’s finest works. Coming from a journey where she did Nagina, Mr.India, ChaalBaaz, and Chandni, Lamhe wasn’t that wow. Considering that she had done double roles before and if double-role has to be the criteria, then the forthcoming film Khuda Gawah was a way better double performance. Sridevi did win the Filmfare award for the Best Actress but she may have won that for many films she was nominated before and later. 

Versatile actress Manisha Koirala once stated in the interview that both Lamhe and Chandni were her dream roles.

GUMRAH

In the 90s, if there was any director who really worked and improvised on Sridevi’s acting, it was Mahesh Bhatt. Gumrah‘s Sridevi was pretty different from her previous works like her reaction to her ailing mother’s death. And when she is wrongly caught for cocaine in the airport, she has a powerful facial performance of dropping into a sudden ill fate. The way she loses herself in shock after the drugs are produced from the handbag and begin screaming her boyfriend’s name in confusion is a remarkable shot. Her prison fight scene for a key with a female prison ward shows how the innocent character can bring rage and go violent. Her emotional personification, complexity to the character, her timing were top notch. Gumrah was indeed one of Sridevi’s finest works.

ENGLISH VINGLISH

Gauri Shinde‘s debut film, English Vinglish, marked Sridevi’s first grand comeback in the Indian film cinema after 15 years. And the role she played was her testimonial to her dedication towards constructing her phenomena. Just like she entered the Hindi cinema with no fluency in the language, she played the character of a small entrepreneur who learns to speak English to gain self-respect among her family.

This film set a base for Sridevi as an introduction of yesteryear’s heroin in the second innings of her age. Playing a real character role in her late 40s and giving competition to the new faces. Sridevi became an institution to the new generation and taught the fluctuation of confidence. That test of her spiral benevolence was her attribute.

How dynamic is that restaurant scene when she levels up her confidence and courage to place her order in English resulting in the cashier losing her patience in unsuccessfully cooperating with her. Dropping of coins from shaking hands in tension, and accidentally hitting the other customer were very rich scenes. It was a flawless timing where Sridevi displayed some embarrassing moments of millions around the globe.

But Sridevi summarized her entire brilliance and translated her legacy in the final speech making the viewers think if Sridevi really had English issues in real life. The way she began the speech, tried to set the tone with some words, pushed herself to built confidence and gave tips to the bride in the most simplest English was so human and natural.

MOM

Her final leading performance and confirmed to be her 300th film by many sources. Mom is one of the most vibrant and unforgettable performances by Sridevi. She plays a stepmother who wants to win her stepdaughter, Arya. Arya is gang-raped, the family is broken and loses the case in the court against the culprits. So she musters her courage and wills to get her daughter justice.

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. Because many leading actresses, who earned their name and reputation in the cinema, either get married and retires or sparingly shows up in their 40s and 50s.

Besides the above picks, I imagine Sridevi’s domination would have been unmatchable if she would have worked in Beta, Darr, Baazigar, Mohabbatein, Baghban, and Baahubali when/if offered. Beta was a huge miss and her rival Madhuri took the centre stage with that Dhak Dhak number. Yash’s original choice for Darr was Sridevi but she refused. Abbas-Mastan planned to have Sridevi in a double role of twin sisters in Baazigar but then opted for Kajol/Shilpa to play those roles.

Sridevi’s lack of interest scrapped her character in Mohabbatein who was supposed to be Amitabh‘s love interest. Baahubali’s character of Sivagami played by Ramya Krishnan was first offered to Sridevi which she declined due to her commitment to the other project. But the mother of all misses is declining Steven Spielberg‘s offer to play a character in Jurassic Park. And her reason was that the role was small and unworthy of her star stature. Oh, my.

Thank you for reading. This is the conclusion of the first part of the tribute to Sridevi. Please wait for the second and final part. Will be posted soon.

Movie Review: CityLights (2014)

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What happens when a poor man from a village looks for a job in a city? What happens when he takes his family and settles down in metro-crowded-noisy city? One can never expect that anything will go absolutely right under his way. There goes a tremendous change in momentum of life and your initial steps are temporary hiccups to accept the changing circumstances over noisy and mad city. Making a movie on it may appeal some positive responses as the viewer takes the movie as something-about-to-happen experience. The movie-makers often make a comedy movie over rural-turn-urban life experience. But some become a socioeconomic subject for critical awareness to make you think how some of us taste such tragic encounters of life-changing gears. Migrated people always have that luck! 

That’s what happened couple of years ago when Sean Ellis made a British movie about a Filipino couples who had a land-migrating life-changing tragic experience from one part of Philippines to the other. The movie was ‘Metro Manila‘ that was Britain’s official entry for Best Foreign-Language Film at 86th Academy Awards last year. 

Metro Manila was an inspiration movie which reached to the doors of Indian movie industry. Citylights is produced under the banners of Vishesh Films and is official Indian remake of Metro Manila. Hansal Mehta was picked for the direction and the production of movie cost only 7 crore. Cast includes Rajkummar Rao (Love Sex aur Dhokha, Kai Po Che, Shahid), Manav Kaul and Rajkummar’s real-life girlfriend Patralekha. Set up is a poor young family of Rajasthan who migrates to Mumbai for money, better job and better future. Traveling all over from Rajasthan relying on one of close friend who never shows his face are all alone, homeless and self-dependent struggling to settle in crazy-life of Mumbai.

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Hansal-Rajkummar collaborates as director-actor for the second time after critical acclaimed movie Shahid. Director put all faith in viewers to promise yet another splendid movie with powerful performances by Rajkummar and Manav Kaul.  

Rajkummar Rao is one amazing Haryana-born acting talent who always mesmerizes you with any role he plays. His characters are challenging. Since 2013, he is in magnificent form and picking very selective movies to bring a lot of critical attention among the movie pundits, journalists and sensible moviegoers. Citylights is his 3rd critical acclaimed performance after Kai Po Che and Shahid. As compared to KPC and Shahid, this role is more tougher. This character is more broken and shattered, and his migration with young wife and little daughter becomes a curse. Lost in the citylights, he is compromised with the naked truth that poverty is a disease and and every honest man is to be stripped. There are many high points in the movie and truly the most powerful scene is when he is drunk and return to his wife.

Citylights is an absolute portray of betrayal and gear-shift morale-collapsing tragic life-story. It is an emotional roller-coaster and depiction of fake-expectation of something called ‘Ray of Hope’ where survival is not in your fate. You are supposed to fell down from your own roof. One of best movies of 2014. Thumbs up for Hansal-Rajkummar partnership!

Rating: 8.8/10

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Movie Review: Aashiqui 2 (2013)

Aashiqui (Do Number) is about a rise and fall of voice between the lovers. It is like Keith Urban losing his edge for Kree Harrison to convince she is the winner but not Candice Glover. The movie concept is loosely based on Charles Chaplin’s Limelight.

So there is a sharaabi Rockstar JJ, oops I mean RJ (Rahul Joker), who is losing grip on his sensational singing career, losing the audience, losing fans but gaining the attention of a bar singer Arohi. He falls in love with her while drunk, and his brain is too alive in the morning to remember he has to release her from bar manager to start a new singing career he has promised to help her.

Then is understood what is gonna happen next. Rahul makes her successful, she signs a contract with his uncle’s T-Series. More typical scenes are obviously expected to follow, she gets nominated on her first musical awards night and supriiiissseeeee!!! guess who wins??? obviously who else then Arohi. Then jotshi baba Mr. Happy Banana of Delhi Belly predicts the turnout of careers of both lovers.

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Then the reversal of fortunes like Priyanka-Kangana’s Fashion as Arohi’s career touch heights and Rahul suffers serious downfall but Devdasful commitment with daaru remains fix. Their relation fluctuates with time. 

A pretty ordinary script with less-then-average performances. Aditya-Shraddha as Rahul-Arohi don’t even look a charming on-screen chemistry altogether, their acting is like a premature student put on test in medical exams. A mouth-quarrel between Rahul and his friend Vivek in a party scene is enough evidence of expecting a hot-temper bursting scene but falling below than expected.

Somebuddy should ask why Mohit Suri termed the movie as a sequel to Aashiqui as there was nothing to continue and was framed with a new package. The climax of the movie was much understood after noticing all recent Bhatt intense romantic movies. Music of the movie is what makes the movie a blockbuster and “Tum Hi Ho” is Mithoon’s one of finest numbers of his musical career. But the musical comparison of both Aashiquis may come to debate but my humble opinion is that score of original Aashiqui was way way way better.

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Movie Status: Drinking alcohol and loving a girl can never work together… Go to hell, you are drunk!!!!

Ratings: 3/10