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Movie Review: Dhanak

Cast: Hetal Gadda, Krrish Chhabria, Vipin Sharma, Gulfam Khan, Vibha Chibber, Vijay Maurya
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Music: Tapas Relia

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There’s always one thing that you can expect from Nagesh Kukunoor and that is a story that would make you smile. If Dor was the kind of movie that made your heart warm then Dhanak is the one that will totally melt it. This story of a brother-sister duo takes your heart away right from the beginning where the premise is set to have the eyesight restored for the boy as promised by his sister, before his ninth birthday. Yes, that’s what the whole story is about! Nevertheless, from here to there, this is a journey not just across miles through the desert that the duo undertake to conclude their mission but a journey of emotions and experiences, that they gather along the way. A journey that changes their lives forever.

 

D1Pari (Hetal Gadda) and Chhotu (Krrish Chhabra) are orphaned when Chhotu was just 4 years old and now they live with their Uncle (Vipin Sharma) and aunt in rural Rajasthan. Chhotu is vision impaired since then and his sister suggests that he would get his vision back by his ninth birthday, which is just around the corner. When Pari suggests this to Chhotu, little does she know how this would ever happen but once when she sees her idol Shah Rukh Khan on an eye donation poster, she believes it is he who can help them. As soon as she gets to know that the actor is shooting somewhere in Rajasthan, almost 300 kilometres away, they set out to meet him and have their mission accomplished. This journey takes them to various places and they get to meet an assortment of characters, some who help them and some, well….who don’t. How a little girl manages to keep her promise to her brother and keeps her resolve alive inspite of adversity is the story of Dhanak.

 

D2Just like Dhanak (rainbow) has many colours, we witness various shades in this one as well. It is the camaraderie of the lead child actors that binds this well written story and keeps your interest alive till the end. The various other colours are brought in by the supporting cast who are well placed and earnest in their portrayal. The child actors show tremendous chemistry throughout the movie. It is not their portrayal of hugging each other or declaring their love for each other or over the top emotional spectacle, but the cute little bickering that they have-whether over their likeness for their respective Bollywood idol or simply their contrasting individuality- that makes this movie a delightful experience. Pari, the angel, is that sweet little optimistic bubble who only knows how to look upwards and Chhotu is the mighty spirited cherub who does not let his disability define him in any way. While on their journey they do have forked viewpoints, but they do manage to come to a safe conclusion, nevertheless.

 

D3Even though the fable is more on the verge of reality it still focuses on how fairytales can come true with a little bit of will power, fearlessness, benign intentions and innocent imagination. Nagesh Kukunoor has been able to bring out the child characters so beautifully that you are bound to feel the magic that ensues throughout. With the tiny little messages sprinkled throughout the narrative, like, ‘believe in others‘, ‘trust your instincts‘, ‘look inwards for magic‘, you, as an audience, are forced to evaluate your own beliefs as you practice in today’s world. Their infectious goodness and well spirited humour makes you smile at their banter, support and strength. Rajasthan has been brought to vivid character by the rustic and realistic cinematography of Chirantan Das. The music from Tapas Relia is honest just like the movie and forms an extension to the beautiful narrative.
This is story-telling at its best- surely Nagesh Kukunoor is a gem at it (Dor is other brilliant example). It is simple without being simplistic, it is a feel-good adventure without being rickety, it is dazzling without being disconcerting. This one surely has its heart in its right place and promises you ample smiles even as you walk away from the auditorium. Do watch it with your whole family- they deserve it!
Here’s why:

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Movie Review: Baaghi- A Rebel For Love

Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Sudheer Babu, Sunil Grover
Director: Sabbir Khan
Music: Amaal Mallik, Meet Bros, Ankit Tiwari, Manj Musik, Julius Packiam
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When you are an action loving cine-goer and something like Kalaripayattu, Kung Fu and bone breaking action is served then there is  nothing that can stop you from loving this one. Obviously a no-brainer, this baaghi3one does not intend to bring any thing new for the audience in terms of story/script/screenplay however there is entertainment bharpoor. From the initial shot to the end, the movie belongs to Tiger and his sincerity comes through in every shot.

 

While watching the movie, I was constantly reminded of Kung Fu Panda (the first outing) where Po, the most unlikely of the Kung Fu master comes to learn from Master Shifu and how he turns around to becoming the best at what he’s there for, while Tai Lung, the previous favourite remains a foe. Now here as well Ronnie (Tiger Shroff), an arrogant lad, comes to learn Kalaripayattu from his teacher/guru who baaghi4teaches him in ways that Shifu adopted as well and when he becomes proficient, he learns that there is a Tai Lung he is required to fight with, who took his strength for granted. Along the way comes Sia (Shradhha Kapoor) who is obsessed with rain and finds instances to meet with Ronnie over and over again while on the sidelines there is Raghav (Sudheer Babu) who falls for her charms as well and wishes to win her over even of it means kidnapping her and taking her off to Bangkok.

 

Ronnie takes it upon himself to bring Sia back from the clutches of Raghav after fighting and crashing the massive army of fighters the latter has. The first half of the movie fizzes past with song and dance sequences and showcasing the skills material arts has taught baaghi5Ronnie, but the second half is primarily where Ronnie gets to exercise his strength. It is amazing how a beaten to death story (since Ramayan era!), unimpressive dialogues, non-convincing emotions and distorted sequence of events still keeps you hooked on to your seat. The credit solely goes to the histrionics displayed by Ronnie on screen with utter sincerity. And oh, by the way, e also get to see Sia throw in some punches just like Tigress in Kung Fu Panda!

 

baaghi6Shabbir Khan does not deviate from the masala formula and gives us a movie that is half baked but Tiger Shroff’s hard work and grit sails it through. Tiger has shown immense growth since his debut (and his last release) and he does his best in this tailor made role. The craft that he displays in the action sequences is well choreographed and Tiger moves like a well rehearsed dancer. His moves are lyrical and crisp. He makes all the high end stunts look like a child’s play and that’s the beauty. If there is one this that we would want more from him is to see him emote well. Nevertheless, Tiger surrects a movie that would have otherwise dwindled. Having said that, I would not ignore the hard work put in by the rest of the cast as well. Sudheer Babu looks menacing as the antagonist. And it is always a bonus if the villain stands as tall as the hero of the movie and Sudheer barely fails at that.

 

The music of the movie is a mixed bag and only some of the songs like Cham Cham, Sab Tera and Agar Tu Hota are worth a mention. The cinematography is great throughout the movie, whether it is Kerala or Krabi. If you are still guessing whether you should watch this one or not, well, our only opinion is that if action is your thing, you would enjoy it. Here’s proof:

 

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Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Cast: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o
Director: Jon Favreau
Music: John Debney
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Book adaptations are always a challenge, nevertheless, this remake of  the 1967 classic of the same name, is one of the best we have seen in the recent times. Nostalgia overpowering, when we walked into the theatre to watch this movie, we were expecting to meet friends we had left behind somewhere in the childhood. Those familiar voices, those familiar characters, the familiar story, the familiar jungle came rushing back. And we embraced it with the similar warmth that we felt every time “Jungle-Jungle baat chali hai” played in the distance.
TJB2One might argue, how a repeated classic can rake up the same emotions every  time. Well, my friend, that’s the magic created by Rudyard Kipling almost 100 years back that ceases to diminish its effect on young minds. The story is so relatable and inspiring that you are forced to pay attention to every minute detail on screen. Not only is the CGI to perfection but the cast of characters seems to fit the bill perfectly as well. Jon Favreau has ensured that some of the best voices are cast so as to leave a lasting memory of the characters. With the nostalgia factor riding high with this one, not much has been ruffled in the screenplay (I liked that Ka was given a female voice, inspite of the character being male in the original).
TBJ3The centre of attraction, naturally, is Mowgli which is played by Neel Sethi in the most adorable act. Neel has been able to bring Mowgli to life as if the role has been written for him. He not only acts well, but his comfort with the camera is amazing. Not even once do you feel that this is his debut outing. The courage, the humour, the innocence that the character required is projected so very well by him. We’re sure, good projects coming his way would be done with great justice by him in the future as well. The voice of Ben Kingsley as Bagheera is quite commanding. He is the one who is the mentor/guide in Mowgli’s life and shares wisdom with him like “If you can’t learn to run with the pack, one of these days you’ll be someone’s dinner.” Baloo with the voice of Bill Murray is the one who shows the fun side of the jungle to Mowgli. Nevertheless, he has his own share of wisdom to share with him, “They want to send you to the man-village? I say, you can be a man right here!” And the song by Terry Gilkyson between them “The Bare Necessities” is great, especially because it is sung by the artistes themselves.
TJB1The other artistes did justice to their part as well, like Scarlett Johansson the voice of Ka, Lupita Nyong’o the voice of Raksha and Giancarlo Esposito the voice of Akela but it is the voice of Idris Elba as Shere Khan with that menacing tonality that made for an impressive character. His voice was simply perfect for the air of threat that emanates from Shere Khan. We are a fan of Christopher Walken who plays the voice of King Louie and he surely means business. We are amazed how he takes every character and fits into it so beautifully. King Louie threatens but endears. His ignorance is winsome though he is the one who does his best to destroy Mowgli.
THE JUNGLE BOOKThe action in the movie is amazing too. From the first sequence when Bagheera is chasing Mowgli to when Mowgli is being chased by King Louie in the ancient temple and every other sequence in between, everything looks so surreal. It has a kind of a dreamlike quality to the way the jungle is portrayed. Where the wolves and the other animals gather for a meet, to the trees to the waterfalls to the man-village to the ancient temple, looks like we are one with the characters in the jungle- like the whole of the jungle is a part of our life. Amazing what CGI and animation can do to our world. Much appreciation for the animators and the vision of the director.
The narrative of the story is sprinkled with a great deal of wise lines that can be life-lessons for young children. This one is surely a must watch for kids who get a chance at understanding the epic-ness of this story and for the adults who revisit the treasure of nostalgia that it brings. We hope we have made a strong case for you to go watch it. Here’s what to expect:

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Movie Review: Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rajat Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt

Direction: Shakun Batra

Music: Amaal Malik

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When life gives you lemons…ah, well. Just be prepared, life is going to give you lemons, in abundance sometimes. This movie out here is one such lemon, which is fresh, fragrant and enjoyable but sometimes gets pretty sour. The story of Kapoor & Sons is the star of the move and the well-placed actors lend much help to elevate the characters they portray in the movie. After Shakun Batra’s last outing (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu), I was looking forward to this one. Especially, because that was one movie that I thoroughly loved, and have watched multiple times.
k3The story is set in the lush green countryside in Cunnoor where Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) and Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah) live with the eldest member of the family Mr. Kapoor (Rishi Kapoor) who is practicing playing dead for days. It’s when he suffers a heart attack that the sons Arjun (Sidharth Kapoor) and Rahul (Fawad Khan) come rushing back home from abroad. Rahul is an established writer/author and has a real estate business as well in London. Arjun is a struggling writer who has just quit his job to pursue writing and is presently a bar tender at a New Jersey bar.
k2Now that they are all together under one roof, we get to witness their insecurities, grudges, jealousies and pain. The bickering parents are struggling through a financial crisis and heart break/cheating. The siblings have their own grudges they have not been able to overcome and the granddad is trying to bring the family together, holding on to a wish of having everyone in a single frame titled Kapoor & Sons. On the surface the family drama seems simple but within its complex sub-plots is hidden lies that make the family comfort each other less and confront each other more.
k4Tia (Alia Bhatt) the neighbor is that one piece in this jigsaw that manages to bring them all together is her subtle, chic way. She is like a whiff of fresh breath that brings some light-hearted allure on screen. With her amidst the Kapoors, she manages to play her character just apt to be adored. Fawad playing the ‘perfect’ child of the family makes for a perfect impact and Sidharth with his confused, brooding-self manages to hold his character watertight. Rishi Kapoor is just too charming, even when he is playing a dirty old hag with heavy prosthetics. It is the characters of Ratna and Rajat that held my heart and I could relate to the most. The couple has managed to bring a flickering marriage to life beautifully. Their angst, their negativity, their absurdity, their grief, all shine through beautifully by their portrayal of a couple struggling to get their marriage and family together.
k5As far as the technical aspects go, the cinematography is beautiful especially in exhibiting the lush beauty of Cunnoor and the camera movements during the arguments as the characters shuttle from one room to another is exceptional. The screenplay is faultless as well. Not even for a moment you feel that the scene is off track. The music is likeable too with “Bolna” shining all the way, especially since it played in the background.
With tears and laughs galore, this one is a winner all the way. I am sure Karan Johar is extremely proud of the way the work has turned out. And of course, the message that the movie tries to deliver comes through as well- whether you love them or you hate them, it is the family that binds you, no matter what. And when they are not there, well, that’s when you realise how they hold you together. A must watch with the whole family.
Here’s what to expect:

 

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Movie Review: Bajirao Mastani (2015)

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

I am completely in awe of period dramas-always eager to find out how a particular time in the history is translated on the screen. I am always curious to understand the director’s perspective of a set era back in time. Just like always, this time as well, I knew I would like the movie as soon as I saw the promos. Also, I am a Sanjay Leela Bhansali fan so I was all the more looking forward to his latest outing.

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Bhansali movies are known for their elaborate sets and extravagant costumes and also their larger than life portrayal of characters. Exactly what I was expecting and exactly what I was served. The movie set in the 1800s is the love story of Peshwa Bajirao who fell in love with the warrior-princess of Bundelkhund, Mastani, while he was already married to KashiBai. It is also the story of people warped around love where they are unable to devote their whole self and are divided in the turmoils of religion- something that rings true even today. Therefore the story in the present context is quite relatable.
b5This fictional depiction of Bajirao’s life has many shades-love, longing, bigotry, valour and sacrifice. Where Bajirao is fighting hard to balance his life which is divided between love and religion, there is Mastani, who is all consumed by love. Every step she takes, she aims to be closer to Bajirao. Then there is Kashi who is torn between her love for her husband and her husband’s love for another woman.She does excuse the deceit but she does not forgive. This is what makes the story pretty contemporary. How this love destroys the three of them is what sums up the story.
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Where the ethereal Deepika Padukone has played Mastani to the hilt we wonder how in one year she could give us the outgoing Tara (in Tamasha) and the submissive yet strong Mastani, all with consistent poise. Her character has been built based on any woman who completely submits to her love and lives as per her desires. So when she is humiliated, shunned and brutalized, she refuses to give up on the man she loves and bears him a son, as well. She quietly but confidently makes way into his life, only to be remembered as one with her lover. There is Bajirao-the valiant. Ranveer Singh fits into the character so well, it’s almost as if the role is tailor-made for him. His mannerisms, his accent, his tonality all ring of originality as he gets into the skin of his character. He makes the character more believable than what it actually is written as. Every time he moves on the screen we can see grace- whether it is a fight sequence, romance or anguish. He is as effective in the battlefield as he is in the most vulnerable parts-taking Mastani as his wife and Kashi denouncing him. He make us feel for his character.
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There is Kashi Bai played by Priyanka Chopra. Her character is the righteous wife who knows her husband of how he is perceived by the outer world. She connects with him as a friend though but nothing beyond that. Her love for her husband is more devout than spiritual. And when she understands the difference she is broken. Her heartbreak reaches out to you and you sympathise with the character. Her pain speaks at various levels during the course of the second half, whether she is airing it to out to her husband or his lover.
b4Among the other characters, Tanvi Azmi, as the peshwa’s mother shines through and creates ripples. However, the other fine actors like Raza Muraad, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Milind Soman were quite wasted. We would have loved to see their characters play a more vital role in the screenplay. However, that does not hinder us from enjoying the narrative.
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Even though the principal characters have worked really hard to bring the characters to life, it is but the sets and the costumes that complete the circle. Cinematography by Sudeep Chatterjee makes the first half quite distinct from the second half. Where the first half shows the life of the peshwa set within his family and his outings with the enemy, the second half in contrast shows how his life is torn by his family and his battles are more within than outside. Where the first half is sprinkled with deep frames, the second half brings the wide angles and outdoors, transitioning the story that depicts how large the war within the protagonist’s heart is. Additionally, the CGI brings the war scenes to life and some of the visuals get completely etched in your memory- like the one where Bajirao jumps on the head of an elephant and stabs the enemy. Wow!!
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The costumes designed by Anju Modi are strikingly beautiful and come close to the extravagance of Jodha-Akbar. Deepika’s costumes are meticulously brought together to contrast with her various moods throughout the movie-as a princess, as a lover, as a mother. Priyanka carries the marathi look quite well. With slightly wavy hair tied in a bun, the shining gucha-nath, she makes the look complete with that thousand watt smile. Her vibrance brings much colour and life to the frames she is in. Ranveer takes center stage because he needed to bring character to the way he dressed. From regality to soldier his transformation was as elegant as it could be and pleasingly so.
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Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a brave filmmaker to be able to pick up subjects like this and go all out to create what he visualises. Even though the product does not turn out flawless, but it still manages to soar higher than most of the products being churned out. With the colours- all sorts- sprayed courageously across the screen, this historical narrative looks brighter than it would on book. It took me a few days to chew on the movie and I can safely say that this review was worth the wait. The message is clear-love surpasses all- no religion can ever come close because love is a religion by itself.

 

In case, you have still not watched it I would suggest you to use this weekend to watch it. Here is what to expect:

 

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Movie Review: Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

Cast: Sandhya Mridul, Sarah Jane Dias, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anushka Manchanda, Pavleen Gujral, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande
Director: Pan Nalin
Music: Ram Sampath, Anushka Manchanda, The Local Train, Ashish Prabhu Ajgaonkar
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What can we expect when seven women gather under a roof in Goa to celebrate a wedding in the offing? Fun, alright but there’s more to offer here. The film in the first few minutes manages to show us how all of these women are experiencing some or the other kind of battles which may somewhat relate to gender biases. These women gathern not just to celebrate together but also revel in nostalgia, clamour, hopes and laughter. They are the women of today in flesh and blood- women we can relate to at some level. Women who are as happy as they sound on the outside and as hollow otherwise.
AIG2So when Frieda (Sarah Jane Dias), a fashion photographer, invites her friends over to celebrate her wedding with her- because it has to be a very hushed up affair, and only her six friends are going to be a part of it- little does she realise that it’s going to get bigger than her own struggle with the world. Suranjana (Sandhya Mridul) learns that in a bid to prove to the world that she is no less than any man, and fit enough to lead a company as its CEO, she has lost all touch with her six-year old little daughter, who finds herself lost and lonely without the love of her parents. Madhurita (Anushka Manchanda) who is a pop singer going through a terrible dry spell, has no idea that her attempts to kill herself are merely a cry for help and not a brave display of her fight against prejudice. Pammi (Pavleen Gujral) is a housewife who finds herself away from her domestic battles and enjoys the freedom that comes with being in her comfort zone, that is with her friends.
AIG3Activist Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) later on in the movie realises that being angry about issues does not stop them from happening- sad, that she submits though. I’d still have to collect the whole of her character, now that we know her portions were cut by the censorship. Laxmi (Rajshri Deshpande), the house-help is reminded that she is trapped in her revenge, while putting her life on hold. It is Joanna (Amrit Maghera), the wannabe actress, who makes her realise that. Well, she is the spark in this movie. She brings a certain magic not just to her character but also certain elaborate frames. Her conversation, out in the open, with Laxmi is deep and thought-provoking.
Even when you are enjoying the free-spirited Goan air and its narrow alleys along with the characters, you are pretty aware that it is not just the story of some girls who have got together to have some mindless fun, without being judged. You know that there is danger lurking at some corner and before you know it, it hits you! A rape and murder brings them together too. The individual battles that they have been fighting themselves in solitude become a combined aggression. The movie ends on a note where we all hope that it turns true. Though it still seems so far-fetched.
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Even though the movie tries to impress upon feminism as its main agenda, along the way it fails to really go that far. Surprisingly, the issues that keep propping up in the first half did not quite take shape in the second half and got diluted sometime when the accident happens. The intent seemed like it was supposed to create a statement there but it fails to impress. The highlight at that time, though, is the way the characters act. They are beautiful in every way. All of the main ladies manage to create their own space and do full justice to the piece written for them. Whatever their agendas are- revenge, rape, homosexuality, suicide, divorce, childlessness, legal battle- they manage to hold it to their own and treat it well. Must watch if you have the appetite for niche cinema, else just don’t watch it simply to judge it. It’s not meant to be that way.
Appreciate the guts of the director, Nalin, to gather all these vivacious women together and build their lives for two hours, but more than that, a huge applause for the camera work by Swapnil S. Sonawane. The close ups, especially of Amrit and Anuj are superbly shot. Would love to see more of his work, now.
Here is a snippet of what to expect, in case you have not watched the movie yet:

 

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