Netflix India’s Delhi Crime bags ‘Best Drama Series’ at the 48th International Emmy Awards 2020

Netflix’s Delhi Crime produced by Golden Karavan, SK Global Entertainment and FilmKaravan which is based on the 2012 gangrape-murder case, won an International Emmy in the ‘Best Drama Series’ category, making it the first ever EMMY for India. Delhi Crime, directed by Richie Mehta, starring Shefali Shah, Rasika Duggal, Adil Hussain, Yashaswani Dayama and Rajesh Tailang is a fictionalised crime drama. The story is based on the painstaking investigation into the 2012 Delhi gang-rape which dives into DCP Vartika Chaturvedi’s search for the culprits, as India’s capital city reels in the aftermath of the brutal gangrape.Continue reading “Netflix India’s Delhi Crime bags ‘Best Drama Series’ at the 48th International Emmy Awards 2020”

Shayan Italia presents Sha La La; the most symbolic music video to “come out” of India on International Coming Out Day.

Debut Hinglish single Sha La La, backed by Hungama features 65 legendary musicians and 21 visual artists coming together to ignite India with a deeply pertinent message: Love. Without Boundaries.Continue reading “Shayan Italia presents Sha La La; the most symbolic music video to “come out” of India on International Coming Out Day.”

Krishna and His Leela movie review: Love me Two!

Telugu, 2020

Cast:  Sidhu Jonnalegadda, Shradda Srinath, Shalini Vadnikatti, Seerat Kapoor , Jhansi and Sampath Raj

Directed by Ravikanth Perepu

Music by Sricharan Pakala

Streaming now on Netflix

 

Krishna and his Leela, the latest Telugu OTT offering, presented by Rana Daggubati,  is a breezy rom com that is a essentially an update on the age-old ‘one guy-two women’ staple . Though there is certainly no reinventing of the wheel here, director Ravikanth Perepu does put in a neat little job of giving some relatability and rootedness to the whole tricky subject.

Sidhu Jonnalegadda, who is also a co-writer on the film, is introduced in one of those typical cinematic ‘jilted lover boy’ fashions – with the trademark unshaven beard, pondering over life in some picturesque corners of the country. And knowing Telugu cinema, we may easily write offthe rest of the film as one suffering from the Arjun Reddy hangover. But breaking the fourth wall, Sidhu’s character Krishna assures us this could be lighter by asking us not to laugh at his emotional tales. And we pretty get the mood of the film from thereon.

Krishna does not waste time and gets to the heartbreak instantly. We are immediately told how his girlfriend Satya dumps him when she believes the relationship is not going anywhere. The breakup leaves Krishna completely broken, spending the rest of the days crying and sobbing away. It takes a few good time before he decides he is over all these girls and relationship dramas.

But Krishna cannot be kept away from his Leelas for long, and it is no surprise when he ends up immediately falling head over heels over a junior he meets at college, Radha.

As Radha claims, Krishna does not tick off any of her boyfriend material lists. But she still ends up liking the guy and Krishna would believe everything is finally smooth sailing in his love life.  However then comes the hurdle, with a job offering in Bangalore. Having to move out from Vizag, he assures an unsure Radha that they will get this long-distance working.

But things take an interesting turn when in Bangalore, where he runs into his ex-girlfriend Satya. If that is not spice enough, add an attractive roommate (Seerat Kapoor) to the mix. And you know you are getting a perfect recipe for trouble in Sidhu’s paradise.  The rest of the film has Sidhu trying to figure out the Dos and Donts of relationships. The only question is will it be too late by the time he does the figuring out.

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The biggest strength of the movie undoubtedly lies in its restrained writing. At several instances, there is an opportunity to go too melodramatic or score some each cheap laughs, except for a few initial portions involving Viva Harsha. But the writing holds back and avoids falling into the usual easy trappings of Telegu commercial cinema. The characters are certainly well written, especially the women and therefore keeps the proceedings refreshingly relatable and real.

Performances also immensely helps here. After all, it is vital that the audience needs to develop a rooting interest in the characters for this set up to work. And to the credit of the writing team and the trio of Sidhu, Shradda and Shalini, the manage to nail that factor.Even the fourth wall breaking which may seem gimmicky at first, works well in opening  frank one way conversation between the audience and the main character.

Lead man Sidhu masterfully steers his complicated character convincingly through the whole messy deal. Shradda as usual impresses effortlessly, while Shalini Vadnikatti though good, finds herself a little short when it comes to the emotionally heavy sequences.  Seerat Kapoor chips in just fine with Rukhsar, a very interestingly written character that in my opinion, deserved a little more space and voice in the screenplay. Sampath and Jhansi plays the roles of Sidhu’s parents in graceful, convincing manner, with a delicately written scene showing their dynamics in a mature, no-frills manner. It was also an appreciable gesture of having the dubbing artists names alongside the actresses in the title credits.

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The movie just about loses steam even with its mere 120-minute mark as the screenplay goes back and forth between the Leelas of this Krishna’s life, constantly shuffling between Vizag and Bangalore with a little Coorg detour. But Ravikanth keeps things light and constantly moving. And though the performance manages to sell the lead character’s predicament, the final speech disappointingly falls flat sticking out like a weak excuse. And also time writers realise that this lazy act of transforming their characters into overnight authors is getting a little too stale.

But these are minor quibbles in what is essentially a welcome addition to an otherwise ‘done-to-death’ romcom formula. Refreshing and sure-footed, it is worth spending a couple of hours checking out Krishna and his Leela, for an easy OTT watch.

– Joxily John

KAPPELA movie review: Couple Trouble!

Malayalam , 2020

Cast:     Anna Ben, Roshan Mathews, Sreentha Bhasi, Sudhi Koppa,

Music    Sushin Shyam

Written and directed by Muhammed Musthafa

 streaming on NETFLIX

 

Continuing the golden run in recent years, Malayalam movie industry dived into 2020 with a bang!  Right up in January the thriller Anjaam Pathira took the box-office by storm, and the next month saw the arrival of the widely appreciated Ayyapanum Koshiyum. And in the month of March, a small little film titled Kappela quietly came to the big screens and instantly impressed audiences. It was unfortunate though that the movie did not get its due cause of the immediate lockdown measures put in place.

Kappela (meaning Chapel) is a neatly packaged movie from actor Muhammed Musthafa who is making his directorial debut with this venture. Musthafa, who over a decade has become a familiar face in Malayalam movies shows that he has some tricks up his sleeve when it comes to writing as well. Because his sharp and creative screenplay is what works for this, otherwise simple looking film.

Much of the credit goes to the smart casting and leading from the front is Anna Ben. This actress after the highly impressive roles in Kumbalangi Nights and Helen, once again charms literally carrying the entire movie on her petite shoulders.  In Kappela, she plays Jessy, a a simple naive girl from an orthodox Christian, residing in a high range village in Wayanad, Kerala. Having flunked her exams, she really haven’t any high ambitions set for herself in life, and goes about her routine life, with rather modest desires. Like something as simple as a visit to a beach.

Jessy’s life gets interesting when she ends up dialing a wrong number one day. The voice at the other end belongs to a Vishnu (Roshan Mathews), an autorickshaw driver.  Soon it leads to more calls between the two, and before you know it, a romantic relationship brews between the duo over these regular phone calls.

The two decide eventually to meet each other in the city of Kozhikode. But what should have been a simple rendezvous gets complicated when in walks a third character, Roy (Sreenath Bhasi) into the equation and the lives of this couple will never remain the same.

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Telling anything more would be spoilers because the strength is in the screenplay taking you places which you do not expect it to and Musthafa the writer makes the job easy for the director in him. He shows how an ordinary tale can be spun to effective results, without going all flashy or in-your-face. It also holds back from being preachy or taking any moralistic high stand when it comes to dealing with its characters and situations. For a minute, you would even think this is going the way of last year’s Shane Nigam starrer Ishq and we are going to get yet another round of the clash of male egos.

 

Sreenath Bhasi and Roshan Mathews does a good job in their respective roles, going at each other’s throats. Having to walk on this fine thin line of characterization, the two pulls it off with aplomb. But as mentioned the real heart and soul is Anna Ben and she emerges extremely confident in her craft, adding this one too as yet another feather to her short but impressive filmography. She gives the needed relatability to the character of Jessy, grounding her in earnestness. Able support also comes from the rest of the cast that includes Sudhi Koppa, James Elia, Nisha Sarang and Tanvi Ram.

Sushin Shyam’s delightfully wonderful score and Jimshi Khalid’s captivating frames enhances the movie, enriching the experience, supporting Mustafa’s vision.

With a refreshing take that toys with one’s perspectives, Kapella is another small yet impressive work that once again shows that the Malayalam industry is indeed in promising hands. And this gives us a prime example, how boundaries of storytelling are constantly being pushed despite all the seeming limitations.

 

– Joxily John

 

PENGUIN movie review: Flightless!

Tamil, 2020

 Cast :  Keerthy Suresh, Lingaa, Master Advaith, Madhampatty Rangaraja, Mathi, Nithya Kirupa

Written and Directed by Eashvar Karthic

Music by Santosh Narayanan

 

Another week, and yet another disappointing fare that makes it to the OTT platform as an exclusive prime release. And what you learn from these movies, which follows the earlier tamil release PONMAGAL VANDHAL is that hill stations are no good for children.  Here again, while the setting shifts from Ooty to Kodaikanal, the situation remains the same. Kids are being kidnapped from their mothers.

In the movie oddly titled PENGUIN, Keerthy Suresh plays a mother in search of her child.  Sticking to the trend of odd naming, she is named Rhythm, that gets sweetly shortened to Ritu on occasions. When we are introduced to Rhythm aka Ritu, she is an expecting mother, seven months pregnant. But she is also one suffering from the trauma of losing her child six years ago. All she has is the crumbles of the past…. the kidnapping of her little son supposedly by a man with a Charlie Chaplin mask and an umbrella. The images keep haunting her to this day.

However, one night, the ghosts of her past reappear. Not only she sees the mystery man, but also out of nowhere, her long-lost son mysteriously reappears.

Where had he been all these years? Who was behind the kidnapping and why?  Rhythm finds only more questions as she tries to puzzle it all together, but answers come none whatsoever.

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Like all serial killer flicks, the central plot is about the mystery figure behind the scenes of the crime and the clueless protagonist furiously trying to unearth and solve the puzzle. And in such movies, the mood is critical.  Technically, debutant director Eeshvar Karthic realizes this and has his finger on that pulse creating the atmosphere fitting for the thriller ride. Skillfully supporting him in this task is music composer Santosh Narayanan and cinematography by Palani Karthik.

But therein ends the good things. Because the writing on this again by Eeshvar is painfully a letdown. I am still not sure exactly what about the writing impressed a filmmaker like Karthik Subbaraj to back a project like this.  In fact, I wonder how the writer in Eeshvar was able to convince himself that the ridiculous climax and the motives were good enough to fuel this story.

Even if you leave the final climax aside, the preceding screenplay comes with its share of problems. It seems unsure what it wants to be for most of its running time. Does it want to be an out and out serial killer movie. Or does it seek to be an emotional tale of a mother. Or does it want to be spookier and chiller than it all.  The film seems to be eternally stuck in this confusion.

For starters Rhythm ends up losing the things she is to take care of, quite easily. Almost like a habit. You see the scenes play out and you can predict how exactly the scene is going to play out. And again, the screenplay is not exactly rooted in logic. Cops are literally useless. A pregnant woman is left to do all the sleuth work with a trusted dog as partner. The guys are always missing. Too many expositions, chunky dialogues, and cringeworthy acting from the rest of the cast makes this hardly the tense thriller that it seeks to be.

Also, couldn’t help but notice the heavy influence of the Nolan-Batman movies in the way certain things are treated. Like the fear of buzzing insects, or the climax where the lead protagonist must choose between two options on which to save. Or coming to think of it, even the interrogation scene. Not that any of them is pulled off effectively.

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Keerthy Suresh surprisingly does well.  After spending an eternity being just a prop in most superstar vehicles, and getting that award-winning turn in Mahanati, she certainly seems determined to make the best of her new stature. In Penguin, she does a solid grounded act. The abysmal show from the rest of the cast helps, because it makes her indeed look the Award-winning actress. The cast was so disappointing that literally a dog outshines the rest of the cast here, in both characterization and performance. When you have a dog showing more brains than the humans, you know something is off.

Penguin plods and waddles before falling face down. Barring a sincere Keerthy and a few technical notches as mentioned above, the rest of the film fails to do what it sets out to. Instead the movie is at the receiving end of the cruelest cut of them all – some ridiculous writing.  Certainly avoidable!

  Joxily John

 

 

 

Team ‘Pataal Lok’ addresses Mental Health Issues in a LIVE Webinar organized by Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication

Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication (AIMC) New Delhi, held a Live Webinar with the cast & crew of Amazon Prime’s hit show ‘Pataal Lok’ earlier this week (Monday, 15 June) on Zoom.Continue reading “Team ‘Pataal Lok’ addresses Mental Health Issues in a LIVE Webinar organized by Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication”

GULABO SITABO movie review: A Meandering Tale of Greed!

Gulabo Sitabo on the surface may look like the usual banter comedy between a landlord and his tenant, a relationship often thrown in movies as a side note to generate some easy laughs. But here, it is not all laugh and fun. Because deep beneath the surface, the film reveals itself as a introspective look at the futility of all the greed, and what one really stands to gain at the end of it all.  Kya Leke Aayo Jagme , Kya Leke Jaayega croons Vinod Dubey in one of the songs in the movie.

In one scene, the main character asks an expert on what is the value of the prize that they are after. “Priceless” comes the reply.  As in life, the characters here too only learn the true value  when the thing they are after is truly gone. As the film winds down, we find one of the character finds himself losing his past, everything that he held on to all his life, while the other helplessly watches his potential future disappear into thin air as his girlfriend moves on.

In Shoojit Sircar’s world of Gulabo Sitabo, the prize referred earlier here is that of  Fatima Mahal. As glorious and majestic it the name may sound, the real condition of this age-old mansion is deplorable. And yet, everyone seems to be after a piece of this  almost-in-ruins rundown ‘haveli’.  The caretaker of the mansion is the grouchy Mirza (Amitabh) who is handling the things for the real owner of the property, his wife, the Begum (Farrukh Jaffar), who is seventeen years older to him. Ayushmann Khurrana plays Baankey Rastogi, one of the tenants,who has been living with his family for years,  and one who is  hardly able to cough up the paltry rents of Rs 30-70 that is being asked. So, Mirza is determined to get rid of Baankey and hence the two is constantly at loggerheads with each other.

However, with the archaeology department swooping in in the form of Gyanesh (Vijay Raaz) and on the other end, a property specialist lawyer Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) coming into the picture, the race for the claims to the dilapidated mansion literally gets out of hands.

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Unfortunately, this game of one-upmanship between the parties involved takes too long to set up. And once in, we keep going in circles for long lengths making its mere 120 mins seem much longer than it actually is. The plot, like the ‘haveli’ in question, is certainly not going anywhere but writer Juhi Chaturvedi uses the space and time to give broader strokes to her characters. It isn’t until the fag end of things when things finally get a move on. But by then, one feel it maybe a little too late.

The real problem is the distance audience have with the characters. Juhi is content letting the characters be as they want to be, not confined to black and whites with no one judging anyone. There is no coloring to make the characters likeable or appealing. So, we are not connected or emotionally invested in that sense to neither Mirza’s or Baankey’s struggles.  Certainly, by design. And yet, when the whole purpose of their rather purposeless tiffs disappears, one is left with a melancholic wave.

Set in the old-world charm of Lucknow, director Sircar draws out a love letter of sorts to the city, with the non-intrusive cinematography of Avik Mukopadhyay, letting us slip into the locales. And writer Juhi takes advantage by bringing in the flavor of the locality and language alive. So many people unfamiliar with the lingo may lose out some of the fun. And the official subtitles certainly do no justice here.

Besides the dialogues, the real strength is in the cast and how seamlessly they get into the skin of the characters. Amitabh spearheads that department with one of his most remarkable of characters in Mirza. Under a prosthetic nose and those thick glasses, hunched, he is hardly the tall, deep baritone voiced superstar that we are used to. He literally becomes the character and is undoubtedly the life of the movie. And surprisingly one with no bones of goodness to him.

Ayushmann puts in a good effort but he never really gets much from the script to chew on. So much so that he has to add something like a lisp to keep things interesting which keeps coming and going. Unfortunately, just did not feel the chemistry required between the lead duo. As always, Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are pitch perfect in their respective roles making them a delightful addition to the proceedings.

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Special mention to the women in the film and the way they are written even though not in major roles. They are not sitting around and waiting for incompetent men to make decisions for them and are more in charge of their own destinies. Farrukh Jaffar as Fatima Begum is a riot with her wit and humour while Srishti Shrivastava puts in a scene stealing act as Baankey’s sister Guddo, one that breaks the stereotypical idea of a ‘hero’s sister’ role in Bollywood.

Gulabo Sitabo works better as a social satire when it is dealing with the citizens vs the govt battle, with the haveli being a stand-in for the nation. We have tenants who are paying rents for 70 years, but still complain of the raw deal they are getting and being denied of basic rights.  The ‘caretaker’ meanwhile is happy selling off assets from the property or even ripping off the tenants for a quick buck.  So much so the tenants are taking about revolting against the ruthless demands and conditions put by the caretaker. And in one of the most hilarious bits, when Mirza is asked why he is hated this much, he states he is oblivious of any ill-feelings whatsoever.

Unfortunately, all of these positives that the movie holds are buried in a rather meandering screenplay. The small fleeting moments have some charm to it (and some even work better the second time around), but it never really comes together as a whole. And that is a pity.

With neither the charm of PIKU, the emotions of OCTOBER, nor the fun of VICKY DONOR, this turns out to be easily the weakest from the Sircar-Juhi partnership.

 

Cast:  Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava and Farrukh Jaffar

Directed by Shoojit Sircar

Music  Shantanu Moitra, Abhishek Arora, Anuj Garg

Now streaming on AMAZON PRIME

CHOKED movie review: Drainage Story!

Choked is Anurag Kashyap bringing his trademark styles into more relatable scenarios. The normal Kashyap fans might be disappointed that there are no bodies falling here, gaalis thrown around, or with the auteur hardly going into the dark gritty side of things that he is usually known to indulge in.

But that does not mean you do not see Kashyap at all in his latest Netflix exclusive.

Fine example is this fabulous scene where the couple is fighting over who said what as they wind down for the day. The husband and wife decide to let their respective ego take over the situation, with both not willing to back down on their version of the ‘truth’. And in between the two is their young son who is having a sound sleep. So, it starts off on that note, with the two whispering not wanting to wake up the kid.

But not for long. Because soon, the parents decide that it is best to drag their sleeping child into this tussle.  And they keep arguing, whispers now turned to full blown shouting, and amidst all this a child that keeps screaming that he wants to go back to sleep!

This scene is Kashyap at his best, except now he is exploring it in a relatable middle-class family setting. New territories for the maker, but fresher perspectives for the audience.  This time it is a middle-class Marathi residential area where their lives are closely interwoven.

And that is what Kashyap ventures into – part thriller, part satire territory. Choked, is Anurag Kashyap’s exploration into a bad marriage and an equally troublesome drainage, political or otherwise.

Written by Nihit Bhave, the film introduces us to the lives of a regular middle class lady Sarita (Saiyami Kher) who is the breadwinner to her family. Her husband Sushant (Roshan Mathews) is a musician who struggles to stick onto any job and spends his days almost doing nothing. She literally must slog it out and it does take the toll on the relationship. While Sarita she struggles out to make the ends meet, all her slacker husband welcomes her is with “why do we still have potatoes for dinner?”

Sarita, we find also dealing simultaneously with a trauma of a past event. One where the aspiring talent in her finds her wings of desire clipped thanks to a choke up at a talent show audition. The incident still haunts her to this day.

However, it all changes with the arrival of an unexpected night guest. Bundles of cash, rolled up and packed up, pops out of the clogged kitchen pipes much to the surprise of Sarita. She seems to have struck jackpot when the money keeps coming and she thankfully accepts them as a solution to the problems of her life. But she does not go on any spending spree. She uses it wisely and sparsely, saving up most of it for later.

Little does she know Modiji has other plans for her!

 

This is also where the structural shift happens. Kashyap brings the demonetisation into the mix and the movie halts down to make a social commentary on the ordinary lives and the immediate effects of the landmark decision on them. The woman who was too busy struggling to make a life to be bothered with politics until then, advises an aged customer at the bank much later that she should be seeking help and answers to all the troubles from the people who were voted into power.

You can’t help but laugh at the situation on how the demonetisation decision is received. On one hand, the husband, jobless and always shrugging his responsibilities at home, applaud the great leadership and the decision and the foresight of how the rich and corrupt will be affected oblivious to the faces of horror from his wife and neighbor whose lives and plans are crumbling down overnight.

The whole thing is structured right from the word go as a thriller, drawing you immediately into the narrative.

Kashyap uses music wonderfully to ramp up the scenes. It starts off adventurously with the ‘The Mark of Torro’ orchestral piece promising us an intriguing ride as we see the money being hidden intricately. This is followed with more jazzy percussion from Karsh Kale giving the sequences a distinct feel. Not much scope for songs , except for the chaos of the demonetisation set against a Nucleya-Benny Dayal tamil dance track ‘Nerungi’ and a ‘Achhe Din’ observation set to nursery rhymes in the track “500-1000”.

However, keeping the shift from thriller to social satire going on, Kashyap is unable to finally wrap it up with a convincing finale. For the free-wheeling, money dealing story fails to come with a fitting pay-off. It plays out more as one of convenience and makes the earlier issues we dealt with until then all seem irrelevant. Even the whole ‘Reddy’ angle all fails to contribute much to the final outcome.

So yes, as much as one has reasons to have some disappointments with the finale, there is still a lot this movie has going for it.  Like the screenplay and the acting that keeps you firmly engaged with the proceedings. And also some fine work by cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca with the framing of the tight interiors.

Saiyami Kher holds the fort with a wonderful performance in the lead role of Sarita. She embodies the character and sells it well.  Roshan Mathews, making his Hindi debut, does a decent job given the character that he was handed out to play. But the real scene stealer here is Amruta Subhash who hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the neighbor. Rajshri Deshpande chips in with a short role.

On a side note, it is surprising that it took until now for a movie to talk about demonetisation on celluloid in Bollywood. While other regional industries were bold enough to comment, joke or deal with this issue from 2016,  big brother Bollywood has only finally managed to even acknowledge the event. Thankfully, Kashyap is restrained and does not hijack the story to make it a propaganda film and is happy with the sly jabs every now and then.  But still again, it goes about to show how filmmakers are ‘choked’ into putting out their voices more freely out there.

As far as the film is concerned, Choked is more a film that deals with the strangles more than merely the struggles. It talks about the strangles money has on relationships, the strangles the government has on the lives of ordinary people, the strangles the corrupt few have on the general majority as the money flows from the top to the lower levels. Unfortunately, no plumber is going to fix the issue.  Neither will eating mushrooms. Unless of course, your idea of a leader is…Super Mario!

 

Cast: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathews, Amruta Subhash

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

Music score by Karsh Kale

Streaming now on NETFLIX

Makers of Delhi Crime – FilmKaravan Originals release their first feature presentation What Are The Odds? which is now streaming on Netflix, worldwide

FilmKaravan Originals, the producers of the Netflix Original Delhi Crime are in it for the long haul. The much talked about taut thriller based on the investigation of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case had been widely praised and lauded by critics and audiences alike.  Moving to a completely different turf, FilmKaravan Originals, , now releases its second offering, a full-length feature film titled, What Are The Odds?, exclusively on Netflix worldwide. The film is also backed and co-produced by matinee idol Abhay Deol while reprising a pivotal role of a rock star in the film.Continue reading “Makers of Delhi Crime – FilmKaravan Originals release their first feature presentation What Are The Odds? which is now streaming on Netflix, worldwide”