V (2020) Telugu Movie Review: Bullets Misfired

In films from southern India, especially Tamil and Telugu industry, the film revolves around the lead actor. So whenever a film is announced without a title, the film is generally referred by the name of the lead actor and the forthcoming number of his (as per his filmography). Actors pay an important attention to milestone films likes their 25th or 50th  and so on. Continue reading “V (2020) Telugu Movie Review: Bullets Misfired”

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

PONMAGAL VANDHAL movie review: Swing and a Miss…

Jyothika’s latest starrer Ponmaghal Vandhal has been a much talked about movie in the recent weeks. Afterall, here is a A-lister tamil movie where the producer Suriya showed some spine going against the threats of exhibitors to bring a film directly to the streaming platform. Praiseworthy indeed but, on a closer look, one must admit that it also seems more of a smarter business choice.

Because truth be told Ponmaghal Vandhal, despite the stars associated, comes off like a TV movie rather than one aimed at the box office. This directorial feature from JJ Frederick is content in pushing the message strongly and this unfortunately comes at the cost of effective screenplay and story telling techniques. The end result is a well-intentioned, but an immensely preachy message driven movie.

The film opens in a misty Ooty setting where we see a witness’ visuals of a crime that takes place. A woman shooting down two men. The media and the police investigations dub her a psycho serial killer named Jothi, who has been targeting children in the vicinity. We are told about the case, the investigations, the witnesses and also the eventual death of the woman in police operations, all as the titles and credits roll out.

Cut to fifteen years later, where present day, we find a novice lawyer Venba (Joythika) deciding to reopen the case. Initial visual cues reveal itself that this is not just a mere publicity grabbing opportunity for this rookie lawyer, but something more personal and attached.

However, the reopening of the case is enough to get people around visibly concerned, most notable of that being a well-known businessman philanthropist, Vardharajan (Thiagrarajan) whose son happens to be one of the victims of this case. He is swift to rope in a hot shot lawyer Rajarathnam (Parthiban) into the case to avoid further damages to his repute.

What follows is Venba’s struggles to expose the truth behind the events of fifteen years ago.

Jyothika not only stars as Venba but also gets flash back portions where she portrays the lady ‘Jothi’. Though as Venba she fails to hit the right note, relying on a trademark smug or weepie face to get her across the line, she gets more scope to perform as Jothi, flexing her acting skills to more dramatic range. But the makers could have avoided that pointless star-entrance shot of hers on a bike – the constant snag in Tamil movies that keeps makers from unadulterated story telling. Even Frederick can’t hep but throw in nods by introducing veterans like Bhagyaraj and Prathap Pothen with their respective songs. However as much as it is a pleasure to watch them on screen, they along with Pandiarajan and Thyagarajan plays disappointingly one note characters.  Nowhere the kind of magic I expected when I heard the union of five directors in this ensemble cast.

Parthiban comes in as the rival lawyer and honestly, his brand of Parthiban-ism is what keep me engaged through the movie. But again at times even the makers ended up throwing too much star focus at times. Especially in a visually interesting investigation scene that incorporates the ‘time freeze’ shot. Though the scene is a reveal of a gruesome murder scene, the director ends up throwing attention on Parthiban’s presence than the importance or gravity of the situation.

Such odd choices make the direction inconsistent and some scenes play out rather silly or a little too in the face. Even the shot selections, especially where a sexual crime with a child is involved, should have been handled more sensitively. Frederick relies heaving on reaction cuts in many of the scenes to amplify the emotions because evidently the writing and the performances were not achieving the results.

Technically nothing much to write home about. Cinematography was overall good, but what really stood out was Govind Vasantha’s background score in some portions. He literally makes that violin of his convey that pain.

The intentions, as remarked earlier, are all good. No argument there. The makers here are indeed e focusing on the message rather than exploiting the message. To its credit, it never comes off as a mere star vehicle under the guise of socially relevant subject. There is no ‘The Great Father’ or a vigilante ‘Mom’ in here like we have been getting in the recent few years. This is much more focused on the victims and the survivors of sexual crimes.

But you really wish they would have worked harder to get the cinematic pulses right. As a court room drama, it keeps repeatedly falling on its face. As a thriller, it just fails to excite with twists that you can see from miles away.  Even the makers decide an unnecessary final twist to untwist the interval reveal, but it really does not help the cause much.

Years after cases of Nirbhaya and Asifa, sexual crimes in India are still on a rise. Victims are getting younger, and shockingly so are the perpetrator of such crimes. Certainly a relevant a topic that needs to be addressed, discussed. Therefore it is noteworthy that stars like Suriya and Joythika are stepping up to address these issues in mainstream media.  And, hopefully all the attention that the movie has generated in the OTT vs Exhibitors struggle will help in getting more eyeballs to this movie in these times of lockdown.

But if only we had a strong and powerful movie to go along with it. Unfortunately, Ponmaghal Vandhal is too predictable a fare and is a case of missed opportunity to make the kind of impression it needed to.

Cast: Jyothika, Bhagyaraj, Thyagarajan, Prathap Pothen, Pandiaraajan and Parthibhan

Music Govind Vasantha

Directed by J.J. Fredrick

Streaming now on AMAZON PRIME

Being directed by Kabir Khan, for The Forgotten Army, has ensured a sense of fulfillment-Says Actor Karanvir Malhotra

Actor Karanvir Malhotra who was loved for his performance in  Netflix’s coming-of-age cricket drama, Selection Day, will now be seen in Kabir Khan’s mini series The Forgotten Army- Azaadi Ke Liye which is streaming live on Amazon Prime. Karanvir plays the role of Amar- a young budding photo journalist working on a project for BBC. Amar’s character has been inspired by Kabir Khan’s experiences when he made his directorial debut with the documentary film ‘The Forgotten Army’ which realeased in 1999.

Talking about being a part of such an impressive canvas, Karanvir said, “Getting a chance to be directed by Kabir Khan and work with such a talented cast and crew is definitely a career high. Technically, I first shot for The Forgotten Army and it was supposed to be my debut but Selection Day released first. I am glad I got an opportunity to work on two roles that are so different from each other, at just the start of my career. This project has ensured a sense of fulfillment. It’s overwhelming to receive so many messages and positive feedback from people who have watched the show.”

Born and raised in Delhi, Karanvir moved to Australia where he completed his education from La Trobe University, Melbourne. He later pursued theatre and performed at Melnourne Fringe Festival, the prestigious Adelaide Fringe Festival, Short+Sweet theatre festival. He even was a part of the Australian Shakespeare Company and performed for their production Romeo and Juliet.

The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye, is based on the true story of Indian soldiers who marched towards the capital, with the war cry Challo Dilli, to free their country from the reign of the British. The series stars Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari, MK Raina, Karanvir Malhotra, Rohit Chaudhary, TJ Bhanu in significant roles.Continue reading “Being directed by Kabir Khan, for The Forgotten Army, has ensured a sense of fulfillment-Says Actor Karanvir Malhotra”