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BADLA review: Murder, They Wrote!
BADLA is one of those words that has a duality about it. In Hindi, it can mean ‘revenge’ as well as ‘change’. And in Sujoy Ghosh’s latest thriller, he manages to incorporate both types of Badla into the sweet mix as he brings together the talents of Taapsee Pannu and the evergreen legend Amitabh Bachchan and place them in a room together to create the intended sparks and magic.
Ghosh, thanks to the Kahaani series, has become a trusted name to the ‘thriller’ genre. And therefore the producers (Red Chillies and Azure Entertainment) have got things easy when you have a name like Ghosh to associate with your thriller, an official remake of a 2016 Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest. The first major change Ghosh does here is the gender-swap on his principal characters from the Spanish original.
Though I haven’t seen the original, it does not take much to predict the final outcome of things. If you pay attention to the details, you can sniff it out right away. And that is not because the character of Badal keeps reminding you of it. But because the structure is such that the main portions are set within a confined room, involving just the two major characters. So you know the surprise also has to spring in from this setting. But Ghosh smartly manages to throw in enough curveballs to keep one guessing till the very end, and even throw offtrack every now and then.
The case: A crime in a hotel room in Glasgow. A man murdered, while a woman is found in the same room, next to the body. No signs or possibilities of any entry or exit with no presence of a third person.
The prime suspect is the woman of course, who happens to be Naina (Taapsee) , a highly successful businesswoman who was having an extra marital affair with the deceased. With all evidences pointing to Naina, an expert lawyer Badal Gupta has been roped in as a last minute ditch effort to save the client who stands to lose it all personally and professionally.
Badal, who has the reputation of never having lost a case, is determined to win this too before retiring professionally. However to do so, he needs to get to the bottom of the whole story and for which he drops into Naina’s flat where she is under house-arrest to dig up the whole truth of the stories and events around her case. In the three hour conversation that follows, Badal hopes to get Naina to reveal it all, right to the minutest of details that could prove vital to the case.
As we dive in, the audience also discovers how the disappearance of a young man turns also relevant to this whole case. As more questions and answers are poured out, we realise that there is more to what meets the eyes (Naina) and that one needs to look beyond the clouds (Badal) to reach the other side to all this surrounding mystery to the deaths as we navigate through the various versions coughed up.
Somewhere in the middle of these discussions, the lawyer throws up an observation about his edgy client. That of there being two types of clients – one that thinks that they are smarter , and the one that genuinely is. And what he deduces about Naina holds true for the movie too. Here the makers do ‘think’ that they are smarter, but the truth unfortunately isn’t so.
Acting wise roping in the PINK duo was a smart choice even though they are repeating the lawyer-client act, but with more varied shades. Yet , despite the fabulous artists that they are, and despite carrying the entire thing on their shoulders, they fail to bring in that extra zing that could make their respective roles truly memorable and a stand-out.
Tony Luke, here had a much more impactful outing than the roles I have seen him earlier in his Malayalam films. Amrita Singh emerges the surprise package and gets a meaty role to sink her teeth into, despite her limited screen time. Manav Paul puts in an extended cameo or sorts, while British actor Tanveer Ghani stood out rather oddly amidst all these.
Cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay manages to capture the cold, brooding winters of Glasgow hauntingly well, whenever the narration escapes from the confines of the flat.
The screenplay keeps twisting and turning things occasionally on its head, keeping the audience very much engaged. Also, the screening where I watched it, thankfully came without an interval, which also helped immensely in keeping the audience on tenterhooks right throughout.
While I could give thumbs up to the staging and the way the cards are played out, the same cannot be said about the problematic “reveal”. It also brings me back to the loopholes that the lawyer bring about how characters develop new skills as necessary as the story goes forward. I do realise that the ending is very much from the original version itself. But then again, the original did not have someone as unique and iconic as Amitabh Bachchan in their cast, did they?
In the world of thrills, this is decent enough even though the pay-off might not be one that had me floored like, say a Kahaani. This is a decent enough thriller from Ghosh that ticks the right boxes, and rides on the talents of its lead actors.
Rating : 3 / 5
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Amrita Singh, Tony Luke, Manav Kaul, Tanveer Ghani
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh
Adapted screenplay by Sujoy Ghosh/ Raj Vasant
The Best of Bollywood In 2018
Listing the ten best films I have seen emerge from Bollywood last year could be a little deficient as I could not get around to watch a few generally acclaimed films like 3 Storeys and Love Sonia in time. Nevertheless, here’s my list of 10 best films that were made in Bollywood in the year gone by.
Honorable mention goes to Rajkumar Gupta’s Raid for an engaging account of a…raid and Hichki where Rani Mukherjee overcomes a clichéd script to deliver a watchable movie.
10. Kuch Bheege Alfaz
I am not a big fan of coincidences as a plot point, and the entire premise of KBA rests on coincidence. But if you are willing to look beyond that, this is a nice, gentle romance. Bollywood specializes in this genre, but rarely do you feel the romance yourself. A combination of good writing, direction and acting achieve this rare feat.
(Disclosure: The writer of this movie Abhishek Chatterjee also contributes to this website)
Horror and comedy often go together by in most cases, the end result is a spoof of the horror genre. Rarely do they complement each other. The horror in Stree follows the standard tropes expected in a film like this, but it’s the funny bits in between that make the movie. The film features good performances by everyone, including Shraddha Kapoor. A confident feature debut by director Amar Kaushik.
The one flaw that I thought Raazi had was that the husband’s character wasn’t developed strongly enough. With a capable counterpart, Alia Bhatt’s spy would have seemed more credible. But this minor quibble apart, Raazi is a good watch with an apt balance of drama and thrills. Surely, Alia Bhatt can do not wrong from this point on in her career.
7. Sui Dhaaga
Having sort of honed his skills paying a small town bumpkin in the Dulhania duology, Varun Dhawan lends a humane touch and some maturity to his character here. He is ably supported by Anushka Sharma. The story of the triumph of the underdog may have been done many times in the past, yet Sharat Katariya’s take on it makes for an interesting watch. If nothing else, I hope it puts Raghuvir Yadav back in the reckoning as a sought out actor.
While watching this movie, I was constantly reminded of Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying where three individuals carry a dead body across a road trip. The more showy role here is played with aplomb by Irfan Khan. Dulquer Salman, in his Hindi debut, is the under playing anchor of the ship and Mithila Palkar is the loose cannon who makes the age gap seem obvious. This is a nice feel-good black comedy.
5. Veere Di Wedding
Four friends at different stages of matrimonial life is a premise for some witty writing. Add to that good performances by the four leading ladies (Swara Bhaskar steals most scenes) under Shashank Ghosh’s able direction and there isn’t a dull moment in this film.
The story of the woman settling for an arranged marriage despite a passionate affair is a template already covered by the Woh Saat Dins, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanams and Dhadkans of the world. Yet writer Kanika Dhillon and director Anurag Kashyap find ways of adding complications to the story. Not all of it made sense to me but then I don’t suppose it was meant to. Superb acting by Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan; in fact this must be Bachchan’s best role in years. He is more suited to these ‘serious types’ than comedy.
3. Badhaai Ho
This is a perfect example of choosing the right actor for the right role. What an ensemble cast this is! A late and unexpected pregnancy puts everyone in the household in an embarrassing situation leading to much mirth. Is this the same Amit Sharma who directed Tevar a few years ago? You don’t say!
I laughed so much with this movie my sides hurt. Three stories run parallel over the span of one fateful night. It’s a no brainer that they will come together at some point. This union is completely forced but by the time it comes, you are beyond the point of caring. Akshat Verma, who wrote the no-holds barred Delhi Belly, makes his directorial debut with even an even more ribald comedy. Sad it barely got noticed at the time of its release.
By now it may seem that I am an Anurag Kashyap fan boy. But really, what’s not to like about this story about a boxer who has to rise above caste politics to claim his right to fight. As always, the dialogues in Kashyap’s films are peerless. No one gets these North Indian landscapes right better than him. Vineet Kumar puts in a performance that should make all filmmakers sit up and take notice of his raw talent.
Mamarziyaan Movie Review: Unchained Melody!
Very rarely do one get to witness a stand out climax in our romantic dramas like the one we see in Manmarziyaan. One that is sans the melodrama or the cliché settings (say like an airport or a railway station). It is something wonderfully set up by director Anurag Kashyap, who for a change grapples here with something more mainstream.
But the ending is only part of the tale. For first, you must reach there. And unfortunately, for that you need to tread a path that is familiar – as familiar as the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam template, or the Rab Ne Banadi Jodi ones. Or for those familiar with South movies, as back as the Mani Rathnam classic Mouna Raagam or an Antha Ezhu Naatkal (remade in Hindi as Woh Saat Din). Here too, we watch as a young woman fall in and out of love, leaving the men in her life to helplessly sit back and watch as she sorts out the messy affairs of her heart.
The lady is none other than Rumi (Taapsee Pannu). She is a happy go lucky, free spirited young woman who likes to live life on her terms. Rumi has no qualms in sneaking in over her boyfriend Vicky and indulging in some ‘f-yaar’ away from the eyes of her family members. But when her folks do find out, she immediately takes control of the situation stating that she wants to marry her Tinder find. She even promises that if her boyfriend fails to show up with his parents formally with an alliance, she is willing to be the sacrificial ‘donkey’ and shall be up for an arranged marriage with any idiot who her family deems right.
That is the confidence she shows in her lover. But little does she know him. Vicky Sandhu (a terrific Vicky Kaushal) is a hopeless irresponsible bloke, a DJ by profession, is so in love with Rumi that he can leap rooftops for his love but the first to run away from any talk of commitment and marriage. He is the kind who is all set to elope with his girl, but without a penny in his pocket. And most of the first half is spent with Rumi trying to get some sense into the guy’s head and get him to be serious about their relationship in a more responsible manner for once.
Enter Rajbir aka Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) , a investment banker from London, in town looking for prospective brides. But when the marriage broker shows him a pic of Rumi, he is immediately fixated on the woman. Despite being aware of her torrid affair with the Dj dude, Robbie still decides to risk things on an alliance with Rumi.
Anurag Kashyap thus brings these three diverse characters into the setting of middle -class Punjab to give you this bold take on the above-mentioned template. The loud Bhansali style Gujarati setting of Hum Dil De…,makes way for a subtler Punjabi one.
It is important to note how Kashyap and writer Kannika opts to keep the script free of any villains. Therefore you do not see the usual scheming family members or the screaming babu-jis in this one. In fact, all of Rumi’s family appear to be supportive of any decision that Rumi makes, that is she if makes up her mind. Having lost her parents at an earlier age, she cleverly manipulates things to her advantage with her aunts, uncles and grandfather to get whatever she desires. And as much as reckless and rebellious, she is also shown someone to be attached to things that she holds dear and near. Notice how she wears her father’s shirt when she goes to ask Vicky to propose to her.
But Rumi is as complex a character that can be, volatile and affectionate in equal measures and Taapsee Pannu has absolutely nailed this one. In what is easily her career best performance, Taapsee is in full control over her multi-faceted character. She is undoubtedly the life of the movie. But she gets wonderful support from the rest of the cast. Vicky Kaushal absolutely rocks as the irresponsible man-child and despite all the flaws of the character, Vicky still makes the character so endearing, without putting a foot wrong. Abhishek Bachchan, returning after a gap of two years, unfortunately is still playing the bland Ramji types- the kind he played in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna,. However, the writing fails to do justice to this third wheel and even performance wise- Abhishek despite his calming assured presence, fail to really bring anything new to his portrayal.
Despite its predictability , Anurag Kashyap and writer Kanika ‘s treatment keep things interesting. The characters here are not boxed into any stereotypes and each have enough shades of grey to keep the viewers hooked. In fact, there is this constant motif of duality that is the center-stage of this script whichKashyap keeps exploring with these characters. And to drive home the point, he deliberately keeps throwing the visual cues like the dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Shah) or the twin guys we see in the Kashmir episode.
It is a welcome return for Kashyap to the romantic genre after a series of crime dramas since tasting success with Dev D. But Kashyap being Kashyap, gets into his fair share of indulgence that makes the movie appear a slog at 155 minutes. As we grapple with Rumi’s indecisiveness, Vicky and Rumi’s antics get a little too repetitive and brings down the energy at a lot of instances. You would find yourself wishing that these two would for once make up their minds and move on.
Glad to find Kashyap and writer Kannika truly liberating Rumi and unchaining her from the Bollywood rulebook that defines how a leading protagonist should act and behave onscreen. Virginity and sex is never brought up as a hindrance to anything as the big issue over a small tissue is outright thrown out of the window in this unflinching take on love, lust and marriage. In fact, right at the beginning, in the scene when the family members discover Vicky in her bedroom Rumi’s immediate reaction is ‘ So what?’
Successfully aiding Kashyap’s return to the romantic genre is partner from Dev D days – Amit Trivedi. Together with lyricist Shelly, the team has come up once again with a scintillating soundtrack that really works wonder and is effectively used to keep the narration stay afloat , capturing the various moods as required.
Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca does full justice in capturing the hustle bustle of the small-town Punjab. Kashyap also cleverly uses food as one of the crutch points. Lassi, pakoras and such mouthwatering delicacies are served aplenty and all the food talk could whet up an appetite in you. So it is best advised not to watch it on an empty stomach.
Manmarziyaan, like its title, seem to be content doing its own thing as it pleases. Refusing to cater to the tried and tested, it constantly pushes and rebels its way out of the labels. Kashyap and team may not have exactly hit it out of the park but has managed to carve out something distinctly bolder from the usual bunch of glossy rom-coms and romantic dramas that Bollywood churns out. And much like its characters, Manmarziyaan is a movie that needs to be accepted with all its imperfections.
cast: Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal
Music: Amit Trivedi
Directed by Anurag Kashyap
Soorma Movie Review: The Goal Rush!
Cast: Dilijit Dosanjh, Tapsee Pannu, Angad Bedi, Vijay Raaz, Kulbushan Kharbanda and Satish Kaushik
Directed by Shaad Ali
Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lyrics by Gulzar
Cinematography Chirantan DasContinue reading “Soorma Movie Review: The Goal Rush!”
The Ghazi Attack Movie Review: Thunder Down Under
It is rather surprising that with all the war movies that have been made in India, not one has ever focused on our naval forces, let alone one set in a submarine. Therefore, the promos of The Ghazi Attack brought with them a sense of intrigue. When one thinks of movies set on a submarine, the mind goes to the dark and claustrophobic Das Boot, the tense Cold War thriller, The Hunt for Red October, the gripping Crimson Tide, and the classic, Run Silent Run Deep. The question here is, can debutant director Sankalp Reddy make an impact, through the narration of a war tale, long forgotten, the tale of the sinking of PNS Ghazi?Continue reading “The Ghazi Attack Movie Review: Thunder Down Under”
Pink Movie Review: Much Ado About Pink?
Pink – A Review
Directed by: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury Written by: Ritesh Shah
Starring: Amitabh Bacchan
Sometimes a film comes that taps into some of the core issues of the prevalent society, issues that have already been hotly debated and discussed. When such a film comes from a producer known for making daring, different films (Shoojit Sircar of Piku, Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe), directed by a 2 time national award winner making his first foray into Bollywood (Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury of Antaheen and Anuranan) and starring a septuagenarian colossus of Indian Cinema who is still an audience catcher (The BigB, enuf said), it is only expected that hype around this movie release will hit the roof.
But when hype hits the roof, opinion on the film (so aptly named Pink) can sometimes get “colored” by a different shade. And so when glowing reviews kept pouring in about a pioneering brave work, and expectations rising ever higher, yours humbly tried to approach the movie cautiously, to watch it with a neutral lens while keeping expectations and emotions in check.
The good news is that the film doesn’t disappoint overall, but one is left to wonder whether the film really deserves all the accolades for its bravura. But more on that later. The plot is pretty straightforward (minor spoilers in this paragraph) – a group of single working girls get entangled in an attempt at molestation by 3 Delhi boys, where one of the girls injures his molester in self-defence. Constituting the first half of the film (and probably the better half), what follows is very urban girl’s nightmare in a patriarchal society, as they get constantly harassed by the boys thirsting for revenge, nor do they get any support from the Police, work-place or near-ones. Suffocated by social stigma, the role of victim and oppressor gets intermingled, as the Girls are accused of attempted murder. It is at this point, Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), a retired lawyer suffering from bipolar disorder with an ailing wife (Mamata Shankar), who has till then been a silent spectator to the girls’ troubles, decides to represent them as their defence counsel (the 2nd half of the film).
Armed with a theme that has been the talking point of the media and social networks in the last few years, Aniruddha Roychowdhury paces the film well with a 1st half that looks like is a slowly concocted suspense thriller where we find the victims and protagonists being gradually choked by the after-effects of their traumatic experience. From the opening sequence, the film grips you with a gently piercing background score, building up the tension, while the audience wonders what really could have happened that unfortunate night. Amitabh Bacchan (who eerily looks like an aged stalker) seems to be a brooding spectator as the girls’ next door neighbour, till he finally decides to take matters into his own hands. While Pink on a broad level bears some resemblance to the Hollywood film The Accused (featuring a stunning and explosive performance from Jodie Foster), the scenario and response of the characters are quintessentially of an Indian society. While the Accused was more violent, shocking and graphic, Pink avoids being in your face and never shows the actual events but references them through the statements of the defendants. Also, while Jodie Foster’s reaction was more of rage, the 3 girls in Pink are shown more helpless as they are not only up against their assailants, but the encompassing society which does not sympathise.
However, the film’s level falls off in the 2nd half as becoming too preachy and stereotypical. As a consequence of Amitabh Bacchan’s several court room dialogues, the audience is literally force fed the evils of patriarchy and the meaning of consent. Boys shouldn’t construe girls drinking and partying as an indication of being “easy” and ready; the girls also said “No! Nada! Zip”, hence there is no question of consent. It kind of feels squeamish when a film needs to spell out each and every item as if schooling a society with the emotional intelligence of a kindergardener. Some people may argue that given the kind of disgraceful acts that even our urban society can stoop to, this spelling out of everything seems to have become necessary. What’s worth debating though is if the target audience is even reached by such a film, as the film is unlikely to appeal to such people. Which then necessitates that the film at least plays a more generic role in educating the society, but then again it will be watched more by a relatively mature society who are already well aware of such societal malaises prevalent through the media. In that sense, the film is hardly a social zeitgeist as it has been made out to be by various sections of the media.
The acting of the film was par for the course. Big B was mostly brooding in the film, with occasional flashes of brilliance in the court room scenes. For an evergreen actor, one can still be appreciative of his performance, if it weren’t for the very similar style of acting that he had earlier showcased (and probably better in Te3n). Someone who has seen Te3n would feel he is seeing the same person in Pink, although the characters are entirely different. One wonders if Mr.Amitabh Bacchan is playing the same thing regardless of character (even if the same thing is still pretty good). The 3 actresses give decent performances at best, with Kirti Kulhari standing out. Dhritiman Chatterjee looked aged as the Judge with the quavering voice (not too sure if that was deliberate).
But what is new and refreshing is the depiction of such themes in the Bollywood mainstream. In a year where we have seen Bollywood mainstream go bold with releases like Udta Punjab, Pink can be another feather in its otherwise pretty threadbare cap. Like the old classic and one of the best courtroom dramas, Anatomy of a Murder (1959), was outright in its time with its frank discussion on rape and sexual themes, it took Bollywood mainstream another 50 years to give the setting for such films to come (while bold themes have been prevalent in parallel cinema like Bandit Queen, Matribhoomi, they weren’t part of a mainstream release). On the creative side, the strong points of the film was undoubtedly the musical score with its blend of piano melody mingled with phases of intensity as if portending the audience of something sinister lurking in the background. The editing was also taut, at least during the 1st half.
Overall, Pink is another bold release in a line of Bollywood releases vindicating the fact that the mainstream is maturing over the last few years. While much has been said of the film as a social commentary, I would hardly think the film is an eye opener on a facet of society that has been sufficiently put on the scanner. Rather than being a pioneer, Pink is more of a follower of this trend. One also can’t help but feel the irony that in an unforgiving patriarchal society comprising of roguish boys and women who have conformed to such a setting (like the female police deputy), it is finally up to the ageing patriarch, who finally decides to come out of his brooding shell in an attempt to restore some semblance of parity. The movie poster also shows Big B towering over the 3 defenceless girls with a rather dominating gesture. In a theme about women empowerment and liberalisation, this seems rather out of place (The Accused had a female lawyer Michelle Pfeiffer). Eventually, Pink is still part of Bollywood mainstream, and Big Stars still attract big audience.
So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves in showering our praise, but give credit where it’s due. Pink is not a pioneering film per se; there have been lesser known but more pioneering and relevant films depicting such issues outside the mainstream, like Matrubhoomi or even Bandit Queen. While we admit that gender bias and molestation is a malaise in urban Indian society, the inequality prevalent in rural India is of far more alarming proportions. Depicting rural India may not be as eye catching, so films showcasing these issues are socially relevant and deserve more attention. I’ll also be hoping to write a review on Parched (Radhika Apte in a bold performance), a film on gender inequality in rural India that went under the radar due to the Pink hype, if I get the time.
While quoting the title of Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing may seem to be too harsh a statement on Pink, it is nevertheless true, especially given the hype that was build up around the film. Rather let’s just say it’s a relevant film that resonates with the membrane of today’s society.
My rating: 3.0/5 (maybe +0.5 to be generous)
(a self-proclaimed cinephile)
Pink Movie Review: The Film Leaves the ‘Modern Society’ Red-faced
This has been an unusually long dry spell for an average Bollywood lover. Barring an intermittently funny Happy Bhag Jayegi, there has hardly been any film in the last month or so that has managed to register its presence in our minds – forget about leaving an impression. Midst of all the blues, comes director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Pink – a film with an odd title but an intriguing enough trailer to raise a few hopes. And by the end of its runtime, the film not just exceeds your hopes but also reinstates your faith in the good, old Bollywood and its ability to churn out meaningful, powerful stories.Continue reading “Pink Movie Review: The Film Leaves the ‘Modern Society’ Red-faced”
Baby: Childish Effort
Ever seen a Rohit Shetty film and how he pulls of 80 minutes of good footage spread across 150 minutes of bad film and he has pulled off many such gems over the career with his Comedy. Welcome the one film wonder Neeraj Pandey do a Rohit Shetty to a Thriller and pull off 90 minutes stretched across for 160 with the largest collection of un-suspenseful-nothing to achieve-blank-nothing is going to happen walking, driving and sitting. Not to mention the absurd name for a supposedly taut thriller, which I can look past by considering it raises curiosity. What I cannot look past is what is the director trying to achieve here. What the film achieves is never clear it’s about stopping attack and then it becomes of catching and killing K. K Menon and eventually ending with catching Maulana Mohammed Rahman, with the attack never seeing the light of the day or we knowing exactly what this attack was which leaves out the important ingredient of making a thriller. End of the world scenario and anyone’s life ever being in any danger.Continue reading “Baby: Childish Effort”