Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

June 29, 2018

Bechara or bad-boy?

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:27 pm

June 29, 2018

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Vicky Kaushal, Manisha Koirala, Dia Mirza, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor, Boman Irani

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

To expect objectivity in a biography that’s been commissioned by its very subject is like ordering vegetable biryani and complaining that you can’t find any meat in it. Sanjay Dutt’s fascinating life story makes for a compelling, emotional film, but Sanju, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s a one-sided, practically first-person defense of the actor’s many transgressions. And boy, does it work hard to make you question that ‘khalnayak’ image!

Ranbir Kapoor practically disappears into the character of Sanjay Dutt, and it’s an especially commendable achievement given that the actor is pitch-perfect playing Dutt at different points in his life – as a fresh-faced twenty-one-year-old learning to fake romance for the camera, as the poor-little-rich-boy whose descent into drug addiction is swift and heartbreaking, as the misguided movie star whose bad decisions cost him his freedom, and as the ageing family man desperate to tell his side of what he insists is a compromised story.

The actor’s transformation is not just physical, although make-up, hair, and costume departments deserve praise for their extraordinary work in creating an eerie resemblance. Ranbir does much more than mimicking Dutt’s distinct droop, his walk, and his famed hangdog expression. He practically nails Dutt’s voice and his laugh, and somehow conveys the essence of the troubled star.

The acting is terrific, especially among the central players, with Vicky Kaushal delivering a winning turn as Sanjay Dutt’s best friend and longtime ally, Manisha Koirala beautifully channeling the fragility and the spunk of an ailing Nargis Dutt, and Paresh Rawal whose portrayal of Sanjay’s long-suffering father Sunil Dutt feels authentic although the resemblance isn’t entirely convincing. In smaller roles, Dia Mirza and Sonam Kapoor hit the right notes as Sanjay Dutt’s partners, present and past, but Anushka Sharma sticks out with strange hair and stranger accent as the biographer entrusted with telling his story.

In trademark Hirani fashion, the film is both moving and humorous, often times in the same scenes. The script, by Hirani and Abhijat Joshi, is clever, and packed with terrific moments that leave a lasting impact.

What’s a little troubling, however, are the excuses made for Dutt’s failures and misdeeds. Sure he’s alternately portrayed as selfish, insensitive, self-destructive, and entitled at various points in the film, but it’s all part of a larger narrative in which Dutt is always the victim. The villains are plenty, including a shrewd drug dealer (Jim Sarbh), a father whose high standards he cannot meet, the fear of life threats on his family that made him acquire the deadly AK-56 rifles that did him in, and an especially biased, irresponsible media that is blamed for the majority of his legal woes.

In a film by a less skilled director, there’s a good chance these ‘liberties’ might have derailed the narrative completely. But Hirani whips up a cocktail of emotion, melodrama, and humor so astutely you’re swept up despite the manipulation.

The scenes that stand out are ones that suggest Dutt’s fraught relationship with his father, his friendship with Vicky Kaushal’s character, a New York Gujarati that he meets while his mother is being treated for cancer, and difficult portions depicting his own drug addiction and subsequent rehabilitation. A scene, roughly an hour into the film, in which Sunil Dutt plays his son an audio message from his mother, is performed so exceptionally by both actors, good luck trying to hold back your tears. But the laughs come plenty too. A scene in which a young Sanjay Dutt shows up late into the night at the home of his girlfriend (Sonam Kapoor) is this film’s version of the polarizing balatkaar speech from 3 Idiots, although this one is probably funnier.

By very definition, a biography or a biopic is an account of another person’s life. In Sanju, the filmmakers choose to side with their subject, telling his story from his point of view, humanizing the controversial star, letting him off a tad lightly. Shrewd writing, and Ranbir Kapoor’s extraordinary performance makes it hard not to empathize with the protagonist.

So is he a bechara or a bad-boy? I’ll let you decide for yourself.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Sanju. It’s a consistently engaging film that makes its way to your heart even though the head frequently resists.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 22, 2018

Scream queen

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:03 pm

June 22, 2018

Cast: Toni Colette, Gabrielle Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd

Director: Ari Aster

Roughly 30 minutes into Hereditary, the new horror film starring Toni Colette, something so shocking, so unexpected happens, it evoked a collective gasp from the audience. It’s a moment so terrible, I have gooseflesh just thinking about it. Yet, frankly, the long stretch of silence that follows this incident – nearly four minutes of unsettling quiet – is as eerie as anything else in the film.

Written and directed by Ari Aster, Hereditary has been billed, alongside The Exorcist and The Shining, as one of the best horror films ever. Only time will tell if it has the enduring appeal of those classics, but it’s true this is not your typical scary movie. One of the reasons this film has a distinct edge over other titles in the genre is the extraordinary performance of its leading lady.

Colette plays Annie Graham, wife, mother of two, and artist, who works from her studio at home building miniature models of houses. When the film opens, Annie’s elderly mother has just passed away. They shared a difficult relationship, we learn. In the days following her death, as the family deals with their complicated feelings of grief, Annie begins to notice that her socially awkward daughter Charlie is acting stranger than usual.

That’s about all you really need to know as far as plot goes. But I will tell you this: characters, secrets and relationships start to unravel in the most unexpected ways. The film’s first half is especially effective, as the makers dial up the dread with masterful camerawork and sound design. Take the terrific opening sequence, in which the camera zooms so artfully in and out of rooms that you can’t tell if you’re peering into Annie’s home or one of her dollhouses.

This blurring between reality and illusion – a popular trope in this genre – is employed to good effect on more than one occasion in the film. The creep meter is further cranked up by a macabre score that hangs over the film like a pall of gloom. This is classic horror where the emphasis is on atmospherics and mood-building over jump scares and torture porn.

Toni Colette’s intense, go-for-broke performance as Annie, a desperate, troubled woman, wracked by guilt and pain, is what powers the film. It’s a performance that is as much internal anguish as it is explosive outburst, and the actress doesn’t miss a beat. Just watching that harrowing argument between Annie and her teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff), is like witnessing a study in family dysfunction and possible mental instability.

It’s heartbreaking then that the film abandons its elegant, classic approach – from teetering on the edge of creepiness to plunging into full-on supernatural horror – around the midway mark. It descends into a bloated mess of blood and fire, and culminates in a bizarre, outlandish climax that belongs in a different film.

Hereditary is ultimately a satisfying horror movie that falls short of true greatness, even as its leading lady delivers a level of acting rarely witnessed in the genre. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Stealing beauties

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:02 pm

June 22, 2018

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, Awkwafina, James Corden, Richard Armitage

Director: Gary Ross

Early on in Ocean’s 8, the gender-reversed spin on the all-boys Ocean’s Eleven heist trilogy, one of the protagonists walks into a high-end department store and shoplifts with such remarkable ease, it might be the film’s way of preparing us for the many WTF moments we’re expected to let pass without questioning as the main plot unfolds.

That’s pretty much my chief complaint against this breezy, inoffensive crowd-pleaser…the men had to work a lot harder.

The plot kicks into gear when Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), sister of George Clooney’s deceased con Danny Ocean, is released from prison after serving a five-year stint for art fraud. Hungry for revenge – and because five years clearly wasn’t enough for this leopard to change its spots – she begins assembling a team, enlisting her former partner and friend (Cate Blanchett), a has-been, tax-evading fashion designer (Helena Bonham Carter), a diamond expert (Mindy Kaling), a seasoned hacker (Rihanna), a fast-talking pickpocket (Awkwafina), and a bored stay-at-home mom (Sarah Paulson). The plan is to swipe a 150 million dollar Cartier necklace from the neck of a ditzy movie star (Anne Hathaway) at the glamorous Met Gala.

As tends to be the case with such films, there’s more fun in the planning than in the actual heist itself, and while you will roll your eyes plenty at just how conveniently these ladies bypass major obstacles, it all moves so briskly there’s no time to pause and ponder.

It’s also true that the film is a lot less funny than it ought to have been. There are moments and characters that pop – Helena Bonham Carter is a complete hoot, Anne Hathaway does a delicious parody of the entitled self-obsessed Hollywood diva, and rapper Awkwafina steals virtually every scene she’s in, especially an exchange with Bullock over a metro card. But the laughs are sporadic, and it’s a crime they didn’t give Mindy Kaling more room to exploit her comedic gifts.

Unlike the Ocean’s Eleven films in which the men really came together as a fully synchronized group, you can’t help feeling that the ladies here do get their moments to shine individually, but seldom make magic as a unit.

Still, director Gary Ross knows his audience and shrewdly cranks up the fashion and the glamour factor, giving us loving wide shots of glitzy gowns and never ending trails, and a slew of celebrity cameos as they ascend the steps of the Met. Frequently I felt like I was watching Sex and the City but without the sex, and without the self-indulgent whining of Carrie Bradshaw.

Ocean’s 8 is enjoyable, not least because these are some of the most talented, gorgeous women turning on the charm. Sometimes that’s all you need for a good time at the movies. Go in with moderate expectations, and chances are you’ll come out smiling. I’m going with three out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Baby boom!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:00 pm

June 22, 2018

Cast: Voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T Nelson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Samuel L Jackson, Isabella Rossellini

Director: Brad Bird

Who’d have thought that in a film packed with thrilling James Bond-style set pieces featuring runaway trains and helicopter rescues, the most memorable action scene would turn out to be one involving a little baby and a raccoon?

But this is Incredibles 2, and that is no ordinary baby. Just ask the poor raccoon.

Arriving 14 years after The Incredibles, this charming sequel, also directed by Brad Bird, reunites us with superhero family the Parrs, comprising Bob or Mr Incredible as we know him, Helen aka Elastigirl, and their three kids Violet, Dash, and aforementioned baby Jack-Jack.

The film’s plot, which feels especially timely given the recent conversations around gender parity, places Elastigirl at the center of the action, chasing villains and performing daring rescue operations with the specific purpose of reinstating the world’s faith in ‘supers’. Mr Incredible, meanwhile, must adjust to being a house-husband, discovering day to day the challenges of raising kids.

It’s a nice spin on the traditional formula and yields some terrific moments like Bob wrestling with math, and the discovery of Jack-Jack’s newly blossoming superpowers.

Never deviating too far from the blueprint of the earlier film, Incredibles 2 once again emphasizes the point about working together as a family to achieve the toughest goals. Through a clutch of new characters – misfits with extraordinary powers – the film also reiterates the point about a society that rejects anyone that is ‘different’.

One of the things that set the first Incredibles film apart from others in the animation genre was its imaginative production design. The sequel builds on that vibrantly realized universe, giving us a landscape that is at once modern and futuristic yet firmly rooted in the real and the practical. The action is pretty much wall-to-wall and frequently breathtaking.

Prepare to meet familiar characters like friend-of-the-family Frozone (voiced by Samuel L Jackson), and my personal favorite, droll fashion designer Edna Mode. There are a slew of new players, including a pair of wealthy siblings whom Helen works closely with, and a new villain named Screenslaver who is sadly underwhelming.

Family comes first in these movies, and it’s the Parrs themselves, and their relatable dynamic that remains the highlight of Incredibles 2. Beneath all the snazzy animation and shiny new bells and whistles, the film’s true appeal lies in the simpler moments within the clan. That, and the frankly irresistible humor. The scene-stealer is little tyke Jack-Jack, who got all the laughs in the screening that I attended.

You might argue that Incredibles 2 doesn’t break any new ground or deliver the high notes of classic Pixar sequels like Toy Story 3 or Finding Dory. That may be true. But it’s still consistently enjoyable, and a notch above so many live action superhero films today.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)


June 15, 2018

The long crawl

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:10 pm

June 15, 2018

Cast: Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Jacuqeline Fernandez, Saqib Saleem, Daisy Shah, Freddy Daruwala

Director: Remo D’souza

The makers of Race 3 have already declared that this is not a movie for critics. What they’re implying, predictably, is that critics are a bunch of joyless nitpickers who don’t have an appetite for any movie that delivers strictly popcorn entertainment; for any movie committed purely to taking your mind off the real world for the duration of its running time. But hey, that’s a false notion. I only have to point to the first Race from 2008, directed by Abbas-Mustan, or even to 2013’s Race 2, to make my point. They were stylishly mounted, briskly paced, twisty thrillers that delivered varying degrees of guilty pleasure and dumb fun. Race 3 does not deliver fun. Race 3 is as enjoyable as jamming your finger in a door.

Abbas-Mustan, who had a few tricks up their sleeve when it came to making slick thrillers, have been replaced by Remo D’souza who appears to be possessed by the ghost of Rohit Shetty. If you put a cost to the number of cars that are blown up in Race 3, you could feed a starving nation. Too bad big explosions and vehicular carnage can only go so far in service of a plot.

It also doesn’t help that the film is missing the superhit soundtrack that the previous installments in the franchise greatly benefitted from. And then – how does one put this politely? – there is the bargain basement ensemble hired to pad out the film alongside Salman Khan.

Salman stars as Sikander, the adopted son of big-time arms-dealer Shamsher Singh (Anil Kapoor), whose biological kids Sanjana (Daisy Shah) and Suraj (Saqib Saleem) aren’t thrilled that the bulk of his estate has been willed to Sikander. Other characters include the family’s trusted troubleshooter Yash (Bobby Deol), and Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez), a shifty pole dancer whose romantic entanglements link her to this lot.

If you’ve ever watched a Race film you know that double-crossings and betrayal are par for the course. Partners – both in business and in love – inevitably tend to switch sides. The McGuffin here, or the object that serves as a trigger for the plot, is a hard disk with videos that expose the sexual perversions of top Indian politicians, and typically everyone wants to get their hands on it to leverage personal gain.

It’s not a particularly riveting plot, but that’s not even the biggest problem with the film. It’s that despite all the trappings – fast cars, slinky women, snazzy foreign locations, and the odd twist – Race 3 still fails to take off the ground because it’s weighed down by sheer dullness. The dullness of a cast that just doesn’t earn their slow-motion entry scenes; a cast that can’t seem to bring the pizzazz needed to carry off the film’s frankly laughable one-liners; a cast that just can’t hide the fact that they’re so grateful to be recruited for the ride.

No wonder only Anil Kapoor comes out with his dignity intact. He makes a meal out of the role, clearly enjoying himself, and single-handedly doing his bit for ‘acting’ in the film. Salman Khan is front and center of the plot, but after credible performances in both Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan, this is another one of those films where the filmmakers leave everything to the superstar’s charm, his presence, and his big oiled-up physique. Sadly, it’s not enough.

To add insult to injury, the film has also been released in 3D so you could, for an extra hundred bucks or so, suffer the sheer pointlessness of this movie in an extra, bonus dimension. Go on, you must.

I’m going with one out of five for Race 3. It’s over two-and-a-half hours of complete drivel.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 7, 2018

King’s landing

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 6:30 pm

June 08, 2018

Cast: Rajnikanth, Nana Patekar, Huma Qureshi, Easwari Rao, Anjali Patil, Manikandan, Pankaj Tripathi, Sayaji Shinde

Director: Pa Ranjith

As if any reminder was needed that a Rajnikanth film is nothing short of an event for loyal fans, the makers of Kaala have laid a pre-recorded audio track of loud cheering over the title card announcing the superstar’s name…in a font resembling shiny LED lights, in case you were wondering.

Ironic, given that Kaala is not your typical Rajnikanth ‘event movie’. Far more coherent and considerably more enjoyable than 2016’s disappointing underworld rivalry saga Kabali – also directed by Pa Ranjith – Kaala is a return to storytelling and character-based acting. It’s a Mumbai-set story with Rajni in good form, playing the sort of mafiosi-messiah who’s committed to protecting his people and their rights, frequently employing criminal methods to flex his muscle.

The conflict here is one involving land. The sprawling Dharavi slum, in particular, which is our hero’s stomping ground. The villains are greedy builders and unscrupulous politicians. This is an unmistakably political film, in fact, which isn’t shy of revealing its secular and socialist leanings, and its allergy to Hindu nationalism. Ranjith conveys some big ideas in a relatively straightforward story that hat-tips to multiple influences including the Ramayana, and The Godfather.

While Rajni’s character Karikalan aka Kaala is front and center of the narrative, this is one of those rare Thalaivar films that has nicely fleshed out roles for the supporting cast to leave their imprint on. Most impressive among them is Easwari Rao in the role of Selvi, our protagonist’s voluble missus. Huma Qureshi, sporting precisely three strands of grey hair, stars as Kaala’s former love interest in a track that’s never quite convincing. Anjali Patil and Manikandan also get substantial screen time as a pair of young activists.

But it’s Nana Patekar in the thinly disguised role of a wily politician who makes the biggest impression. His confrontation scenes with Rajni – especially an interval-point crackler – are some of the best in the film.

Kaala is a polished production with slick set pieces, including an action scene built around an umbrella as the only choice of weapon. Then there is the powerful climax with an imaginative use of color.

On the flip side, the film is overlong at nearly 3 hours, and spends too much time on exposition. Multiple backstories are revealed and explained in some detail, and too many songs cripple the narrative. For those, like me, who aren’t frequent Tamil cinema watchers, the film can feel verbose.

I’m going with three out of five for Kaala. Ranjith humanizes Superstar Rajnikanth in a character worthy of his talent. Now if only the film was about 20 minutes shorter.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Nature of the beast

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 6:28 pm

June 08, 2018

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, Jeff Goldblum, James Cromwell

Director: JA Bayona

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens with a set piece so thrilling, I watched the entire scene with my fists tightly clenched from anxiety. Let’s just say it involves an operation to retrieve a coveted skeleton for the purpose of DNA harvesting. That’s it – that’s all you’re going to get from me.

To be fair there are plenty edge-of-the-seat moments and some good jump scares in this latest entry in the dino disaster franchise. There are times – particularly in the film’s third act – when director JA Bayona treats it like a true blue horror movie with suspense and macabre imagery. But as far as story goes, it’s strictly a retread. Been there, seen that.

The new film unfolds just a few years after the events of 2015’s Jurassic World, which ended with the dinosaurs taking over Isla Nublar after the catastrophic collapse of the theme park. Now an impending volcano eruption on the island is threatening to wipe out the prehistoric beasts once and for all.

Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire Dearing, now a dinosaur rights activist lobbying to save the creatures. Chris Pratt is back too as Owen Grady, former raptor trainer and Claire’s ex, whom she implores to help her on a rescue mission to move the dinos to a safe preserve.

I’ll let you discover what happens next for yourself but I will say the film follows many of the same beats as Jurassic Park: The Lost World, right down to the suspicious military types hired to accompany Claire and Owen back to the island. Much of the screenplay is really a checklist of clichés – double-crossings, kids in danger, man’s tendency to play god – and the bumper-sticker dialogue doesn’t help either.

Good thing there are some well-staged action pieces that divert your attention temporarily from the knuckleheaded plotting. Like a mad dash by man and beast from oncoming lava, and the struggle for survival that follows.

Bayona tightens the screws in the second hour as the action shifts to a sprawling mansion on the mainland where an auction for caged dinosaurs triggers wall-to-wall carnage, and some of the creepiest scenes in the film. Most effective of these is one in which a deadly laboratory-created critter enters a little girl’s room.

This new beast – dubbed the Indoraptor, after the two most terrifying dino species whose DNA it was created from – is the most memorable villain in Fallen Kingdom, and expectedly far more compelling than all of the human bad guys.

The humans in fact, as is often the case in these films, get the short end of the stick. There’s a small cameo by original Jurassic Park star Jeff Goldblum as the wisdom-spouting Dr Ian Malcolm, and an ailing billionaire character played by James Cromwell provides an interesting link to the past. Two new sidekicks barely make an impression, although Bryce Dallas Howard is more front and center of the action this time around. The bulk of the heavy lifting, once again is left to Chris Pratt whose terrific sense of comic timing is largely underutilized by the script.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ends with Planet of the Apes-prophecies as it sets up the third film in the planned trilogy reboot. The film delivers spectacle and scares, but never more. It’s not a complete waste of time, but go in with tempered expectations.

I’m going with three out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

June 1, 2018

Justice denied!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

June 01, 2018

Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Priyanshu Painyuli, Nishikant Kamat, Ashish Verma, Shreiyah Sabarwal

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane

It’s easy to see where the cinematic inspirations lie in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, but director Vikramaditya Motwane spells it out for us anyway. In one scene, the film’s protagonist tells a wide-eyed girl about Insaaf TV, an amateur vigilante outfit he’s founded with a friend to weed out local wrongdoings. “We are the Indian Justice League,” he says. “So you’re like Spider-Man?” she asks. “No, that’s Marvel. We’re DC Comics – darker, edgier, cooler.”

The film makes no bones about the fact that it’s an homage to DC’s most compelling character, the tortured, brooding hero, Batman. The masked vigilante in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero steps out under the dark cover of night in Mumbai to fight a system rotting with corruption, much like Batman’s home, Gotham. Motwane’s film is an adult superhero movie, a very different beast from Krrish.

But much like our protagonist’s vehicle of choice, a moody motorbike, the film too revs, slides and sputters, but only seldom soars despite its ambition. The blame, as is often the case, lies with the script. The story takes forever to set up; it’s overwritten in its details and gaping in its holes. If there are two ways to arrive at a point, you can be sure this film will take the longest route. So at two and a half hours it often feels like a drag.

Where it scores is in its emotional core – the story of two friends, Sikander (Harshvardhan Kapoor) and Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli). Inspired by the national anti-corruption movement initiated by Anna Hazare in 2011, the two fellas launch a YouTube channel, Insaaf TV. Masked by brown paper bags they fight local misdemeanors like tree cutting, cable TV rackets, and public urination. They learn karate for self-defence, but Motwane is careful to stress that these are two ordinary boys, united in an extraordinary zeal for justice.

A lot happens over the next few years. One of the boys outgrows their initiative, takes up a corporate job, and prepares to head to America to build a new life. The other stays the earnest activist, and in his unflinching commitment to fight for the truth, uncovers a conspiracy to cripple the city’s water supply. It’s a conspiracy that involves dishonest cops, corrupt BMC officers, and leads right up to a nefarious minister (Nishikant Kamat). When things come to a head, a masked vigilante superhero – Bhavesh Joshi – is born, and he takes on this mafia.

Like Batman Begins, this is an origin story, and there are multiple nods to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and also to Roman Polanski’s detective noir Chinatown. The film takes off at interval point when our masked hero strikes the headquarters of the water-tanker mafia. The movie is enlivened by clever moments, like one involving the bike, a traffic light, and a particularly close brush with the bad guys.

Motwane mounts the film well, with striking cinematography by Siddharth Diwan that captures the seamy underbelly of the city, and a rousing background score by Amit Trivedi. There’s also a terrific chase that begins on the streets…and let’s just say imaginatively involves Mumbai’s lifeline, its railways.

Harshvardhan Kapoor, who’s at the centre of the story, starts out as a Peter Parker-like figure, a bland, unremarkable guy-next-door, who transforms into a crime-fighter when the stakes are high. Harsh does the job efficiently, nicely bringing out the ‘homemade superhero’ aspect of the character. In the role of his best friend, fresh-faced Priyanshu Painyuli plays his part with a passion that is palpable, while Ashish Verma, as Rajat, the third friend in their circle, is also solid. It’s a shame the film skimps on female characters, except for a token girlfriend (Shreiyah Sabarwal). While the supporting villains are well cast, Nishikant Kamat as the key bad guy deadens the flow with too much bak bak and unnecessary posturing.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is an impressive, admirable attempt at creating a vulnerable middle-class superhero in the real world, committed to tackling everyday challenges faced by the ordinary citizen. But it’s also bloated and indulgent, and that comes in the way of Motwane realizing the full extent of his vision.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

Girl trouble

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 5:15 pm

June 01, 2018

Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, Shikha Talsania, Sumeet Vyas, Manoj Pahwa, Neena Gupta, Vivek Mushran, Anjum Rajabali, Ekavali Khanna, Vishwas Kini

Director: Shashanka Ghosh

Never mind Cyndi Lauper’s enduring feminist anthem, as far as Hindi movies go you’d think it’s always the boys that just wanna have fun. Such a shame that 17 years since Dil Chahta Hai we still haven’t had the definitive female-bonding movie.

Veere Di Wedding, starring Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, and Shikha Talsania as a quartet of sassy best friends just doing their thang, is clearly intended to plug that hole…but boy does it miss the mark!

When Kalindi (Kareena Kapoor) accepts her boyfriend’s proposal despite her misgivings about marriage, her BFFs show up to support her, and to escape their own lives for a bit. Meera (Shikha Talsania) is coming to terms with how a baby changes everything – from one’s body to one’s sex life. Sakshi (Swara Bhaskar) has just broken up with her husband, and is discovering what gossips Delhi aunties can be. Divorce lawyer Avni (Sonam Kapoor), incidentally the only one out of the four with anything resembling a career, is dealing with an overbearing mother who won’t stop pestering her about getting married. In the days leading up to Kalindi’s marriage, the foursome bond, bicker, identify what’s holding them back, and ultimately heal, while completely exhausting you in the process.

In the hands of director Shashanka Ghosh, Veere Di Wedding channels everything from Bridesmaids to Sex and the City, but the script (by Mehul Suri and Nidhi Mehra) never lifts off the ground. And it’s not hard to see why. The film’s notions of feminism feel misguided. Its idea of women cutting loose is basically women acting like badly behaved men. So the ladies here swear like sailors, drop f-bombs and coarse Hindi gaalis. They talk freely about sex and orgasms, and drink till they pass out and wake up in strangers’ beds. None of it would’ve been a problem if it didn’t feel so labored. Or frankly if the film delivered even a smidgeon of fun. But Veere Di Wedding isn’t fun. Actually it’s the opposite of fun – it’s a slog.

You could – and in all fairness you should – put it down to the lazy, uninspired writing. The plot is wafer-thin, the conflicts are predictable, the meditations on life never profound, and nothing is ever really at stake. You know that unresolved issues with estranged family members will be settled, but you’ll wish they didn’t go about it in such a perfunctory manner.

Every supporting character is reduced to a stereotype and mined for easy laughs: the loud Punjabi father who disregards his son’s request for a small, private wedding because “itni sharabein jo pi hai”; the clingy mother-in-law-to-be, the immaculately turned out gay uncles, the player cousin always ready with a line, the eligible bachelor who’s a mamma’s boy, and more in that vein.

On the upside, some of the dialogue is genuinely funny, and the film’s most inspired moments are the bits in which the four protagonists are just hanging out together, shooting the breeze. To that end, a getaway to Phuket is shrewdly written into the plot, and we’re rewarded with more than one montage of the girls frolicking about in their swimsuits. Shikha Talsania and especially Swara Bhaskar nail the outrageous lines without a hint of inhibition, and Kareena Kapoor brings some feeling into even the most schmaltzy, manipulative scenes.

But these are small pleasures in a two-hour film that frequently feels like a fashion spread sprung to life. I had faint memories of Veere Di Wedding just hours after watching the film because it’s largely contrived and forgettable.

I’m going with a generous two out of five. It’s an opportunity missed.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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