Movie in Review: Housefull 4

It is only over weekends when your work is done and you have nothing better to do, do you realize the true potential of such brainless work of fiction—in a good spirit, of course. And to appreciate the creativity (if there is any) and to spend time with your family you then head toward the nearest theatre to watch movies like the Housefull 4. It is neither a directorial blunder nor is it any fail of the mediocre acting skills of most of the actors that you can completely put the blame on to. Yet you chose to come to the movie. So, now, don’t complain. In a nutshell, the movie is a good 1.25 out of 5 stars, and, maybe, an additional point for Akshay Kumar. That still makes it a one-time watch. As always, a detailed review follows.

For a change, I will begin with what I did not like about the movie.

First, there is no story at all: there are three brothers but the story revolves around only one of them: this is akin to 3 Idiots, which even though was title one, but was based on only one of the ‘idiots’. If there could be any other name outside of the ‘Housefull’ franchise, it would be Bala, the character played by Akshay Kumar. The story of his (and everyone else’s reincarnation) revolves around his recalling his (and others’) previous births. No wonder people joke that Akshay Kumar has done an official promotion of Ayushmaan Khurana’s Bala that is set to release soon.

Second, the character of Ranjit underpins the characters of every other guy, excluding, of course, the villains. This is truly irritating because then you have the entire Madhavgarh that aimlessly hums the same disgusting mannerisms of their Maharaj. All of that while his daughters giggle shamelessly. But then we are far from logic. Besides, if you can have ‘Pasta’ in 1419, why not the absence of logic?

Third, the comedy revolves around PG-18 jokes that even though you understand, but will never enjoy it when overdone. On some occasions, I found the language to be rather offensive. For instance, they equate Donald Trump with Donald Duck and they use Baahubali songs and character names. It is good though that every single dialogue sounds as if is spoken by the very person impromptu: the best thing about such dialogue writing is that the very effort of writing goes unnoticed.

Fourth, the girls are there for the very purpose of creating a screen presence with you guessed what: their clothes (or the absence, thereof) and their acting (or the absence, thereof). But, much like Akshay Kumar, the girls’ squad relies equally on the shoulders of Kriti.

Fifth, I can never fathom the reason actors like Rana Daggubati and Sharad Kelkar would have done a movie like this, especially, the characters like theirs. How could they? Also, Riteish’s screen presence did not match up to the stardom that he enjoys. I wished to see more of the roles of the other two brothers.

Sixth, aside from the ‘Bala’ track, no other song happens to strike the chord. In fact, when you get off to leave as credits appear, there is only one song that you remember. But then it is overused in the movie. Speaking of credits, I watched the credits, too. Surprised? Well, I wasn’t, for I enjoyed the credits more than the movie. I watched how the cast and the crew had so much fun while filming the movie.

Not all isn’t wrong with the movie.

The character of Giggly is such that you will enjoy both her previous and current birth: Jonny Lever and his daughter have slipped into their characters effortlessly. Sharad Kelkar’s role is underpowered, but his screen presence is as good as that of Akshay Kumar. If there is a lesson that Rana must learn, it is that often people love (or hate) their protagonists not for what they do but for what they could do. Sharad’s voice, eyes, and the sardonic laughter spell that magic for us.

Chunky Pandey has secured a chunky (pun intended) role for himself. This time, his career lasts for a span of over 600 years (pun intended, again).

Situational comedy is difficult to achieve because you must rely on the critical triad of actors, script, and the background score. They managed to pull off a couple fo sequences of situational comedy, which is both a rarity and a treat to watch. Thank you, Bollywood, for a change.

Bobby Deol is still one of the most handsome and most well-built actors. Two of his biggest challenges are taken care of rather well in this movie: acting and dancing. He has done both quite convincingly. Given what others have contributed, aside from the talented Akshay, Sharad, and Jonny, his acting is far better than all of them—including Parikshit Sahni and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

For the cast, the crew, the budget, and the locations, if there’s a name that truly justifies the movie, then it is Housefull. But, the story and the acting are far from helping it lend that title to movie theatres. Even after the courageous ones, like us, registered our presence, the movie theatres weren’t ‘Housefull’. But, should I even be writing so much for a movie like this? That’s one question I ponder as I end this post.

🙂

Movie in Review: The Tashkent Files

Here is one movie that couldn’t have had a better time for release. You are talking about a whole generation who has been kept away from the contribution that the second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri had in making India what it is today. Centrally, the movie revolves around the death of our beloved Prime Minister in 1966, but aside from that one question, there are a lot of others that we delve throughout the movie. For instance, India is the land of Gandhis and Nehrus; “why not Shastriji’s?”

Given the patriotism that underpins the movie, I’d rate it a decent 4.5 out of five stars. Like always, a detailed review follows…

The movie begins with Shweta Basu Prasad, the Makdi fame, playing Ragini Phule, who migrates from Pune to New Delhi in search of making her life in journalism. She is in dire need for a scoop when a mystery caller asks her questions on Indian political leaders. As a reward for her correct answers, he shares a docket with her that contains the information she requires to create a scooping story.

The movie graduates in its proposition organically for both us and for Ragini. She and her scoop gain the required popularity and overnight she becomes a celebrity. A controversy raises over finding the people or political powers behind the death of Shastriji. For this, a committee is set up. She gets added to the committee as a member and, thus, moves the story to its conclusion.

Here’s what I liked:

The movie is an improved version of the 1957 Hollywood classic 12 Angry Men—also adopted into Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (in 1986)—in so much as it is not filmed in only one room. Not for the sake of wordplay, the movie has a lot of “room” with respect to the capability the characters have. You will notice a lot of headshots and close-up portraits that help you grasp the intensity of the actors.

The actors have been carefully chosen and plotted into the movie. Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri, the director, gives everyone enough depth to contribute positively to the movie. The characters they played are metaphors for roles from journalism to the judiciary and from the public to politics. All of them have done a fantastic job. Their acting talent has assisted the lead actor and the director in bringing out their respective best.

I liked the way Ragini’s character is sketched. Her transformation is visible, not just in terms of moving from finding a scoop to finding the truth, but the better person that she becomes toward the end of the movie. We all undergo that transformation with her.

The director has used a lot of real, authentic footage, news headlines, and quotes a few letters, books, articles, and people (Shastriji’s grandson, for instance). This brings some solid authenticity to the movie and to the alleged assassination of Shastriji. A book named The Mitrokhin Archives finds a prominent mention. It plays an integral part in the movie.

The dialogues are a combination of good one-liners and hard-hitting realities. Given the genre of the movie, that’s a must.

I also liked how subtly the music director has changed the background song “Sab chalta hai” to “sach chalta hai” with the progression of the story. The second half of the movie shares some interesting, unknown facts that help form the micro-plots for you to form the complete picture. The ending is also good because it brings another reality of politics to the surface.

I would have liked Vivek Agnihotri to mind these gaps:

For all the while, it is the director, Vivek, who plays the mystery caller. Toward the end, it is Mithun Chakraborty’s character, Shyam Sundar Tripathi, that is shown to be the mystery caller. I’d have liked either Vivek to play that role or would have used Mithun’s voice for the mystery caller.

I really wanted Ragini Phule to handle the manuscript of “The Tashkent Files” more carefully. I mean who carries it out in the open. If V D Bakshi knew that his life was under threat, why did he do so? Also, why would he have written “The Tashkent Files” on the very front cover of the manuscript? It looks fake. Had the manuscript been unnamed, its pages, torn and turned yellow—like it is with a lot of old books—it would have looked authentic.

Vinay Pathak has considerably underplayed his character. I don’t know for what reason.

Here’s my conclusion:

The Tashkent Files conveys the message it was made to convey; it rather conveys the message a little too strongly.

More than the right-wing versus the left-wing politics, the movie is about the dual that we fight every day in our own minds. The movie leaves us with a revelation about ourselves and about the world around us. The movie also leaves us with a lot of questions.

With this effort, Vivek manages to successfully walk the thin tightrope that bridges assumed reality with history and aligns facts with intentions. Even though the movie releases with the General Elections just around the corner, it doesn’t influence people’s votes in any way. We all are empowered enough to connect the dots. I will end this the way Vivek and Mithun end the movie, “welcome to politics.”

Movie in Review: Shazam

A disclaimer: if you are of my generation, you might end up confusing it with the Shaquille O’Neal’s Kazaam. It’s “obvi” a different movie.

In a nutshell, I give five and a half star (on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being the highest). But here’s the detailed review…

This movie has nothing to do with the Marvel Comic’s Captain Marvel. Shazam happens to be the original Captain Marvel. They changed his name because it didn’t sound as exciting as Captain Sparklefinger.

Let us begin with what I liked:

The storytelling; full marks, there. The comedy quotient is pretty much within check. This suits the PG-13 criteria, except for the last dialogue where Santa Claus uses the F-word. The lead actors, including Billy’s foster parents, have done a good job.

The best part is, I went to the movie with zero expectations. I knew that this superhero family of Shazam is a rung below that of the flagship DC, Superman, et al. That helped me keep calm and enjoy the humor that underpins the checkpoints of the movie.

I enjoyed the movie more because of Darla, the cute little big-hugger than because of the marvels of the Shazam. See, that’s why the changed the name—for good. Darla is not only a part of their big adopted family, but she IS the family. She jointly holds the secret about Billy Batson being Shazam with Freddy, who is Billy’s foster brother.

I am in love with Darla—shortened from darling. Faithe Herman has played Darla to perfection. There is such an overload of cuteness that it will make you wish to buy her ice-creams and cupcakes. A big hug for the big-hugger.

A couple of characters who shine at par with the adolescent Billy, played by Asher Don Angel, are of that of Freddy, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, and Eugene Choi, played by Ian Chen. Eugene’s sense of timing is outstanding.

Here are a few things they could have done better:

Mark Strong as first Thad and then the supervillain is too cool to resemble a villain. Well, if you ignore his shining blue eye and the scar over it, the make-up team didn’t have much to do. I felt they borrowed his overcoat straight from Morpheus of the Matrix trilogy. In totality, the supervillain’s Mark wasn’t Strong enough—oh, that wordplay.

The superhero costumes, none of them, were as authentic as that of the Superman. But I blame it on what everyone expects from such movies. The puffed-up muscles of all kid-turned superheroes (spoiler alert!) are too fabricated to be real. Speaking of “fabricated” reminds me of the animation. It was sub-par throughout the movie. At times, the actors’ actions didn’t match the animation. On others, the animation was poor. Especially the sequence where Shazam saves a bus full of passengers from dying.

Here is one DC-verse superhero that was away from both the silver screen and the reality. The movie is for kids aged 10-16, but the comedy matches the audiences of much higher age groups, at least in India. The movie is at least ten years too late. Had it been 2007, I’d have enjoyed watching it.

Here I go… SHAZAM.

Movie in Review: Uri, The Surgical Strike

Movies come and go, but only a few can mark their presence on the movie-goer’s timeline. Uri: The Surgical Strike marks its presence in the same way. The movie strikes the right message at the right time, and with surgical precision—for the pun’s sake. The patriot within me wants to rate it a complete 5 on 5. But, alas, for the careful watcher that wishes to nitpick.

As you would’ve guessed, a detailed review follows…

The movie is set as a reply to the provocative terror attacks from “the other side”. It is a carefully chosen plot because it creates a “pull” for the audience. A bleeding patriot would wish it to be telecast alongside Border and Lakshya every 26th January and 15th August.

Despite the fact that there is A LOT to talk about, I cannot say much about the movie—<gasping>overwhelmed. As I gather myself back from the void of awesomeness, here is how I would put the overall experience:

The beautiful locations. The humming of soldiers as they cruise past countless trees. The uniforms! The thumping background scores. The eyes that bleed blood, not tears. The passion that flows through the veins. The nerves of steel. And, the heart of gold. Go, live the experience in a theatre near you, alongside 100 other enthusiasts.

From chapter 1 through 5, this movie dedicates itself to the central plot of “We are humans first”. But, it goes through a lot to help you experience the message. The emotional side of a soldier is often overdone in movies. This one, however, is an exception. It has the right amount of everything: you have a bit of drama, comedy, despair, a hint of romance (yes, hint of), a lot of action, plenty of facts, a couple of heart-in-mouth surprises, some sound logic and a hell lot of underpinning revenge.

It is only toward the end of the first half that you get to see the title of the movie appear. Don’t be surprised because it fits the flow of the plot and triggers what happens next: the surgical strike. Then follows the chronology of the “D-Day” when the story begins to flow with unexpected twists, turns, and bumps. The pace is covered rather well. The preparations have been covered in days. And, the D-Day proceedings, in moments. Every minute is used carefully to unfold the story before you. On a lot of moments, the audience, including me, wanted to stand up and shout “Bharat Mata ki Jai” out loud, if not clap for the gallant efforts.

The movie also highlights the lives of commandos, who, by the way, fight more wars than we think, both on the battlefield and within themselves. For that reason alone, Vicky Kaushal, playing Major Vihaan Singh Shergill, is the perfect pick for the lead role—he has done both with ease. He ushers us to a vantage point where we first see the life of Major and then become a part of it. As he begins uttering the regiment’s war cries, you want to see Vihaan’s tears evaporate as they trickle down his cheek. The loss of a dear friend, you wish, should not go in vain. That the revenge must be served. Good direction, there, by the debutant, Aditya Dhar. I am not surprised seeing an IMDb rating of 9.4 on 10, already.

This brings me to what I like about the movie. Vicky Kaushal as the lead and Mohit Raina (yes, the “Devon-ke-dev-Mahadev” famous) are dapper in tuxedos and rock solid in the uniforms. Paresh Rawal is as invisible as ever; don’t get me wrong, but with his level of finesse, I only saw the character he was playing for he slipped into his role that seamlessly. Yami Gautam is effortless in her role as first, the nurse, and later, as the intelligence officer. She perfectly flaunts the beauty-with-brains combination. I’d have liked the senior actor Rajit Kapur to do voice modulation for playing Narendra Modi, but he has his own signature style. Blame it on the plot and the cause, every single actor has given their best. We laugh when they laugh. We cry when they cry. We feel their pain as much as they do.

What else does one expect from a wartime movie? Perfectly picturized action sequences: absolutely no glitches. Zero misses on the storyline. Authentic mano-a-mano fight sequences and blood spurting. The action sequences are well-executed and we couldn’t find any loose ends. To that, the movie itself is perfectly woven; one subplot leads to another, and one scene begins only where the other ends. No parallel stories.

What could have been better? Well, frankly, it could have been a six-hour mega-movie and still have things left unsaid, so much of meticulous planning, training, technology, intelligence, hard work was required for a flawless fructification. Your first thought as you step out of the theatre is, “if so much research and effort went into making only a ‘movie’, imagine what would have been the scale of research and efforts in implementing it in the real time?”

I wish I could do a lot more whistling, roaring, and clapping; both for the real efforts and for the movie. The cinematography and direction have together put up an experience that makes me feel I got more returns than I invested. If time permits, I will watch it again.

Movie in Review: The Accidental Prime Minister

Despite how desperate some news channels and websites have become on muddying the image of the movie and its cast, The Accidental Prime Minister came out as a winner for me. In terms of what it gets (as inputs from the book by Sanjaya Baru) and what it brings to us, it indeed covers events in the timeline they occurred and provides a rather unbiased opinion on the story, with a few exceptions. I’d rate it a 4 on 5.

As always, the detailed review follows…

First things first. This isn’t really a “movie”, but a documentary, a chronicle of what happened—or why. But, for the sake of the review, let us stick to “movie”. This isn’t everybody’s movie. It doesn’t have loud music, filthy dialogues, needless action sequences, exploding cars, or gory blood spurting. It is a classic plot-driven cinema meant for the all-knowing, all-mighty audiences. Do some research before you hit the nearest cinema theatre to watch it.

Like any work of fiction on non-fiction, you see the movie from the point of view of the writer—the author, in this case. The movie starts with how after Congress came into power in 2004, Dr. Manmohan Singh (MMS) was chosen to become the Prime Minister, despite Congress’ common opinion. And, while all the “sacrifice” did have its effect, we know what happened next: National Advisory Council (NAC).

The basic plot of the movie—and I want you to pay attention to this one—is:

  1. We have a protagonist, played by Anupam Kher, who is chosen to lead the country of around a billion people. Based on the short sequence that covers the timeline of MMS, we see that even he never dreamt of it.
  2. He has a daunting challenge before him.
  3. His challenge continues to become complicated as he discovers that first, he isn’t the final decision-making authority, and later, his drafts and decisions will be crosschecked and often overruled by the NAC.
  4. Throughout his first and second terms, he realizes that Congress (termed as the “party”) attributes all the failures to him, while all the success, howsoever little it is, to Rahul Gandhi, who the party sees as the potential successor (heir to the throne).

This is a classic plot for any movie—or book, for that matter. A protagonist. A challenge. A bigger challenge. Helplessness. Despair. Resolution.

Let us look at what I liked:

I liked the fact that both Vijay Ratnakar Gutte (the director) and Sanjaya Baru (the author) have kept their respective work opinions neutral. Nowhere do we see anyone using any false language or even a hint of it.

The cast is spot on. Suzanne Bernert shines as Sonia Gandhi. Her acting has been at par with both Akshaye Khanna (with that salt-and-pepper hair) and Anupam Kher. The supporting cast has proportionately outshined their little share of the silver screen: Vipin Sharma as Ahmed Patel is a treat to watch. Divya Seth Shah as Gursharan Kaur (MMS’ wife) is as wifey as she needs to be—purposeful, powerful, and impactful. Her dialogues and timing have been impeccable.

The makeup team (Shrikant Desai, please take a bow) bears special mention, for it is only because of them—aside from the casting team—that I could recognize the characters they play in the movie. Anish Kuruvilla as TKA Nair, Ramesh Bhatkar as Prithviraj Chavan, Deepak Dadwal as Jaswant Singh, and roughly 150 others have been given the required screen space and looks for them to slip into their characters seamlessly. It is as if we are watching the real person speak. The attention to detail, like the hairy ears of Lalu Prasad Yadav, was achieved through the makeup, but I hardly noticed it. Kudos.

A special mention to the costume designer Abhilasha Shrivastava for designing the wardrobe for Akshaye Khanna. If indeed Sanjaya Baru wears such outfits in real life, I must say that he has a refined taste of fashion. I am sure the costume team will receive the appreciation they deserve from others as well.

I liked the one-liners and punches introduced by the author and director. MMS saying “O teri” as he gasps and gulps, if it did happen, shows MMS did speak efficiently—even though he spoke less. The introductory sequence of Sanjaya Baru is good. I like how MMS asks him to become his “Sanjay” symbolizing Sanjay of Mahabharata, who gave a visual account and live commentary to Dhritarashtra of what occurred on the battlefield.

The touchy sequence of PV Narasimha Rao’s soul not being permitted into the Raj Ghat has been covered rather subtly. The typical artists’ view, this sequence doesn’t conclude as the scene ends. You somehow carry that thought along. The sequence ends when MMS calls upon Sanjaya Baru to tell him that he must resign from the chair of the Prime Minister, to follow party’s thoughts, because he knows that he doesn’t have much time now. This symbolizes how carefully MMS chooses to say that he doesn’t want his end to be like that of the former PM, PV Narasimha Rao.

I didn’t like Arjun Mathur as Rahul Gandhi until the sequence of the epic interview with Arnab Goswami of 2014. Arjun has successfully reproduced the exact cluelessness with utter ease.

Before I close my thoughts, a cautionary note from me: I have seen a lot of hue and cry over this movie being false propaganda to malign the image of Congress. If the movie does anything, it only strengthens the image of MMS. It shares an additional perspective on what he did or wanted to do. It helps us see through what until now was laid undercover. A lot of file footages are inserted (hopefully from the same timeline) to support authenticity. The movie in no way malign anyone’s image, it is an account of what happened. I must say that my review is about the movie, not about the thoughts that drove it. However, if you leave the theatre with an afterthought, blame no one else but yourselves.

It is for the first time I see both an uproar and appreciation for a documentary; perhaps because work of art is shot with both great dedication and caution. The end of the era of MMS brings Narendra Modi on the screen and public opinion on the surface. Every time Rahul Gandhi came on the screen, the audiences began laughing even though his dialogues didn’t demand so. But, applause followed the sequence where MMS gives way to Narendra Modi. No one said a word; a lot was still said.

That’s the verdict.