By: Keyur Seta
It is vital for a film revolving around drug addiction and drug politics to be brave, bold and honest in order for it to turn out to be a winner. But Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab achieves much more. It is also an entertaining and engaging saga that goes beyond just portraying the drug menace in Punjab.
Udta Punjab tells the story of four individuals in Punjab disconnected with each other. Tommy Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is a pop sensation. But he is not only a drug addict but also promotes drugs through his songs. A Bihari migrant worker (Alia Bhatt) accidentally lays her hands on a packet of drugs and her life changes.
A junior police officer, Sartaj Singh (Diljit Dosanjh) is forced to be in a system that shields drug mafia. Dr Preet Sahni (Kareena Kapoor Khan) has vowed to serve the victims of drug abuse. There is one common factor in the lives of these four strangers – the white powder.
The phrase ‘Action speaks louder than words’ applies to this film. The rampant usage, availability and addiction of drugs in Punjab are portrayed through visuals and normal conversations, instead of the age old technique of someone speaking out the situation. There is some smart undertone of humor too.
This is just one of the numerous aspects that highlight the writers’ and director’s mature and intelligent manner of handling the subject. The result provides shock and worry with regards to one of India’s most celebrated states. There are various sequences that leave you with some question or the other. But the film doesn’t stop at that. It also provides a sensible solution to the drug problem.
And while the proceedings are going on, you realize, even before the interval, as to why some evil forces were super frightened of this film. But since the film is released without the super silly cuts ordered by CBFC (all thanks to the Bombay High Court), it will now become a trending topic and life will become difficult for the Punjab Government.
One of the few minor negative points includes the pace in the second half, which also increases the length, few logical errors and the act of a couple of characters.
The film is technically sound (cinematography, editing and background score). Despite the subject not being song-friendly, the tracks are smartly included to enhance the narrative and all of them are impressive too.
The performances play a large role, which was vital. Shahid Kapoor once again shows he is a dedicated artist. He completely gets into the shoes of a very challenging character in a way which can be described as brilliant. In Highway, Alia Bhatt showed her acting ability. With Udta Punjab, she moves few notches higher with a remarkable act. Those writing open letters to her without watching the film should have waited.
Diljit Dosanjh, Punjabi superstar making his acting debut, leaves a solid impact. He deserves to be seen in more Hindi films. Kareena Kapoor Khan’s act also falls in the positive category. Satish Kaushik, Kamal Tiwari and the actor playing Diljit’s younger brother too chip in with useful supporting acts.
Overall: Udta Punjab is a bold and daring saga about drug menace in Punjab, which is also high on entertainment. With the tremendous hype, mostly due to Pahlaj Nihalani, the film has a decent chance of earning positive box-office collections despite it not being a massy affair. It's first day collection has been Rs 10 crore.
(Personal note: With the silly accusations on the makers and the shoddy act of leaking the full movie for download on Torrent two days before release, it is clear that there are forces trying their best to harm a film that portrays a shocking reality. Let’s not make them victorious by endorsing piracy.)
Rating: * * * *
Director: Abhishek Chaubey
Producers: Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures
Writers: Abhishek Chaubey and Sudip Sharma
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, Diljit Dosanjh
Music: Amit Trivedi
Runtime: 149 minutes
Director: Raam Reddy
Producers: Pratap Reddy and Sunmin Park
Writers: Raam Reddy and Eregowda
Cast: Channegowda, Thamanna, Abhishek H. N, Singri Gowda
Duration/ Runtime: 124 minutes
Rating: * * * *
Review by: Keyur Seta
The term ‘realistic cinema’ generally applies to films that are very serious or, at times, sad in nature. But director Raam Reddy’s Thithi breaks all such norms for realistic films. It shows that an utterly realistic saga can be both thought-provoking as well as a laugh-riot.
The film takes place in a remote village in Karnataka. Century Gowda (Singri Gowda) is so-called since he has surpassed 100 years of age. But he passes away at 101. How his death affects his son Gadappa (Channegowda), grandson Thamanna (Thammegowda) and great grandson Abhi (Abhishek H. N) and how everything boils down to Century Gowda’s thithi (11th day after his passing away) forms the rest of the story.
Like every well-made realistic rural flick, Thithi succeeds in the most difficult task of making you forget the outside world and get seriously involved with the life of Gowda family. But, as mentioned before, there is laughter galore throughout the duration, even in the most basic situations. This, however, doesn’t mean that there is any compromise in staying honest with the subject.
Despite, however, such high doses of entertainment, the film succeeds in asking a lot of questions and saying a lot without saying much. Maintaining this fine balance is a triumph of the writing and direction.
Coming to the fallacies, there is one twist in the tale that isn’t completely convincing. However, the many plus points and a fast pace won’t let you think much about it.
Doron Tempert’s displays his cinematographic skills despite the theme being simple and realistic theme. There is minimal use of background score (as per the need) and whenever it is used, it adds to the impact.
The makers have taken the risk of casting non-actors and to say that it paid off will be an understatement. It is simply amazing to see how each one has carried his or her role with perfection. In fact, it doesn’t seem that they are acting at all. The one to stand out is Channegowda as Gadappa. But Thammegowda, Abhishek N. H, Singri Gowda, Pooja S. M (as Cawvery) and the rest are not behind at all.
Overall: Thithi is a must watch for those interested in films driven by strong content and excellent performances. The film needs to reach out to as many people as possible through word-of-mouth.
Director: Swapna Waghmare Joshi
Producer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Writers: Shirish Latkar
Cast: Swapnil Joshi, Anjana Sukhani, Sneha Chavan, Jayant Wadkar
Music: Amitraaj and Nilesh Moharir
Genre: Murder mystery
Release date: May 27, 2016
Rating: * *
Review by: Keyur Seta
Director Swapna Waghmare Joshi's Laal Ishq is a murder mystery. But the biggest mystery lies in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s decision of venturing into Marathi cinema with this film, which is more like a stretched episode of the serial CID with a dash of lust sugarcoated as romance.
The film revolves around a theatre group. Yash Patwardhan (Swapnil Joshi), film and theatre superstar, and the rest of the crew arrives at a resort to rehearse for their upcoming play. The lead actress (Sneha Chavan) is obsessed and possessive with Yash. But Yash instantly falls for Janhavi (Anjana Sukhani), who works at the resort. She too develops the same feelings for him. But amid their romance, a murder takes place. Senior cop Randive (Kamlesh Sawant) arrives to investigate the case.
Laal Ishq is quite fast paced on most occasions. It was a good idea to keep the length restricted to less than two hours. But what makes the film watchable is Kamlesh Sawant’s witty and sarcastic act as a cunning investigating officer. His confrontational scenes with Swapnil Joshi keep the film watchable. But apart from these points, the film has nothing working for itself.
--The film is well shot. But that doesn’t help much as it is basically remains a murder mystery in an age old setting – group of people assembling at a venue and one of the gets killed. Doesn’t this instantly remind you of CID? Unfortunately, the film is handled in the same way as the Hindi serial.
-- The entire investigation is quite unintentionally hilarious. The two investigating officers aren’t even aware that the prime evidence material from the murder site isn’t to be picked up with bare hands. Never heard of gloves?
-- The absurdity of the investigation isn’t limited to this. It is seen the most with the way the mystery is solved. To say that it is unconvincing will be an understatement.
-- Yash looks at the girl and instantly falls for her without knowing her. That’s not love. That’s lust or infatuation at the most. The entire romance angle, if it can be called one, doesn’t gel with the film.
-- The guy doesn’t love his irritating co-star. But never tells her clearly. Why oh why?
-- Which sane theatre group would continue with the rehearsals even after their director is brutally murdered? In fact, they don’t even take a day to mourn his death. To add to this, the deceased was a mentor for Yash. Well, they just redefined professionalism!
-- The title is half justified. There is no ishq but there is a lot of laal, constantly reminding us about Bhansali’s association with the film.
-- A supporting character is constantly audio searching something on Google in almost each and every frame, even while having meals. Even primary school kids don’t behave this way.
-- The final mystery in the end, which is the most crucial part in a whodunit, completely lacks conviction. I can’t reveal more to avoid spoilers.
Swapnil Joshi’s performance is somewhat of a saving grace, although he is far from his best. Anjana Sukhani’s act just rises to an average level. Sneha Chavan is irritating to the core. Her poor characterization is to be blamed for this. The rest of the actors just fit the bill. The music is quite decent but the songs appear forced.
Overall: Laal Ishq is an immature murder mystery. Despite Swapnil Joshi’s presence, the film stands no chance at the box-office. The amazing run of Sairaat too will affect its collections.
Director: Anu Menon
Producers: Ishka Films and Drishyam Films
Writers: Anu Menon, James Ruzicka and Atika Chohan
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Kalki Koechlin, Rajat Kapoor, Suhasini Maniratnam, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee
Release date: May 27, 2016
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
Director Anu Menon’s Waiting brings back memories of Ananth Narayan Mahadevan’s Staying Alive. While the latter showcases friendship between two patients on either side of the law, the former is about an unusual bond between two starkly opposite characters whose dear ones are battling for their lives in the ICU.
Thankfully, both films are poles apart in terms of storyline and treatment. Perhaps, the one similarity that Waiting shares with Mahadevan’s film is that it succeeds in moving you with its honest approach, skilled storytelling and dedicated performances. It’s an example of how a new-age content oriented film should be.
Coming to the storyline, Shiv (Naseeruddin Shah) and Tara (Kalki Koechlin) are waiting anxiously and nervously in the waiting room of a hospital in Cochin. The former’s wife and latter’s husband are battling for their lives in the ICU; both in a state of coma. The common tragedy creates an unusual bond between Shiv and Tara, two starkly opposite personalities.
Waiting is not story driven. It’s more of a situational based film, which gets its crucial areas right. The unusual bond between Shiv and Tara is delightful and heartwarming. Their situations and dilemmas are realistic but that doesn’t take the film on a depressing path even a bit. In fact, there is humour galore. What works further is the unconventional climax that goes so well with the genre.
The only negative area here is the behavior of the two characters on few occasions. It is not possible to elaborate on this point further to avoid spoilers.
The technical aspects perfectly gel with the theme and genre. The camerawork is real as well as creative. There is minimal use of background score, which was a smart idea. The editing too deserves similar praise.
Despite such high amounts of plus points, it is vital for such films to score very high on performances and that is exactly what the actors deliver. As expected from a stalwart like him, Naseeruddin Shah is thoroughly brilliant. He once again succeeds in portraying various emotions and various shades of his character with remarkable ease.
Kalki Koechlin isn’t far behind though. She pulls off a difficult and complex character of Tara with sincerity. It is inspiring to see her display varied emotions like sadness, excitement and anxiety so effortlessly. She matches up to Shah and that is certainly not easy to achieve. The film has fine supporting acts from Rajat Kapoor, Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Suhasini Maniratnam and Arjun Mathur.
Overall: Waiting is a well-crafted slice-of-life saga that surely deserves a watch if you prefer films with strong content. It relies heavily on strong word-of-mouth to create any impact at the box-office.
By: Keyur Seta
Mr Valerian Santos’ struggle for justice finally ended after four and a half years on May 5 when the four killers of his son, Keenan Santos and his friend, Reuben Fernandez were given life imprisonment by a Sessions Court in Mumbai. Keenan and Reuben were stabbed to death for rescuing their female friends from getting sexually harassed.
Losing a young son in a gruesome murder can be a nightmare beyond words for any parent and Mr Santos isn’t any less human. However, Keenan’s shocking and untimely death hasn’t deterred Mr Santos from encouraging his younger son from rescuing the oppressed.
“This will not deter me. I still believe that if you see somebody in trouble, you should help. I tell my younger soon too, ‘You should always stand up against wrongdoing, even if it means you becoming another Keenan,’” said Mr Santos. He was speaking at a special interaction organized by the Loksatta Party in Mumbai.
When the incident was taking place, people turned out to be mute spectators. But what troubles Mr Santos even more is that nobody came forward to help or console their female friends even after the killers had vanished.
“People were just standing in a circle and watching the tamasha. At least console them. As the criminals had fled, nobody was going to harm them. I told the crowd, ‘Bandar naach rahe hain aur tum tamasha dekh rahe ho?’ This hits me even till today,” he said.
He added, “Even animals stand up for each other. We are humans. We depend on each other. Try doing something good and leave the world by leaving behind a mark. If we don’t raise our voice against such incidents on road, tomorrow they will come to your house. Remember, every bhai was once a petty thief. Somewhere this should come to an end.”
But one shouldn’t forget the contribution of Investigating Officer (IO), Dnyanesh Devade, who put in a lot of efforts to make sure the perpetrators are sentenced. Mr Santos was all praise for him. “He has never taken anything from me. Rarely do we get to see such police officers.”
Devade, who was also present there, responded with, “I have not helped. I have just carried out my duty as a police officer.” The IO also revealed how a Pan wala, one of the key witnesses, was pressurized to not testify in the court against the culprits. “But he had faith in me. He said he will still go to court. He did and identified the offenders.”
Devade urged people to come forward and help the victims in such situations by citing Delhi’s infamous Nirbhaya case. “People have to come forward. We don’t live in jungles. If they (Keenan and Reuben) hadn’t come to the girls’ rescue, Nirbhaya would have occurred in Mumbai.”
Director: Tony D’Souza
Producers: Balaji Motion Pictures and MSM Motion Pictures
Writers: Rajat Aroraa
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Prachi Desai, Kunaal Roy Kapoor, Lara Dutta, Rajesh Malhotra, Nargis Fakhri
Music: Pritam, Amaal Malik, DJ Chetas and Kalyanji-Anandji (Oye Oye)
Genre: Drama/ Biopic
Runtime: 131 minutes
Rating: * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
Since last few years, Emraan Hashmi’s career hasn’t been moving on the right track. Tony D’Souza’s Azhar looked like his last hope of stardom. The actor latches onto the last rope of hope by scoring a hundred in the film. In other words, he has announced that his innings in Bollywood is far from over.
The personalities of Emraan and Azharuddin are poles apart. Therefore, it was a herculean task for the actor to adapt to the complicated mannerisms of the cricketer. In fact, getting the batting style right itself must have been a huge challenge. But Emraan manages each aspect of the ex-Indian captain with utmost dedication. With this act, he has proved that he is nowhere behind when it comes to displaying some smart acting abilities.
Anyways, but, what about the film overall? Well, it’s a mixed bag. Azhar boasts several plus points, apart from Emraan’s performance. It’s an out and out entertaining and engaging saga. However, unlike some other Bollywood biopics, this one doesn’t rely on masala elements to keep the entertainment quotient high. This result is achieved by some an engaging, crisp script that hardly goes off-track. D’Souza has also made sure there is a strong emotional connect.
So, with several positives, what exactly went wrong? The negative point is the fact that the makers have taken the audience for a ride. During various media interactions, the makers and the cast have asserted that Azhar is a biopic on ex-cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin. The real cricketer himself too has confirmed this in front of the media.
However, you are taken aback at the very lengthy disclaimer at the start saying that the film isn’t based on someone’s true life and it doesn’t intend to be factually or historically correct! Huh! What a U-turn! And by the time the film ends, you realize the makers have unfortunately stayed true to the claim made in the disclaimer.
Without giving away spoilers, here is more about it. The film features a final match between India and Sri Lanka played in 1998. However, such a match never took place. There was a final between the two teams in 1998 but it was completely a different one, where Azhar scored only 5 runs (see the scoreboard HERE).
Plus, Azhar’s off-the-field antics (related to the same match and hugely important to the storyline) too are a complete work of fiction. Unfortunately, this point cannot be ignored for entertainment purpose since the entire crux of the story and climax is based on this match. It appears like an indirect attempt to portray the controversial cricketer in a positive light. The film suffers from other factual errors too. The love story between Azhar and Sangeeta also lacks conviction.
Azhar scores fine in the technical aspects. The cricket match sequences could have been made to look more realistic though. Considering how the 2009 film, Victory did it much more convincingly, this should have been achieved. The songs fall in the average category.
Coming to the rest of the performances, Lara Dutta makes a positive comeback. She is believable as an egoistic and ruthless lawyer. Kunaal Roy Kapur is a surprise package. Rajesh Sharma plays the antagonist well, although he has played such roles a number of times before. Prachi Desai manages fine while Nargis Fakhri fails to bring Sangeeta Bijalani alive as she once again suffers from a lack of acting skills.
Overall: Azhar is an engaging and entertaining saga. But it takes the audience for a ride. The film has a decent chance of earning well at the box-office.
May 19 marks the Death Anniversary of the great Marathi playwright and author, Vijay Tendulkar. Since last few years, a group of theatre lovers have been paying tribute to the celebrated artist on this day through a theatre festival that provides a glimpse into his work. The same will be the case this year too on May 19, which will mark his 8th Death Anniversary.
As the festival is named, 'Te Diwas' it tries to bring back memories or provide nostalgia of Tendulkar's era of glory. As it is not possible to showcase his vast body of work in a single evening, the festival will showcase important scenes of his memorable plays like Sakharam Binder, Gidhade and others. But his one-act monologue, Olakh will be presented in its entirety. The participants include some well-known names from Marathi TV and film fraternity.
Sakharam Binder (3 scenes)
Cast: Ajay Mayekar (Dir. Kahe Diya pardes zee Marathi), Dipti Ketkar and Ashwini Kasar (Kamala Colors Marathi)
Cast: Nandita Dhuri (Mati Majhe Saubhagyavati and Elizabeth Ekadashi)
Director: Ashitosh Datar
Cast: Shreya Budge (Chala Hava Yeu Dya)
Director: Aniket Sane
Pahije Jatiche (3 scenes)
Cast: Ajay Kamble and Omkar Raut
Director: Abhijit Khade (Executive Producer at Colors Marathi)
Olakh (one act play)
Cast: Sachin Deshpande (Honar Sun Mee Hya Gharchi)
Zala Anant Hanumant
Cast: Shilpa Sane and Ankit Mhatre
Date: May 19, 2016
Venue: Bhavans Chwopatty
Time: 7 pm
Entry FREE for all!
Director: Nagraj Popatrao Manjule
Producers: Essel Vision and Aatpat Production
Writer: Nagraj Popatrao Manjule
Cast: Akash Thosar, Rinku Rajguru, Suresh Vishwakarma, Suraj Pawar, Chhaya Kadam
Runtime/ Length: 170 minutes
Rating: * * ½
Review by: Keyur Seta
Try imagining this – you are driving atop a steep mountain, which promises the most spectacular view. But your car breaks down some distance before the cliff. You somehow get it fixed and resume your journey. However, just before reaching the top, a sudden and shattering landslide occurs. This is how Nagraj Popatrao Manjule’s Sairat can be described.
In Bittergao village lives Prashant (Akash Thosar), a happy-go-lucky teenager hailing from a poor family of fishermen. He instantly falls for Archana (Rinku Rajguru). She is the daughter of the rich and influential politician. Their love becomes mutual and they soon realize they can’t stay without each other. But will their ‘caste’ barrier allow them to be together?
Sairat works well for a large majority of its duration. Despite it being another love story between a poor guy and a rich girl, it doesn’t appear redundant even a bit. Considering there have a number of such younger age romances in Marathi itself, it is a big achievement.
This became possible due to a revolutionary approach not only in storytelling but also in breaking stereotypes. It’s refreshing to see the girl riding a bullet and driving a tractor, showing aggression, staring non-stop at his guy, rescuing him during a fight and, most importantly, being the first one to propose. The first half has plenty of mass-entertaining moments. Manjule’s creative presentation too adds to the cherry.
Performances are a treat. Rinku Rajguru makes a spectacular debut. Apart from beautiful looks, she possesses confident acting skills as she displays contrasting emotions with ease. Akash Thosar also performs well in his debut flick. Chhaya Kadam is captivating in a supporting role. The film boasts good support from a host of supporting actors.
Ajay-Atul’s delightful music has a major share in the plus points. ‘Yad lagala,’ and the title song are the best of the lot. From the technicalities, DoP Sudhakar Yakkanti Reddy makes his presence felt throughout.
Now, coming to the reasons why the film doesn’t work as a whole. After around 30 minutes in the second half, it threatens to go downhill. Thankfully, proceedings are soon resurrected, only to be faced with the above-mentioned landslide. To put it bluntly, although the climax shocks you, it was annoying to see the story ending this way.
It made me ask – did I wait 170 long minutes to witness something like this? If the motto was to present something so hard-hitting, why venture into the masala, commercial entertainer zone during most parts? Was it to ensure heavy returns to the producer?
Overall: Sairat impresses for a large part of its duration but is let down by the climax. The film is receiving a super positive response and its leading actors too have become popular over the months. Hence, it will earn enormous collections at the box-office.
By: Keyur Seta
First things first – BlogAdda comes up with the topic of grandparents for its Wow activity in the same week my grandmother passes away. It has barely been six days since she left us and here I am writing about her as part of a blogging activity. Just a co-incidence? Well, not in my opinion.
You are bound to recall a huge chunk of incidents and teachings related to a family member who has spent more than 30 years with you and my grandmother – Damayanti Seta – is no exception. So, naturally, it is not possible to pin down a single lesson or memory of hers. Still, I have somehow zeroed in on one.
Saving money for the future was something she always preached, not just to us but to others as well. She, along with my grandfather, faced financial hardships when they were new in Bombay in around 1949. My grandfather earned Rs 75 per month working for the Great India Investment Company at Fountain. As she had seen such days, she knew the dangers of not having enough savings.
At one point of time, in order to meet the needs of the family, she started working as an estate agent. It is rare to see a woman entering this profession even in today’s era. So, you can imagine how people reacted in those days when my granny introduced herself as an estate agent.
I vividly remember, as a child, accompanying her as she showed different apartments to her clients. A ride with her in the sidecar of Bajaj scooter, during one such visit, is unforgettable. And as I am writing this, I realize I haven’t sat in the sidecar of a scooter ever after that.
Anyways, coming back to the topic, my grandparents’ biggest lesson of saving money came with their process of buying the first television set in our family. They were fond of watching Hindi films in theatres. Their financial progress was enough to allow them to watch films each month. Then one day, the thought of buying a TV, the latest sensation back then, crossed their minds. But they weren’t so strong financially to buy a TV at that very moment.
My granny came up with a plan of not watching a single movie for the next 10 months. The money saved by not entertaining themselves for this period would help them get entertained on a daily basis (Yes, TV was a source of proper entertainment in those days). This is how a black and white EC TV landed in our house.
I guess I have inherited the habit of not spending money unnecessarily from her. Well, this reminds me that I haven’t checked my balance since long.
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Producers: Yash Raj Films
Writers: Habib Faisal and Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Waluscha D'Souza, Sayani Gupta
Runtime/ Duration: 143 minutes
Rating: * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
Shah Rukh Khan has acquired the title of one of the biggest superstars through his numerous larger-than-life characters. But it is only due to his acts in films like Swades and Chak De! India that he has earned respect as an artist. Now, we can add Fan in the rare list of his epic performances.
But does the film live up to the expectations? Well, the answer falls in between yes and no, with the pendulum swinging more towards the former due to SRK. It's an out-of-the-box concept narrated in a thrilling manner only to be let down by the climax and few other issues.
As per the title, Fan is the story of a die-hard fan. Gaurav Chhabra (Shah Rukh Khan) is the most crazily obsessed fan of superstar Aryan Khanna (SRK). Miraculously, Gaurav is also a lookalike of Aryan.
What works for Fan is the concept and the manner in which the story is established by the writer and director. The twists born out of the consequences take the film to an enjoyably thrilling mode, especially during some stunt and chase sequences. There are quite a few instances that stun you.
These points, however, would have been counted for much without Shah Rukh Khan's super brilliant act. The way he has juggled two starkly different characters with such ease will also impress his haters. The rest of the cast - Waluscha D'Souza, Sayani Gupta and actors playing Gaurav's parents - is also decent.
But Fan comes with a baggage of negative points, which are as follows:-
- There is inconsistency over people's reactions to Gaurav being Aryan's lookalike.
- Some loopholes are too big and silly to ignore.
- The film provides an important message in the end. However, the final climax defeats its very purpose. This is the major drawback here.
- Absence of the famous 'Jabra fan' song is also a dampener.
Overall: Fan is an engaging thriller that surely could have been better. The hype and SRK's act will help the film garner impressive collections at the box- office.