Author: Pratik Shah
Additional Feature: Prologue of the author’s next book titled ‘Unravelling’
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.
After going through the title, cover image and synopsis, debutant author Pratik Shah’s Operation Jai Mata Di appears like a typical hostage saga with the only difference being the number of hostages. But thankfully, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The book in totality is a motivating and inspiring political drama providing vision and hope amidst complete apathy by the political class.
The story is set in today’s era at Vaishno Devi. Thousands of devotionally and emotionally charged pilgrims are slowly trekking their way to the Bhavan of their beloved Goddess. But just some distance before their destination, 10,000 pilgrims are kidnapped by armed men in a daring midnight operation.
The Government of India and the entire nation is shaken by the audacity of the hostage-takers. The Prime Minister is under serious pressure not only from the opposition but also the citizens to act quickly to save the pilgrims. Worse, the PM has to deal with a selfish and opportunistic Defense Minister. Will the hostages be saved?
The USP of Operation Jai Mata Di is its main plot, which takes you by surprise and has the potential to appeal to every concerned citizen of India. The consequences of the kidnapping and the final culmination can be best described as emotionally overwhelming and inspiring. The only issue with the plot is some errors and the over-ambitious motto at times.
But mostly, Shah has succeeded in handling a sensitive issue with maturity, especially the working style and psyche of politicians and the government. His proper knowledge of the political process is also visible. The motivating dialogues also help the cause.
Coming to the writing, the language is rich but at the same time simple and understandable for all. However, some important sentences should have been less simplistic. The pace is fast and gripping but the build-up before the kidnapping gets tedious after a point of time. But the real problem area is the missing of comma and other punctuations throughout the book. The editor should have taken care of these basic issues.
Overall: Operation Jai Mata Di is for thriller lovers and also those who are fed up of the almost irreparable corrupt system. It will be hugely surprising if the book isn’t made into a movie.
Director: Anand L Rai
Producers: Color Yellow Pictures and Eros International
Writer: Himanshu Sharma
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, R Madhavan, Deepak Dobrial, Jimmy Shergill, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub
Music: Krsna Solo and Tanishk-Vayu
Genre: Drama/ Comedy
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Rating: * * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
There has been a craze for sequels in Bollywood since five years or so. But strangely, there has hardly been a sequel that has matched up to the first film of the franchise, leave along being better than it. Apart from Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Jannat 2, I can’t think of any worthy names.
Anand L Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu Returns enters this rare list as it not only matches to the first film, it even surpasses it as far as entertainment is concerned. It presents an old pickle in new bottle in the most hilarious way.
Coming to the story, Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) gets married to Manu (R Madhavan) at the end of the first film. But in a span of for years, their marriage crumbles. They return to their hometown and apply for a divorce, much to the agony of their respective parents.
Completely out of the blue, Manu comes across a college student Kusum (Kangana Ranaut), who is a lookalike of Tanu and falls for her. On the other hand, Tanu flirts around with her family’s Paying Guest (Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub), a law student, and her old flame Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill). Is this the end of the journey for Tanu and Manu?
First things first – it is difficult to recall the last time you laughed uncontrollably as much as you do in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. The film is a complete laugh riot that gets you out of your seat after almost every few seconds, even during serious moments. Comedy gets better when it is unpredictable, both in terms of the type of jokes and situations. This is the case here.
Apart from the one-liners, writer Himanshu Sharma should also be lauded for using specific character traits of characters to induce humor. He has maintained a fine balance between modernism and desi-ness. Out of all characters, Kusum deserves special mention. Don’t be surprised if people gain sudden interesting in learning Hariyanvi (I am already in the list).
But amidst such goodness, the film has a big negative area. Almost every important story development lacks conviction. For example, Manu suddenly falling in love with Kusum in such a short period and that too when he is going through such a painful divorce is difficult to believe. The same is the case with other important points. On top of that, the climax is predictable and clichéd. However, the high doses of entertainment won’t let you fret over these points.
The music also plays its part. ‘Banno Tera’ is the best of the lot. The song has become an instant rage. Chirantan Das’ camerawork with vibrant visuals goes well with the theme. The film is well edited, especially during the very last frame.
Kangana Ranaut gained a lot of fame after her performance in Queen. Now, with this marvelous act, she has become one of the top actresses to come from Bollywood. She manages the difficult task of playing two hugely opposite characters with ease and a lot of passion. You will specially fall in love with Kusum. R Madhavan’s character sketch isn’t that exciting but he manages well.
Apart from Kangana, Deepak Dobrial is the star of the film. He is a fine artist and he shows it here while playing Manu’s best friend. Jimmy Shergill and Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub too aren’t far behind. Rajesh Sharma, as Kusum’s brother, displays his talent yet again. The film is well-supported by Swara Bhaskar, Ejaz Khan, K K Raina, Rajendra Gupta and others.
Overall: Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a non-stop laugh riot. The film’s goodness will be reflected in its positive box office collections.
Director: Kedar Shinde
Producers: Kedar Shinde Pictures and Eros International
Writers: Dilip Prabhavalkar and Kedar Shinde
Cast: Sonali Kulkarni, Dharmendra Gohil, Bharat Jadhav, Surabhi Hande, Prasad Oak
Release Date: May 22, 2015
Rating: * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
The basic prerequisite for the sequel of a successful film is an interesting concept that takes the franchise forward. Its clear absence becomes the reason for the downfall of Kedar Shinde’s Marathi movie Aga Bai Arechya 2.
Unfortunately, this is not its only problem area. Such a description also means that the film is way below the enjoyable and humorous first film in the franchise Aga Bai Arechya (2004), which starred Sanjay Narvekar in the lead.
The film centers round Shubhangi aka Shubha (Sonali Kulkarni). She is in her 30s but not yet married due to a mysterious and tragic condition in her life. As soon as she touches her lover in any way, the latter gets involved in a serious accident. This has been going on since her childhood.
Intrigued by the story of Shubha’s life, author Vikram (Dharmendra Gohil) decides to write a book on her life. Initially, she strictly refuses but slowly gets convinced about Vikram’s sincerity. She reveals to him about her past lovers (Bharat Jadhav, Prasad Oak and Madhav Deochake). Will her unusual ‘curse’ continue to torment her? Or will it set her free finally?
Aga Bai Arechya 2 suffers from an unconvincing concept, which is taken forward through a questionable plot point. Seriously, why would Shubha allow a complete stranger to narrate her tragic personal story to the world considering her situation? But what takes the cake is the important turn in the second half. It’s not possible to reveal much to avoid spoilers but there is no harm in saying that this particular point induces unintentional laughter.
Also, the overall setting and characters appear outdated in today’s era. So, what do we have going for the film? Being the sequel of a humorous movie, thankfully there is some amount of genuine laughter that stops the film from completely falling apart.
Nishaad’s music is another plus point. Songs like ‘Ek Porgi Sandhyakali’, ‘Dil Mera’, ‘Maza Dev Kuni Pahila’ and ‘Jagnyache Bhaan He’ are good enough to take back home. Suresh Deshmane, the DoP has provided with satisfying glimpses of the Konkan region. The rest of the technicalities are decent.
Sonali Kulkarni is one of the finest actors around. She brings in her goodness to overshadow the fallacies and also manages to look ravishing. But it would have been better if she wasn’t asked to scream at times. Dharmendra Gohil, known for his theatre performances, makes a confident debut in Marathi cinema.
Bharat Jadhav displays his skills well in a hatke role. In cameos, Prasad Oak and Madhav Deochake are average and the two girls playing younger Shubha provide likable acts. The rest of the supporting cast is decent.
Overall: Aga Bai Arechya 2 fails due to basic issues. The presence of Sonali Kulkarni in the lead and the family-oriented subject will help the film earn well at the box office in the first week.
Rating: * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Writers: Vasan Bala, Gyan Prakash, Anurag Kashpap and S Thanikachalam
Producers: Fox Star Studios and Phantom Films
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar, Satyadeep Mishra, Manish Choudhary, Kay Kay Menon
Music: Amit Trivedi
When a filmmaker like Anurag Kashyap joins hands with Ranbir Kapoor for an ambitious project like Bombay Velvet, one’s expectations are sure to rise. But the not-so-exciting trailers made us think otherwise. And the film in totality turns out to be exactly what it showed from the promotional material. It’s a tried and tested saga with Kashyap’s artistic touch.
The story commences in 1949 when Balraj relocates to Bombay with his mother. Due to abject poverty, he (Ranbir Kapoor) grows up to become a pickpocket street urchin, guided by his best friend Chiman (Satyadeep Mishra). During one such incident, he comes in contact with the wealthy businessman Kaizad Khambata (Karan Johar), who makes Balraj the whole and soul of his new Jazz nightclub Bombay Velvet. He now becomes Jonny Balraj.
Singer Rosie (Anushka Sharma), who also has had a disturbing past, becomes the star of Bombay Velvet. Rosie falls in love with Balraj. Simultaneously, attempts are being made to turn Bombay into a metropolitan city. At the same time, Balraj’s ambition transforms into greed.
Those in love with Mumbai (Bombay earlier) and have been staying here since long would feel nostalgic and amazed by the re-creation of old Bombay. This old Bombay charm is Bombay Velvet’s biggest strong point, even though on few occasions the scenario easily appears like a film set.
As expected, Kashyap has churned out a number of memorable moments through his artistic presentation. A scene displayed through a mirror and another one where Balraj strangles a person driving a car are examples of his brilliance.
But the film falls short of being superlative. The entire plot is predictable and tried and tested, which in turn is narrated unevenly. For example, the tale is established in the initial portions in a hurried manner whereas the pace drops in between and during the ending parts. The second half has a filmi twist, which can best be described as silly. Also, the behavior of few characters is questionable during some key incidents.
The film is about a Jazz nightclub so one does expect the music to fall in the same league. But the problem here is that there are too many nightclub songs, which are also similar to each other. Coming to the technicalities, the first half sees abrupt cuts every now and then. The camerawork is impressive. The brilliant background score adds plenty of life to the proceedings. The scene where Balraj gears up to shoot baddies with two machine guns deserves mention.
Although this is not one of his best acts, Ranbir Kapoor succeeds in bringing Johnny Balraj alive. He leaves his mark during a quite a few sequences. Anushka Sharma does what was required from her. But there isn’t much depth in her character. Karan Johar is the surprise package. He molds himself into the character of Kaizad Khambata in a confident manner.
Manish Choudhary is a quality performer and he proves it yet again. Satyadeep Mishra will get noticed after his act here as Balraj’s best friend. He nicely underplays his character. Kay Kay Menon, as the cunning cop, is believable. Vivaan Shah, Jagdish Rajpurohit, as the Police Commissioner, Sandesh Jadhav and the rest play well-supporting characters.
Overall: Bombay Velvet is a one-time watch for those who prefer Anurag Kashyap brand of cinema. The high cost of production and lack of mass appeal will make it tough for the film to earn good or profit-making collections at the box office.
Photographer & Author: Ashok Mahindra
Presented By: Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Oxford Publishers
Rating: * * * *
Review By: Keyur Seta
The main aim of Wildlife Photographers is to make the reader experience a wild safari inside a jungle while sitting miles away. Their task is difficult than video shooters due to the reliance only on still pictures. Ashok Mahindra’s e-book ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ achieves this aim hands down. This is not the only achievement of the book though.
‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ is a collection of wildlife images, which includes animals, birds, reptiles and also nature, clicked by Mahindra over a period of time at different national parks of India.
The book is a treat not only for wildlife lovers but also for city dwellers trapped in concrete jungles. The well-shot and well thought pictures transport you to the raw interiors of forests. But, as mentioned by Mahindra, wildlife is not only about wild animals. Therefore, he has also given importance to other aspects of jungles. Other impressive feature is the trivia about some species and the back story behind the capturing of a number of pictures.
- Images of the Royal Bengal Tiger
- Asiatic Elephants spraying mud over their bodies to combat heat.
- Sal Trees at Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
- A spider trying hard to trap a butterfly
- A crocodile, deer and a bird appearing together.
- The picturesque Jogi Mahal below Ranthambhore Fort, Rajasthan.
- A mother elephant trying to convince her kid to get inside a lake.
- A Spotted Deer ready for mating.
But apart from presenting wildlife pictures, the deeper intent here is to encourage sustainability of wildlife habitats that are diminishing rapidly. It is like a wakeup call to the people of today’s times. The photographer-cum-author has also provided a list of solutions for the same.
Coming to the minor negative points, the written matter on some occasions needs to be short since it is a pictorial book. This becomes more problematic due to the very small font as one is required to zoom in and out regularly.
Overall: ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments In India’ is a pleasurable jungle safari.
More pictures from the book:-
(Click to enlarge)
By: Keyur Seta
The sane citizens of India are furious and frustrated after the Bombay High Court verdict that granted bail to Salman Khan yesterday (the rest are surely insane). This is completely obvious considering Salman’s crime, his shameful twisting of facts and, worse, the manner in which he got Constable Ravindra Patil killed by physically and mentally torturing him through his influence.
Just a couple of days ago, large number of people posted the message ‘Faith in judiciary restored’ across social media. But soon, that faith turned out to be a false alarm. In fact, it has nullified whatever little faith people had with our law system with regards to the conviction of the rich and famous. It has once again reinforced the belief that such category of people are above the law.
But I would like to explore another angle on this issue. While the public outrage is completely justified and necessary, it would be wrong to think that all is well for Salman now. The actor has lost more than he has gained with every bail that he has mastered till now through his influence, power and shoddy tactics.
His life would have been much more pleasant and peaceful had he owned up to the crime at the initial stage itself in 2002. In other words, he would have gained a lot despite getting jailed then.
This is how:-
Uncertainty: Although Salman is a free, the serious charges on him still exist. Hence, his life is completely uncertain. He doesn’t know what would happen to the case and subsequently to him. He will always think about the case before signing a new film. The same would be the case with the filmmakers. Of course, it is easy to bribe your way out but what if the judge is honest like the one in the Sessions Court? In other words, the sword will continue to hang above him.
Lack of Peace: Even if you have the most luxurious materials at your disposal, your life will be far from peaceful if your mind is in complete turmoil. The same is the case with Salman right now. He might appear happy to the outside world but a person who has committed such a crime and later, to save himself, had an eye-witness tortured to death can never have a peaceful sleep. Self-created jail can be more troublesome than real jail.
Golden Opportunity: Salman failed to grab the golden opportunity of becoming a real-life hero by confessing to the crime. Had he done that in 2002 itself, he would have been completely free by 2007 (if he was given a five-year sentence) and the ghosts of uncertainty would have vanished. He would have been free to take any decision regarding his future without a bother about the case and would have won many a hearts, including mine.
Personal Life: It is not right to comment on anybody’s personal life but this is purely from the point of view of what could have happened had Salman confessed. Quite a few times Salman has said that he hasn’t married till date because of the sword of the case hanging above him. So, naturally, had he confessed his crime soon enough, he would have been free long back to get married and started his own family.
Stress: Anybody who has visited court even for a minor issue would agree that court visits are truly stressful. So, it would be all the more stressful in Salman’s case not only because of the fact that it is a serious issue but also due to the chaos considering his celebrity status. He would have been saved from this circus too had he listened to his conscience.
Salim sir’s Plight: This is the most important point. The sorry plight of Salman’s father Salim Khan due to this mess is anybody’s guess. It is clearly visible from his expressions and body language during this whole episode. By not owning up to the crime, Salman has provided great pain to his father in his old age. Had he done that, Salim sir wouldn’t be going through such turmoil in this age.
Although it is clearly a crime to drink-and-drive, Salman can argue that he wasn’t in his senses when the accident happened or things weren’t in his control. However, he was completely in control in what happened after that, as in the manner in which the whole issue shaped up.
Had Salman showed some character and responsibility, his life would have been pleasant and peaceful rightnow. But he resorted to Being Coward than Being Human.
By: Keyur Seta
So the D Day in Salman Khan's 13 year old hit-and-run case has turned the tables for the superstar after he was proved guilty and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Although this was expected, we all had our doubts considering how our judiciary has been biased towards the famous and powerful.
However, with Salman being convicted for the crime, the faith in Indian judiciary is restored for a lot of Indians like me. This was a bloody important verdict not because Salman was involved in the crime but simply because it is a big assurance for the Common Man that the Law is equal for all.
The problem we have is that the Law has proved to be equal for all in this case but the huge number of so-called fans of Salman think otherwise. Else, why would their be many prayer events for the actor's release? Ironically, these are the same people who always crib and complain that our Law system or Judiciary is biased in favor of the powerful.
But apart from the point of view of equality of Law, there is another reason why it was absolutely necessary for Salman to be proved guilty. People have forgotten or rather aren't aware how Salman used his influence in torturing honest Constable Ravindra Patil, who had stood by the truth. Read about him by clicking HERE.
Patil's story is heart-wrenching. He refused to budge under the pressure of power and change his statement that Salman was indeed driving the car. Just Google 'Constable Patil Salman Khan' and your heart will break.
The media is hardly giving any importance to the story of Patil for obvious reasons. Worse, a blogger who had fearlessly written about it was pressurized to remove his post. Plus, we all remember the shameless lie of Salman's driver driving the car. One surely deserves the strictest of punishments when he uses such devilishly corrupt tactics to hide the truth.
One could really hope and pray that our Judiciary continues to show such strictness in all such cases. I personally dedicate this verdict to Constable Ravindra Patil. Now, his soul will Rest In Peace.
And to those who are feeling Salman is undone, just try and answer this - Suppose a complete nobody like me had committed the crime and had later tortured the Constable to death, would you have still felt for me the same way you did for Salman? Try answering this.
By: Keyur Seta
The new Censor Board, headed by ex-filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani, has been receiving criticism and flak in huge proportions following their shockingly silly decisions to ban certain words, sequences and, in some cases, an entire film. Plus, their cuss list, which prohibits harmless words like ‘sala’ and ‘kutta’ are making things worse for them.
But recently, the CBFC came up with a decision of cutting a particular scene, which is been labeled as their most laughable blunder ever. The said sequence is from Devang Dholakia’s upcoming film Kuch Kuch Locha Hai starring Ram Kapoor and Sunny Leone.
During a recent media interaction, Kapoor disclosed the cut ordered by the board. “You will laugh at this but this is a fact. There is a sequence in the film where Sunny Leone presents me with a gift. Since I have nothing to give her in return, I present her with a banana, saying it is very nutritious. This scene was chopped off by the censors.”
As we raised our eyebrows and were about to react, he added, “Wait. Would you like to know their logic? They said they are chopping it off because it is a night scene. If the situation had taken place during the day, they said they would have allowed as it wouldn’t have amounted to double meaning. But since it is a night scene, it becomes double meaning for them.”
Kapoor expressed the need to do something about this saying, “It’s absolute nonsense.”
Producers: Bhansali Productions and Viacom Motion Pictures
Writers: A R Murugadoss and Rajat Arora
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Suman Talwar, Shruti Haasan, Sunil Grover
Rating: * * ½
Review By: Keyur Seta
Frankly, you don’t need to be an expert to judge a hero-centric commercial masala entertainer. One just needs to ask whether the film provides entertainment. As far as Gabbar Is Back is concerned, it’s a mixed bag. The film is an entertaining saga but it suffers from some serious issues. But if you are an Akshay Kumar fan, you are in for a treat.
The story centers on Aditya (Akshay Kumar) in Mumbai. He is a Professor but secretly heads an anti-corruption unit that kills corrupt government officials. Aditya carries out this secret activity with the pseudonym Gabbar. He targets people from different government departments one after the other. The police try hard in tracking him but never succeed.
During one such anti-corruption exercise, Gabbar’s dark past resurfaces in the form of the corrupt, evil and ruthless businessman Digvijay Patil (Suman Talwar). How long will Gabbar continue his acts? Will he ever face its consequences? The film is an official remake of the 2002 Tamil film Ramanaa.
Gabbar Is Back is a typical single-screen saga. The difference here is that it portrays the issue of corruption faced by the Common Man. No doubt, the topic is explored in mainstream Hindi cinema innumerable times. But what makes the film stand apart is the manner in which the protagonist executes his plans. The hospital or medical corruption episode is one of the most memorable sequences in recent times. Anyone with an expensive experience at a hospital will thank the film for this incident.
The film comes with a baggage of negative points. Logic isn’t important in this genre but few events are too unreal to believe. It is vital for the character of the villain to be strong to be pitted against a mighty hero. But what we have here is a foolish antagonist who is more funny than scary. For example, just minutes after the news of the passing away of his beloved son, he screams, “I am a brand!” without a tear or any sorrow whatsoever.
Unfortunately, the character of the female lead (Haasan) is also a disappointment. She is shown to be a silly girl who has nothing to do with the main plot. It is annoying to see Bollywood continuing such regressive portrayal of women even in 2015. And then, there is a raunchy item number too featuring Chitrangada Singh.
Gabbar Is Back does surprise you in the last few minutes. However, that part is difficult to digest given the genre (can’t reveal much to avoid spoilers). Plus, the penultimate events leading up to the finale aren’t so overwhelming.
Coming to the technicalities, the editing and camerawork are decent but the background score is unnecessarily loud, maybe because of the southern influence of the director Krish, which is also seen in a lot of sequences. Apart from the title track, the music isn’t noteworthy.
Lastly, it’s completely an Akshay Kumar film as far as performances are concerned. It’s a tailor-made role for him which he performs with all his might. He is surely the King of Bollywood when it comes to action. Suman Talwar, as the villain, suffers due to the characterization. He is otherwise a fine actor.
Sunil Grover and Ishita Vyas have their moments. It is sad to see Shruti Haasan doing something in which Sonakshi Sinha has achieved PhD. Jaideep Ahlawat and the rest of the actors are just average.
Overall: Gabbar Is Back is for Akshay Kumar fans. The film will earn decent at the box office but it won’t be a formidable success.