The Common Man Speaks

8Apr/180

Salman Khan’s welcome reminds us of the horrors of hero worship

After getting released on bail yesterday, Salman Khan got a heroic welcome in his hometown Mumbai. Such was the delight in the hearts of his fans that a large amount of crackers were busted in celebration. A person alien to the entire Black Buck case would feel that the actor must have done some noble deed to have received such a reception.

Little would he or she know that Salman is actually found guilty of killing endangered species and has only received bail; he is not acquitted of the crime. On top of that, the judge who convicted him is transferred (co-incidence?).

Welcoming a convict by busting crackers is surely shocking. But after a while, it didn’t come as a surprise for me. The reason for this is simple. The same person has been let off of a much serious crime of killing one and injuring four in the 2002 hit-and-run case.

Anybody who has followed this case would know how he was let off. The silliest giveaway was Salman’s driver taking the blame on him all of a sudden 13 years after the crime.

Salman KhanBut the manner in which the prime witness, constable Ravindra Patil, was physically and mentally tortured to death not only points to foul play but also gets you disturbed. (Read Patil’s full story HERE and HERE.)

This point alone is enough to question the mindsets of those who can turn a blind eye to the above incidents and welcome the actor as if he carried out a noble deed for the nation. Unfortunately, a good section of the media is behaving the same way. It is shuddering to think that they are the custodians of the fourth pillar of democracy.

This is the extent to which the disease of hero worship has spread in India.

The usual excuse we get from these blind fans is that Salman has been doing a lot of charity. Now, which law states that a person should be excused from charges of such magnanimous nature if he or she indulges in charity work? For the uninitiated, his charitable trust Being Human was started in 2007, much after he got involved in such crimes.

Watch the fireworks and how Salman asks his robotic fans to sleep:

It is obvious that such bhakts won’t question as to how Salman received bail in just 48 hours when Dr Kafeel Khan is in prison since six months and that too for saving the lives of children during the horrific episode of lack of oxygen in Gorakhpur’s hospital.

I don’t think many of them might even be aware of the incident (read about it HERE, if you are one of them). In fact, there are lakhs of undertrial prisoners who are not even convicted but are still loitering in jails since months and years simply because their name is not Salman Khan.

And yet, the blind fans keep giving the laughable argument that Salman is targeted for being a celebrity when it’s the other way round. If he wasn’t a celebrity, he would have been one of the lakhs of undertrials.

The hero worship disease is not just limited to the fans of actors. It goes for politicians as well. So much so that their ghastly crimes are forgotten just because they possess the quality of uttering scripted lines with style and punches. If they say something you love listening to in their usual heroic way, you are clean bowled!

To think of it, this shows how the job of actors and politicians is the same. Both act in front of the audience and mouth scripted lines. The only difference is that actors admit to acting, although not while being off screen.

But the masses won’t realize this since this disease makes you disconnected with logic. One gets so madly attracted to some quality or style of a celebrity that thinking and reasoning is out of question. It makes you fight or even end relations with your near and dear ones just because they don’t agree with your blind worship.

All this for a person who is not even aware about your existence in the first place.

By: Keyur Seta

10Mar/180

3 Storeys Review

Dramatic thrillers are found in rarity in Hindi cinema. The last time such genre was explored successfully was back in 2012 in Sujoy Ghosh’s Vidya Balan starrer Kahaani. Debutant Arjun Mukherjee’s 3 Storeys succeeds in filling this void through a thriller that also manages to move you.

There is a pun in the title. 3 Storeys has three main stories, along with few other sub-plots, taking place at a chawl in Mahim in Mumbai. Flory Mendonca (Renuka Shahane) lives alone but receives high amount of respect from her neighbours. She has a dark past. She wants to sell her house and migrate to Goa. Vilas Naik (Pulkit Samrat), a businessman, arrives to buy her place.

Varsha (Masumeh Makhija) struggles to live with a drunkard and abusive husband. She was once in love with Shankar (Sharman Joshi) but couldn’t marry him. Eighteen-year-old Malini (Aisha Ahmed) is in love with Suhail (Ankit Rathi), who runs a general store nearby. The attractive Leela (Richa Chadha) leads a mysterious life.

The first and the foremost ingredient for such genre of films is the writing and that department is taken care of exceedingly well. The screenplay is not just water-tight but it skillfully travels from one story to another while keeping the background of the chawl intact.

3 Storeys movieAll the three stories, and the other sub-plots, are interesting and intriguing. They have subtle drama and can boast of being realistic. After last year’s Tu Hai Mera Sunday, here’s another Hindi film that shows a different side of Mumbai. The prologue at the start about life in Mumbai is what every middle-class Mumbaikar can connect with.

The epilogue, by the same character, brilliantly sums up the psyche of story writers. The content and the style of the narration makes you feel as if you read a book. This is felt further due to the prologue and epilogue.

The regular thriller element is what takes 3 Storeys several notches higher. The film is peppered with moments that either thrill or provide a subtle jolt; most of the times when you are least expecting it in between a simple scene. The one at the end takes you completely by surprise.

In between such positives, 3 Storeys also suffers from a couple of minuses. One important moment each in the stories of Flory and Shankar is difficult to believe.

London based cinematographer Will Humphris’ fine work is at display regularly. The shot where the camera zooms out of the room and continues till way outside the building of the chawl deserves mention. Hindi films are guilty of adding forceful sounds to add thrill. This is nowhere seen in this film, thankfully.

3 Storeys is laced with high quality performances. Renuka Shahane makes a memorable comeback to Hindi films with a thoroughly dedicated act of an old Christian lady. Masumeh Makhija also displays fine acting skills and speaks through her expressions. The acts of these two actresses make you feel bad for them not doing Hindi films for so long.

Sharman Joshi is believable as the simple common man. Aisa Ahmed, Ankit Rathi, Pulkit Samrat and few other supporting actors play their respective parts well. The actor playing Masumeh’s husband overdoes on few occasions. Richa Chadha makes good use of the opportunity she gets, especially in the end.

Overall: 3 Storeys is a well-made dramatic thriller that stays with you for long.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Arjun Mukherjee

Producers: B4U Movies and Excel Entertainment (Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani)

Writers: Althea Kaushal and Anvita Dutt

Cast: Renuka Shahane, Masumeh Makhija, Sharman Joshi, Pulkit Samrat, Richa Chadha, Aisha Ahmed, Ankit Rathi

Genre: Dramatic thriller

Runtime: 100 minutes

25Feb/180

RIP Sridevi ji: My first and last experience with her

At around 12:30 am today, a couple of chat screenshots were shared in a media What’s App group. It spoke about the death of veteran actress Sridevi. Thanks to the era of hoaxes and the casual tone of the chat, we didn’t take it seriously. It also made me recall how just last week, the death hoax of Sylvester Stallone had made the rounds. Hence, I went to sleep.

All hell broke loose when I was woken up by my brother’s voice announcing the death of Sridevi. Can’t remember the last time I was woken up with such a shock, which was soon overcome by sadness.

But not being in a fully awake state didn’t stop me from recalling that afternoon of July 2, 2017 when I and my brother had the opportunity to interview her (for different publications), although in a group, for her soon-to-be-released Mom. Suddenly it seemed as if it was just recently that we had met her.

People, obviously, dread working on a Sunday. And that day it was pouring badly; monsoon had settled in Mumbai. But who gets a chance to meet such legends again and again? So, I just took off all excited!

Sridevi Generally these interviews happen in hotels. But this one was at Sridevi’s residence. This was another reason to look forward to it. Quite expectedly, her apartment is luxurious. But it wasn’t the kind of modernly furnished home that provide a lifeless feeling despite being rich. I realized it provided a homely feeling as we waited in the drawing room. Her domestic help had welcomed us with respect.

The feel good factor in the home coupled with the high interest to meet Sridevi didn’t make me feel impatient despite waiting for more than a couple of hours. Finally, she walked in. We didn’t expect ‘the’ Sridevi to be wearing such simple attire although her agelessness was clearly visible. It seemed as if nothing much had changed from Mr India to Mom. Her thick-framed glasses added to her beauty.

As soon as she entered, she heartily apologized for keeping us waiting for long. She reasoned that she was caught up elsewhere. This is something you hardly see from big stars… The moment was worth already.

The question and answer session began in a usual way with the actress speaking about her upcoming film with a lot of interest. This is what generally happens in interviews. But this moment was special, not because the interviewee was Sridevi. It was because she is known for hardly speaking anything in the interviews. She has never been comfortable with it.

But that day we saw a changed Sridevi who gave proper long answers. I had sat in the Hindi media group. So, I also got the opportunity to listen to her Hindi. Apart from speaking about Mom and her co-stars, she also went down memory lane and recalled her stint as a child actor when her mother would always accompany her on shoots.

The close-to-25-minutes were spent in a jiffy. Needless to say, it was mandatory to click a picture with her. There was some pleasant surprise in store for us here too. Many a times, big stars prefer giving one group picture. But Sridevi didn’t show any qualms in posing separately with all of us.

Sridevi’s newly developed openness in speaking along with her humility already made me look forward to meeting her in the future. Her fitness level and acting form indicated that she would surely do many more films and would subsequently talk to the media regularly.

But the initial few seconds after I woke up today told me that it was my first and last experience with her.

By: Keyur Seta

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE.

26Jan/180

Padmaavat Review: Ranveer Singh walks away with glory

Over the years, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has evolved into another genre in itself. Big stars, grand costumes and sets, heavy use of colours, drama, songs and dances are some characteristics of his brand of cinema.

But despite such pleasing factors, there have been times when his films haven’t reached the pinnacle of cinematic satisfaction that it aims. Padmaavat (earlier titled Padmavati and later Padmavat) also falls in this list, unfortunately.

Padmaavat is based on the legendary poem by Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. It tells the story of Rawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor), the ruler of Chittorgarh, who, while on an expedition down south, meets the stunning Padmavati (Deepika Padukone). He falls for her and makes her his second wife.

Meanwhile, Aluddin Khilji, ruler of the Khilji dynasty, has acquired the throne of Delhi after murdering his uncle Jalauddin Khilji (Raza Murad). He gets to know about the splendid beauty of Padmavati and heads towards Chittorgarh to set his eyes on her.

Padmaavat DeepikaPadmaavat is one of the most visually stunning films to have come from Hindi cinema. Bhansali’s obsession with minute details is visible throughout. His peculiar use of fire, which is seen in his earlier films, is at the optimum here.

Nitin Chandrakant Desai’s opulent production design too deserves huge amount of credit in recreating different areas of the subcontinent. Like Bhansali’s previous films, he has created a different world for every region. But at the same time, every region is believable.

Bhansali has also displayed his speciality in creating drama, which is ably supported by the background score. But it is Sudeep Chatterjee’s fine camerawork that stands out as far as the technical department is concerned. It adds to the visual quality. The veteran stunt director Sham Kaushal too makes his presence felt. The fight sequence between Rawal Ratan Singh and Khilji deserves mention.

But unlike the filmmaker’s most of the films, the music isn’t as impressive. Songs like ‘Ghoomar’ and ‘Ek Dil Ek Jaan’ fall in the average category. The second one becomes an obstacle in the narrative. ‘Khali Bali’ is an energetic number and the best of the lot. But the weird dance steps don’t let you look beyond. It makes Bajirao’s ‘Malhari’ appear simple and subtle.

Spoilers ahead!

The negative points in Padmaavat are such that they cannot be highlighted without giving away spoilers. Some of Bhansali’s previous films have been guilty of being self-indulgent. The treatment overtakes the main plot, which ensures you don’t feel much for the characters.

Padmaavat Shahid KapoorBut in Padmaavat, character sketches of Khilji and Padmavati and Bhansali’s idea of staying true neither to history nor the epic poem hampers the film the most. There’s nothing wrong with this if the end result is satisfying. It is not in this case.

Going by the historical texts available, Khilji, although villainous, was a ruler with a sharp mind. But Bhansali’s Khilji is an animalistic and impulsive moron who is absolutely incapable of thinking logically. He leaves his kingdom in Delhi and waits outside the vicinity of the Chittorgarh palace just to catch a glimpse of a woman he hasn’t seen ever and that too for months in the heat of Rajasthan!

This certainly doesn’t make him look like a ruler of a kingdom as important as Delhi whatsoever. In other words, Khilji’s portrayal in the film is exactly what Right Wing supporters would love, especially the fringe Rajput groups.

More so, because we are regularly given doses of Rajput valour through dialogues that become redundant an ineffective after a point. Ironically, people claiming to represent them are the ones who have turned violent against the film without even watching it.

The bigger flaw here is the glorification of suicide (even though it is sugarcoated as ‘jauhar’) and the regressive idea of a woman losing her ‘honour’ if held captive or touched by the enemy. It is questionable to see such ideas being dished out at a time when there is constant struggle to free the nation from such dangerous beliefs.

Moreover, the jauhar over here doesn’t go with the character of Padmavati. She is shown to be a warrior who even rescues her husband from the clutches of the enemy. So, to see such a bravehearted person commit suicide without even trying to fight is disheartening and disappointing.

Padmaavat Ranveer SinghPerformances:

Bhansali is known for extracting quality performances from his actors and this holds true for this film too. Ranveer Singh is simply outstanding! He stuns with his dedication to bring alive an animalistic creature every time he appears. Needless to say, his acting graph goes higher with this film.

Deepika Padukone has given one of her best performances, if not the best. It was necessary for her to be the soul of the film and she manages that. She also ensures that the aforementioned flaw in the character remains hidden to some extent. Shahid Kapoor too rises to the occasion and gives a strong picture of a brave ruler. He is clearly the underdog here.

Jim Sarbh also makes an announcement of his supreme talent. His homosexual behavior is so subtle, yet effective. Aditi Rao Hydari and Anupriya Goenka also chip in with decent support. The latter, who plays Ratan’s first wife, should have got more opportunity.

Rating: 2.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Producers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

Writers: Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Prakash Kapadia

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Shahid Kapoor, Jim Sarbh

Music: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

22Jan/180

We have forgotten how this group did worse than Karni Sena just 5 months ago

As we are all aware how the Rajput Karni Sena is violently dictating terms while putting forth their demand to ban Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padamaavat. The protests began in Rajasthan last year but have now spread to various parts of the countries. In fact, there have been continuous reports of violence over the last few days.

Needless to say, they are being allowed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led governments in some states and center to dictate terms. There has been no strict action taken despite the goons creating havoc uncontrollably.

If violence wasn’t enough, threats are being given by Karni Sena women to commit jauhar (self-immolation). The group is led by men and the violence is also created by them but they wish to be safe. How heroic!

However, although the spineless attitude of the governments is sickening, it is certainly not surprising. This is simply because they had made their intentions clear as far as appeasing fringe groups is concerned just five months ago. Strangely, I have not heard anyone recalling this disturbing incident despite its massive similarity with the ongoing Karni Sena crisis.

Karni Sena Padmavati

Picture: Hindustan Times

Self-styled Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, known for his roles in and as MSG, was convicted of raping two girls in August last year by the Punjab and Haryana Court. Following this, his huge number of followers went on a violent rampage by randomly destroying public and state properties by either vandalizing or setting them ablaze.

What made it even worse was that 30 people were reported dead in the entire chaos by the supporters of Dera Sacha Sauda chief. See the entire timeline of events HERE.

Manohar Lal Khattar, the Chief Minister of Haryana (the same person who has given some shockingly chauvinistic statements and has taken the recent rapes lightly and labeled some as ‘fake’) came under severe fire for allowing thousands of Dera supporters to gather outside the court premises despite knowing their gruesomely violent nature.

You don’t even need to be half intelligent to predict how his mad supporters would react once their hero is pronounced guilty of such heinous crimes. Not just that, Ram Rahim was allowed an entourage of 200 cars while going to the court! The state acted only after severe damage to lives and property took place. The Dera chief is close to the BJP and his supporters are a big vote bank for them.

In fact, the party spokespersons were not even ready to speak against Ram Rahim on news chat shows that night despite him being convicted of rape (the charges against him are far worse, including mass castration). These are the same people who are ready to bash the opposition even for a tweet.

Similarly, right now they are not ready to condemn Karni Sena’s goons, leave alone take action. After all, Rajputs form a large vote bank in the northern and central areas of India.

So, those who are aware of the five-month old history shouldn’t be surprised to see it being repeated.

By: Keyur Seta

19Nov/170

Disclaimer: This short story has nothing to do with Padmavati controversy

The bright and sunny day at the little but picturesque village of Shantigram became all the more delightful for Ramcharan and his team. At the end of the final rehearsals, they all heaved a sigh of relief. Now they were convinced that their puppet show would indeed turn out to be a success.

Ramcharan’s troupe has been working day in and day out to tell an important story from their old folklore. It was the saga of valour of their ancestors that they were eager to show to the people of today’s generation. Abundant wealth and hard work had been put in. But they were sure it will all be worth.

But a rude twist awaited them just a week before their first performance. It came in the form of a team of blood-hungry goons who vowed to make sure the act will never take place. Led by Rankesh, they were infamous for their hooligan methods against those who they felt insulted their culture, tradition, pride and what not. In fact, they don’t even show qualms in killing their ‘enemies.’

Puppet show

Photo courtesy: Griefhealed.com

Rankesh and his pals just assumed that Ramcharan’s team has distorted history in their performance and portrayed their ancestors in ‘bad light.’ The artists tried explaining that they haven’t shown anything of that sort. But Rankesh was adamant. He just won’t let the performance happen.

At night, Ramcharan and his group members went to the village Sarpanch. He and his team were chosen unanimously by the villagers few years back as they expected terrific governance from them. This is what they had promised when they were selected and had even proven it through some of their welfare works.

The Sarpanch couldn’t meet them as he was occupied with something. But he sent a message through his second in command that everything will be taken care of. Ramcharan and others heaved a sigh of relief. That night they slept peacefully after days. Two days to go for the performance now.

Next morning, while they were just about to reach the area of rehearsals, where the stage was already built, they could see Rankesh and his men were already present. They were standing few steps besides the stage brandishing an array of weapons and a smirk on their faces. Ramcharan and the rest could feel their mouths drying up. Will they be the next victims?

Just like clouds suddenly dispersing making way for the sun, the artists saw Sarpanch’s best men charging to the area where the goons stood. What brought Ramcharan and others more confidence was the fact that they too were carrying a wide range of weapons.

The axes, bamboos and spears did a lot of work as the Sarpanch’s men attacked in full force and enthusiasm. However, despite such brutal use of force by Sarpanch’s comrades, Rankesh and his men didn’t even get a scratch.

Seconds later, standing opposite each other, both the parties had a hearty laugh as the stage remained demolished besides them.

Disclaimer: As said in the headline, this story has nothing to do with the Padmavati controversy.

By: Keyur Seta

19Oct/170

Secret Superstar Review – A story of two secret superstars

A small town character wanting to be famous through an art he or she is passionate. Sounds familiar? Of course, it does.But debutant filmmaker Advait Chandan’s Secret Superstar ensues that you won’t even think of films with similar themes due to quite a few reasons. This also includes the special touch of Aamir Khan. The actor-cum-producer has delivered another winner!

The story revolves around Insia aka Insu (Zaira Wasim) who stays in Baroda with her parents, younger brother and granny. She dreams of becoming a singer. However, she knows that her super conservative and patriarchal father won’t allow that. In fact, her father is so ruthless that he beats up his wife at the drop of her hat. Later on, the eccentric music composer, Shakti Kumar (Aamir Khan) enters her life. But will her dream ever be fulfilled?

Secret Superstar includes a superstar as part of the cast. But it’s primarily a content oriented film. Every such film needs top notch writing if it needs to appeal and this is exactly what is seen here. Chandan has provided a well-structured screenplay that has the right balance of funny and emotional moments. He has brought in the various turns at the right time and in a matured way.

Secret Superstar posterSecret Superstar isn’t all about a teenage girl’s dream. The film actually makes a powerful social statement on the lives women silently go through even in 2017. It does make you sad at the ruthless patriarchy, which was the intention. Another good thing is that it does that without saying anything about the issue. This is a major reason why the film manages to stand apart from other films of similar themes. Secondly, you gradually realize that the phrase ‘Secret Superstar’ can also be used for the character of the mother.

Films of this genre tend to go downhill post-interval. But in the case of Secret Superstar, it’s the opposite. The film, which was already appealing in the first half, goes onto the top gear in the second when Aamir’s character gets more screenspace. Later on, the all-important climax becomes the trump card. The main point of the finale is delightfully appealing despite the absence of melodrama.

The film has a flaw at one point related to the humongous views received on YouTube. Another act of rebellion in the second half is also a bit far-fetched. These are not big issues though.

A film about music has to have impressive songs. The ones over here might not appear like hit materials but they certainly serve the purpose and enhance the narrative. Singer Meghna Mishra, who is Zaira’s voice, is another secret superstar here. She plays a large role in bringing in the effect.

Secret Superstar is laced with brilliant performances. If Zaira Wasim was impressive in Dangal (2016), she is incredible here. You just can’t stop being impressed as she brings in various shades of her character with finesse. Meher Vij, as the mother, deserves equal praise. She too succeeds in moving you no ends. Needless to say, she should be seen more.

As the ruthless and psychotic husband and father, Raj Arjun generates fear every time he appears. His single expression is enough to frighten you. Aamir Khan brings in his talent on display once again. He scores high in the transformation from an energetic cassanova to a caring individual, as is expected from him. During one sequence in the car, he tries a bit hard though.

Kabir Sajid, as Insu’s brother, is adorable. Farrokh Jaffer, as the old lady, and Mona Ambegaonkar, as the lawyer, also create impact.

Overall: Secret Superstar is a delightfully moving saga about fulfilling one’s dream. But the film is not limited to that. As far as box office is concerned, it relies heavily on word-of-mouth since it is pitted against the commercial caper Golmaal Again.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Advait Chandan

Producers: Aamir Khan Productions

Cast: Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, Aamir Khan, Raj Arjun, Kabir Sajid

Music: Amit Trivedi

Genre: Drama

Release date: October 19, 2017

24Sep/170

Newton Movie Review

This year has seen big budget films being rejected by the audience, some even starring superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan. But at the same time, the audience has helped films with quality content succeed at the box office. Hindi Medium, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan are some examples.

Now, we can add Amit V Masurkar’s Newton in the list. In fact, it deserves a top place as it’s by far the best Hindi film of 2017 so far. The makers have tackled a super serious issue of the relevance of voting in a severely naxal prone area in a humorous manner without taking away the main essence.

The film tells the story of Nutan aka Newton (Rajkummar Rao), who starts his government service in Chattisgarh. He is an epitome of honesty and idealism. He gets a chance to handle the voting process in an area deeply hit with Naxal activities. How Newton goes about forms the rest of the story. His biggest thorn in the path is a tough army officer (Pankaj Tripathi).

Newton posterNewton doesn’t follow a conventional story pattern. It just provides you a glimpse of an exercise of voting in an area where getting people to vote is almost impossible. We have heard numerous times as to how culture changes in India every 200 kilometers. However, very few of us would have got the opportunity to witness this reality so closely. For city dwellers, this wouldn’t appear like our India.

The film presents the ghastly situation in the deeply naxalite areas without taking any sides. It doesn’t take long for you to realize the messed up condition of the people living in these areas with hardly any hope of resurrection. It takes a dig at the notion of democracy in such areas of India but doesn’t question its importance.

However, all these realistic attacks don’t prove heavy whatsoever due to the humorous approach. The film is peppered with humour in almost every situation. It is extremely difficult in terms of the writing and presentation to make sure the main issue doesn’t get lost in the laughs. Newton takes care of this perfectly.

The pace drops somewhat in the middle. An act by Tripathi’s character is questionable later on. Thankfully, these are minor issues and they don’t qualify as proper flaws.

The production design makes the scenario believable, especially the school where elections take place. The camerawork is up to the mark while the background score is as minimal as possible, which goes with the nature of the film.

Rajkummar Rao is going through a terrific phase. His utterly honest and dedicated performance here once again shows that he is one of the finest actors in the country currently. It will be an understatement that he makes Newton believable. You realize that there can’t be a person more honest than Newton.

Pankaj Tripath makes his mark felt yet again this year. The actor once again forces you to notice him through his powerful act with shades of dark humour. Anjali Patil made a terrific debut with Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh (2012). She continues the goodness here as she actually appears like a local. Raghuvir Yadav is lovable, as one expects from a veteran artist like him.

Overall: Newton is an example of honest storytelling that makes it the best Hindi film of 2017. Personally, I feel its selection for the Oscars is just. The film saw a huge jump in its box office collections yesterday. With the very positive word-of-mouth, it is sure to turn a safe bet for the producers.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Amit V Masurkar

Producers: Drishyam Films

Writers: Amit V Masurkar and Mayank Tiwari

Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi, Anjali Patil, Raghuvir Yadav

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 107 minutes

20Aug/170

Bareilly Ki Barfi Review

What do you need to make a mass entertainer from the first scene till the last? Going by what is shown in mainstream Hindi cinema, one might list down a number of entertaining or masala factors. But rarely a film like Bareilly Ki Barfi arrives, which shows that all one needs is pure simplicity to make a thorough entertainer that can appeal to every age group.

Bareilly Ki Barfi takes place in the Bareilly and revolves around Bitti (Kriti Sanon). She is a carefree girl working in the electrical department of the town. She gets rejected by every guy her mother scouts for her due to her habits which are mostly reserved for males. Bitti once comes across a book titled Bareilly Ki Barfi and falls in love with it and develops great admiration for the author.

The book has been written by Chirag Dubey (Ayushmann Khurrana). But the book has his friend Pritam Vidrohi’s (Rajkummar Rao) name and picture mentioned as the author for some reason. Circumstances force Chirag to present Pritam as the actual author in front of Bitti when she becomes adamant to meet him. This step ensures more twists.

Bareilly Ki Barfi posterThere is fun element in the basic plot itself. It becomes even enjoyable with some high quality writing by Nitesh Tiwari, the man who gave us the great Dangal (2016). The screenplay is not only fast but also well-connected. Add to this some brilliant one-liners and situational humour. And the film achieves all this without an iota of adultness and lots of sensibility.

But there comes a point towards the end where you feel you would be shown a typical ending that you normally see in Hindi romantic comedies. However, there comes a twist with regards to presenting the climax. Don’t know about others but it was unpredictable for me.

The one issue here is a minor flaw in the entire idea by Ayushmann’s character. Thankfully, Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has covered it well. Plus, the numerous other good points won’t let you think much about it.

Bareilly Ki Barfi, in between, also makes a powerful statement about gender equality and the society’s double standards when it comes to allowing freedom to girls.

The film has some foot-tapping numbers like ‘Sweety Tera Drama’ and ‘Twist Kamariya.’ But there is an absence of an impressive romantic song, which is needed in such genre of films.

The performances play a big role in providing overall satisfaction. Rajkummar Rao is simply outstanding. Period. You just can’t stop admiring him as he plays a scary bone and suddenly breaks into a mean character with remarkable ease. This act coupled with Trapped (2017) ensures that he is one of the top young artists currently.

This film will bring a turning point in Kriti Sanon’s career. She has brought the right attitude needed to play a small town girl with attitude. Ayushmann Khurrana too is likable in a complex character. Pankaj Tripathi has once again shown his class. This actor deserves more fame.

Overall: Bareilly Ki Barfi is a complete family entertainer with lots of laughs. Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari has continued the good work she ended in her debut Nil Battey Sannata (2016). The film's box office collections saw a rise on Saturday (yesterday). It should hopefully have a pleasant run due to the very positive word-of-mouth.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

Producers: B R Studios and Junglee Pictures

Writers: Nitesh Tiwari, Shreyas Jain and Rajat Nonia

Cast: Kriti Sanon, Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Pankaj Tripathi

Music: Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Tanishk Bagchi, Samira Koppikar, Sameer Uddin and Vayu

Genre: Romantic Comedy/ Comedy

Runtime: 122 minutes

23Jul/170

Lipstick Under My Burkha Review

When Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha was refused certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) (or popularly known as the censor board) for being ‘lady oriented,’ I felt this film might have frightened those who give a damn about various desires of women. Now, after watching the film, I am fully convinced about it.

Lipstick Under My Burkha is about the struggle of survival of four women in a highly patriarchal environment in Bhopal. Leela (Aahana Kumra) is in a relationship with a photographer (Vikrant Massey) but her mother has forced her to marry an ‘ideal’ guy (Vaibbhav Tatwawadi). Rehana (Plabita Borthakur) is from a highly conservative family and has to follow the tradition of burkha. But she is itching to break free from the traditions.

Shirin’s (Konkona Sen Sharma) husband (Sushant Singh) works in Saudi Arabia. Whenever he returns home for a short break, he uses her as a sex toy. She has hidden from him the fact that she works as a saleswoman. Usha aka Buaji (Ratna Pathak Shah) is a widow and a landlady of an old building. Her sexual desire has resurfaced as she has started reading an erotic novel, Lipstick Wale Sapne.

Lipstick Under My Burkha posterHere’s a scene from the film. An engagement ceremony is going on and suddenly the electricity goes off. The girl, who is getting engaged, is found having a quickie with the photographer. This is how the frankness of LUMB can be summed up. Many of you might label her act blasphemous. But there is a deep meaning about not only what she but all the four main characters do in the film.

In other words, the bold sexual content is added not just to stand apart or get noticed. It is a natural part of the script. So, in a way, the film is more real than bold. The manner in which the sexual desire of a 50 plus year old widow is dealt with deserves special mention.

But LUMB is not just about its daring sexual content. It’s also an example of an intelligent piece of cinema. The film achieves high standards in writing and presentation. This can be said for the way you get involved in the lives of the four characters. Moreover, their issues about lack of respect and dignity are presented convincingly with minimal use of dialogue and some witty humour.

The film, however, comes with a few hiccups. The criminal act of one character doesn’t go with her nature. Although the open-ended climax suits here, it should have produced a bigger bang considering the hard-hitting nature of the film. There are some minor logical errors too.

The performances are a treat. Aahana Kumra packs a punch as someone who doesn’t shy away flaunting her desires; be it any. It seems Plabita Borthakur was born to play this role. She is excellent and is a lookout for the future. Ratna Pathak Shah excels in a terribly difficult role. Her portrayal of an old woman feeling sexual hunger isn’t cheap or vulgar whatsoever and this is a big achievement.

Konkona Sen Sharma is once again reliable. Vaibbhav Tatwawadi is completely believable as a shy and traditional fiancé. The film also has fine supporting acts from Vikrant Massey, Sonal Jha, Sushant Singh and Shashank Arora.

Overall: Lipstick Under My Burkha is a daring attack on patriarchy and regressive traditions. This is the reason why Pahlaj Nihalani and his friends didn't want you to see this film and this is exactly the reason why it should be seen.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Director: Alankrita Shrivastava

Producer: Prakash Jha

Writers: Alankrita Shrivastava, Ghazal Dhaliwal and Suhani Kanwar

Actors: Aahana Kumra, Plabita Borthakur, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ratna Pathak Shah

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 117 minutes