Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sachin: A billion dreams review: "A whirlwind of emotions, nostalgia & goosebumps!!!"

India begins its defense of the Champions Trophy in a week's time with the first clash against arch rivals Pakistan. Whether our team manages to defend the title remains to be seen but this excitement for the game began after we had lifted the WC in 1983. However, it was the greatest cricketer of all time Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar who skyrocketed our interest with his brilliance, humility & character. In the 90s, he was so dominant that the opposition feared him while the public adored him to the extent that people used to switch off the TV after he was dismissed. He has given us numerous memories over the years & carried the hopes of the nation for more than two decades. Hence when director James Erskine announced that he was planning a movie on the Bharat Ratna, the hype & excitement had gone through the roof.  In recent times, there has been quite a few biographical movies about sports personalities like M S Dhoni, Milkha Singh, Phogat etc. However, this was a docu-drama rather than an biopic & it remains to be seen whether it would be as awesome as the legend himself. 


Sachinnnn...Sachinnnn...the chant still reverberates in my ears every time I set eyes on a cricket match. Just like many others, he was the sole reason why I started to watch the game & is one of the two idols that I always looked upto (the other being my father). I still remember the day when I first saw him on TV giving an interview to Tom Alter. In those days, the only cricketer's name that I knew was Kapil Dev & I was pretty fascinated to see a puny kid who was just 8 years older to me rub shoulders with the big guys. So I coaxed my mom, who was an avid sports lover to teach me the rules of the game. Incidentally the first match that I saw was the exhibition match in which he smashed the legendary Abdul Qadar for 27 which included four consecutive sixes. This craze continued until he hung his boots at the Wankhede Stadium after 24 long years. Erskine has tried to capture the highs & lows of Sachin's career, something which is not so easy after all he must have been the most scrutinized sports icon in the world. So there is hardly anything that most of us don't know about the Master Blaster. 

James Erskine might not be a popular name for many but those who are well versed with sports documentaries, he is a doyen at it. Some of his popular ventures being "Battle of the Sexes", "Pantani", "Shooting for Socrates" etc. In his latest venture "Sachin: A Billion Dreams", he has pretty much covered all the major events in Sachin's life with insights provided by his family being the highlight. Knowing the person that Sachin is, it wasn't a surprise that nothing much has been revealed about the match fixing scandal but ample screen time is devoted on his relation with his father, his injuries & mental state during the lows of his career. Even though the music wasnt vintage A R Rahman, it was in sync with the mood & elevates the viewing experience. 

Verdict: It wont rate as a top notch documentary drama but it has got everything that would keep us hooked. Sachin is not just a name but an emotion & for all of those individuals who had followed his career, this will give us an opportunity to relive the memories. It will make us smile, hoot, whistle & even choke a bit when he gives his heartfelt retirement speech. Being a hard core Sachin fan, I  might be biased but even if you are only a cricket fan; you just cant afford to miss this!!!

Rating: 3/5

Regards...Ben

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hindi Medium review: "Impressive satire which all parents would relate to!!!"

As I was idling on my couch after a sumptuous Chinese buffet on Sunday afternoon with my friends, I happened to come across some articles about an Irrfan Khan movie titled "Hindi Medium" that had released over the weekend. Incidentally, it spoke positively about it & my curiosity was aroused as I was still hurting from the "Half Girlfriend" debacle. Though the thrilling IPL final & Real Madrid's La Liga triumph had made up for it, I decided to check it out after all I had some time to spare & Irrfan invariably had a track record of working in sensible movies. 


Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan) is the owner of an expensive boutique in Chandni Chowk & was blessed with all the luxuries of life. However, he wasnt proficient in English & didnt quite have the mannerisms of the so called "elite class", which his wife Mita (Saba Qamar) aspired for. Both of them had studied in govt schools & Mita was pretty adamant that their daughter studied in one of Delhi's prestigious English medium schools. Out of the prominent schools, 'Prakriti' was the one which was most sought after but it had a condition that it would provide admission to only those who stayed within a 3 km radius. Hoping to keep his wife happy, Raj unwillingly agrees to shift to Vasant Vihar & make changes to their lifestyles to gel with the upscale neighbourhood . Little did they realize that this was the least of their problems.

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The scramble for admissions in prestigious schools is a sight which we see every year & it goes without saying that most parents would go to any extent to ensure that their child is enrolled into one. Another main reason for this mad race is our nation's obsession for English over regional languages & it is a fact beyond doubt  More often than not, the admission criteria for such schools is based on the bank balance of the parents, their lifestyles & status in society.  Saket Chaudhary who showcased his prowess with "Pyaar Ke Side Effects" & "Shaadi Ke Side Effects" has been successful in weaving a hilarious satire on the scamper for admissions in the company of Zeenat Lakhani. 

There are sequences in the movie which are far fetched but it still strikes a chord with the audience as it is both funny & thought provoking at times. Laxman Utrekar's visuals was in sync with the mood while Sachin-Jigar has given some decent tracks as well. Irrfan Khan rocked as the protagonist which yet again reiterated as to why he is held in high esteem in the West & his chemistry with Saba Qamar was one of the main positives of the movie. Apart from being a delight for the eyes, the Pakistani actress is undoubtedly the best from her country to have graced the Indian screen in recent times. Equally impressive were Deepak Dobriyal & Swati Das who nailed their parts while Amrita Singh was ok who was hampered by a rather weakly written role. 

Verdict: As far as the script is concerned, it is undoubtedly inspired from the Bengali movie "Ramdhanu" which was remade into "Salt Mango Tree"in Malayalam. The hilarious take on the plight of parents for admissions is something many of us would relate to. Though not meant to demean the Indian educational system in total, it poses relevant questions as to what each one of us considers as effective education for our children. In short, don't miss it!!!

Rating: 2.75/5

Regards...Ben

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Half girlfriend review: "Not worth watching even at half the price!!!"

What is the most important aspect of a movie? Hmm...well if you ask me it has to be the script. But that alone doesn't guarantee a good movie unless it is entrusted in the hands of a talented cast & crew. Irrespective of the language, literary works have always proved to be worthy scripts & over the years, many novels have been adapted into movies. Among the various novelists, Chetan Bhagat is one prominent name which pops up as many of his novels has been made into blockbuster movies such as "3 Idiots", "Kai Po Che" etc. His latest novel to have reached the 70mm screen is "Half Girlfriend". But will it be as successful as it's predecessors...hard to say, though to be frank, I don't believe it would.

Madhav Jha (Arjun Kapoor), the heir to an esteemed lineage from Bihar secures a seat at the prestigious St Stephen's College on the back of a sports scholarship. He gets smitten by his college mate Riya Somani (Shraddha Kapoor), who was more like a tomboy & flaunted her affluent background. But behind that bold exterior she was actually a lonely girl who longed for love & companionship. Though Madhav was head over heels for her, she preferred to be aloof at times as she wasn't keen on a commitment or in her own words would prefer nothing more than being a "half girlfriend. Their relationship didnt last for long as Riya dropped out of college & was married off to her family friend. As expected, Madhav wasn't able to cope with the heart break & tried to channelize his energy towards the welfare of his villagers.

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The New York Times in 2008 cited Bhagat as "the biggest selling English language novelist in India's history". Well he might have sold quite a lot but a significant reason for the blockbusters was because they were in the hands of talented craftsmen like Rajkumar Hirani & Abhishek Kapoor. Mohit Suri does have some huge hits under his belt like "Aashiqui 2", "Murder 2" etc., but I don't quite consider him of the same caliber. Since I haven't read the novel, I can't comment as to how faithful the movie has been to it. But the fact is the plot itself is rather vague & the characters come across as rather shallow that you cant help cringing at times; not to forget that Mohit had chosen a wrong set of lead pairs who doesn't do justice to the requirements of their characters. 

If you would look at the track record of Mohit Suri, one positive aspect in almost all of his movies is the music. More often than not, all of them had atleast one chart buster & it's pretty much the same here as well. There are a host of music directors at work here & they have produced a couple of soulful tracks such as "Baarish", "Phir Bhi Tumko" etc. The visuals doesn't deserve special mention & Devendra Murusdeshwar's editing left a lot to be desired. Coming to the performances, neither Arjun nor Shraddha had the capabilities to pull off the characters. The one person who did impress was Vikrant Massey who has done a fine job as Shailesh.

Verdict: There are no two words about it, the film has a lot of pitfalls in the script & it was further handicapped by two lead actors who doesn't have it in them the ability to enact with conviction. To make matters worse, they had zero chemistry between them.  Even though not intended to be hilarious, the scene where they superimposed Bill Gates's face on someone else's body just shows how tacky the making has been. In short, better to watch the IPL final rather than give yourself a headache!!!

Rating: 2/5

Regards...Ben

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Meri Pyaari Bindu review: "Struggles to kindle pyaar among the audience for the movie!!!"

Just as I was browsing through the entertainment news today, one headline which caught my eye was the news of "Dangal" having crossed 1000 C as well courtesy of its release in China more than a week back. Incidentally, Aparshakti Khurrana who made an impressive debut in "Dangal" had his more popular brother Ayushmann's movie "Meri Pyaari Bindu" hitting the screens this weekend. So will it make the situation even more graver for "Sarkar 3" which is struggling to make even 10 C???


Abhimanyu Roy (Ayushmann) is a best selling author in the horror erotica genre who decided to forego his corporate career to pursue his passion of writing. It proved to be the right decision as his books became an instant hit among the readers, though the critics panned it as nothing more than cheap thrills. It's been a couple of years since his last book had hit the stands as he was presently victim to the writer's block. With his publisher constantly nagging him, Abhi had to come up with something fast but he just couldnt produce it onto paper. It was at this juncture that his parents forced him to visit them in Kolkata. This sowed the seeds for his next book as he stumbled across a mixed tape that he had made with his best friend & crush, Bindu (Parineeti Chopra). How their relationship developed over the years forms the crux of the movie. 

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The film has been helmed by the debutant Akshay Roy who along with the help of the script by Suprotim Sengupta try to put their desi flavour to the rom com genre. The idea of narrating the ups & downs of their relationship with the mixed tape was definitely interesting. However, that concept was barely developed & it turned out to be nothing more than a collection of old classic songs which kept popping up at times. There are quite a few sequences which hooks the audience especially the parts shot in Kolkata which was both funny & sentimental but the plot as such was barely existent & we dont actually empathise with the characters. Tushar Ray has done a fine job with the visuals with the opening shot of Durga Devi deserving special praise while Sachin-Jigar has done a decent job with the music.

Both the performers have done their parts well, but Ayushmann's character had more depth to it which he portrayed equally well. As for Parineeti, her character felt pretty superficial & doesnt give much insight into Bindu as such. With regard to other characters, Aparajita Auddy who played the part of Abhi's mother was hilarious while the rest of the characters have also done their parts aptly.

Verdict:   It will cater to the multiplex audience & should be able to break even in due time. The absymal "Sarkar 3" will also work in its favour & most of the people would have watched "Baahubali" by now. In short, it is surely not one of the best rom coms to come from the Yash Raj stable, but it wont hurt to give it a try if you do like the genre!!!

Rating: 2.25/5

Regards...Ben

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sarkar 3 review: "As trivial as RGV's tweets!!!"

It's been a fortnight since "Baahubali 2" has released & as I had predicted it has crossed the 1000 C mark with ease. As the epic's box office collections steadily makes it way into unchartered territories, the other film makers back home have been skeptical regarding when to showcase their wares lest they get drowned in the Baahubali tsunami. However, we did have a reasonably high profile release this week in the form of "Sarkar 3". But will RGV's creation have the quality to make us sit up & take notice? Seems like a tall ask after all his creativity (does he still have it?) is a pale shadow of what it was more than a decades back.


Subhash Negre (Big B) is still the darling of the masses & headache of the corrupt as he maintained an iron fist over the political climate in the state. Inspite of having lost both his sons & survived numerous assassination attempts on his life, he continued to make sure that the commoners were not exploited by the rich & powerful. He was ably assisted by his trusted lieutenant Gokul (Ronit Roy) & as expected just as his followers increased, his enemies also grew in number. The latest adversary who sought to end Sarkar's reign happened to be Michael Mallya (Jackie Shroff), a real estate businessman who operated from Dubai. But a bigger problem was when Sarkar's grandson Shivaji (Amit Sadh) sought to come under his grandfather's wings. Just like his father, Shivaji was impulsive & brash which created unrest in Sarkar's camp much to the delight of Michael & his men who milked the situation to their benefit. Can Sarkar trust anyone on his side or was it the end of the road for him???

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There was a time when Ram Gopal Verma was one of the most exciting directors in the country with movies like " Siva", "Company", "Rangeela", "Ab Tak Chappan" etc. But a couple of years into the new millennium, he seemed to have lost his touch to enthrall the audience as he churned out mediocre ventures at alarming regularity. However, on saying that this is surely one of his better efforts in the past decade. When the first part came out in 2005, it gripped the audience as it was inspired from Bal Thackeray & the Godfather series. Even the sequel had a story to tell with Abhishek & Aishwarya put into the mix. But the latest installment didnt have anything to convey as Nilesh Girkar, Jaya Kumar & Ramkumar Singh seemed to have just taken the CDs of the prequels & changed the name of the characters. Interestingly even a fleeting mention of Aishwarya's character is not made in the movie considering she was calling the shots at the end of the second part. The only portion which did interest me was the climax though by that time I was waiting for the movie to end.

RGV always had a fascination for bikini clad chicks, silhouettes, odd camera angles, focusing on inanimate objects even as the characters are blurting out their corny dialogues & all of this is present in ample measure here as well. It has been captured through Amol Rathod's frames & the blaring BGM has been the contribution of Ravi Shankar & Rohan Vinayak. When it came to performances, it is basically a Big B show but he doesnt have anything to do apart from slurping his coffee & speak in his baritone voice. He has done justice to his role though he could have done it even with his eyes closed. Amit Sadh impressed as the short tempered instinctive Shivaji along with Ronit Roy. Manoj Bajpayee was wasted, Jackie evoked a couple of chuckles with his double entendres while Yami Gautam & the rest barely had anything substantial to do.

Verdict: There is hardly any factor which works in its favour to the extent that I would rate "Meri Pyaari Bindu" way better than this. With "Baahubali" going strong, it will struggle to make it to the next week & will end up as yet another flop in RGV's career. In short, dont bother as it's as trivial as his tweets!!!

Rating: 1.75/5

Regards...Ben


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Baahubali 2 review: "Rajamouli delivers what he promised!!!"

April 28th, 2017; the date that all movie lovers have been waiting for is finally here. I dont think I need to elaborate about it since it is common knowledge that it is the release date of "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion". There has never been any Indian movie that has garnered as much pre-release hype as Rajamouli's magnum opus. It's a known fact that living upto expectations is no mean task & Rajamouli and his team had gargantuan expectations stacked up against them. So did they manage to scale those lofty heights???


So why did Katappa (Satyaraj) kill Baahubali (Prabhas)??? a question that has been asked a million times & gave birth to numerous memes . Well we have the answer now but dont worry guys, I am not going to post any spoilers here. The sequel begins with Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) instructing Baahubali to tour the kingdom to know his subjects prior to his coronation with Katappa for company. In the meantime, she was also on the lookout for a suitable bride for him but Baahubali during his journey fell for Devasena (Anushka Shetty), the princess of the Kuntala kingdom. Bhallala Deva (Rana Daggubati) saw this as an opportunity to create a fall-out between his mother & cousin. But what was his plan & did it actually work out???

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Rajamouli, the master craftsman is back with a bang & he has gone all out to create a movie that gives us a measure of his imagination. The extravagant scale in which it is made will surely make one to gasp in awe. The biggest plus for most parts is the well etched characters especially the females who actually decides in which track the story moves forward. The emotional sequences are undoubtedly the best & the stunt choreography is awesome (it might appear outlandish at times, but I loved it). However, the first 40 minutes could have been much more compactly picturised with the comedy track not quite hitting the mark at times & the climax was rather hurried (maybe Rajamouli didnt want to make a 2.5). 

On the technical side, the VFX was excellent for most parts but close-up portions didnt quite have the perfection expected. Senthil Kumar deserves praise for the mesmerizing visuals while Sabu Cyril & his team have done a mind boggling job in the art direction department. M.M Keeravani has done a decent job with the music though BGM was damn good. 

What do I say about Prabhas? I havent seen any of his movies prior to the Baahubali series but frankly speaking, I cant think of anyone who could have done that character any better. Hats off to his dedication & the same applies to Rana Daggubati as well. Satyaraj scorched the screen with a brilliant performance while Nasser & Subbaraju have done justice to their roles. However, the show stealers for me were Ramya Krishnan & Anushka, both of whom have given knock out performances with the meaty roles that they were entrusted with.

Verdict: As expected, it has broken all the opening records & became the first Indian movie to collect more than 100 C on a single day. It was made on a combined budget of around 300 C & had collected more than 500 C even prior to its release through sales of its rights etc. It might be early to predict, but I believe it will be the first Indian film to gross 1000 C at the box office. In short, you definitely got to watch it & be a part of Indian film history!!!

Rating: 4.25/5

Regards...Ben

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Noor review: "Definitely not the noor of the audience!!!"

With just a week left for "Baahubali: The Conclusion" to hit the screens, there are no other major releases in the horizon. Well it's quite understandable after all this mammoth movie will certainly swallow anything in its path in the initial phase. However, we did have women centric movies take centre stage amidst this lull with "Begum Jaan" last week & Sonakshi's "Noor" this weekend. To be frank, I didnt even know that such a movie was even going to release & hence had no expectations at all. Hmm...in such a scenario it should be easier to satisfy the audience in me isnt it, but did it mange to do that???


Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) is a journalist who aspires to be the next "Barkha" but her boss assigns her to cover news on subjects which is nowhere even remotely related to meaningful journalism. Her personal life was also a mess & she spent most parts of the day cribbing about her very existence. The only people who brought a smile to her face were her close buddies, Zara (Shibani Dandekar) & Saad (Kanan Gill). But things started to look brighter when she meets Ayan Banerjee (Purab Kohli), an ace photographer & they hit off in due time. On the professional side as well, she stumbles upon an organ harvesting scam when her domestic help, Malti (Smita Tambi) confides in her about the misfortune that had befallen on her brother. Will this story be the break that Noor was waiting for???

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Based on Saba Imtiaz's "Karachi, You are Killing Me!" (which I haven't read), Sunhil Sippy have made a movie which is a concoction of rom-com & investigative journalism. But the sad reality is he wasn't able to do justice to either of them especially the latter one. The manner in which the protagonist goes about her job would have even made an amateur journalist cringe in embarrassment. Even when Noor messes up stuff, instead of standing up & sorting it out, Sunhil chose to make the character run away from it. The only thing that actually works (that too, partially) is the rom-com part which kinda reminded me of "Bridget Jones's Diary". 

On the technical side, Keiko Nakahara's visuals were fine while the music by Amaal Mallik was average. Even though the movie is just under 2 hours, it still manages to test our patience. Sonakshi has done a fine job in the lighthearted portions but ends up short in the other parts. Smita Tambe was brilliant while Shibani, Purab & Kanan have done justice to their parts. 

Verdict: "Noor" will struggle to stay afloat beyond this weekend even though there is no other competition. Sunhil could have surely done a lot better with the basic story line that he had, unfortunately it wasn't the case as it culminates in a muddled climax as well. In short, don't bother!!!

Rating: 2/5

Regards...Ben