Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Newton review: "Clash between idealism & realism makes it an apt choice for Oscar!!!"

Diwali, the festival of lights is here & the film industry will be hoping to make hay when the sun shines with the release of big banner movies across the length & breadth of the country. Hence there werent any significant releases last weekend & the only programmes on Tv that caught my fancy was the Shanghai Masters & the Celebrity Classico. It was then that I recollected an article about a fortnight back which mentioned "Newton" as India's entry for the Oscars. Even though it's been a while since it released, I thought to write about it as I am sure many of my friends wouldn't have watched it.


Newton aka Nutan Kumar (Rajkummar Rao) is a green horned government clerk who wore his honesty as a badge of honour. He was assigned the position of presiding officer entrusted with the task of conducting elections in one of the polling station located in the jungle of Chattisgarh. As it was in the Naxal hotbed region, it was always going to be a uphill task that Newton soon realised much to his dismay. Neither did the natives had any clue about the candidates or the election procedure nor were they keen to vote as they feared backlash from the Naxalites. Even the security force led by Aatma Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) didnt seem so enthusiastic with the idea of election though he made arrangements for Newton & his team. In such adverse circumstances, was it even possible to conduct a fair & free election???

Directed by Amit Masurkar, "Newton" is a political satire that has been making headlines in the last couple of months bagging awards at Berlinale 2017 & Hong Kong International Film Festival. It is his second venture after Sulemani Keeda which by the way I havent watched. Apart from direction, he had also penned the script while Mayank Tewari had assisted him in the screenplay. It was liberally sprinkled with humour but not at the cost of trivializing or mocking the realities . The main thread is the question whether the democratic process of election that we are all proud of is actually as fair as we believe it be. It throws light on the plight on tribals & downtrodden who dont see any change in their lives irrespective of whoever comes to power as they are virtually shoved around by the Naxalites & the security forces. Kudos to Masurkar for the brilliant casting which has enhanced the overall impact. 

We never associate music which such type of movies but both the tracks by Rachita Arora were soulful with the lyrics by Irshad Kamil & Varun Grover deserving praise. Even though it runs for just 106 minutes, some portions does lag quite a bit that Shweta Mathew ought to have taken care of. As far as performances are concerned, Rajkummar Rao continues to blow us away with his acting skills. Whatever might be the role, this dude just brings his A game to the table each & every time. Equally praise worthy were the performances by Pankaj Tripathi (who is on a roll this year), Anjali Patil, Raghubir Yadav & Sanjay Mishra.

Verdict: Being a low budget movie, it has already reaped profits at the box office. But it deserves to been seen by even more people as it is an eye opener to the election process in conflict regions. It might be a tad slow for quite a few especially in the latter half but you can rest assured that it is definitely worth the time spent. In short, dont miss it!!!

Rating: 3.5/5

Regards...Ben




Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Solo review: "Interesting anthology that hits as well as misses!!!"

It's been a rather eventful week for Indian sports with our nation playing hosts to the FIFA under 17 World Cup. Though our boys might have lost, they played admirably against Colombia & to a certain extent against US as well. Just as eagerly awaited was Dulquer's "Solo" which released to much fanfare on Friday. The hype was understandable as the trailer was catchy & the music was already creating waves in the charts. But will Bejoy Nambiar's unique brand of film making appeal to the masses???


The film is a combination of four segments which focuses on the elements of water, air, fire & earth and how each protagonist named after different names of Lord Shiva is a representation of it. The first segment was the World of Shekhar (water) which focused on the relationship between the long haired stammerer Shekhar & the beautiful yet blind Radhika (Dhansika). This was followed by the World of Trilok (air), a veterinary surgeon by profession who loses his wife in an accident. The third segment was the World of Shiva (fire), a cold blooded gangster who goes on the rampage after his father gets killed by a Mumbai based crime lord. The last segment was the World of Rudra (earth) where he dons the role of an army officer who is madly in love with Akshara (Neha Sharma), the daughter of a Brigadier much against the wishes of both the parents. 

The craftsman behind this interesting project is Bejoy Nambiar who had given us movies like "David", "Shaitan" etc in the past. Scripted by himself, there is no doubt that it is a unique anthology that impresses for large parts. As far as the story is concerned, all the segments felt fine though the climax in the last part came across as rather unintentionally hilarious. Personally, I felt the first segment was the best & it imparted the feel of a Mani Ratnam movie. When it comes to the technical aspects, the visuals were absolutely brilliant for which Girish Gangadharan, Madhu Neelakandan & Sejal Shah deserves praise. Even the music which was the collaboration of a host of musicians was equally impressive.

It was a movie that gave ample opportunity to Dulquer to showcase his talent. But was he able to do justice to it? Well his limitations was pretty much evident when he essayed the role of Shekhar as he didnt look convincing with the stammer. He absolutely rocked as Trilok & Shiva while Rudra was kinda average. As far as the female leads are concerned, Dhaniska was fantastic along with Sruthi Hariharan while Neha Sharma & Arthi Venkatesh were just about ok. There were a host of other characters as well such as Suhasini, Nassar, Ann Augustine & they have done their brief roles aptly.

Verdict: Despite having the biggest ever Malayalam release having opened at around 225 screens, it didnt quite have the bombastic initial as expected. Being an experimental type of movie, it wont quite appeal to the masses & to make matters worse, the Rudra segment understandably didnt go down well with most of the audience. However, the other segments has been crafted well & is well worth a watch. In short, do check it out!!!

Rating: 2.75/5

Regards...Ben

Monday, October 9, 2017

Chef review: "Falls short of being a mouth watering delicacy!!!"

Food has an undeniable part in Indian culture as it occupies centre stage whatever might be the occasion be it everyday life, weddings or festivals. Being a foodie, I have always loved to sample various cuisines & thanks to Mom, I would consider my culinary skills to be quite good. This is the very reason why I love reality shows like "Masterchef Australia" & look upto Chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver to name a few. So when Saif's "Chef" was released this weekend, I was excited to check it out despite being a remake. Hmm....will it be able to whet our appetite???


Roshan Kalra (Saif Ali Khan) is a three Michelin star chef who worked at an upscale restaurant in New York. But the spark that had elevated him to this position had diminished & it started to show in his food as well. When one of the customers did question the quality of his food, he loses his cool & ended up losing his job. On the advice of his friend, he returns to India to visit his son Arman (Svar Kamble) & ex-wife Radha (Padmapriya) in Cochin. It is at this time that the idea of a food truck is mooted by Radha's friend Biju (Milind Soman) which Roshan doesnt buy into initially. However, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to re-discover his passion for food & spent quality with his son. 

As mentioned earlier, this is the official remake of Jon Fraveau's "Chef" & Raja Krishna Menon had taken on the task. He is best known for "Airlift" though he had garnered critical acclaim for his debut venture "Barah Aana" as well. In his latest effort, he deserves praise for the apt casting but his direction left a lot to be desired. The biggest flaw is undoubtedly the lack of highlight on the food which was surprising especially since that was meant to be a character as well. Anywaz brownie points for capturing the father-son relationship realistically. Priya Seth has done a fine job with the cinematography while Raghu Dixit & Amaal Mallik has given us decent tracks. 

Saif Ali Khan has done a fantastic job as the chef going through a crisis & seemed a natural for the role. Padmapriya has always been a fine performer but for the people in the North, she is a new face & will surely be impressed by her performance. Svar Kamble was both adorable & talented while Mr. Ironman Milind Soman deserves praise for his brief role. Each & every artist in this movie have done their parts aptly which has gone a long way in elevating the movie that has been let down by the script.

Verdict: It's the kind of movie that is unlikely to create waves at the box office & would appeal only to the urban audience. Even then, it doesnt quite match upto the original nor with other excellent food based movies that we have such as "The Lunchbox", "Ustaad Hotel", "Nala Damayanthi" etc. It had the potential to become a mouth watering delicacy, but is let down by a rather bland script. Despite that, you can give it a try as it is definitely a feel good movie!!!

Rating: 2.5/5

Regards...Ben

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Judwaa 2 review: "Varun manages to rock in this rather stale remake!!!"

Finally the long weekend has come to an end on Monday with the 148th birth anniversary of the father of our nation. This festive weekend in Bollywood saw the release of "Judwaa 2", the reboot of the superhit "Judwaa" that released two decades back. Over the years, we have seen numerous remakes being made & more often than not, it has bit the dust with "Aag" being a classic example. Well as per box office reports it has garnered a thumping initial. So what made it click with the audience???


Since most of us have watched Salman's "Judwaa", I dont think there is need for me to elaborate on the plot. Anywaz for those whose grey cells have started to fail, Prem & Raja (Varun Dhawan) were twins who got separated at birth due to the evil design of the smuggler, Charles (Zakir Hussain). Prem grew up with his parents in London while Raja was raised in the slums of Mumbai. But destiny brings Raja to London which leads to mistaken identities & comedy of errors. 

In the 90's, David Dhawan was the director with the Midas's touch as his brand of slapstick comedies was lapped up by the audience. But with time, his powers waned due to his inability to change with the times. His last movie was "Main Tera Hero" in 2014 that had his son in the lead & he has opted for his son yet again to reprise Salman's role in "Judwaa 2". There is hardly any difference between the two movies as it is a scene to scene copy of the original, though Sajid-Farhad has managed to sprinkle humour with some hare brained dialogues apart from numerous sexist & cringe worthy ones. Ayananka Bose deserves praise for the visuals while the music was kinda average after all two of the stand out tracks belonged to the original.

So this brings us to the most important question & that is whether Varun was able to match Salman's performance. There is no doubt that Varun was the right choice for the role & he actually outperforms Salman for most parts. But when it comes to goofiness & innocence, Varun was found to fall short. Both Taapsee Pannu & Jacqueline Fernandez didnt have much to do apart from shake a leg & serve as love interests for the protagonists. As for the rest, Rajpal Yadav's character was unbearable, Anupam Kher was fine while Pavan Malhotra was wasted.

Verdict: Well the box-office numbers claims that it has the third highest opening weekend in 2017 & is on its way to the 100 C mark. Frankly speaking, the film didnt impress me as it felt outdated despite Varun's sincere performance. This is not to imply that "Judwaa" was a great movie in the first place though it catered to the tastes of the audience in that time period. In short, if you are in the mood for pea brained comedies, you can give it a try or else forget it!!!

Rating: 2/5

Regards...Ben

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Spyder review: "Seems like a desi version of Dark Knight!!!"

India is a land of festivals as each state has its own share of cultures & beliefs. It's a long weekend in our country as we celebrate Dussehra & Durga Puja which is essentially the triumph of good over evil. If the former implies the Lord Ram's victory over Ravan, then the latter is about the slaying of Mahisasura by Goddess Durga, So apart from the goodies to savour, we have a couple of big budget releases across the nation. The most significant among the lot is A R Murugadoss's bilingual "Spyder" which has got Mahesh Babu in the lead. The trailer was pretty stylish & it seems poised to take the the box office by storm.


Shiva (Mahesh Babu) works at the Intelligence Bureau where he eavesdrops on telephonic conversations that could pose threat to the public. He did that with the help of the software that he had developed which tracked down suspicious calls. Though overqualified for the job, he cherished the experience as it enabled him to save numerous lives. But all of that changed when his action led to the death of his friend, a police constable whom he had requested to help a girl in distress. Soon it became evident that their deaths was the act of a serial killer. But who was this psychopath & how many had become victims to him who lusted for the wails & cries of the people in pain.

It's been a while since Murugadoss had showcased his directorial skills in Tamil/Telugu with the last one being the blockbuster "Kaththi" in 2014, though he had made Sonakshi Sinha's "Akira" last year. The main reason why I (most people) love his movies is the fact that he is adept when it comes to packing content with style. In his latest venture, he has showcased it as a battle of wits between the hero & villain with the latter given the freedom to run amok. It might not be intentional, but quite a few sequences had an uncanny resemblance with "Dark Knight". The backstory for the antagonist was chilling but it lacked the finesse & logic in many parts of the latter half. Santhosh Sivan as always has impressed while Harris Jayaraj has given a couple of hummable tracks though some did pose a speed breakers. However, the VFX effects were pretty mediocre to say the least.

Mahesh Babu was an apt choice as the protagonist coz it needed someone who is subtle yet effective & he has aced it. But it was S J Surya who absolutely bowled me over as he was brilliant as the manic killer. Rakul Preet singh was just for eye candy while Bharath was fine in the cameo. As for the rest, none of them had much screen space.

Verdict: There is no doubt that it will have a whirlwind opening at the box office considering the big names which are associated with the project. It will surely satiate the audience with its edge of the seat stuff for most parts. But will it rank as one of the finest thrillers ever? Unfortunately no....though it did have the scope for it but Murugadoss went kinda overboard towards the climax. However, despite that it's still worth a watch!!!

Rating: 2.75/5

Regards...Ben

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Haseena Parkar review: "Hardly any insights into the biography!!!"

Less than a week back, Iqbal Kaskar the brother of the dreaded gangster Dawood Ibrahim was picked up by the Mumbai Police on extortion charges. Incidentally, he was arrested from the apartment of his late sister Haseena Parkar in Nagpada. Call it an unbelievable coincidence since the biographical film on Haseena Parkar released this weekend. Since I barely had any idea about her, I was interested to know as to how she became "Appa" & the "Queen of Nagpada". So does it captivate the audience??


The film unfolds in 2007, when Haseena (Shraddha Kapoor) the sister of Dawood (Siddhanth Kapoor) had to present herself in High Court for extortion charges leveled against her. Her lawyer's defense was that she was the victim of her brother's actions & that she had no hand whatsoever in any crime. The prosecutor tried to prove the charges to no avail as Haseena had an answer to all the accusations. She elaborates on various happenings of her life & as to how her brother moved on to the dark side. So was she innocent as she saidor was she indeed the head of her brother's shady business deals in the country???

Apoorva Lakhia is a rather well known name when it comes to making movies based on terrorism & underworld. Though to be brutally honest, more often than not it's all slick with hardly any substance. His last venture was the abysmal remake of "Zanjeer" & his latest venture is no different. The blame also lies equally on Suresh Nair who had penned the script & screenplay. Apart from the initial build up, the movie is bereft of anything that keeps us invested in it. There is no twists or turns, nor anything as such that a person who has no idea about the protagonist cant guess. On the technical side, there is nothing to fault as such be it the visuals by Fasahat Khan or the music by Sachin-Jigar.

Shraddha Kapoor might have got the first meaty role of her career but the script didnt offer much opportunity to showcase what she is capable of. Apart from her initial appearance, there is nothing that makes us go ga-ga. Her brother Siddhanth as Dawood wasnt able to impart the fear that we associate with that character. As for the rest, Ankur Bhatia, Rajesh Tailang, Priyanka Sethia have done their parts aptly.

Verdict: As the trailer imparts a dark feel, the takers will be less for sure & to make it worse, the script is mediocre. It fails to fascinate the audience with the events that unfold in the narration. In short, it will tank at the box office!!!

Rating: 2/5

Regards...Ben

Monday, September 18, 2017

Simran review: "Kangana nails her role though the screenplay doesnt quite!!!"

This weekend could be termed as the week of "Girl Power" as we had Sindhu making the nation proud with her exploits at the Korean Super Series. Even in Bollywood, we have a women centric movie with Kangana Ranaut, the reigning queen in the lead. There were numerous controversies leading to the release of the movie with regard to her statements on her male counterparts & nepotism. Whatever might be the case, the trailer of "Simran" seems to convey that it is going to be yet another gem from Kangana. With Hansal Mehta calling the shots, the quality of the movie wont be in question. But will it be able to satiate the audience???


Praful Patel (Kangana Ranaut) is a divorced, independent Gujarati female who worked in the hospitality industry in Atlanta. As her parents constantly nagged her to get hitched, she has been on the lookout for a suitable apartment where she could move into. After years of hard work, she finally managed to hoard sufficient savings along with a loan from the bank that would enable her to get a place of her choice. But before she could seal the deal, she goes on to Sin City with her cousin. Just like it has happened to many, she loiters into the casino & gets hooked onto the dealer's table once she starts winning. Hoping to cash in on more money, she gambles the next day as well & that's when reality hits her hard as she looses whatever she had including the deposit to her apartment. Her desperation to win it back makes her borrow money from a loan shark. Little did she realise that she was in an absolute quagmire which would change her life forever. 

Hansal Mehta's credentials as a director is well established with movies like "Aligarh", "Shahid", "City Lights" etc to his credit. His latest venture is loosely based on Sandeep Kaur aka "Bombshell Bandit", a Punjabi Sikh nurse who is presently serving jail time in the US for robbing several banks. The story by Apurva Asrani as such is interesting especially the complex character of Kangana that is intriguing, childish & crazy all rolled into one. But his screenplay falters in the second half, as the robbery, police investigation & climax seemed rather silly & preposterous. All the technical aspects has been handled adequately be it Anuj Rakesh's cinematography, Antara Lahiri's editing & Sachin Jigar's music.

Coming to performances, it was a one woman show with Kangana being absolutely brilliant. Her goofiness in Vegas reminded me of Mr. Bean which was spot on. Equally impressive was her ability to convey her vulnerability & establishes her position as one of the finest actresses in the industry. Since the story basically revolved around her, none of the other characters barely got much screen space but even then Sohum Shah as Sameer deserves praise along with characters like Praful's parents & the bar attender in Vegas. 

Verdict: Well it's not a type of movie that will be lapped up by the masses but it will have the urban audience interested. There is no doubt that the film has flaws in the screenplay just like the protagonist. But if you ask me, Kangana's performance definitely makes it worth watching. In short, do check it out!!!!

Rating: 2.75/5

Regards...Ben