Bhonsle : Bleak Realities

Big cities can be intimidating, not just emotionally but physically too. It hits you the most when you’re a stranger to the land you set foot in. Mumbai is one such city. If the vastness of the Universe and the insignificance of our planet and the organisms that throng it’s surfaces and depths, in the grand scheme of things were concepts that you read somewhere but failed to quite fathom in their true sense, Mumbai can change that for you in the blink of an eye. Add to this a dash of alienation and a scoop of xenophobia and you have the perfect recipe for a miserable nightmare of an existence where the system doesn’t make any distinction between it’s less fortunate natives and even more unfortunate immigrants. It’s this nightmare that Devashish Makhija invites the viewer to be a part of in his feature Bhonsle.

There are filmmakers who use the latest advancements in audiovisual engineering and technology to bring about an immersive experience for their viewers and then there’s Makhija. He doesn’t need IMAX or 3D to do this. With basic visuals and sound and extraordinary diligence he recreates the life in the ramshackle chawls of Mumbai to such an extent that by the time he’s done, the viewer is a character too, a resident of the very same chawl, mentally. And he does take his sweet time to do this, in a cinematic process that’s organic to the core in execution and writing. There’s almost a rhythm to the frame progression and sequence, albeit melancholic. Makhija reminds you of that teacher from school who repeated that formula again and again, and again till as they say in our part of the world, “thorough”. At the core of the narrative is plight of the average human being, the insignificant lots of this world who are in significant numbers. There are actually no antagonists or protagonists in this film which is ironically eponymously titled after it’s protagonist, only victims. Churchill Chawl is that backyard of every affluent city in every corner of the world where neither dreams nor ambitions thrive and only survival matters. Human beings will always find reasons to divide themselves and when politics is a business where conflict is currency, situations like the one depicted in Bhonsle arise.

Manoj Bajpai in his National Award winning turn transforms himself physically into the frail yet stoic Bhonsle. While there isn’t much scope for emoting here in this role and even fewer spoken lines, Bajpai uses his body, posture and gait to express the thoughts of the character. Santosh Juvekar plays the bad guy you end up feeling sorry for almost, Vilas. It’s his have-nots that drive him and politics is his ticket out of his miserable, marginalised existence. Ipsita Chakraborty is Sita who for no fault of her own, like millions of helpless individuals out there in the real world, finds herself at the receiving end of hatred fuelled by xenophobia spawned by men in high castles and finds a father figure in Bhonsle. Her younger brother Lalu is played by Virat Vaibhav and Makhija uses him to drive the narrative on more occasions than one. Makhija’s surreal quirky sense of humor comes to the fore in the scene where Lalu finds a passed out Bhonsle when the residents of the chawl are engrossed in the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. Abhishek Banerjee gets to channel his creepy vibes yet again as Rajendra. These characters may have been placed in a chawl in Mumbai by Makhija but their plight and conflicts resonate beyond the barriers of language and geography. Bhonsle is not cinema, it is the grim reality that’s around us.

Bhonsle #SonyLiv

Article 15 : Bollywood Treading Uncharted Waters.

Considering the rather lukewarm responses from fringe groups to Article 15, in comparision to the frenzy that the likes of Padmavat kicked up, I have to admit that I was indeed a bit skeptical about the film. Caste is as much a reality in urban India as it is in the hinterlands and here was a mainstream Bollywood feature that was more than just acknowledging the very existence of the menace. The provocative trailer gave an impression that it was a no holds barred take on the stain of our collective conscience as a country, that the practice is. But the whole time I was watching it, I couldnt but help wonder how the film got made with the backing of a major studio like Zee Studios, in the first place. You would be absolutely in the right to call me a cynic, but given the times we live in, I wouldn’t be entirely in the wrong to feel the way I did, either. But, I guess the film deserves to be lauded just for the fact that it got made, especially in an industry as hypocritical and pretentious as Bollywood.

Article 15 opens to an extensive disclaimer that vouches that the film is entirely fictional and that it has no intentions to malign any religious sentiments with it’s content. Then, in a first for the Indian film industry, we hear Bob Dylan’s iconic “Blowing in the wind” playing in the background. That was only the first in a long line of firsts for mainstream Hindi Cinema, we soon realise. We are presented with Ayushman Khurrana’s suave sophisticated cop who’s still wet behind his ears and is seen riding in a cop car with a copy of Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India by his side, on his way to take charge as ACP in a town that’s somewhere between Lucknow and Ayodhya, as we learn from the driver. I’m absolutely clueless about the relevance of the book here, unless it was just a direct to reference to the title. The film flags it’s intentions early on when the young cop asks his driver to stop for a drink of water and is told that they were passing through a locality where the residents belonged to a lower caste and that even their shadows were outcast for the upper castes which obviously made up the passengers.Yes, these are cops, government employees, sworn in by the only written word that matters, the Constitution. The top cop, of course would have none of it and he’s here to break the rules. When he’s not seen in his uniform, he is seen sporting a suit most of the time which could very well be an ode to the man who is the architect of our Constitution, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar whose name is taken as a slogan on many occassions in the film. This newbie cop from Delhi is supposed to be the personification of that class of our society who are impervious and oblivious to the malices of the caste system. In fact he’s so clueless that he actually asks his subordinates to explain to him the caste heirarchy of the team he’s leading, including his own. That’s a hard sell in a realistic film with an IPS officer as the central character. The film clearly draws inspiriation from the Badaun rape case and works like a police procedural and a thriller too with the search for a missing girl added to the plot. In his journey into the heartlands of Northern India, the cop comes across a range of characters from corrupt cops to politicians to local businessmen with vested interests to the subjugated to the rebels, which brings us to another character, that of a Dalit leader. played passionately by Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub. He’s the hero who doesn’t get to be the hero. The saviour has to be one from the priviliged class, the film underscores and that’s almost the only instance where it defeats itself. The mood of the film comes to the fore the most in a most disturbing scene where a manual scavenger is seen to be emerging from a manhole, it’s an image that stays with you for long because if you care to think and pause for a moment, you know that it’s most probably happening that very moment in some part of our country for real.

The makers have left no stone unturned in their efforts to portray the horrors of the caste system on screen for a wider audience. The detailing is impeccable. The CBI officer from South India played by Nasser is named Panicker, for one. The script is basically a tour de force for Gaurav Solanki’s skills as a writer I feel, considering his history as a writer with a conscience and unrelenting views. There’s more than one dig at the ruling government, but then the whole film is supposed to be one too. Anubhav Sinha who debuted almsot two decades back with the extended music video that Tum Bin was, has come a long way indeed and his recent Mulk  dealt with a touchy topic too. Despite all the gritty realities that the film doesnt shy away from throwing the audience’s way, one cant but help feel that the ending was almost fairytale. The greatest criticsm that could come the film’s way, rightly too is the fact that it’s the Brahmin hero who appears as the saviour here. Ayushman Khuranna’s Ayan Ranjan could very well be Lord Ram even, given his perfect gentlemanly demeanour and conduct. Isha Talwar plays his love interest and serves the purpose of a moral compass to on more than one occassion, in fact he is almost entirely dependent on her when it comes to his social awareness. Article 15 is far from perfect but it is indeed the bare it all for Bollywood filmmakers who have been sweeping caste under the carpet, on screen for decades. It is pasteruization, it’s the Small Pox vaccine, it’s the Moon landing, as far as Bollywood is concerned.

Zero : A Love Story Of Astronomical Proportions.

Bollywood, having tested all earthly possible scenarios, has resorted to the final frontier, space, to try and keep SRK from getting the girl in Zero. This time around it’s not Pardes, its outer space. Hollywood has thrown space missions our way for all kinds of reasons, well closer to home recently the Tamil film industry too ventured into the zero gravity realm to save the world but who else but Shah Rukh Khan to take on deep space for the sake of simple unadulterated love aka pyar aka mohabbat. Yes, I am talking about an entire space mission. NASA would have retorted if their name was associated with a idea like that, so the makers have used a made up acronym NSAR in the film. If you are wondering what space has to do with the story of an abusive vertically challenged man from North India , I still havn’t figured that out yet though it’s been a couple of hours since I have watched the film. But I’m not complaining. Nobody owns space, yet. For a country that managed the cheapest Mars orbiters, we have every right to send SRK to space for any which reason we want and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

Personally, I’ll admit that I am always a bit wary when SRK experiments in his films. The scenes from the trailer reminded me of Fan, maybe it was that color tone and of course the change in physical appearance. Speaking of physical appearances the makers have pulled it off with precision and the visual effects are world class. But I had the impression that this time around it was the VFX that had a hard time catching up with the actor. SRK has unleashed himself like never before as Baua Singh. The man has travelled far from the Rajs and Rahuls of his prime and Baua is from another universe entirely but the sheer energy he has infused into the character is a testimony to the fact that if there’s anything that Shah Rukh Khan knows, it’s indeed to entertain, and how!. Anushka Sharma plays Afia, another disabled character and I must say it’s the most difficult role in the film from an actor’s perspective and she has put on a brave performance. It’s a thin line she’s walking here with her efforts at risk being written off as miming. She saves herself here, I think. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub plays sidekick to Bauua and is again a disabled character. Tigmanshu Dhulia plays dad to Bauua and is one character that should have had more screen time with SRK’s, I feel.

The whole premise gives political correctness a toss and the filmmaker’s justification as expressed by a main character is that a disabled person yearns to be treated as a normal person which essentially defines the equation between Bauua and Afia. Then we have Katrina Kaif who plays a troubled movie star. Again, how Bauua connects with her character or even Anushka’s for that matter is the stuff of legendary Bollywood scripting  but hey, this is how we like it over here and expect no apologies either. Madhavan and Abhay Deol make brief appearances but when SRK is on fire for almost three hours , you hardly notice. Speaking of appearances, SRK displays his clout in the industry with some scenes where almost all his leading ladies from yesteryear and recent past doing cameos. Shridevi gets most screentime I think and the scene is surreal and disturbing, considering the tragedy. Coming back to the film again, I would like to think that this is Bollywood’s rather SRK’s answer to Forrest Gump. Hell, Forrest Gump took home the Oscars for Film, Actor, Director, VFX, Editing and Adapted Screeplay that year.If we, as an audience or critics even had absolutely no problems with  how disability was portayed by Tom Hanks, I don’t see why we should have any with Zero either. Yes, Bollywood is a different animal entirely which is to say we are a diverse audience which ultimately reflects in the movies that our industries churn out. SRK is not looking for Oscars here and like Bauua he doesn’t want your sympathy either and he makes sure there’s none. You end up hating it or loving it. It’s that simple. The bottom line is that when Shah Rukh Khan sets out to get a girl, size does not matter, nor does space.



Thugs Of Hindostan : Swashbuckling, Indian Style.

No, that’s not what I meant. Indian film industry has never shied away from giving every genre out there a desi twist. While Feroz Khan was dishing out curry westerns to the Hindi speaking audience, down South the likes of Rajnikanth were seen in cowboy gear, replete with spurs.Now, what exactly was a  cowboy doing in the land of Periyar, I’ve absolutely no clue. Bollywood of yore even found a desi Native American in Danny Denzongpa.Well, where there is a will, they say. Not too many desi swashbukcling films come to my mind but, they did do a desi version of Zorro in the mid 70s. Two of the most influential individuals ever in Tamil  Nadu, MGR and Jayalalitha came together on screen for the first time in the swashbuckling saga Ayirtahil Oruvan. As long as it was our favorite stars who brandished the swords and swung from chandeliers, we never really cared for the cultural, geographical or historical accuracy of the story or the settings and that’s precisely what Thugs Of Hindostan was banking on.

YRF, Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, not necessarily in that order, are reasons galore for the audience to barge into the theatres and when it’s a period drama touted as one of the most expensive films ever in Hindi, expectations were expected to skyrocket and hype to go through the roof in ways that would turn Elon Musk green. Vijay Krishna Acharya who had helmed the third Dhoom movie for YRF with Aamir was back in the director’s seat and also had written the film. Aamir was seen flaunting his look for the film as is the custom since his Lagaan days. The shoot, we were told was progessing in exotic locations like Malta. Making videos released few weeks before the release showed the time and effort put in by the crew, behind the scenes. Actual ships had been built in Malta and that’s where and how the film was being shot.The trailer gave an impression that what’s on offer was a desi version of Pirates Of The Caribbean but that turned out not to be entirely true.

Thugs of British India were murderers who snuck into travelling groups and strangled people for their belongings. William Henrey Sleeman was the British Officer who was credited for suppressing the Thug menace in India. Other than this tryst with the law the Thugs were never known for fighting the Brits for the sake of anything or anyone, independence the least. Vijay Krishna Acharya here has taken the liberty of turning the titular thugs into freedom fighters of sorts, who rebelled against the ruling British. Aamir Khan is seen scheming with some actual thugs to rob some travellers but he ends up persuading them not to strangle their victims to death. Acharya’s writing and direction is the weakest link in this film that struggles to stay afloat upon the screen presence of Bachchan and the charisma of Khan. Big B gets to growl to his heart’s content and still looks good in the action scenes though the costume threatens to weigh him down. Aamir is at ease as the sneaky Firangi. He must have been well aware of the comparisions his role would draw to Depp’s Sparrow and has tried his best to stay original though its evident that Acharya was indeed heavily inspired by Sparrow when he wrote Firangi. For a movie that aspires to set ambitious visual standards the plot and the progression of the tale follows the age old formula of Bollywood revenge movies. Some of the plot twists are downright silly and forced. In his pursuit for excellence in the action scenes, Acharya seems to have lost his grip on the tale being told. Fathima Sana is either angry or sad while Katrina Kaif is around looking for excuses to break into song and dance. Watch this for Aamir, Amitabh and the ships, in that order.

Andhadhun : Sriram Raghavan Does A Hitchock, Or Is It A Coen ?

Of the four movies made by Sriram Raghvan until Andhadhun, Johnny Gaddar defines his sensibilites as a filmmaker the most I’d say. The man obviously has an obsession with Bollywood thrillers and music from the 70s and makes conscious effort to use it as a motif in every movie of his, not much unlike Tarantino’s thing for B movies from Italy and Hong Kong. Though his debut as a director was in the Ram Gopal Varma stable with Ek Haseena Thi, it was indeed with Johnny Gaddar that Sriram Raghavan truly came into his own. Everything about the movie was alien to Bollywood at the time it was released. Sriram Raghavan had quietly slipped in neo-noir into the Bollywood portfolio. He has the most outlandish choice of lead actors too interestingly. Saif Ali Khan broke new ground with Ek Haseena Thi, Neil Nitin Mukesh had a gritty debut in Johnny Gaddar, Varun Dhawan dropped his Govinda-born-again desi boy act for the first time, briefly though and asked the audience to take him seriously as an actor in Badlapur and now Ayushmann Khuranna has gone and done the same, explore new territory as an actor, I mean. The twist in Sriram Raghavan films starts right with the casting I guess.

Andhadhun is Sriram Raghavan in top form and he makes your time in the dark hall worth every second of it. The premise was initially Hitchcockian with a dash of Billy Wilder thrown in. More noirish than neo- noir, the proceedings on screen early on invoked memories of classics from Vertigo to Double Indemnity to The Big Sleep. Sriram Raghavan is a man born in the wrong age of cinema I could’nt but help feel and that’s when I noticed a thematic homage to the Coen Brothers brand of filmmaking, a cinematic wormhole between ages I’d say. Like in life and in the Coens’ world, most notably the one in Fargo, in Andhadhun too ordinary people have their lives turned topsy turvy by extraordinary acts of crime in the heat of a moment. Quirky criminal characters are around here too. Sriram Raghavan’s greatest success in Andadhun is that he has managed to imbue a genuine element of humor throughout the film without compromising on any elements of suspense in this taut thriller. It’s that humor factor which might make this film more endearing to the viewers in stark contrast to the gritty thriller that Badlapur was.

Any discussion about Andhadhun would be incomplete without an elaboration about the two individuals who carry this film almost entirely on their shoulders, a measured Ayushmann Khuranna and a terrific Tabu at her wicked best, the Ruk Ruk girl almost but with a deadly twist. She pulls off the difficult role effortlessy and when I tell you that you can’t hate her even in her meanest moments on screen, you could accuse me of being a biased fan boy but trust me, once you get to watch her you’d agree too. You can tell she’s having fun with the role too. Anil Dhawan relives his brief glory days in a role that’s almost him playing himself. Radhika Apte is her brilliant self again and no she’s not frowning, entirely. Zakir Hussain is a Sriram Raghavan regular and transforms into character like always. Another Sriram Raghavan favorite Aswini Kalsekar makes her mark in a brief yet fiesty role. Manav Vij was a new face to me. From the guy who played the autodriver and Chaya Kadam who played Maushi to the kid next door, no character, however short their screen time, is without reason in a Sriram Raghavan film. Everything counts and nothing is what it seems to be, so don’t blink when you’re watching Andhadhun.Kidding.Am I? Find out for yourself.

Stree : Raj & DK Gets It Right Again, So Does Rajkumar Rao.

If you have followed the work of writer-director duo Raj and DK in Bollywood in the recent past you obviously do not need to look for more reasons to spend your hard earned money on their latest offering, Stree. They have stuck to just production and writing this time around but their brand of humor and quirky filmmaking is more than intact here. Unlike most Indian filmmakers who try to emulate Hollywood genre films the duo have always tried to put a delicious Bollywood spin to the most western of themes. They did it to the zombie genre with Go Gone Goa, gave us the slick spy action-comedy A Gentleman and now they have decided to give horror a most desi of twists. In Stree they have ventured into Anurag Kashyap territory, the North Indian hinterland, only gleefully.

Stree manages to make you laugh and scare you in equal measures successfully and that is no mean task, in fact its the most difficult thing to do cinematically. The movie is based on an urban legend, a ridiculously true one as the makers proclaim in writing on screen early on. Lending his creative energy in abundance to the brilliant writing is Raj Kumar Rao who has literally stretched every acting muscle in his body to the limit. His performance in the climactic showdown with the titular demon is worthy of an Oscar I’d say. Giving him ample support are Shradha Kapoor, Aparshakthi Khurrana,Pankaj Tripathi and Abhishek Banjerjee. Atul Shrivastava who plays father to Rajkumar’s character makes his mark too. Stree is one of those movies where you the viewer, at some point stops being just a viewer and becomes a part of the events that unfold on the screen. You are not watching a movie anymore, you are in fact hanging out with the characters and you love it so much so that you end up not wanting the movie to end.

Amar Kaushik has graduated from assistant to independent director with flying colors. Raj and DK have  helped him deliver a slick yet intelligent debut film here. Strewn liberally across the are hilariously bold digs at the political situation in the country. They’re so subtle that you might actually miss it if you’re not listening intently. Some you might miss because it’s almost hidden in plain sight. One such joke that runs throughout movie is  about motorcycles that run out of petrol constantly because people just can’t afford to fill up their tanks like they used to do. There’s one about how some people think peacocks reproduce. Another deadpan line asks you not to be a blind believer. That brings me to the fact that seeing and hearing is believing and believe me this is one movie which proves that despite Netflix and it’s clones watching movies in a packed house where people laugh out loud at the same jokes and jumps at the same scares is an experience in its own. You end up taking sides when you are watching sports. Cinema on the other hand brings people together like no other form of entertainment. Stree is that kind of cinema.


Sanju:The Review.

Sanjay Dutt and Rajkumar Hirani vouched early on that Sanju would not glorify the troubled life of the actor.It is indeed true.But what they did not tell you is that they would be justifying his actions, whilst not holding anything back about his controversial career and life in general.Only a storyteller like Raj Kumar Hirani could have pulled this film off and one has to admit that he has made an interesting affair of it.Sanju is an emotionally engaging film for an unsuspecting viewer by a brilliant director who has made a biopic on the life of a collaborator and friend as he knew him.That’s how i saw it.It’s the Sanjay Dutt, Hirani has sat down with.Hirani films have always been a weird breed ,so to speak.They’re not sleazy at all by bollywood standards but you get to hear quite a few balatkari jokes too.I am not complaining, trust me.In here too is an extended dialogue sequence which uses wordplay for laughs.Yeah, there are quite a few laughs for a biopic on a person who has had a fair dash of tragedy in his life.

The movie focuses on his debut days and then moves on to his addiction days and then to his troubled days with the law.It steers clear of any references to Sanjay Dutt’s relationships with his colleagues in the Industry. Hirani and obviously the Dutt family had one agenda with this film, that’s to try and erase the stigma that the TADA allegations brought down upon him.The biographer character played by Anushka Sharma could very well be Hirani himself.Now that I have watched the film, I cant but help feel that the biopic should actually have been on Sunil Dutt.The man has led an exemplary life as an actor and a politician.The only time he had to bow was again for his son.But then there are people who believe that his son had to pay for his political stands too.If Anjan Srivastav is who I think he is, Hirani has thrown a political punch for his pal.Sanju spends most of its time telling the tale of Sanjay’s relationships with his father and his friends, who are portrayed as strong influences in his life, for good and for bad.Paresh Rawal functions as Sunil Dutt and Manisha Koirala is Nargis.Vicky Kaushal is the most endearing character in the film and in Dutt’s life, says Hirani and we want to believe him too. In fact Kaushal’s character is what Hirani uses to his heart’s content to hook and bait the audiences throughout this movie and he is immensely successful at that.

This movie is unlikely to be loved by the media as it indulges in more than a fair share of media bashing, unabashedly.There is a whole song at the end that basically is a message to the media that Baba doesn’t care anymore.Next to friends, the media is held responsible for making things difficult for the star.But then, when has the media spared anyone ? And when you are the self confessed king of bad choices the media is even more interested.For all his Khalnayak image in the popular imagination Sanju Baba ultimately turns out to be a privileged kid with a heart of gold who refused to grow up.Still the underprivileged, destitute, disadvantaged masses who makes up most his fan base in a country like ours, loves him for just that. And Hirani punctuates it like he knows best.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero : The Review.

The elusive quest for the true Indian superhero has been on in Indian Cinema for a while now.From Amitabh Bachchan to  Hrithik Roshan to Tiger Shroff to Jeeva, every star has tried his luck in the genre with mixed results.Now Vikramaditya Motwane has teamed up with Anurag Kashyap to bring the first desi superhero, one without any actual powers and with a name that doesn’t get any “desier“.This is one superhero movie that is far removed from the Marvel and DC extravaganzas or even the Bollywoodish-to-core Krissh series and has more in common with the Nolan Batman trilogy in terms of basic approach to the theme.In fact this movie is not just about how an Indian Bruce Wayne sans an inheritance would be, but also an exercise in how close an Indian director can get to a global theme in Indian settings.I have to mention Mysskin’s Mukhamoodi here which can be considered a worthy predecessor to Bhavesh Joshi in more ways than one.

At a time when Hollywood and every major star over there is going nuts over reboots and sequels to every known superhero franchise, Harshvardhan Kapoor has taken a leap of faith in a movie that is Tezaab meets Mr.India, to draw a parallel with his father’s career.Though budget constraints have  restricted the flight of the Indian superhero to a caricature in the past, Motwane tries to make up for lack of slickness with the trademark grit of the Motwane-Kashyap school of filmmaking.Bhavesh Joshi’s enemies are mostly issues that we have come to accept as realities in our daily lives, he doesn’t have a Mogambo or Thanos to deal with here.The vigilante in Bhavesh Joshi is driven by guilt and revenge rather than social causes ultimately.There are moments when Motwane pushes his creative envelope and takes some liberties which raises some questions on the plausibility of the events though such questions are surreal in this genre.But when its an origin story told with bare necessities and an ambition to stick to reality you tend to notice these flaws.Yes, I am talking about the hacking scene.

The movie has tried to stay relevant to the recent social media uprisings and the Jan Lokpal movements which Motwane has attributed the origins of the movie to.There are even references to the man with the jhadoo.Had the movie been made back when the Lokpal mania had been at its peak, it would have garnered more attention.People have moved on since, like with all issues on social media.Social media is a major weapon that Bhavesh Joshi Superhero relies on in his fight for justice.The movie has some goodlooking chase sequences and one scene particularly felt like a tribute to the footbridge sequence from Batman Begins.If you are looking for the Indian superhero to rave over, this is not it.This is more about the society we live in and the problems that we have accustomed ourselves to.Bhavesj Joshi is just a plot device that Motwane has used to tell that story.

Raazi: The Review

Meghna Gulzar has based her latest on a novel from 2008 by a former Indian Navy Officer, inspired by the true story of a Kashmiri girl who was married off to a Pakistani Army Officer by her father to spy for India in the days that led upto the 1971 war and liberation of Bangladesh.Her efforts saved INS Viraat, says Harinder Sikka, the author of Calling Sehmat and he attirbuted the birth of the book to his disillusionment with patriotism during the Kargil War. The alleged intelligence failure made him ask questions and he ended up finding some truly astonishing answers that raises even more difficult questions on loyalty, ethics and the idea of a nation. The movie could not be more perfectly timed too, when all you see and hear around you is a conceited effort to bind nationalism and religio-political identity together.

Raazi is more John Le Carre than Ian Fleming and Meghna Gulzar has set a benchmark here in Bollywood for spy thrillers with this film which doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence for a change.Almost all Bollywood spy movies have been about wannabe Bonds plowing across the Schengen to look savvy while being economical, if you know what I am talking about. The only other movie Indian movie that comes close to Raazi in this genre  is Mani Shankar’s underrated Mukhbir.The success of Raazi is in the perfect pace at which the story progresses.The elements of suspense and drama have been woven together with immense skill in the screenplay co-written by the director and Bhavani Iyer.There are thrilling espionage sequences worthy of the Mission Impossible series, at least in terms of the suspense they build and heart wrenching drama that would make Sanjay Leela Bhansali proud here.

The movie entirely belongs to Aalia Bhatt and she has delivered the performance of a lifetime empathetically capturing the predicament of a girl who puts everything in her life at stake for her country at the command of her father.Arif Zakaria is seen in a Bollywood mainstream film after a while and you know why he has been cast right from the first scene he is in.Jaideep Ahlawat plays mentor to Aalia’s character and is a representative of the cold calculating system that puts goals above every emotion which ultimately destroys lives and leaves souls scarred for eternity.Watching the movie here with a crowd of mixed nationalities from the Subcontinent and the Middle East was a surreal experience for me considering the events that unfolded on the screen and I was calm while realizing that conflicts are here to stay and we’re not.Cogs in wheels, the Khulbhushan Jadhavs , Sarabjit Singhs and Sehmats of this world.Penguin’s republishing Calling Sehmat I hear, maybe I should grab a copy.

Bhaagi 2: I Chose Not To Run This Time.

So I just got back from watching my first Tiger Shroff movie. Hollywood has superhero franchises and Bollywood has Bollywood movies with Bollywood heroes. Bhaagi 2’s trailer looked good, reminded me of one of those Hollywood action movies from the 90s, and seeing Tiger in action in the trailer had me thinking that the much touted Rambo remake would be something to look forward to. And there were glimpses of Manoj Bajpai and Randeep Hooda too, in the trailer. What else then can a fickle mind do but book tickets, and that’s exactly what I did.

The movie begins with the kidnapping of a child in Goa. The child’s mom happens to be Tiger’s ex girlfriend, the bad guys chose the wrong kid indeed. There, thats the plot of the movie if I may call it that. Tiger is a commando stationed at the Kashmir border and still prefers to keep actual photographs of his ex in his trunk. This is one smart soldier who knows that privacy is a myth when it comes to smarphones or maybe he’s just being resourceful for the days when his phone runs out of battery. After a display of his mean skills as a soldier with a heart and mind of his own, he sets out to meet his troubled ex girlfriend in Goa. He is a one-man army, as proudly advertised by his superior officer who also doubles up as a therapist with a shoulder to cry on later when Tiger runs out of villains to beat up.

Tiger starts off the investigation into the kidnapping by kicking and punching a bunch of policemen inside their police station, which ultimately turns out to be a sneaky plan by Tiger to show off his sculpted body during third degree, which he confesses is just warm up as far his gym hardened body is concerned. The action sequences which lured me into the movie hall took the longest time to pop up and I guess Tiger was frustrated too when I saw him kicking dead bad guys up screaming “Tum Mar Nahi Sakte”. Obviously he had’nt kicked and punched them to his heart’s content. His climactic showdown is set in a gangster hideout deep in Goan jungles. The economic slowdown has hit the Mafia too it seems when you see that they have gone for outsouricing, the henchmen are all Asians and the few Russian gangsters are saved for the final punches. The greatest twist in the film is that it’s not the soldier who is suffering from PTSD, its the soldier’s ex gf. In fact the ex’s current husband has to explain the acronym to Tiger. Mind bending role-reversing stuff that you get to see only in Bollywood.

The hidden gems in Bhaagi 2 are Manoj Bajpai and Randeep Hooda,reminded me of Om Puri’s turn as a cop in Gupt but that’s another time and another director entierly. They hold the movie together until Tiger does his thing in the climax. Manoj Bajpai doesn’t get to stretch his acting muscles as much as we would’ve liked him to but he still owns every scene he is in. Randeep Hooda on the other hand matches Tiger’s acrobatics with his swag. If it were not for the lines and roles of Hooda and Bajpai I would’ve turned into a Bhaagi myself, out of the exit. Hooda just waltzes through the role here and his exchanges with Bosco, the unseen cop are hilarious. In fact I feel they should make a whole movie based on the Hooda cop character. Those are the scenes where you actually feel the presence of writers in a movie that otherwise looked and talked like one filmed by stunt coordinators entirely.