Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) – Killer’s Kiss


Raman Raghav 2.0 is not a story about the notorious serial killer of the 60s. It features his inspired fanboy who kills for fun. That fan is Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) killing without qualms or an iota of remorse because he kills for the sake of it, as an end and not a means – as punishment, not liberation.

Ramanna enters a killing spree and soon becomes the most sought after killer. Investigating his case is the morally bankrupt ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) – who’s into drugs and has a heart of a psychopath behind the rags of khaki. The difference here is mere symptomatic.

Ramanna doesn’t need to hide behind any ideological mission to punish his perpetrators. Raghavan’s job is to punish. Here begins the story of these soulmates – the evil and the devil as two sides of the same coin– their only mission to kill: whether it’s people, or their souls within.

The screenplay of Raman Raghav 2.0 is consistent. It’s divided into chapters. Following the two characters simultaneously, Anurag Kashyap and his co-writer, Vasan Bala, create a contrast in their characterizations. Both are confused and both are driven by their thirst. For Raghavan, it’s narcotics and for Ramanna, it’s the smell of blood. Ramanna’s confusion stems from his assured-self, contradictory as it sounds. Raghavan’s confusion is more existentialist. He’s a lost soul.

13177326_884735191649046_4481842317797411431_nThese factors are barely obvious and the latent violence present in the movie makes it a disturbing affair. The gore occurs off-screen, but this suggestion makes it more unsettling – leaving it to the minds of the viewers to gauge the inhuman chaos than the vicarious rendering of violence on-screen.

The star element is of course Nawazuddin Siddiqui. In many scenes, Nawaz bowls you out with his demeanor as the starry-eyed fanboy of a dangerous killer. The opening sequence has Ramanna confessing to his crimes. His coolness is apparent when he talks in detail about the murders. There’s almost a sense of hilarity in all of this – and the scene, powerful as it is, blows you away with just the dialogs and performances albeit aided by the subdued sound effects.

It’s that instance when Ramanna finds his Raghav – and there begins a tale that brings together Raman and Raghav forming an unlikely union that is as dubious for Raghavan as it is for the spectators. There’s a similar scene when Ramanna enjoys his chicken in a pep talk with Paket – before he’s about to become a paketmaar (pickpocketer). That’s symbolic of course, but in that one phrase – Nawaz’s perilous mind reveals itself. It sends chills down your spine and Nawaz pulls it off with a nippiness that’s difficult to digest.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is, hence, nippy. It’s not enjoying as much as it’s gripping. The devilish tone tries to do justice to Nawaz’s performance. In fact, Nawaz makes you feel sympathetic towards the character – a commendable job done by Kashyap, Bala, and the actor.

Where Raman Raghav deters is the direction. Anurag Kashyap is an accomplished director. Not a constant here, save for a brilliant performance by Nawaz, Raman Raghav doesn’t leave a lasting impression by the end. Kashyap’s movies usually have power climaxes – Ugly, Gangs of Wasseypur series, No Smoking, and even his commercial try-out, Dev D. With Raman Raghav 2.0, the evolutions of the characters complete an arc, but there’s not much one would take away from the movie – except the scenes featuring Ramanna.

The usual slow pacing and a plot that’s far from unique – work against the powerful character of Ramanna. I can understand why Kashyap went for a methodical pace. Yet, the story presents nothing new – even if it’s difficult in the serial-killer genre by now.


Nawaz’s performance deserved a story worth remembering for more than just the performance. There are elements Kashyap instills that are sure to, “push the envelope,” as he’s always tried with his cinema. It almost appears like desi-style innuendo from Park-Chan Wook – only the auteurship is Kashyap’s. The sunglass motif defines the movie concisely.

A fun fact: Pran as Michael D’Souza in Salim-Javed’s 1974 classic Majboor had a similar way of zeroing in – with his hand cupping over his eyes like a binocular. Incidentally, Pran borrowed this from director Ravi Tandon who used to frame his scenes this way!

Not sure whether Nawaz’s reenaction was a tribute or a perfect accident. Whatever the case, it compliments Nawaz as the delirious killer.


Ek Villain (2014) – A Hero’s Journey


Listening to Shraddha Kapoor’s loud chatter five minutes into the movie, one feels like cringing—something too melodramatic and uncompromising to all senses of the body. As Aisha (played by Shraddha) prattles on and on about the innate goodness in human beings, the typical bubbly, girl-next-door persona, an uber incarnation of a good-hearted and joyous personality riddled in her own grief comes to the fore, viewers realize that this is yet another rehash of a typical Bollywood heroine. By this time, we’re already in the flashback taking us to an episode in Goa when our heroine finally meets her villain, or hero—or perhaps just a human being whom she wishes to save played by Sidharth Malhotra (as Guru).

Amidst all the melodrama, the movie treads a routine path, albeit following a non-linear approach, but as the slogan of the movie reads, “Every love story has a villain,” this love story has plenty. The story reveals about Shraddha’s fatal condition. The audiences realizing that she is on borrowed time dying from cancer it seems—something that’s completely left to the viewer to decipher.

Taking a page off countless medically doomed love stories and of course the plot being a watered-down version of I See The Devil (2010), Mohit Suri packs this movie with some tight scenes and solid story progression amidst a rather poorly constructed plot and underdeveloped motives, ultimately, standing as a movie somewhere in between good and poor.


Ritesh Deshmukh as the psychotic serial killer, Rakesh Mahadkar, is one fine showing and a deviation from what he usually portrays on the screen. Showing his restrained, twisted, and manipulative self, Ritesh is excellent as the meek family man—who loves killing for a hobby—and devastatingly creepy as the man under the raincoat, when he takes the avatar of a killer. This is arguably the deepest point of the movie, yet the manner in which Rakesh’s leisure collides with the juggernaut called Guru is rather predictable and when that happens, it doesn’t entice the viewer into feeling what the director would want viewers to feel. Mohit Suri tries to use the cause-effect relationship and is partly successful in doing so. The problem lies in the unconvincing revenge drama more so than the overtly Bollywood-ish romantic saga.

Shraddha Kapoor has a strong screen presence and whenever she’s on the screen, it’s a delight. Her loud acting in the opening sequences and prolixity apart, Shraddha is okay in her role of the goody, good princess who finds her prince charming in the unlikely goon, the angry young man, Guru. Sidharth Malhotra was better than he was in Student of the Year (2012), and even though, he looks like a clear-cut model for men’s inner wear than the badass shown in the movie, not his fault to be honest, he deliverers a decent performance.

The various analogies and tidbits Suri uses in the movie calls for a smart sense of detail like the first marriage in the Church between an old couple—where Guru starts developing feelings for Aisha—becomes the holy ground where Guru realizes his path towards redemption. The scene between Rakesh and our very own Kamaal Rashid Khan (as Brijesh) shows Rakesh minutely observing the reaction of Brijesh’s wife to the outburst of her husband, expecting some sort of reaction, giving us a glance into Rakesh’s mentality and his loathing for women who blabber too much, except his beloved wife played by Aamna Sharif.

Despite all the inspirations, Ek Villain is a movie that could have been a classic thriller if Suri had created meaningful semblance between the two parallel layers of the movie. It’s still a decent watch and many would perhaps enjoy it. It has the Mohit Suri ingredients, which has resulted in many box-office successes for him over the years. As a movie though, Ek Villain rides high on the performance of Ritesh Deshmukh, the inspirational quotes of inspiring personalities, and the evolution of Guru—from a ruthless killer to a devoted messiah. The final scene of the movie is a beautiful gesture and when the ending is spot on, it’s hard not to come out vindicated.


Don’t go in with high expectations. It’s a typical (hence, imbalanced) Suri flick, but with excellent music and a strong performance by the antagonist (Ritesh Deskhmukh). The story is passable, the revenge drama not quite so.

City Lights (2014) – Life in a Metro


Hansal Mehta’s City Lights depicts light beaming through the corridors of Mumbai in a demographic way. Contrasting much to daylight, these bright and sparky nocturnal lights of Mumbai tell its own story of a family seeking illumination—living in dimness when the entire city is grinning in florescence. The ignition of radiance being the major symbolic contrivance of the movie, Hansal Mehta shows us the cold world of Mumbai in its blurred nakedness prompting viewers an experience into, what many call, the City of Dreams, Sapno ki Seher, Mumbai. As such, City Lights is a movie about people who gaze into the mesmeric lights from their dappled huts of dread and scarcity—asking us, the viewers, a question—are those sources of nightly radiance only narrowed to those few who can?

A remake of the discretely acclaimed British-Filipino movie, Metro Manila (2013), written and directed by Sean Ellis, the team of City Lights, acclimatizes the Filipino story to Indian quirks—creating a characterized hybrid drama, with Rajkumar Rao as Deepak Singh heading the journey to the theater of dreams alongside his wife, Raakhi played by the incumbent Patralekha, with a stern, almost contrasting, grace. Deepak, Raakhi, and their daughter Maahi, leave the exoticness of Rajasthan for the crude reality of Mumbai to earn a happy, fulfilling life.

Once they arrive to the city, shown cold, calculating, and detached by the makers, things don’t gel for the family at the beginning. They are tricked into losing all their money by some sharks and are relegated to the streets of this heartless city. When circumstances start maneuvering in their favor, the spark runs out and the lights pervading the city turn into an endless nocturnal dump crushing the inner flame of hope, optimism, and vivacity by the pragmatic realities of paucity, starvation, and the sheer will to survive. City Lights follows the romantic voyage of Deepak and Raakhi, from their parish in Rajasthan to the dead coasts of Mumbai—a test of time and patience for both, a reality check, and a plunge into the heartless depths of the mechanical city in search for something to live by, cling on, hope for…

Coming from a director with the pedigree of Hansal Mehta, City Lights has a throng of positive facets working in its favor. The story, by Sean Ellis, is a daunting reflection of the reality not only in Manila or Mumbai, but also in most areas of the underdeveloped communities in the world. At its heart, City Lights is a story of a man’s quest to respect, prosperity. It follows the basic principles of the right to life, dignity, and the pursuit of happiness. With such a rudimentary concept, the story is extraordinary, and the way it unfolds coaxing Deepak or Raakhi into their exclusive nests is a representative of solicitous storytelling by Hansal Mehta. This Indian version of Metro Manila vindicates the decision to remake a movie that might be an echo of the predicament of various people, with dreams of flying high in those skyscrapers, but in reality, being emblazoned, crumpled by the taciturnity of those very towers.

Touching, distinct, City Lights, as a movie dethrones the glamorous side of films, revelling in the hardcore—a custom in which reality overtakes the tinges of allure; the performers helming credible performances and dashing the screen with a painful charm. Perhaps the penultimate prize the movie could boast of, the genuineness, the realness of the performances, the mannerisms, the dilemma, their quandary, and the way they jostle into and out of the situation; the domain and the destiny of people in that world is real, unpretentious—second only to reality. Without any hint of surprise, the performances reflect the phenomenal veracity of the story.

Rajkumar Rao as Deepak convinces the viewer of the quandary from which he needs to get out to salvage his wife’s dignity and his daughter’s future. After Shahid and now City Lights, Bollywood has a powerful actor in Rajkumar Rao. His wife, the beautiful Raakhi played by Patralekha, conveys her misgivings through those sensitive expressions—telling everything, even her silence echoing back, whilst convincing viewers of her faithfulness and her purity amidst the impure world of Mumbai. Another strong performance comes from Manav Kaul, as Deepak’s supervisor and friend. Prevailing in his attempt to win over Deepak and setting alight a plan to accomplish their dreams, the actor, Manav Kaul, gives a knock-out blow as the subtle cerebral assassin, and a mere friend of Deepak, in need and perhaps indeed.

City Lights is transfixing, almost contrasting to everything Bollywood stands for. Heavy in dramatic elements, devoid of the cumbersome aspects derailing movies, City Lights is a vivid movie about the basics of life, love, and survival. Presented in a faithful manner, it’s arguably the best movie to come out from Mumbai this year and alongside Queen holds a firm ground as a movie par excellence. Despite being a remake, it avowals an enchanting impression making it a faithful romance of existence and endurance, a movie that engrosses you, engrams your imagination, and creates a world that seems as real as reality, as sincere as the truth.

City Lights is an exceptional drama carrying a rich ambience, whilst using symbols to captivate the viewer and convey a message about a small section of reality that might be the largest section in existence, yet the one least sheltered in truth. Formidable, a comprehensive study of human society and struggles, City Lights serves as an alarming revelation of all the possibilities, and is a movie rich as a story, authentic as an exhibition, and arresting as a retelling of a tale beyond curtains. A must watch, and one of the best from Mumbai this year!

Main Tera Hero (2014) – Heroism


“After Krrish 3, there’s Kiss 3 now!” Rajpal Yadav.

David Dhawan is back with his illogical, slapstick comedy that would never really make sense but it does promise entertainment in an ample dose. The King of Comedy has a string of disappointments to his name since Partner hit the screens in 2007, but with the father-son duo combining for the first time, Main Tera Hero suddenly feels different to David Dhawan’s staple flicks. The keyword is feel because Main Tera Hero isn’t different, in reality, to what we’ve associated with David Dhawan. It’s the same treatment of a mindless saga going on and on with a feel good climax, which is always welcomed, but when we have been fed with such movies for 25 years, one does beg to question the point in all of this.

Main Tera Hero is a story of Seenu (Varun Dhawan)—the archetypical reprise of the countless characters Govinda has helmed in his days as the Comedy King. With an array of whacky, mindless characters present to add some eccentric one-liners, some that are hilarious, others that are cheap and of the bare kind, the movie a paraded parody of Dhawan’s own style of filmmaking. Main Tera Hero is nothing more than an overstretched remake of a Tamil movie (Kandireega) having some shots of brilliant comedy, yet an overtly stupid movie relying on the quirkiness of the various characters that we have been watching since our childhood.

To call it a Varun Dhawan show wouldn’t be inaccurate. David Dhawan does his job aptly in establishing Varun’s image as the next masaledaar superstar of Bollywood. Keeping that in mind, he gives all the space to Varun to stretch his muscles, show off his style, imitate Govinda, and carry along the eccentricity of Salman Khan in what is a mixture of all jokes put together in one movie to serve as Varun Dhawan’s image building project. The star cast gives a nostalgic feel, with Anupam Kher, Shakti Kapoor, Rajpal Yadav, Raju Kher, Manoj Pahwa, and the likes incensing the movie with a nostalgic call from the past, and typical as it is, the movie is nothing but a relived version of the partnership between David Dhawan and Govinda in a new era. Old wine, new bottle, and such mumbo-jumbo.

The actors paired opposite to Varun Dhawan, Ileana d’Cruz as Sunaina and Nargis Fakhri as Ayesha, have nothing substantial to do than provoke the testosterone of some horny passenger in this exhibition about heroism. One could even call Ileana the hanger in the wardrobe because that’s what she is! She does need to rethink her career decisions because after Barfi (2012), Ileana has been doing these slapstick comedies where she’s been nothing more than an eye candy. Whenever she did open her mouth, it was cringe-worthy. On the other hand, Nargis Fakhri did have a better role, the comedy and all, than Ileana, but the stony, yet seductive expressions of Fakhri would work well in enhancing her status as a siren, but does nothing to her as an actor. What she did in Madras Café (2013) was commendable; what does here, minus some funny scenes, is just showing off what she has.


After consecutive urban Rom-Coms, Main Tera Hero is akin to vintage Bollywood Cinema of the 90s and earlier part of last decade. I liked it more than Bewakoofiyaan (2014), which isn’t saying a lot because the movie isn’t really good, but that’s not why it was made, was it? Barring the brilliant verses by Saurabh Shukla, some hilarious dialogues and scenes, and of course, Varun Dhawan’s typical personification of the Bollywood superstar, Main Tera Hero is a futile movie, a ridiculous madcap by David Dhawan that is not intriguing. It’s okay if you have free time and wish to revisit David Dhawan’s vision of cinema, but if you have anything better to do, just sip the coffee.

Queen (2014) – There and Back Again


Enter Rani, the innocent, industrious, sweet, and naïve girl from Rajouri who resolves to go to her honeymoon all alone after the dejection of rejection by her fiancé Vijay (Rajkumar Rao) just three days prior to her marriage. Enduring this adventure on her own, for this extremely lovable girl after her abrupt break up, Queen tells us the journey of Rani from Rajouri to Paris, Amsterdam, and back to Rajouri again, and the revelations of reality that she meets during her sojourns in Europe away from home sweet home, India.

Kangana Ranaut assumes the role of Rani, and from the beginning until the end, the movie is all Rani with Kangana nowhere to be seen. Scripted and filmed completely from Rani’s point of view, the central character of Rani completes a prolific character arc in the course of the movie, which is viscerally a tale of self-discovery and realization of a typified Delhi girl. Her multicultural experiences in Paris and Amsterdam transform this dependent girl, Rani, into an enlightened being—innocent and joyous, yet by the end of the movie—liberated and of age moving ahead with a jubilant arrival at true consciousness of living and the epiphanies of life. Kangana delivers the performance of her lifetime here—a total knockout act of art, where she disappears and only Rani appears; the summit any actor could achieve. The humane makeover from a simple girl trapped in a complex, heart-crushing predicament until she realizes the open world out there, where you only have to keep your eyes open and allow destiny to work; Kangana staggers in this evolution of Rani. Consequently, she delivers what has to be one of the strongest performances, male or female, of past couple of years from Bollywood.

queen movie stills 2014

As a motion picture, Queen encompasses a variety of positive elements eventually emerging as a wholesome movie—the peak mainstream cinema could reach. A story covering the growth of a polarizing character who appears to be a social recluse, whilst a completely vivacious individual amidst her circle, Queen presents Rani as a flower that is too restrained in alien circumstances, but in it lives a resolve of a meteorite waiting to burst into life around those who cherish her. Precisely such circumstances work in her favor when she meets Vijay Laxmi (Lisa Hayden), a free spirited server in a Parisian Hotel, forming a close bond that changes her life and brings forth a new Rani daring to fly like a bird. Along her path, she stumbles across another life-changing scenario when she meets the trio of diverse people that redesign her inner glory, and aid her to blossom like a flower in the charms of spring. Thereafter, there was no looking back for Rani—once a bird learns to fly, all they do is fly… The best part of Rani’s character growth is how she evolves higher than degenerating. Her morals, ethics, and stances remain intact until the end, but she grows as an individual and becomes complete—her horizons expans teaching her the ultimate lesson of living and relating… The story, primarily, focuses on the highest common factor, not the lowest common multiple, which—from a social standpoint—is one of the flattering aspects of the movie.

In his second directorial venture after Chillar Party, Vikas Bahl stumps the audience with a dramatic and powerful execution of a soft and melodic theme of Queen. The movie being slightly longer for today’s standards, around two and half hours, Vikas Bahl co-writes a pleasing fictional bio-dramatic comedy. The director along with cowriters Chaitally Parmar and Parveez Sheikh present a story that never feels long or far-stretched despite its length. Each sequence augments the drama taking the character to a fine finale, whilst evoking the audience to root for Rani until the grand culmination in the climax. The way Bahl handles this coming of age, self-realization story and transplants the soul of the story into celluloid; the movie shapes up as a soulful philosophical drama that is touching, soothing, and terrifically entertaining—not one moment going to waste, and every scene carrying the story to a grand resolution.

In all the grandness in presentation and the distinctness of the story and characters, it would be incorrect to call Queen a flawless movie, obviously. The main trite is the predictability of the plot, and the initial portions featuring Rani. One would be hard-pressed to find somebody as naïve as that in Delhi today, as Indian as one could be. The much worn out Indianized format of garnering appreciation abroad through Indian food, products, people, sentiments, et cetera at times create an implausible atmosphere in an otherwise plausible and realistic movie that Queen is. Nonetheless, the trifling cheesy moments notwithstanding, Queen is a jaunty trip—not just for the Queen, or Rani, but for every individual who watches this magnificent display of cinema that manages to intersect, to form a composite of heart and head, of warmth and intellect.


With tidbits—from the original score, the timing of songs, the theme music, and the performances all hitting the right chords, Queen is a movie par excellence. The performances, in general, rule the roost, as they say, but the standout, theatrical dynamite comes from the lead of the movie, Kangana Ranaut—who else? The bubbling Delhi girl who is spotless in attributes, bombastic in herself, and adorably cute, Kangana is Rani and in essence, she makes the movie; without her, the movie wouldn’t have even existed! Having said it all, at the underlying base, Queen leaves one simple note of friendship and joy—life as happiness unto itself. Much adulation to director Vikas Bahl for handling the movie with élan, and presenting a rich story that is earnest, fulfilling, and makes you smile as you walk down the theatre when it’s all said and done. Perhaps also, taking along with you the rich experience of watching the simplicity of a Queen in a movie rightfully named Queen—a Rani among modern day characters, but just the girl next-door in reality—aha!

Total Siyapaa (2014) – Divorced by Boundaries, Married through Nature


Imagine your mushy Soulmate—adorable and so meant to be… Then imagine her family—always in the mold of ingraining tension, stroppy moments, and just imagine, loathing your kind, your identity, and your roots! Torn between love and scorn, what could one do? The harsh truth couldn’t have been any harsher. Especially when you’re buried amidst this resentfully loud environment of meeting the family that matters the most, prior to marriage of course, and the charms of your Soulmate; odds aren’t too friendly and you’d have to put up with all the loudness, the briskness, and nerves, and the precariousness of the monumental pre-marriage complexes. After all, you’re marrying the girl and not her family, correct? Not so simple when it comes to the Big Fat Indian Wedding—all the more true, if you’re a Pakistani as we’re about to find out…

Aman (played by Ali Zafar of Tere Bin Laden) finds himself groping with the Punjabi family of Asha (played by Yaami Gautam of Vicky Donor) in his first meeting with Aasha’s family that appears to be headed by her super intense mom (played by Kirron Kher), her indulgent sister Jiah (Sara Khan), and the ape-ish brother Manav (Anuj Pandit).

Already rattled by a nerve-racking breakfast, things don’t start off well for Aman and Asha, and that could only be a sign for more chaos to come, as the grand dinner awaits them at Asha’s home, a tad dysfunctional, but a classically muddled Punjabi family—eager to meet Asha’s mysterious fiancée. The only thing—they just happen to loathe Pakistanis! The awkward date with the soon-to-be in-laws amused by the clinical jinx of sociology—pretty much Total Siyapaa.


A loose remake of Only Human (2004), a Spanish-Argentine film by Dominic Harari and Teresa PelegriTotal Siyapaa might not be total chaos in a strict since, but is a subtle comedy of errors comprising of a Pakistani boy socializing with a traditional Punjabi family. With the crazy family finding themselves in a trivial mess of marital discord themselves, the family eagerly attempts to ensure the prefect marital communion for Asha, as ironical as that would sound.

The trivial plot of the movie and the overdone script poise the team with a difficult task of developing a blooming story, and bringing forward a movie with entertainment and panache. Not much to worry about that courtesy the brilliant rewriting of Neeraj Pandey (A Wednesday, Special 26), the movie plates a European dish reminding you of the glorious, The Royal Tenanbaums of Wes Anderson, although, not nearly matching its pompous storytelling and gung-ho direction.

Total Siyapaa revises the format of Bollywood comedies. Capitalizing on this revisionist sensibilities of Indian films, Total Siyapaa is much lighter, subtler and situational in comparison to other Indo-Pak romantic dramas. The conceptual frippery, with a warm ambience, makes it an inconsequential existential dramedy over a laugh-riot or slapstick comedy contrary to the title, Total Chaos. Director Eeshwar Nivas assumes the story with a splendor of rapid progressions of the plot, heartfelt humor accompanying the prevailing tension that slowly shifts from an Indo-Pak romance to a sharp family affair undergoing a comical crisis, whilst reaching its zenith just before the climax.

The climax; hence, is underwhelming due to the undiluted tension built until the breaking point, where the story was begging for an electrifying climax, but instead receives an elusive, somewhat restrained closure. Perhaps fitting with the overall tender tone of the movie, the unique way of presentation of a much popular concept, especially coming from Bollywood—the loudest “wood” in the world—Total Siyapaa is a warm family affair built on the dichotomies of ontology and carried swiftly by stark personification of eccentricities and the much cherished art of complicating the nonentity.


The satirical intricacies revolving human society is a much observed and ridiculed phenomena that Total Siyapaa uses varyingly and with much affect. The character of the schizoid police officer, Percy (Steve Keef)—the clichéd Brit, and the hospital sequences with the medical practitioners groping in the darkness of diagnostics add a unique dimension, an erratic form of adulation, to the story—complimenting the jest of the spine in the movie. In essence, Total Siyapaa is a mellowed form of sarcasm reflected on the big screen—the entire movie presented as a diluted form of frantic absurdity of identities and circumstances, otherwise, within human control.

The performances are worth mentioning, with Kirron Kher being the epitome of a Punjabi mom mixed in her own riddles, yet handling the motions of the entire family. A competent actor in Ali Zafar handles his role with negation and is decent in enacting a character that doesn’t need much, except the subtlety, which is something he brings to the table. The character of Aman feels undercooked, which made it difficult for the actor to essay the role with a certain command, but Ali Zafar works well within limitations—for he really doesn’t have much to do, as a performer.

Above all, Yaami Gautam, once again, proves her mantle as not merely a charming flowerpot, but a skilled actress much underrated and underutilized. While what she does isn’t bombastic, but is effective and convincing. Anupam Kher (playing the role of Asha’s father) doesn’t have a prominent role in the movie, in comparison, but of course, the veteran actor is as natural as natural can be, and his sequences with the escort is one of the high points of humor and the comedy of errors in the movie.

Coming from the Mumbai-based industry, the movie is a unique demonstration of the quirks of society, and contrary to previous movies of the genre from Bollywood, the comedy is somewhat calm, save for some occasions, and the timing of events are near perfect. With one thing leading to the other, and other simultaneously, the remake successfully transplants the essence of Only Human into the context of Indian Subcontinent localized in England.


To cut it short, Total Siyapaa is different. The key word is different and due to its distinct style, it becomes a movie worthy of a watch—a perfect date movie or a family outing because unlike the name; Total Siyapaa isn’t totally chaotic but is curiously engaging with some peaking moments amidst some valleys, a thorough ride of family, tradition, and the nuances of being injudicious.

Jai Ho (2014) – The Salman Khan Employment Project—Funded by the Mango People!


In a land somewhere in Mumbai lives, a great man named Salman Khan. One day he woke up, early, and saw dim and gloom faces around his house. Some frail looking creatures—some teary eyed, some hanging their faces dull, while some staring into emptiness—the atmosphere was filled with a negative vibe. Those faces were of unemployed, impoverished, or simply, maladroit actors, technicians, experts, and members of the India film fraternity: Yash Tonk, Vatsal Seth, Ashmit Patel, Daisy Shah, Sana Khan, Sunil Shetty, Aditya Pancholi, Sharad Kapoor, Mukul Dev, Pulkit Samrat, Tulip Joshi, Nauheed Cyrusi, Bruna Abdullah, Santosh Shukla, Vikas Bhalla, etc. Among those faces, Sohail Khan and Sajid-Wajid also made their presence felt. It was indeed a dark day. With Salman always in the mood for charity and benevolence, he decided to help each of these pedestrian souls into realizing their dreams and legacies. He decided to cast each of these B-grade actors/members of the film industry, and they sang a chorus together—Salman ki JAI HO! Consequently, Jai Ho came into being because Salman was in some modest, charitable mood that one morning.

After delivering five consecutive Blockbusters (Dabbang, Ready, Bodyguard, Ek Tha Tiger, Dabbang 2), Jai Ho is working wonders in breaking the streak for Salman Khan. In what starts as a tale of two ends, Jai Ho stoops devastatingly low, with practically no plot and storyline in the first half—a movie one would assume to be a surreal cinema, without a concrete plot, but mere snippets conjoining events in the story. Only this time, from one of the weakest filmmakers of our generation, Sohail Khan; who does it again after Hello Brother in jinxing Salman’s gigantic box-office record and adding to the collection featuring some pronounced gems such as Dabbang (2010) and Ek Tha Tiger (2012), and some hounding pieces in the forms of Dabbang 2 (2012) and now, Jai Ho. What is wrong with these Khan Brothers—Arbaaz and Sohail? First, it was Arbaaz’s weak Dabbang 2 and now Sohail’s wacky Jai Ho; Salman surely has eloped back to the phase of selecting poor scripts, if his last two movies are anything to go by.


A remake of Telugu movie Stalin (2006) and loosely based on Pay it Forward (2000), Jai Ho is a story of a common person, Jai Aghnihotri, ex-army officer freed from his responsibilities for reasons beyond absurdity. Sharing a special bond with his sister, Geeta, played by the brilliant Tabu, he lives by the motto of being human and helping those around. While on it, Jai creates a humanitarian chain, whereby one is supposed to help three such people instead of thanking them (Pay it Forward). The chain doesn’t pick steam for a while until later—it becomes a mass execution of charity, with the chain spreading all across the city. During the same period, a corrupt politician crosses path with Jai while commencing another story in the majestic life of one ordinary man, Jai.

For a long time now, it has become a fad to thrash Salman’s movies. Being among the few believers in Salman’s vision of cinema, partly: a degree of sumptuousness, larger than life heroism, complete entertainment, and ultimately a movie worth the ticket prices for the common person, Salman has managed to actualize his vision. Whether it was Wanted, Dabbang, Bodyguard, or Ek Tha Tiger, each movie had something entertaining to offer, with Dabbang achieving cult status in India and Ek Tha Tiger being perhaps the finest espionage drama in modern Indian cinema history. In comparison, and with the lowest of expectations, Jai Ho simply doesn’t work. Bottom line.


After a decent start, especially Salman’s trademark bracelet entry to bash the goons like only Salman does, the movie plummets in the first 15 minutes itself and loses track. The entire first half does not enhance the plot, except for the Pay it Forward concept. Trivial subplots such as Salman’s untimely and abrupt romance with Pinky (Daisy Shah), his mother’s filmy bride-hunting process (played by theater Guru, Nadira Babbar); fellowship with Yash Tonk (as Babu) and Ashmit Patel (as Sumit); these subplots add nothing to the ultimate purpose of the movie. They’re like mere houseflies humming around Salman Khan as Jai.

Essentially, what is the spine of the movie? Yes, the idea of helping a trinity is a stellar concept—though not original—yet Sohail Khan documents these scenes akin to a documentary of some real life incidents, rather captured poorly, than telling of a gripping story about a man and his mission to bring change. The development of the concept isn’t convincing at all. It seems unplanned, hastily executed without any forethought, and just thrown together because it’s Salman Khan, and he is like a God of the box office. Travesty in every sense; Jai Ho is a travesty of an opportunity, perhaps even the movie…


What works in Jai Ho? The second half, after the typical Bollywood interval, picks up in momentum and gathers some steam. With the entry of Home Minister Dashrat Singh, played by the coveted Danny Denzongpa, Jai Ho gathers a concrete purpose and receives a much-needed reprise away from the pointless shenanigans of the first half. Salman Khan gets a lease and frees himself into his comfort zone. In the first half, Salman’s performance itself was melodramatic and poorly executed, with the director handling the concept in the lowliest form imaginable. The second half gives Salman fans and fans of dhamakedaar action just want they want; it is the return of He-Man, Salman Khan. The second half takes the movie as much ahead as it could, but the damage of the first half is irreparable.

On a balance, Jai Ho is a massive disappointment. That in itself is an understatement. Sohail Khan botches his project yet again, and, whatever Jai Ho does at the box office and critically would be a Salman Khan accomplishment. With an assembled cast and crew from the unemployment bureau, Salman not only delivers a social wanna-be flick, but genuinely executes a noble social work by providing employment and exposure to many of the personalities in the movie—on and off screen. Dreams would suggest that the movie could have been a distinct platform in spreading a genuine social message; at the end, it’s an archetypal Salman Khan flick ruined by the ineptitude of director Sohail Khan.

A note, by the way, somebody—please cast Sudhesh Lehri. He’s too talented to be wasted around. And, what was that overtly melodramatic stint with Genelia?! Jai Ho, indeed! Still better than Dhoom 3 though…

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein – The Fictitious Liberty of a Second Chance (2013)


After Punit Malhotra’s I Hate Love Stories (2010), a movie that shared some uncanny personal coincidences, he brings forth his next—Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, another of those personally “relatable” movies. With profound self-realization as the major theme of his last two movies, I must really ask Punit, why do you seem fascinated by the liberty of a second chance?

Similar to I Hate Love Stories, Gore Tere Pyaar Mein features Imraan Khan in the new attire of Shreeram but with a similar satire of a lover boy who recognizes affection after having had a muddled experience the first time around—with the same girl. In the case of Love Story, it was Jai realizing love after rejecting his ladylove (Simran played by Sonam Kapoor) the first time around. In Gori, it’s this lad, Sridevi, realizing of his repressed love for numero uno social worker—the ravishing Kareena Kapoor Khan as Dia only after having met his soon-to-be-new-wife Vasudha—where she spends ample time listening to Shreeram’s love epic and serving as his therapist—portrayed by the beautiful Shraddha Kapoor.

Two stories, in basic ways, sharing the same motivation are distinguished by Punit’s treatment, who has attempted to present a standard romantic comedy in a somewhat diverse manner. Gori Tere Pyaar Mein has a good premise. The story of a flush, free spirited man falling in love with a rigid, social worker—with high levels of integrity and commitment—presents a solid recipe for a wonderful 2 hours. As the movie pans out, it turns to be a semi-enjoyable show, although predictable throughout—possessing one vibrant act by Kareena Kapoor Khan. There are positives and negatives, both, and amidst some nostalgic love sequences, for yours truly, there are many moments of silliness, worn out jokes, and detailing just for crude comicality—reaching the extent of preposterousness.


The character of Dia tends to be of an idealist, with high principles and charitable tendencies. She is a social activist who spends more time on the streets parading for human rights and environmental protection, fasting peacefully to force out corruption; filming documentaries in red light areas, and supporting people suffering from HIV and Aids. For such a dedicated and committed social worker, Dia certainly has too much time to focus on her style, clothing, and beauty! Kareena as Dia looks too glamorous for the role. With her face glowing like a Victoria’s Secrets supermodel in exhibition, even in scorching heat, the role she portrays isn’t convincing for the clothes she wears and the dazzling charms she conveys. That doesn’t mean Kareena has to look ugly; it would help if she looked more like a NGO worker, and no—just clothing Kareena in designer suits doesn’t make her appear one.

The movie isn’t meant to be a social drama, by any means, yet some form of consistency and realness would have taken the movie some steps further, despite being a glamorous rom-com. Another factor that raises ones eyebrows, the director and the writers seem to have written this movie from the moral perspective of a social worker. The movie gives weight to Dia’s point-of-view over Shreeram’s point-of-view. In the sense that Shreeram willingly transforms himself to fit into Dia’s mold, whilst Dia remains the same—the character arc—with Shreeram converting from a state of capitalism to a desire of charity driven by the love of Dia.

All of this would have been acceptable had the director set it up appropriately with proper plot and character development. The viewer is left to assume that what Dia does is right, whilst what Shreeram feels is not quite the right path to tread on, without giving us a valid justification, or simply assuming that social work is the greatest form of service and it is above all personal relationships. Then, having Shreeram transform, while Dia remains the same, the director creates a self-centered environment—almost advocating, as one would presume.

Fortunately or perhaps unluckily, the movie isn’t meant for critical analysis, in any shape. It’s a Hindi rom-com, which could serve as an entertainer or a date movie. Perhaps a treacherous date movie, as the underlying psychological marker reveals an all-helping and charitable woman posing a hypothetical question of the extents a boy is willing to go—to get the woman that he loves. It’s one-sided and biased in that manner. It wouldn’t be a problem in most cases, but when you’re asking your viewer to involve their affection in the world of the movie, a little bit of fair-headedness and proper character mapping would serve as a wonderful catalyst in garnering that affection.


Gori is a decent movie. Personally, I liked the movie—especially the flashbacks and the connections to my own life story. Even though it is methodic, flawed, repetitive, and holds passé anecdotes, the central theme of a lover wooing his lover usually makes for a decent watch. Despite the predictability and annoying sequences at times, Gori has its moments and if any man has or had a nostalgic relationship with somebody older, and any woman who has or had a good relationship with somebody younger, book the tickets for some bunkum pleasure. For the rest, it’s a time pass movie—guilty pleasure and all…

Goliyon ki Rasleela – Ram-Leela (2013)


A tragic romantic drama, Ram-Leela finally found some peace when the makers changed the name from just Ram Leela to a longer Goliyon ki Rasleela Ram-Leela after a highly publicized court row between the makers and a group of Hindu activists. When one controversy subsided, another seemed to have reappeared. That would be the movie in itself… Set in the exotic locales of Gujarat, the movie is a story of two lovers from two rival families—the Ranjadey and Sannade families—and their struggle towards the fulfillment of their destinies. Helmed by master storyteller Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the visionary behind modern day classics such as Khamoshi: The Musical, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas, and Black, the artisan director—this time around—adapts William Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet and creates an alternative world: Bhansali’s world.

In the last few years, movies from Bhansali haven’t quite garnered the public and critical appeal that he had so been accustomed to, for much of his earlier career. Post Black (2005), Bhansali’s Saawariya released to much criticism, while Guzarish—despite being an excellent movie—couldn’t garner the same reception of his yesteryear classics. Come 2013, Bhansali is back with his latest outing and his most commercial directorial enterprise until today, the love saga between a macho hunk, Ram played by Ranveer Singh, and the sultry courtesan, Leela played by today’s most wanted actress—Deepika Padukone. In the jangly arena within Gujarat, these two lovers fight against their family rivalry, their own predicament, and their individual fates to be with one another until death do them apart, or perhaps unite them into one, soul and body.


The concept sounds textbook, even though the story has been revisited a myriad times before, but the execution of the grand concept doesn’t hit the zenith that one has been habituated to associate with Bhansali. Perhaps Bhansali’s weakest ever plotline and treatment, Ram-Leela just falls apart into a stupor after the end of the first act. Subsequently, the story loses its grip becoming a jumbling take and a torrid attempt in protracting the theatrics, and prolonging the running time than presenting a tight, riveting buildup to the climax. By the time the movie reaches its culmination, it turns into a parody of sorts, where one fails to feel the highpoint of the ending and neither does Bhansali manage to capture the mood, as he would intend. It’s all feeless. The result is of a movie—rich in every other artistry—except, the all-important story and plot development.

Aesthetically, Ram-Leela is an artistic exhibition. The production value is without doubt amongst the elite movies to come from Bollywood—stunning sets and locales, and excellent treatments of lighting and enhancements. The tone of the scenes, in terms of coloring and augmentation, cannot be flawed. In actuality, there isn’t any flaw from a visual arts perspective. The camerawork and scene selection along with a precise editing offer viewers a spectacular pictorial experience. The photographic spectrum is beaming, with the works of the Production Designer (Wasiq Khan) and Cinematographer (S. Ravi Varman)—not to forget the masterful artist that is Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Together the team creates a visual spectacle, with alluring sets and design. The one unanimous voice may; however, echo that Ram-Leela only lacked in the story sense to become a “torch carrier” of a movie.


With all the richness in images and artistry, the lack of a solid, convincing screenplay really saddens the mood. Many scenes, especially in the second and third acts, seem forced and unnatural. Much of the conflict arises from an overdramatized misunderstanding or trifle issues, while the director conveniently takes refuge in many loopholes just for the sake of furthering the story. Amongst some very good scenes, there are many more clichéd elements. This is where I’m forced to raise a question—where was your astute treatment of a story, that you are so associated with, Mr. Bhansali? For somebody who has a legitimate claim to being Bollywood’s finest filmmaker today, Ram-Leela is a poor attempt in forcing a classic. It seems that the team tried too hard to create onscreen magic and fell short despite all the positive work from the director himself and the art and camera departments.

Overall, the term ‘disappointing’ wouldn’t do justice here. It pains to witness a visual classic ruined by poor storytelling and mediocre execution. Ram-Leela had everything, all the necessary ingredients to prepare an enchanting dish, while some aspects clicked—many faltered and the eventual creation was of a movie that feels stretched, fraudulent, and too sloppy for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s optimum standards. All I can say is—another movie bites the dust…

Image Credit – Santa Banta

Krrish 3 – When East Meets West (2013)


The emotional impressions of the East combine with the power bloc of modern day heroism, the Superhero prodigies of the West.  The result is of a superhuman—a transporter of hopes for millions of people and an idol for everybody, Krrish—India’s response to Captain America and a mishmash of Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. Magnanimity certainly doesn’t harm. Krrish 3 is precisely the story of India’s newly found superhero, yet it is not just Krrish who is the central point of the story, Krrish 3 works for other reasons apart from just Krrish—the innately pure superhero, with a heart of gold—as they say—and a body of steel, as one would suppose.

Krrish series started as a franchise with Koi Mil Gaya (2003, Hrithik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Rekha), a movie a result of pure imagination over astute scientific observation—popularly influenced by E.T. the Extraterrestrial, or at least believed to be such. With a soulful protagonist in the form of Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan), and a touching story, Rakesh Roshan (Karan Arjun, Krrish Trilogy) built a movie empire based on science fiction, the popular trending of alien life, and the birth of a human with extraordinary powers through Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish (2003). Krrish 3 carries on from where Krrish left, but with a different style and treatment. This time around, Rakesh Roshan presents Krrish 3 as India’s most accomplished VFX and CGI exhibition—assuming the responsibility of creating a gigantic visual spectacle along the lines of Hollywood marvels. Krrish, the movie, was the birth of the superhero Krrish and his fight for humanity, but against a fellow human. On the contrary, Krrish 3 embraces an assembled crew of characters possessing out-worldly strengths and attributes squaring Krrish in a predicament he has never been before—facing off against an ensemble of super villains. Not alone in this unique environment, Krrish—the superhuman—has the omnipresent grace of his father, Rohit, protecting and guiding him—beyond space and time.

Whilst Krrish 3 is a brainchild of the superhero, summer blockbuster concept, the movie remains true to the Indian way of storytelling, which could be bad or good. In this case, it’s a mixture, but in large portions, it’s really good. Perhaps due to the association with Diwali—a Diwali bonanza, as they say—Krrish 3 is more of a dramatization of a superhero holding the popular premise of saving the world from ulterior forces. Following the archetypal formula of super protagonist vs. super antagonist, Rakesh Roshan’s brilliant execution of this formulaic, well-structured template movie turns it from a mere model to entertaining cinema, and his sublime treatment differentiates Krrish 3 from other movies trapped in the state called structure syndrome. True to Bollywood oddities, Krrish 3 mixes quirky Hindi movie plots and the Hollywood superhero muscles borrowing some clichéd plotlines from yesteryear Bollywood movies, and scenes and designs from the Hollywood outings of Avengers, X-Men, and Transformers. It holds its own though, big time, despite being a concept that Hollywood seems to fantasize about, almost every summer.


Several themes run across the screen—duty, honor, loyalty, love, dedication, and the concept of Vasudaiva Kutumbakam—what could loosely be translated as Universal Humanhood, if I may. Prominently, the legendary maxim of resident Uncle, Ben Parker, from Spiderman becomes the logline for this superhero outing: with great power, comes great responsibility. Krrish 3, in its absolute essence, is the actualization of that one masterful quote.

The selling point of the movie is, without any reservation, the visual graphics. Taking a segment in time to talk about them, the CGI and the visual FX, Krrish 3 is by far India’s best dive into the unknown waters of visual effects—particularly at such a grand scale. In comparison to Hollywood standards, the effects seem trivial at times, but excluding those moments, few and far in between, the team of Krrish 3 has meticulously created unbelievable imageries and enhanced the graphics—presenting India’s first superhero science fiction movie, especially on the pedestal Krrish 3 finds itself, as a visually bombastic superhuman action drama. To clear the air, there may not be a parallel between Gravity (2o13) and Krrish 3, but neither is there a parallel to Krrish 3 in Bollywood, or any movie to come out of India. The VFX is international quality—transcendental. For the film industry, especially with Bollywood going the Hollywood way, for good or bad, Krrish 3 has opened the gate.

When we look at the Krrish franchise from a commercial perspective, Indian audiences have been very dodgy of superhero and fantasy movies. It is a stunning statement that Koi Mil Gaya was the first ever fantasy, science fiction movie to become a blockbuster in India. Even so, Koi Mil Gaya wasn’t exactly a full-blown techno movie; it was a drama, a retelling of a story of one special boy. Three years later, when the first superhero of India was born, Rakesh Roshan didn’t project Krrish as a complete superhero movie. Romance and family drama, with impressive stunts—and a protagonist with superhuman powers—seemed to be the spine of the movie. When arriving to the third episode of the trilogy, Krrish 3 comes to its own—putting a mask of a techno marvel and appearing as a complete superhero flick with stunning visuals and sequences, where the technology has overtaken the dramaturgies of the earlier two films in the trilogy. Not without a balance, though—so would Rakesh Roshan suggest. The melodrama finds itself drifting throughout the movie. Rakesh Roshan cracks this intelligent line to treat this experience as a manifestation of supernatural powers, with the Indian spices of drama alive and flowering the on screen daring of one Krrish—thereby striking a crucially needed balance.


Hrithik Roshan as Rohit Mehra delivers a genuine and natural performance. The use of the adjective startling would be an understatement for the performance is filled with innocence, accuracy, and spontaneity. As he did a decade ago, Hrithik Roshan chameleons himself into the genius who forgot to grow up channeling a physical look and mannerism that would prompt anybody to forget that the actor playing Rohit and Krrish is the same. It was inspiring. To much disappointment, conversely, Hrithik doesn’t have the same power as Krishna or Krrish. The acrobatics, stunts, and Hrithik’s look as Krrish cannot be faulted, but Hrithik, as Krishna, is bland and as Krrish is decent. On a side note, the mask doesn’t offer any realistic protection to Krrish’s identity, and since identity protection is of such importance, the scene in which Kaya fails to recognize Krrish as Krishna appears phony and a tad unrealistic. Also, Hrithik as Krishna looks too jacked up and built for any normal person to believe that he isn’t some supermodel or at least, a wrestler. Whilst it suits his superhero alter-ego to the core, but as an ordinary person, that’s too super. Amidst all of this, Krrish’s main job is the action part, the super action—where he is very impressive.

Hrithik’s leading lady; however, with all due respect, couldn’t have been a more irritating outfit. From her dressing style, gestures, to her dialects, Priyanka Chopra appeared as some teenage music icon over a wife and a journalist that she was playing in the movie. It was only after the interval, when Priyanka Chopra didn’t have much to do except shed tears, did she cease to become irksome. Kangna Ranaut was decent, but her face carried an awkwardness that was difficult to decode. Nothing special, but with a stronger role and a far more accomplished act than Priyanka Chopra, Kangna gave a very functional performance.

The least of the stars amongst the actors, bare minimum, yet the actor who delivered a powerful and unnerving performance as Kaal, Vivek Oberoi—a cold, restrained, and sadistic performance by a man curtailed by time and fate. Almost at the level of previous great villains of Hindi cinema, Vivek Oberoi was Kaal and not the other way around. Prodigious—from his look, his dialogs, his facial expressions, and his demeanor as the unworldly sadist—Vivek Oberoi was on his game.

Fused into the theme of Universal Humanhood, Krrish 3 is a pleasurable superhero entertainer with fantastic visuals, a solid plot, and some natural performances. A remarkable step up for Bollywood and despite its flaws and loopholes, Krrish 3 is what people call—a very good commercial movie. A journey worth to the theaters considering the ticket prices, your coffee or soda, and those sandwiches or popcorns, fans of Bollywood should give this movie at least one chance, notwithstanding the comparison to Hollywood. Appreciate it as an Indian superhero science drama, Krrish 3 is a dramatization of an Indian superhero, with brilliant visual effects—some eye sparkling, some decent, but all worth the price—ultimately shaping up as a thoroughly enjoyable experience.


By the way, Sonia Mehra’s (Rekha) exclusion from the movie and her mysterious death was rather sad. But since we are in a killing spree—Nisha (Preity Zinta) died in between of Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish, while Sonia in between Krrish and Krrish 3—here’s hoping Priya Mehra (Priyanka Chopra) “dies” in between Krrish 3 and Krrish 4! Had to lay that down…