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  • Movie Review: Ramaiya Vastavaiya

    Boy meets girl. Falls in love. But family doesn't endorse their relationship. Determined, the lovers resolve to win over the displeased relatives through hard slog, willpower and integrity... Aah, haven't we visited similar themes numerous times in the past? But storytellers the world over tend to replicate stories -- with modifications and alterations, of course -- interpreting the yarn in their individualistic way.

    After regaling spectators with masala entertainers like WANTED and ROWDY RATHORE, Prabhu Dheva unleashes his new outing RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA. Clearly, the promos give an inkling that Prabhu dwells on the age-old formula in his third Hindi outing, a genre that's oft-repeated post MAINE PYAR KIYA [1989]. Come to think of it, not only does RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA bring back memories of MAINE PYAR KIYA, but also ANARI [1993; Venkatesh - Karisma Kapoor, with Suresh Oberoi playing the strict older brother], DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE [1995; SRK - Kajol, with Amrish Puri as the stern father] and PYAAR KIYA TO DARNA KYA [1998; Salman - Kajol, with Arbaaz enacting Kajol's authoritarian brother]. 

    In reality, RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA is the remake of Prabhu Dheva's directorial debut NUVVOSTANANTE NENODDANTANA [Telugu; 2005], which was subsequently remade in other languages. The query is, why tag on the oft-repeated premise for a present-day film? But let me also add that romance is eternal and if one looks at the success ratio of this genre, the results have been fantastic, with almost every top name today having commenced his career with a love saga. 

    RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA may bear similarities with above named movies, but the drama unfurls way too differently here. Sure, there are deja  vu moments, despite the germ of thought being analogous, but Prabhu and screenplay writer Shiraz Ahmed ensure that they pack several novel and mass-friendly punches, introduce new characters, besides packaging it well enough for the entertainment-seeking spectator to lap it up. 

    Ram [Girish Kumar], the Australia-returned youngster, meets Sona [Shruti Haasan] at his cousin's wedding and falls in love with her. He follows her to her farm, run by her brother [Sonu Sood], who is against this match, since Ram is too affluent for them. He throws a challenge at Ram if he has to win Sona's hand in marriage...

    The emphasis is solely and absolutely on providing entertainment in movies such as RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA and Prabhu Dheva has mastered the art since the time he donned the director's hat. The aiming-at-masses director struck the pot of gold in his first two Hindi movies and in RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA too, he ensures he ups the entertainment quotient in every frame. Of course, unlike WANTED and ROWDY RATHORE, where romance was the second-most important ingredient, the love story is the focal point of RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA, but Prabhu is not at sea tackling the genre. Furthermore, this may be atypical love story, with the spectator knowing beforehand what the wrap up would be, but the journey in the second hour specifically is pleasurable, with Prabhu and writer Shiraz Ahmed blending episodes to cater to every strata of the movie-going audience. 

    RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA is not without its share of blemishes. To start with, the sequences between the lovers don't work in entirety. Note the sequence at the bath tub; it only adds to the length of the film. Besides, the narrative tends to stagnate in a few sequences, while a few episodes have been stretched for no particular reason. Cinematography [splendid work by Kiran Deohans] and the action [invigorating fights by Kaushal-Moses] are in tandem with the content of the film. 

    With Kumar Taurani [Tips] in the producer's chair, obviously, the soundtrack has to be rich. It's a given, right? And Sachin-Jigar, the talented jodi, doesn't disappoint either. 'Jeene Laga Hoon' is lilting and has already attained tremendous popularity, while 'Jadoo Ki Jhappi' and 'Rang Jo Lagyo' are wonderful compositions as well. Priya Panchal's lyrics compliment the melodies, while the choreography is eye-catching as well. 

    Obviously, RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA is the launch vehicle for Girish Kumar and the actor gets the opportunity to sing, dance, fight, emote, display varied emotions... in short, the film is meant to be a showreel that shows off his acting credentials. Of course, Girish being a first-timer, there are some rough edges, but the fact is, he's photogenic and goes through the rigmarole with confidence. Whether it his introductory sequence [surfing in the sea] or breaking into a dance, whether he's exposing his chiseled physique or wearing desi outfits, whether he's asked to look innocent or flirtatious, Girish gets it right. 

    Shruti Haasan looks gorgeous and is akin to a breath of fresh breeze. She radiates innocence, but can be naughty the next minute and conveys a lot through her eyes. It would be great to see her in varied roles in times to come. Sonu Sood is exceptional. In fact, this is amongst his finest performances. The film has a gigantic supporting cast comprising of Vinod Khanna, Randhir Kapoor, Poonam Dhillon, Govind Namdev, Satish Shah, Zakir Hussain, Nasser, Sarfaraz Khan, Mushtaq Khan and Paresh Ganatra and each of them enact their respective parts with proficiency. Jacqueline Fernandez and Prabhu Dheva's song is high on energy. 

    On the whole, RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA is a simplistic love story narrated competently. Besides, the chemistry between the lead actors, the gripping second hour and of course, the Hit musical score should contribute to its triumph. Recommended!

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  • Movie Review: D-Day

    The Hindi film industry is indeed going through an exhilarating phase. A variety of movies and assorted stories are being attempted week after week. With a novel tale unfolding every week, a Hindi movie buff has a lot to look forward to.

    Who would've ever anticipated that the maker of poignant and stirring films like KAL HO NAA HO, SALAAM-E-ISHQ and PATIALA HOUSE -- underlining a strong emotional undercurrent in each of those films -- would attempt a film about India's Most Wanted Man? Not me, for sure! But Nikhil Advani ventures into an alien terrain with D-DAY, which, on surface, may seem like yet another gangster film, but it's not. There have been a lot of debates about gangsters who have sought a secure haven on foreign soil and a lot is being said about getting them back to India for trial and justice. But D-DAY is the first Hindi film to explore this pertinent aspect [read burning issue]. 

    The plotline of D-DAY conjures up memories of the 2012 film ZERO DARK THIRTY, which was about the manhunt for the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. However, the similarities between the two films end there. 

    What makes D-DAY relevant and relatable is the fact that Nikhil borrows from real-life headlines/occurrences and gives it a new spin altogether, interpreting the story his way. The basic premise of the film -- RAW agents being assigned the task of bringing back the fugitive crime lord back to India -- evokes tremendous curiosity, but at the same time, Nikhil knows that since the subject matter is sensitive and volatile, it ought to be tackled with extreme concern and caution. Thankfully, Nikhil treats this explosive theme with extreme care. 

    Nine years ago, Wali Khan [Irrfan] was sent to Karachi, Pakistan by the Chief of RAW Ashwini Rao [Nasser] to report the activities of the Most Wanted Man in India. Nine days ago, Rudra Pratap Singh [Arjun Rampal], Indian Armed Forces, Zoya Rehman [Huma Qureshi], RAW Explosives Expert and Aslam [Aakash Daahiya], a petty thief from the streets of Mumbai, recruited by RAW, join Wali in Pakistan to carry out the mission to bring back the Most Wanted Man in India. The man who was going to break all ISI protocol and security and attend his own son's wedding. The man who could, on that day, be abducted and brought back to India to face justice. 

    The team sent in to bring the Most Wanted Man in India did the unthinkable -- they carried out the most daring operation and almost got away with it. Almost, because something went horribly wrong! 

    There have been umpteen debates and discussions to extradite gangsters and criminals operating from foreign land and Nikhil, together with writers Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair, weaves a yarn that's part bona fide, part fiction. D-DAY is gritty and hard-hitting, but most importantly, it's an earnest attempt. The setting appears authentic [D-DAY gives the impression of being filmed in Pakistan], the sequence of events is well connected and the implementation of the written material is compelling. Not once do you feel that Nikhil bites off more than he can chew. 

    D-DAY tackles a knotty issue and it's imperative that Nikhil stays close to authenticity. The demanding plot and the edgy, gritty and raw situations, besides the ambience [recreating Karachi], makes this espionage thriller so different from the gangster films we have witnessed on the Hindi screen thus far. The four patriots, each with a back story, joining hands for a common mission, their expedition and how the hunters become the hunted in the neighbouring country gives the film that edge and power that's hard to expunge from memory. 

    Nikhil reserves the best for the finale. The fight at the border and what ensues blows your mind and can easily be termed as the icing on the cake. Sure, Nikhil and his writers run their imagination wild here, but let me tell you, this finale is sure to meet with wild cheers. The sole hiccup is that the film appears elongated and could've been short and snappy by 10/15 odd minutes. A succinctly narrated theme only aids in augmenting the overall impact, as we know by now. 

    Nikhil keeps the action [Tom Struthers] as real as possible. Besides, the action in D-DAY is not the type that is dominating the Hindi screen of late. It's raw, but believable, keeping in mind the characters the protagonists illustrate. The soundtrack [Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy] is absolutely in sync with the mood of the film. The best track of the film is, without doubt, 'Alvida'. The visuals in the song are mind-blowing. Tushar Kanti Ray's cinematography captures the gritty ambience to perfection. Dialogue [Ritesh Shah and Niranjan Iyengar] are strong and compelling. 

    D-DAY has an ensemble cast, but the scene stealer is, without doubt, Rishi Kapoor. The veteran continues to push boundaries, challenging himself and astonishing the spectators. Recall the man coping with inflation in DO DOONI CHAAR, the stern family patriarch in PATIALA HOUSE, the villainous character in AGNEEPATH, the college dean in STUDENT OF THE YEAR and the ageing romantic in CHASHME BADDOOR. D-DAY proves his versatility yet again as he gets to portray the much-feared don. He's tremendous! 

    Irrfan has always proved himself, irrespective of how good/bad the film may be, and it's no different this time. Of course, the accomplished actor gets a power-packed character and he leaves a stunning impact yet again. The film proves, yet again, his brilliance as an artiste of calibre in several sequences, especially the ones towards the closing stages of the film. Arjun Rampal continues to surprise and evolve as an actor. It seems, he is on an experimenting mood and the character he portrays in D-DAY gives him the opportunity to step forward as an actor. He's top notch! 

    Huma Qureshi too gets ample opportunity to get into a diverse zone with this film and she seizes the prospect instantaneously. She stands on her own, despite the presence of formidable and much-experienced actors in the frame. Shruti Haasan gets a complicated, layered character and she handles it with gusto. The chemistry with Arjun is electrifying as well. Sriswara, portraying the character of Irrfan's wife, is a revelation. She will make heads turn with her talent. Aakash Daahiya is competent. Although the film stars far more experienced names, he grabs you attention every time he appears on screen. 

    Nasser [as RAW chief], K.K. Raina [as Gen. Raza], Chandan Roy Sanyal [as Bhanja], Imran Hasnee [as Saleem Pathan], Nissar Khan [as Niyaaz Ahmed] and Sandeep Kulkarni [as Atul Mishra] -- each of them contribute so much to every sequence. Divij Handa, as Irrfan's kid Kabir, is super. Rajpal Yadav's presence enlivens the song at the very start. 

    On the whole, D-DAY is what a well-made thriller ought to be -- taut, transfixing and spellbinding, with an astounding finale. Don't miss this high-octane thriller!

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  • Movie Review: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

    Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

    Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Pawan Malhotra, Divya Dutta, Sonam Kapoor, Prakash Raj and Dalip Tahil


    Bhaag Milkha Bhaag employs Guru Gobind Singh’s famous words and a sad old Sardaar joke with equal conviction. So where you have the inspirational “Chirian to mein baaz tudaun, gidran to mein sher banaun, sawa lakh se ek ladaun, tabhe Gobind Singh naam kahaun” (I’ll make a sparrow fight a falcon, I’ll make lions out of hyenas, I’ll make one man fight a million warriors and only then will I be called the true guru, Gobind Singh) you also have this rather embarrassing exchange: Stella (Milkha Singh’s Australian love interest) asks “Are you guys relaxing?” to which Milkha (Farhan Akhtar) says, “No! Myself Milkha Singh, 400 meters”. That’s one piece of silly humour you won’t even find in Khushwant Singh’s joke books. This movie is both incredibly inspirational and tedious. It presents the ethos of Milkha Singh to great effect but in its whopping 3 hour 10 minutes run time it employs too many unnecessary dramatic, humour and entertainment elements to distract you from one of the most important sports stories in this nation’s history. Had those histrionics been avoided this would have been the film to watch.

    But take nothing away from the impact of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. It’s a solid biopic drama one that doesn’t unnecessarily glorify its subject. Yes it shows Milkha Singh’s sporting achievements but it doesn’t portray him like a clichéd cinematic hero. Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and writer Prasoon Joshi present the human and emotional value of Milkha Singh’s achievements. What the Flying Sikh achieved in his lifetime was more than just milestones. He conquered the sprinting track in 1958. He was the international athlete of his time. They were historic memories. They’re perhaps the most relevant pieces of sporting history and they deserve to be told with conviction to a generation that would do well to learn something from it. That is what Bhaag Milkha Bhaag does well.

    The credit of reliving Milkha Singh’s journey must go to Farhan Akhtar. He’s not acting, he’s being Milkha Singh. Shots of him sprinting are authentic to perfection. His training, his hard work and his efforts to look like an athlete and to be the sprinter have paid off. This is method acting at its best. Farhan is the sole reason you believe in Milkha’s story. And that chiselled physique may look gimmicky but it only adds to the character.

    But what BMB needed was actual and serious editing. There are too many loose scenes that do nothing more than act as comic fillers. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra makes a silly special appearance and that’s just one scene. The songs are great but they really didn’t need to be choreographed and placed in between the narrative. The music was good enough to be used as an effective background tool. But alas the director chooses otherwise.

    Despite the makers’ best attempts to botch the dramatic impact of BMB, this film still packs a solid punch. It has great casting. Dalip Tahil actually looks like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Divya Dutta breaks your heart and warms it up with equal ease. Pawan Malhotra matches Farhan’s brilliance. Sonam Kapoor in a brief appearance tugs at your heart strings as well. Make no mistake, BMB is intense. It has great visuals thanks to Binod Pradhan’s cinematography and some very good special effects. It has super music. It’s brutally honest in telling a great sporting story. Watch this film to realise greatness doesn’t lie in winning but in picking up the gauntlet. Taking a challenge. Working hard. That is true inspiration.

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