Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Thursday, 28 January 2016

SAALA KHADOOS: DECENT BUT UNDERWHELMING DESPITE A ROCKING MADHAVAN AND A SWEET RITIKA



There are many things to like about the Hindi- Tamil bilingual film, Saala Khadoos (also releasing as Irudhi Suttru) starting from the perfect title, the simple concept by director, Sudha Kongara who has debuted with a Tamil film earlier, the very credible co-producer, Rajkumar Hirani and it’s realistic cast.

There is a khadoos and bitter boxing coach—the usually pleasant Madhavan now sporting a beard, long unkempt hair barely revealing his eyes and lots of bulk, along with a constantly growling voice---and there is an untrained but God gifted fisherwoman—a real life kick boxer and a non actress, Ritika Singh  ---- who thinks nothing of blowing some fists at anyone in sight, including her insufferably rude coach.

Madhavan’s Adi and Ritika’s Madhi are a refreshing sight in their shabbiest best. Unlike Priyanka in Mary Kom, there is not an inch of make up on Ritika’s face. Instead, there are all kinds of expressions, ranging from raw anger to more anger, unbridled joy and love to determination and triumph.

Saala Khadoos follows the regular Sports film format- that of an underdog trained by a wronged and embittered former boxing hero who could have won a championship. The underdog appeals that much more because it’s a woman and that too from a very poor family fisher people in a village in Chennai. There is a rival coach (Zakir Khan) and head of Sports Association, who is the enemy from the past. There is a nice ally, a junior Chennai coach (Nasser) who brings in some melodrama along with Madhi’s sister (Mumtaz Sorcar) in a nice but predictable subplot.

All these put together, start off really well against the backdrop of a rustic Chennai, with a smattering of some funny dialogues. But soon, each scene gets clich├ęd and the focus shifts dangerously towards romance. The conflicts are too blah and seen before.

One keeps waiting for the adrenalin to kick in, the kind that gives you a Sports film high, the old wounds along with the new, in boxing rings which should get the blood to boil; the challenging, harder blows inside boxing rings that should bring out cries of ‘oh no’. Unfortunately, there are very few boxing match sequences and the film moves directly to the grand finale, without giving us the satisfaction of the mean and tough fight.


So, when the eventual blood and glove moment comes, you don’t exactly cheer. Instead, you mildly tear up when Madhavan in his finest moment, chokes, “Meri Mohammad Ali.”

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3 review: Riteish's special appearance the only cool thing in this awesomely boring sex comedy

(First Published in Firstpost)
The first thing you see on screen are two oranges. Lemons and oranges are the oldest tricks in the trade for attempting adult humour at a woman’s anatomy. You yawn and wait for the banana in the third installment of Ekta Kapoor’s Kyaa Kool Hain Hum 3.
Instead you see crows and parrots and dogs and rats. Oh, there is also a screwdriver.
And of course, the most inane and lamest of three actors Tusshar Kapoor, Aftab Shivdasani, Krishna Abhishek — all of whom seem willing to hang upside down, do anything to be the joker which of course involves constantly taking off their pants — is Kapoor.
In Kapoor’s case, it also involves donning a red saree and constantly going cock eyed. Not sure if that would make you laugh or cry. More likely— SCRAM AND SCOOT.
For those interested in Big Boss's popular participant Mandana Karimi, yes she is seen in bikinis but she only flutters her pretty eyelashes and nothing more. However, in the movie there are three other women willing to show their cleavage and do only one constant act — that of lusty pouts and purrs.
Gizelle Thakral has a name like Meri Lee and Claudia Ciesla is Suckoo — short for Shakuntala. Writers Milap Zaveri and Mushtaq Sheikh must have exhausted their creative juices while thinking up those suggestive names because they had nothing left to offer by way of story line or dialogues. The story is crappy and lines are crassier. The third lady in the film is Meghna Naidu, who plays Kapoor’s masi lusting after Aftab’s Rocky.
So there are these women flaunting and throwing themselves at men’s feet (there is one even washing Abhishek’s feet) and on their beds. Oh, there is also a fourth entrant— Sushmita Mukherjee in a spoof on Black’s Rani Mukherjee who plays dumb, makes noises (no, not those, you naughty people), which her poodle interprets and barks and which in turn is interpreted by someone who looks like Johnny Lever.
Eventually, she too lusts after one of the men. It’s difficult to remember who, since by now one is only gazing at the huge parrot carried by Kapoor’s would be father-in-law Darshan Jariwala who is named Surya Karjatya (writers so clever about spoofing on Barjatya). One can only marvel at all these actors who work seriously hard at being funny and miserably fail to evoke a single smile if not a giggle. How uncool is that?
Apparently, Abhishek’s Mickey believes that Kapoor’s Kanhaiya and Rocky have umm… a “special talent”. So he calls them to Thailand (where else for sleazy humour) and makes them act in his porn films.
The “special talent” is explained by two crows propped up in a swimming pool, several inches away from the two naked men positioned in the water carefully. So that explains the crows in the movie.
As for the rat, where do you think it was? Of course, in Kanhaiya’s pants, doing its own little dance.
Which leaves the best part: the screwdriver. Since this movie attempts to pathetically spoof on various Bollywood movies within the short porns made by Micky and that includes Sholay as Kholay and even Mughal e Azam; there is also one movie involving Riteish Deshmukh and a screwdriver. While Deshmukh sensibly avoids featuring in one of the ‘porns’, he appears at a mall and does a Rowan Atkinson from Love Actually.
Now, if you are still interested in the nuts and bolts of all these animals, go ahead. But if you want to see Tusshar Kapoor running in a red saree to the tunes of The Dirty Pictures, escaping from his own father (Shakti Kapoor) lusting after her/him, removing oranges from his blouse, stripping on a beach, it’s entirely your funeral….sorry…call.

Airlift review: Thanks to Raja Menon's skilful direction, this is Akshay Kumar's 'Chak De India'

(First Published in FirstPost)
Fifteen minutes into Airlift, in a very simple, quiet, slow motion sequence, a defeated looking, bearded Indian man drives past the burning city of Kuwait.
Young Iraqi army men, barely in their teens, are out on the streets, guns in their hands, with the power of Saddam Hussein’s terror in their walk. The torturous sights of a city under siege continue to be seen in the rear view mirror of the car. One of the first thoughts you have as a viewer is that Camerawoman Priya Seth’s story-centric cinematography is deeply compelling in Airlift.
Just the night before, the Indian chauffeur was driving a man along with his wife to a party. The man is now huddled at the steering wheel, sobbing. His name is Ranjit Katyal.
By now, you have forgotten he is Akshay Kumar, the action hero who was last seen performing a rocking bhangra, with a vibrant turban on his head, in Singh is Bling. Kumar is an ordinary looking Katyal, and this itself is a huge achievement for someone of his star stature, thanks primarily to the smoothest direction by Raja Krishna Menon.
There is no unnecessary dramatic build up of any kind of commercial heroism, despite a few seconds of Kumar breaking into both Bollywood dance steps as well as a tiny fight sequence. It’s not just about the way Kumar performs and keeps it subtle and silent. It’s also about the way Menon reveals his character without going overboard. The very tone of Airlift is devoid of any drama, right till the last frame. The music supports the subtext, the camera is unobtrusive and the film simply lets the story flow. Right into your heart and your conscience.
This is Menon’s third film after Bas Yun hi (2003) and Barah Aana (2009). It is also one of the finest films based on a real event, after Shimit Amin’s Chak De India. If the Indian flag in Chak De India arouses tearful emotions of joy, pride and redemption, the same flag seen in Jordan, at a certain point in Airlift, is bound to bring a similar lump to the throat.
And it’s not just the big moments that are poignant. It’s a given that the main story based on the historic incident of rescue evacuation of Indians from Kuwait during Hussein’s attack in 1990, has all the makings of the most inspiring piece of cinema. But the script’s charm lies in the smaller stories within the larger picture.
Small subplots like that of Ibrahim (Purab Kohli) looking for a missing newly wedded wife, is made more touching by simple quiet exchanges with Katyal. Another powerful thread pertaining to the Indian political machine and one bureaucrat’s vital role and its treatment, brings in the right kind of realism to the story. Kumud Misra chews this part with the ease of a hungry dog and meaty bone. Other minor characters play the voice of a common man looking out for their selfish needs in moments of crisis. One such person, George, is played brilliantly by Prakash Belawadi. Inaamulhuq plays the loathful Iraqi villain with conviction and relish, his slim frame notwithstanding.
Nimrat Kaur, who won many hearts in The Lunchbox, is more of a distraction in her glamorous look and is the weakest link in the film despite having a long speech moment.
Ultimately, it’s the heartwarming story of achieving the impossible and larger human conscience in Airlift that rules. What do you do when, in the words of Katyal, “Saddam hamare ghar ghus aaya hai?"
Well, as two real life heroes, Matthew and Vedi did -- you make calls and more calls for days to the passive Delhi Government office, patiently negotiate with frightful people like Iraqi generals and bravely travel to Baghdad. You use your mind as the only weapon and most importantly, your conscience. Then, all it takes are around 500 airlines, a few good men in the ministry to practically airlift around 1, 70,000 Indians from Kuwait to Mumbai.
Kudos to Menon for giving us Akshay Kumar’s Chak De India.

Never a victim, but a trailblazer: Life lessons from Sunny Leone's interview with Bhupendra Chaubey

(First Published in Firstpost)
I didn’t think that this is wrong. I thought of it as being beautiful, and I thought they’re sexy, they’re beautiful, they’re free, they’re doing whatever they want to do. And that’s how I saw it.
When Sunny Leone honestly responded to the question of her career choice in the infamous interview, she revealed amazingly candid honesty and courage. So much so that it ended up honoring a so-called dishonorable profession. More than the nature of the interview, the narrative seems to have shifted towards how bada** Sunny Leone is, and how she maintained her calm. Surely, there's a lot to be learned from her.
Here are some life lessons that the most searched woman on Google taught us, thorough this interview.
Lesson 1: What may be ‘wrong’ for society can be “right” for you as an individual
“Sexy” and “ beautiful” in Sunny Leone’s response doesn’t just imply the body but the attitude. It’s beautiful to be free. It’s sexy to be who you are. What Sunny saw in those naked women she is referring to, at the age of 18-19, was a sense of liberty to be themselves, irrespective of the judgement of ‘right’ or ‘ wrong’.
Lesson 2: Own your past and be proud of it.
Your past is a part of who you are. When you honour it, you empower both the present and the future.
If Sunny can acknowledge that nothing is a mistake and she would willingly make the same choices, it speaks a lot about the faith in one’s decisions; society and it’s social ‘values’ be damned. Her current position in Bollywood is a classic case of making the best lemonade out of the lemons in her basket.
Lesson 3: Only hard and honest work counts. Not what others think.
The common fear amongst everyone is that they don’t take certain actions out of the fear of being judged. Stop caring about the world. Instead, care for what you want and what you have to do to get it. Work. Work hard. That’s indeed true worship. To the self.
Lesson 4: Stand up for yourself without overreacting.
The mention of an Aamir Khan, the so called hero or the biggest, most ‘respectable’ actor, is clearly meant to provoke Sunny Leone into feeling small in comparison. But Sunny refused to react and gave the perfect answer. An Aamir Khan or any other actor refusing to work with her does not reflect on her. She is who she is — another Khan fan in this case.
Lesson 5: Do not apologise for who you are
Many women around you are prone to be insecure, if you have an attractive personality. The insecure ones need to understand that no one is after their man or prize or whatever. The secure ones need to be accepting of the rest. As for the man in question, well, we are giving him way too much importance.
Lesson 6: Business is not a dirty word
Work for passion, money follows. There is no difference in the way one earns money. Like she puts it, the interviewer is getting paid to ask her these questions just like she is paid to do her job. There is no shame in either work or money.
Here is Sunny Leone's response to the love and affection shown to her after the interview:
“Hey everyone, I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the love, all the support you’ve given me over the last couple of days. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, and I wouldn’t be here without your love. Just as much love as you’re giving me, I want to give you all the love in the world back – so, I love you guys.”
And finally, Lesson 7: Be graceful in your victory
Be graceful in your gratitude and refuse to be the victim. Her very simplicity and refusal to sound righteous even after all the support she received post the interview, shows a very sorted and level headed, confident woman.
A pioneer. That’s Sunny Leone in her new avatar.

'Chalk N Duster' review: Juhi, Shabana's performance shows that you are only as old as your feel

(First Published on Firstpost)
A helmet covers the face of a lady pushing 50, who is driving a scooter and is dressed in a simple salwar kameez. You watch her middle class life go by. Routine, like the Mumbai traffic. Sitting pillion, another Maharashtrian lady in her 60s, sits with her saree pallu tucked around her head, huge sunglasses covering her eyes. The two chat away happily.
Then the lady with the helmet, smiles. And all the famous Yash Chopra sequences of her dancing, shaking her head and smiling to the famous song, “tu haan kar ya naa kar, tu hai meri Kiran…” from the film Darr flash you by. Faster than the Mumbai traffic.
Did Juhi Chawla or any other Yash Chopra heroine in beautiful yellow or white chiffons, ever think during their wonderful starry heyday , that they would be happy to look unglamorous and as ordinary as a regular scooter driving school teacher? Well, here she is: rocking it in a lead role better than some of her previous, decorative ones. She continues to essay the sweet, happy go lucky character that she masterfully performed in movies like Yes Boss and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman.
But this time, she is the boss who means business. Juhi Chawla plays Jyoti, a teacher who slams her resignation letter to the ambitious school principal — Kamini Gupta’s (Divya Dutta), in a bid to support an ailing, older teacher, Vidya (Shabana Azmi).
Jyoti and Vidya are dedicated teachers who have given their lives in service to their students in Kanta Ben school. When Gupta takes over as the new Principal, she decides to get rid of old school teachers in an effort to make the school into a profit making institution.
What follows is a rather, slow and most unimaginative and simplistic plot, told like a kindergarten explanation to little children. Jayant Gilatar, in his debut film as director, takes up a good and very relevant subject but his treatment is as “outdated” as Principal Gupta.
Yet Chalk n Duster touches you with its honesty and its well-placed intention. The three actresses in central roles—Chawla, Azmi and Dutta, carry the film firmly on their forty plus shoulders, with the men – Sameer Soni and Girish Karnad, playing minor, supporting roles.
Azmi who cannot look helpless even if she is tied to a hospital bed, manages to dole out a heart rending performance, in a simple telephone exchange with Karnad. Dutta as the old-fashioned vamp, is equally impactful, despite her sweet looks, grey contacts and an ill fitting wig.
Jackie Shroff and Rishi Kapoor make guest appearances in roles which are unintentionally funny. Shroff, known for his “Bidu” language and diction, is miscast as a rival school chairman, attempting to speak in impeccable English.
Richa Chadda, in a supporting role as a news anchor, looks equally uncomfortable. In an effort to add aunthenticity, she is given a Gujarati dialogue, which only adds to the actor’s apparent discomfort.
The very fact that we have a decent, heartwarming story with three women, who are neither glamorous or young — playing central characters — is reason enough to applaud Chalk n Duster. More power to middle aged heroines who deserve as much screen space as the 50-year-olds Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan.

Wazir review: Farhan is the Badshah, but Bachchan is mechanical in Vidhu Chopra's laborious gimmick

(First published on Firstpost)
Wazir hooks you in the beginning, with its technical finesse. The film starts with a smooth, slow motion nikaah of the perfectly good looking couple: Daanish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) and Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari).
The melodious song "Tere Bin" covers a few years more; we see the couple with a child and a family life. Soon they are in a car, the dad driving and managing a cute, little daughter in the back seat, adjusting her ghungroos for an upcoming dance performance. The tension in that happy family sequence is palpable, and leads to a gripping action sequence, thanks to skillful camera work and editing, and helmed by an equally confident director, Bejoy Nambiar.
The rapid pace is maintained through the first half of Wazir and by interval time, you look forward to the rest of the film. But by the end, you feel like the chess player who has been told ‘checkmate’ a bit too soon and a bit too easily.
The film plays out exactly as if Vidhu Vinod Chopra woke up one morning and exclaimed, "What an idea!" Yes, one can congratulate him on it, but that’s all it is: an idea with lots of wannabe, clever chess moves that boils down to one big gimmick costing some multi crores to provide an experience any entertaining game can give.
Moving back to the film. There are two chess players who bond over two dead people and a common enemy-- a politician, Yezaad Qureshi (Manav Kaul). Daanish has a professional guise of a suspended ATS officer. Yes, it looks like a guise as all the anti terrorist activity is too sketchy.
The other player—Pandit Omkarnath (Amitabh Bachchan) has an even thinner guise. He says he teaches chess to little children and also directs them in plays. He has lost his legs, is wheelchair bound, has uncombed, grey hair and a glazed expression in his eyes. He appears out of the blue, or rather a dark night, outside a graveyard, flashes blinding car headlights on a suicidal Daanish. Soon they meet and they talk about their dead one. Well, Pandit talks, Daanish listens. They play chess, drink vodka, chase revenge and things escalate when a villain called Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh) makes a dramatic entry.
The screenplay by Chopra and Abhijat Joshi moves fast, despite some tiresome chess metaphors of horses, kings and pawns and of course the all important queen–the wazir (read in Bachchan drawl). Some nice lines are added for the entertainment effect, which work quite well, “shatranj hota to haathi ghode daudte, kutte nahin”.
The moment the empathy moves from Daanish to Pandit, the script loses steam. Both have personal tragedies, but one never feels Pandit’s pain. This is partly because of Pandit’s unbelievable character made worse by Bachchan’s theatrical performance.
Farhan’s intensely sensitive reactions to any situation without a hint of melodrama, as a helpless man suffering from guilt, keeps you emotionally invested in the film. He does not have a single, powerful dialogue in the film. Those, of course are reserved for the Badshaah of dialogue delivery, Bachchan. But every time Bachchan says something moving, it is Farhan’s silent reaction that brings out the deeper emotion. As they say, reacting is also acting and Farhan has truly mastered it.
Manav Kaul as the bad politician makes an impact with his pleasant face and smile, masking the evil within. Neil Nitin Mukesh has always had a strong presence in negative roles and makes the most out within a limited duration. John Abraham does not seem sure about why he is playing a cameo and neither are you. Aditi Rao Hydari has never looked more beautiful and convincing and is a welcome change from glamorous heroines we usually see on screen.
However, the actors can only do so much. The fun of any game is not in the winning or losing but in the chase and the challenge. Things happen too easily and quickly in Wazir. The moment Daanish wants to take on an opponent, he does it at the speed of chess horses and elephants, combined. Right in the beginning, he gets his immediate revenge. No sweat, no toil, no tears. It’s as if the script is charging, full ammunition towards the big revelation in the end, like a prize at the end of a treasure hunt.
Treated like a game of chess, Wazir ends up as just that and no more. Nambiar’s direction and Farhan’s performance display their individual talents but do little for the film as a whole. Wazir boils down to nothing but an expensive gimmick. So that producer Chopra can say a smug, ‘checkmate’.

Chauranga review: This film on caste oppression is pale in comparison to Marathi film 'Fandry'

(First published in Firstpost)

After Chauranga ends, the statistics on screen inform you that two Dalits are murdered everyday. There are some more numbers on rapes and other atrocities on the Dalits. Director Bikas Ranjan Mishra’s debut film attempts to address the caste and gender disparity in India. Since the 2013 Marathi classic film, Fandry dealt with a similar subject of a low caste teenager falling in love with a high caste family girl, Chauranga comes across as a mere shadow in comparison.
The treatment is very self-conscious and more general. You see a village and dire poverty, water is scarce, pigs, goats and snakes are abound, a plate of boiled rice is shared by two teenage brothers. There is one divide; that of Zamindars from the higher Brahmin caste and labourers from the lower Dalit caste—the untouchables. Every time there is progress in the Zamindar’s household like the inauguration of a water pump or a tractor, coconuts are broken, a male guest’s feet are washed by a Dalit woman, arti is performed by the upper caste woman.

While at one level, a teenager boy’s crush on a girl unfolds, at another level, we see all sorts of sexual exploits by the upper caste. Sexual perversion is hinted at and sometimes takes away from the central teenage love story. The constant movement from the low caste household belonging to a single woman- Dhaniya (Tannishtha Chatterjee) trying to get her two children (probably the outcome of her compliance to the Zamindar’s sexual dictat) educated; to the upper caste household on whom she is dependant; shows the stark contrast in their lives.

The Zamindar’s (Sanjay Suri) reluctance to send his daughter to school and his wife, Nidhi’s (Arpita Chatterjee) existence as a mere prop to perform pujas or worse—Devi sacrificial act to bring down his fever, effectively display the male, rightful dominance over women, irrespective of caste. Interestingly, both the women understand this and try in their own way to overcome the situation by making sure their children get educated for future escape.
Dhaniya gets her elder son, Bajrangi (Riddhi Sen) to touch the Zamindaar’s feet at every opportunity so that his education gets funded. Her constant endeavor is to get her reluctant and rebellious younger son, Santu (Soham Maitra) to touch the Zamindar’s feet to help him get educated. The two brothers constantly face bullying from the two older sons of the Zamindaar. Santu falls in love with the Zamindaar’s daughter, Mona (Ena Saha) and asks Bajrangi to write a love letter to her. The plot so far, along with each character’s daily struggle against oppression, has great potential.
But when the story goes overboard in showing the Zamindar’s blind, old father’s sexual perversions, it mixes various subplots and leaves every thread half told by the end. The pace slackens along with old man’s slow walk and daily night trips to feed his pet goat. With insufficient time invested in the two brothers, Santu and Bajrangi, the film loses any real connect.
At best, Chauranga comes across as a typical art-house, festival film in its observation of rural Bihar and its grossly unfair social dynamics.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Kangana in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Deepika in Piku: Best female characters of 2015

(This was first published in Firstpost.com)
We were greeted with a myriad of female characters this year in Hindi cinema. On one hand we had the vibrant Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and on the other hand we hand Deepika Padukone playing Mastani in Bajirao Mastani as well as the fiesty Tara in Tamasha. Here's a look at some of our favourite female characters from 2015:
Tanu (Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu Returns
The eccentric and dramatic Tanu was Kangana and Kangana was Tanu, in Tanu Weds Manu Returns this year. Her back is seen, a long jacket wrapped around her slim frame; she's roaming the streets of Kanpur, in the dead of night, a glass of liquor in her hand, lost in the old strains by Geeta Dutt, “Ja ja ja bewafaa…”.
Tanu is the proverbial wife who can drive a husband really mad. So mad that he actually lands up in an asylum in London. When the tragedy queen transforms to a wild and defiant ex-wife, dancing at her husband’s second wedding, the fierce rage and anguish in her hip swings and the mask of celebratory expressions make Kangana Ranaut the undisputed queen of hysterics.
In a film where it’s all crazy and complicated, director Anand Rai, along with writer, Himanshu Sharma, created characters who are madly and hopelessly in love.
Datto (Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu Returns)
It was a tough choice between Tanu and Datto. Datto is an athlete who puts up such a brave fight against her village family rooted in caste beliefs. You can’t help falling for her, just like Manu (Madhavan) does.
When Datto gives a self-defiant speech in Haryanvi, fighting for herself respect while saying that she is an athlete who gets admission in a Delhi college on her own merit and can earn her own living unlike Tanu, she evokes a resounding applause. More so, Kangana sounds like a real Haryanvi. Her fiery spirit, boy cut and big teeth (kudos her stylist) prove to be tough competition for Tanu’s mad moods, pretty bangles, jhumkas and seductive curls.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin from Margarita With a Straw)
Margarita is an intoxicating cocktail made of tequila with orange and lemon flavor. It can be served in any traditional Margarita glass or a wine glass. But when served with special straw to a charming and naughty 19 year old, Laila, it can be heady and fun but far from perfect.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) ready to fall in love and get laid. When curious, she drags her best pal, to a college classroom and kisses him. When horny, she logs on to a porn site and pleasures herself. At a shop, she naughtily asks for a vibrator and laughs when the shopkeeper frantically talks about cellphones. On being attracted to a hot Assamese singer, she experiences her first heartbreak.
Both Laila and us don’t care within the first 15 minutes of Margarita With a Straw that she is not “normal”. Laila is not just another adolescent on the threshold of love and sex. She is a wheelchair-bound girl with cerebral palsy. Kalki brings in a lovely, fresh approach with a very endearing open-mouthed smile and a brilliant speech default delivery.

Piku (Deepika Padukone in Piku)Piku is defined by her difficult relationship with her father, in the film Piku written by one of the best writers in the industry -- Juhi Chaturvedi. Piku is a contemporary, modern, Indian daughter. She is like the hot, spicy jhaalmuri and her father, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) is double dose of mustard oil. Difficult to digest or even like initially, but by the time he has properly bulldozed his way into your life, you’ll find yourself longing for that rasping holler of “Pikuuuu!”
While Piku is aware of her father’s demanding and selfish need for her to be around forever, she resigns herself to living a single daily drama of her Baba’s major problem — that of achieving the nirvana of a perfect bowel movement. All she asks him daily is, "Hua?”
When not seen as a daughter, the sexually liberated side to her is the most striking part. She looks at sex purely as a “need”to be met by a willing friend and colleague.
Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra in Bajirao Mastani)
In Indian history, Kashibai has been known to be a remarkable and dignified first wife of Peshwa Bajirao. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s glamourised Bollywood interpretation, along with writer, Prakash Kapadia, has unwittingly endeared Kashibai to us forever.
In her perfectly Marathi accented “chaala”, her poise, her unspoken, betrayed wife act and her beautifully choreographed scene with Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) when she asks him never to see her again; Priyanka Chopra is Kashibai and Kashibai is Priyanka.

Open letter to Shah Rukh and Kajol: Dilwale is not DDLJ Part II and your romantic chemistry is wasted

(This was first published in Firstpost.com)
Dear Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol,
Remember when you two jumped up and down, bobbing along with a basketball, wore your silliest grins, teased each other with your signature tune, and called each other a cheater in Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai?
Well, we feel cheated after watching the most awaited film of the year— Dilwale.
You both were simply adorable as college kids back then. Today, you are downright explosive in your over-hyped chemistry.
Did you let the director, Rohit Shetty fool you into believing this would be a DDLJ 2 or did you decide to fool all your fans into expecting the same?
Yes, we know that Mr. Shetty is not exactly known for mushy romance. The trailer seemed promising with its ability to mix chemistry and action. What happened to that promise?
Shah Rukh, when you almost reenacted the iconic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge scene, sitting on the grass and Kajol lying on your lap and discussing how you would convince your families, didn’t you just miss the presence of the source of conflict — Amrish Puri?
Which brings us to a crucial point; who was the villain in Dilwale? Was it the past your characters shared? If so, why wasn’t there enough of it?
Kajol, we loved you in your high stilettoes, and a new, slimmer and very glam look. We only wish you had asked the makers to cut down on photoshop alterations, as it ended up reminding us of the Cherry Blossom shoe polish that brings so much glow and shine. But we're willing to let this one pass, given that your contagious smile and huge eyes are enough to light up the entire country, let alone the silver screen.Shah Rukh, we loved your intense expressions. They really work as much as your dimpled smiles and your signature arm pose, no matter how familiar they get. In fact, there is sort of relationship between each of your charming expressions and your fans. We know you know it and you know the camera knows it. It never fails to get the whistles going in the theatres.
So we don’t mind at all that you both run across a cold lake in exotic locales in slow motion, as if you are in your twenties. It’s as much fun to see you both sing away with rainbows and waterfalls in the backdrop. Old memories of “suraj hua madhham” get triggered and we are happy seeing you in the same mould once again. That’s the charm of good, old Bollywood where you can go on spoofing on your own lines, "Rahul…naam to suna hoga” .
But did you have to let Mr. Shetty take so much liberty that every scene seem formulaic and unoriginal? He has blatantly copied scenes from Love Actually and the TV show How I Met Your Mother.
Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon are decent actors in their own right. Varun is fairly popular among the younger lot, and maybe Mr Shetty believes that he could draw the audience with his humour.
Shah Rukh, you are as brilliant at comedy as romance. There were some nice moments between Varun and you, who plays your younger brother. Your timing was bang on, but the major comic elements went to Varun and his friend, Sidhu ( Varun Sharma ) or to Sanjay Mishra as the friend’s father. You seemed happy to simply stand by, with an all-knowing look, as Varun and the new villain entrant, Mr King ( Boman Irani) romp around in big hats and pink jackets, trying to be funny.
Did Mr Shetty tell you that the script was about you and Kajol and how the younger couple would be instrumental in bringing the two of you together? Or did he tell you that you two would sing songs, have one romantic scene and one hate scene, with plenty of cars and bullets thrown in?
Allow us inform you that you both don’t need so many characters to crowd your script. You can fool around on screen, sing and dance, crack PJs, have a blast with sexy wheels and guns and entertain us as meaninglessly as Chennai Express. But, please be there on screen as promised. Just the two of you. Because you two look sexier than ever. Because you are wonderful actors and rocking superstars who deserve better scripts. You're the ultimate screen pair who just missed a great opportunity to recreate the magic, amid all this chaos in Dilwale.
No Thank You,
Your heartbroken fans.

Priyanka Chopra overshadows everyone in Bhansali's dazzling but not perfect magnum opus

(This was first published in Firstpost.com)
The twirl of Mastani’s (Deepika Padukone) long, layered, utterly gorgeous beige gold kalidar kurta, the rhythmic swirl of her tall lissome figure, the fiery defiant adoration for her lover, Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), in her deep, flashing eyes, her beautifully choreographed dance reflected in the mirrors of the most enchanting palace; the soulful song, 'Deewani Mastani' will and should go down in the history of cinema as the perfect amalgamation of all that the director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, stands for.
The song may be an ode to the classic Mughal-e-Azam’s 'Pyaar kiya to darna kiya,' but it is also the classic Bhansali signature.
The elements are all the there: pain, angst, art, unattainable love, rebellion, melodrama, perfect beauty in the detailing — right from the actresses’ strand of hair near the ears, to the flick of her long fingers, to the matching colours of the magnum opus sets reflective of the mood; and above all the inevitable, eternal triangle.
In fact, Bajirao Mastani may as well be the third in the trilogy of triangle love stories after Devdas and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Each has it’s memorable touch: Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam had the best music with Albela Sajan still haunting the ears; Devdas, in its tragic melodrama and the ultimate star cast, with Madhuri Dixit’s best dances at display.
The hysterics, the drama, the ultra ornate look; all magnified and mounted with a brilliant background score which is like the Opera during the climax; come together in Bajirao Mastani.
The subject itself is classic - a slice of 17th -18th century history. The regime of Peshwas and Maratha warriors, when the most successful warrior, Bajirao, a Brahmin who fell in love with Mastani, a dancer and a warrior princess with half Muslim blood. To add to the conflict, Bajirao was already married to Kashi (Priyanka Chopra). Facing opposition from all fronts, Bajirao made a separate palace for his second wife, Mastani, called Mastani Mahal. But did the two live happily ever after? History and folklore tell the rest.
Bhansali, of course, tells it mega Bollywood style, complete with delightful dialoguebaazi like. “Jo mehboob ko dekhe to khuda ko bhool jaaye who ishq”.
Adapted from a Marathi novel, Rau, by NS Inamdar, the film takes on its own dimension with a cast that is an absolute ill-fit for anything remotely Maratha. Ranveer Singh as a Peshwa with the bald head with a single choti and tilak, Priyanka Chopra as his Maratha wife with her silk navvaris, half moon bindi, nose ring and constant usage of the Marathi word “chaala”, and Deepika Padukone in her regal refinery or heavy armour complete with her sword, may all look the part thanks to the costume and styling team.
However, all three are too model-like, too manufactured with their toned abs. Deepika looks ravishing but her contact lenses don’t let you see the historical, strong figure of Mastani. Priyanka's performance touches the most with her moist-eyed dialogue delivery, even though this is not Kashibai’s story. However, her authoritative ‘chaala’ is just not enough to bring real authenticity.While Ranveer adopts the Marathi accent like fish to water, and outdoes himself in the tragic moments, (again the memorable ones are with Kashi, especially their last meeting, when they should be with Mastani) and dances with the expression of a Bollywood hero to the tunes of 'Malhari'.
This is not to say that all three don’t shine in their moments. They do. So does Sonia Gandhi in her cotton sarees and cultivated Hindi.
We see a couple of wars in the film, unfortunately, they are too brief. Used as mere backdrops to the central love story, they could have added more depth to the story the way Mughal-e-Azam did for Salim and Anarkali. Expectedly, Sudeep Chaterjee’s camera captures it all in majestic, stunning shots. The score takes it to another level with the clang of the swords, the thunderous hooves of the horses and the  cries of the warriors that resonate with passion.
If it was the father and son conflict explored then, it has the mother and son conflict now between Radhabai (Tanvi Azmi) and Bajirao. The scenes between the two are few and far between. There is more emotion between Radhabai and Kashibai in their shared moments of helplessness.
The climax peaks like the Opera, which is very reminiscent of Devdas, takes over with complete, awe inspiring, cinematic brilliance in 'bewaqt ki baarish'. The film leaves you with Kashi’s pain instead of Bajirao and Mastani’s, which is the real tragedy in storytelling here.
Bhansali’s Mughal-e-Azam may not be perfect but is a memorable, mesmerizing and dazzling piece of cinematic vision.