India Insight

Movie Review: Khoobsurat

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If you are looking for a modern version of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s much-loved film of the same name, then Shashanka Ghosh’s “Khoobsurat” may disappoint you.

Mukherjee’s film was centred around Manju (incidentally the name of the main character’s mother in the remake), a rather effervescent heroine who steamrolls her way to everything and takes it upon herself to change the lives of a rather dull family.

Ghosh’s film takes the same premise, but not the middle-class milieu that was the hallmark of Mukherjee’s film. Instead, there are opulent palaces, kings, queens, and even the supposedly middle-class people dust their houses wearing designer outfits and artisan jewellery.

“Khoobsurat” doesn’t set out to be anything more than a candy-floss romance, and to its credit, stays true to its genre. It’s a straight and simple girl-meets-prince-of-her-dreams love story.

The girl in question is Mili Chakravarty, a scatterbrained and rather annoying physiotherapist, who thinks it’s OK to address someone she met five minutes ago by a pet name. She interrupts conversations at will, offers unwanted advice and calls her mother by her first name.

Movie Review: Finding Fanny

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Homi Adajania’s version of Goa, there are winding pathways, crumbling mansions, and the sleepy village of Pocolim where “life doesn’t pass you by, it passes you by at the pace you want it to.”

There is an oddball cast of characters to add to the picturesque location, and some lovely lines. The setting is perfect for a road movie with quirky characters, but Adajania’s film falters for want of a strong premise and its inability to see these characters and their story to some sort of a rightful conclusion.

There is Angie (Deepika Padukone), a young widow who lives with her rather crabby mother-in-law Rosie (Dimple Kapadia) and a cat named Nareus. Angie is friends with Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), a lonely old man who pines for the love of his life – a woman who he thinks turned him down. Thanks to the chance discovery of a decades-old letter, he finds that this isn’t the case. Angie insists that they must find Fanny and achieve closure. No one, she tells Ferdie, deserves an incomplete love story.

Movie Review: Mary Kom

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

At a crucial point in Omung Kumar’s biopic of MC Mary Kom, the boxer’s husband urges her to get back to the sport after giving birth to their twin sons. He eggs her on to train while he handles household responsibilities and in one scene, tells his wife to have a glass of milk to gain strength. Mary Kom stops him right there and says, “Don’t add any sugar, I am going to use Sugar Free.”

A still from "Mary Kom"Immediately, any empathy you were feeling for this character and her struggle is lost. Kumar’s retelling of one of India’s sports success stories is replete with such examples. Not only do they take away from the story’s authenticity, but also cheapen Mary Kom’s real-life struggle, reducing it to a hackneyed Bollywood script.

Mary Kom’s story starts from the time she’s an angry teenage schoolgirl picking fights with her classmates. She stumbles upon a boxing coaching centre and a coach who trains her. Kumar chronicles her rise on the boxing circuit, her love story with football coach Onler (played by Darshan Kumar), and her return to the ring after the birth of her twin sons.

Darshan Kumar says he is the hero of ‘Mary Kom’

darshanbhaiEven though he is not playing the lead in Mary Kom“, debutant actor Darshan Kumar calls himself the hero of the film.

Kumar plays Onler Kom, the on-screen husband of India’s best known female Olympic medallist – portrayed by Priyanka Chopra – and is on the lookout for “meaty” roles.

Conscious about whether his hair was in place and regretting that he didn’t put on some make-up, Kumar met me at a Gurgaon hotel to talk about Chopra and the film.

Representing Manipur: Priyanka Chopra on playing Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra is not a Bollywood actor who waits around for assistants to mic her up, set a TV camera’s white balance and tell her where to look during an interview. When I met her on Tuesday at a posh hotel in Gurgaon, she used the paper I brought with my questions on it for the white balance, told the assistant how and where to set up the mic and opened a bottle of cough syrup, sparing the poor staffer who was struggling with it for her.

“I can get things done,” she said. Indeed, the latest evidence that the 32-year-old superstar is telling the truth is her portrayal of Mary Kom, the Olympic medallist and five-time World Amateur Boxing champion who comes from the far-flung state of Manipur in India’s northeast, an area that is far away from the heart of the country and home to many of its ethnic minorities.

The decision to cast Chopra in the role of Kom has led to accusations that the film’s producers preferred to go with a bankable star rather than another actor from Manipur or elsewhere in the northeast, and has prompted a new round of discussion about the nation’s marginalizing of people from this region. Chopra discussed this and other aspects of playing Kom in our interview.

Movie Review: Raja Natwarlal

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Kunal Deshmukh, going by his filmography, loves two things – Emraan Hashmi and cricket. After “Jannat” – a movie about cricket and match fixing – and the caper film “Jannat 2″, director Deshmukh seems to have combined the storylines for his latest offering – a caper film about cricket starring Hashmi.

Raja NatwarlalRaja Natwarlal” is a flimsily written and half-heartedly directed film, which falls short of its lofty ambitions because no one associated with it seems to have any concern for detailing or authenticity on celluloid.

Hashmi plays a cocky, but good-hearted con man, who decides to rob 8 million rupees from a gangster. When his partner-in-crime Raghav (Deepak Tijori) has a change of heart and decides to return the money to Varda Yadav (Kay Kay Menon), Raghav is shot dead.

Interview: Rani Mukerji on playing “Mardaani” roles in Bollywood films

In 1997, when the top-grossing Bollywood films were a mix of fluffy romantic comedies and maudlin love triangles, a barely 20-year-old Rani Mukerji made her Hindi film debut playing a rape victim who is asked to marry her tormentor and faces innumerable challenges in her quest for dignity.

ranimukherjiRemembering that and the other films where she played a strong female character, a newly married Mukerji told India Insight she likes to strike a balance between what she calls substantial roles and those written only for entertaining fans. Her latest film “Mardaani,” (“Masculine”) produced by her producer husband, sees Mukerji in the role of a tough police officer out to bust a child-trafficking ring.

“I have always tried to portray strong women in all the films that I have done because I do feel that when people see movies they get very moved and they do feel inspired,” she said about the roles that she prefers.

Movie review: ‘Katiyabaaz’ transforms banal reality into gripping tale

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In one of the many tragicomic moments in “Katiyabaaz” (Powerless), a woman earnestly remembers her gods in the darkness, mumbling something that roughly translates to “Dear Almighty, please bring back the light”. ‘Light’ here means electricity.

katiyaaHer prayer sounds absurd but her misery is real. As a resident of Kanpur, the invocation is probably made after several hours without electricity or even clean water in the sweltering and often lethal heat of a north Indian summer.

The award-winning documentary by Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar takes a compelling look at the problem of chronic power outages that the industrial city of Kanpur has suffered for decades. The film-makers focus their lens on Loha Singh and Ritu Maheshwari, two unusual but highly engaging heroes.

Movie review: Supercop ‘Singham Returns’ with a roar

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

He can punch legions of hired hoodlums into submission. Troublemakers on speeding bikes can’t get past him, for he grabs them by their collars without suffering so much as a sprain. His stunts are out of this world, because gravity bends to his will and friction doesn’t slow him down.

4Meet Bajirao Singham, the one-man army in director Rohit Shetty’s ‘Singham Returns’, a black-and-white world of sententious dialogue, over-the-top action, loud background music and mildly entertaining humour.

To quickly summarise the plot, Singham (Ajay Devgn) is Mumbai’s Deputy Commissioner of Police, a supercop blessed with infinite courage, phenomenal crime-fighting abilities and an unassailable character. Assigned the task of protecting upright politician Gurukant Desai (Anupam Kher), Singham comes in direct confrontation with Desai’s political ally, the unscrupulous Prakash Rao (Zakir Hussain) and his partner-in-crime — a wily, pot-bellied and all-powerful ‘godman’ called Baba (Amol Gupte). Singham must also try to clear the name of his colleague Mahesh, a low-ranked police official who was inexplicably discovered dead with a huge stash of unaccounted money.

Movie Review: This ‘Pizza’ is half-baked

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If the rule of thumb to gauge the worth of a horror movie is how badly it scares you, then Akshay Akkineni’s supernatural thriller ‘Pizza’ is successful only in parts. That’s tragic, considering the plot held promise and would’ve worked had it been treated more intelligently and with attention to finer detail.

pizzaaKunal (Akshay Oberoi) and Nikita (Parvathy Omanakuttan) are a married couple. Kunal is a pizza delivery man while Nikita writes horror novels. Money is scarce and they struggle to make ends meet. One night Kunal delivers a pizza to a woman (Dipannita Sharma) at her bungalow.

Soon he finds himself trapped inside the house and from then on, the film is about Kunal stumbling upon bloodied bodies, his close encounters with demons, and his attempts to escape. Add to the mix Kunal’s wife who goes missing after she turns up at the bungalow following his frantic call for help.

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