India Insight

A Minute With: Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt made her Bollywood debut as a lead actress in the 2012 college romance “Student of the Year”. In February, she won over critics with her performance in the offbeat film “Highway”, playing a woman who starts caring for her kidnapper.

In the romantic comedy “2 States”, which opened in cinemas on Friday, the 21-year-old plays a woman from Tamil Nadu who has to battle cultural stereotypes to marry her Punjabi lover.

Alia, the daughter of Bollywood film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, spoke to Reuters about her role in “2 States”, what the film “Highway” did for her acting career, and why she considers herself “mediocre”. Here are excerpts from the interview:

You are playing a woman from Tamil Nadu in “2 States”. Were there any apprehensions about playing this role?

At first I thought I would really have to work on my accent, but after speaking to my director, I realized that this is a modern Tamil girl and she doesn’t have the heavy accent. Also, there is a justification for it, which is that her family has travelled and she’s moved around a lot.

Movie Review: Bhoothnath Returns

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

The one thing to be said for Nitesh Tiwari’s “Bhoothnath Returns” is that it has impeccable timing. At a time when India is caught up in election fever, and every TV news channel is celebrating “the dance of democracy”, the film delivers the same message, albeit with a higher budget and a stronger medium than public service advertisements.s

Combining a children’s film with a sermon on the importance of voting couldn’t have been easy, and at times, the film falters. Yet, you cannot help but warm up to the characters and the rather uneven storyline, thanks to the generous dose of honesty that director Tiwari brings to the table.

Amitabh Bachchan reprises his role as Bhoothnath, an amiable ghost in the land of spectres, depicted in the film as an idyllic European village with meadows and towering castles. Ridiculed because he couldn’t spook earthlings in the first film, Bhoothnath is sent back to scare a few kids, so that he can fulfil his ghostly duties.

Movie review: Youngistaan

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

Syed Ahmad Afzal’s “Youngistaan” is supposed to be a funny and clever look at the reign of a carefree young man who finds himself sworn in as the prime minister of India.

Abhimanyu Kaul (Jackky Bhagnani), the son of the incumbent premier, is partying one minute and sitting by his dying fathers bedside the next. Our young hero is oblivious to his parent dying of cancer and knows nothing about the vagaries of politics in India, but is still trusted with the highest office in the country.

Abhimanyu’s wardrobe undergoes a transformation — from grungy tees to crisp, linen shirts. He makes rousing speeches at the United Nations and pushes for youth reform. What does not change though, is his whiny girlfriend and her whims and fancies, which the young prime minister insists on fulfilling, even when they are unreasonable and childish.

Movie Review: Ankhon Dekhi

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

The protagonist in Rajat Kapoor’s “Ankhon Dekhi” will remind you of some relative that you may have encountered at numerous family gatherings — the talkative, eccentric but loveable uncle who arouses mixed emotions.

The rest of the film’s characters, including Bauji’s lovelorn daughter; the babbling, hot-tempered mother; and his brooding brother are all sketched by Kapoor with such affection, that in spite of their quirks and idiosyncrasies, they are recognizable as people in our daily lives.

Bauji, played by Sanjay Mishra, is a travel-agency employee who has an epiphany. He decides to believe only what he experiences and not rely on what other people tell him to make crucial decisions. This causes much upheaval in the lower-middle-class family that he heads. Bauji quits his job, his brother’s family leaves the house, and he is accused of disrespecting religion.

Movie Review: Lakshmi

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

Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Lakshmi” is supposed to be a no-holds-barred, searing look at the world of human trafficking and prostitution. The protagonist, a wide-eyed, innocent girl of 14 is sold to a pimp, raped several times, and forced into the flesh trade.

When Lakshmi finally gets the courage to fight back, she finds that the law is not necessarily on her side and the rot is deep inside the system. Kukunoor, who in the past has made films that demonstrated ample sensitivity and emotions, seems to have let go and concentrate merely on shocking and titillating the viewer.

Under the guise of portraying the plight of these women, Kukunoor focuses on blood, gore and stomach-churning violence. He plays a pimp in the film, one who assaults women at will with his weapon of choice — a wooden plank with nails attached.

A Minute With: Rajat Kapoor on ‘Ankhon Dekhi’

Over the past decade, film-maker Rajat Kapoor has found a niche for himself in Bollywood, writing and directing movies that rely more on unusual plots than glamorous movie stars.

His latest film, “Ankhon Dekhi”, has actor Sanjay Mishra playing a man who refuses to believe anything that he hasn’t experienced himself. The film opens in Indian cinemas on Friday.

Kapoor, 53, spoke to Reuters about “Ankhon Dekhi” and why he doesn’t work with Bollywood movie stars.

Movie Review: Bewakoofiyaan

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

Nupur Asthana’s “Bewakoofiyaan” deals with money, its effects on modern-day relationships, and how couples deal with societal pressures.

But the treatment of the film is quite outdated. There are autocratic fathers who don’t trust their daughters, and grown men who are out of a job but splurge on vacations and designer clothes.

None of the lead characters invite your sympathy or attention — whether it is Mayera (Sonam Kapoor), a spoilt, petulant girl who thinks her boyfriend’s credit card limit is a sign of growth; Mayera’s loud, blustering father (Rishi Kapoor) who doesn’t think twice before spying on the boyfriend; or Mohit Chaddha (Ayushmann Khurrana), the boyfriend in question.

A Minute With: Ayushmann Khurrana

It’s been two years since Ayushmann Khurrana made an unconventional Bollywood debut with “Vicky Donor”, playing a sought-after sperm donor at a fertility clinic.

Despite its bold theme, the romantic comedy was a hit in conservative India and helped Khurrana, a known face on Indian television, gain a foothold in a competitive Hindi film industry.

The 29-year-old actor and singer has three films lined up for release in 2014. “Bewakoofiyaan” opened in cinemas on Friday, starring Khurrana as an ambitious man who loses his job but has to impress his fiancee’s (Sonam Kapoor) cranky father.

Movie Review: Gulaab Gang

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

Soumik Sen’s “Gulaab Gang” wants to assure us, through its promos and marketing campaigns, that it speaks of women’s empowerment and the power they can wield against a corrupt and insensitive system.

On the contrary, this is a movie that does women’s empowerment a huge disservice — it depicts the protagonists as one-dimensional characters; equates justice with mob violence; and would have you believe that the punishment for a heinous crime is to slice off the perpetrator’s body parts.

There is so much sanctimony stuffed into “Gulaab Gang” that you find it hard to take anything in this 135-minute film seriously. Madhuri Dixit plays Rajjo, the fierce leader of a women’s group that has its own justice system and aims at standing up for victims of domestic violence or those oppressed by the dowry system. She locks up government officials who refuse to provide the village with electricity — and minutes later, breaks into a choreographed dance number.

Delhi High Court clears release of ‘Gulaab Gang’

The Delhi High Court on Thursday cleared the way for Bollywood film “Gulaab Gang” to open in cinemas, a day after it put the movie’s release on hold over allegations the film was based on a real-life women’s rights organization in India with a similar name.

Sampat Pal, the leader of the “Gulabi Gang” — a group of vigilantes wearing pink saris who act on complaints of domestic violence and dowry demands — had moved court against the movie. Pal accused the film-makers of basing the movie on her life without her permission.

On Wednesday, judge Sanjeev Sachdeva suspended the film’s screening till a court hearing in May, citing irreparable damage and injury to Pal if the film were shown.

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