Badlapur: A Cathartic Revenge Drama That Needs To Be Lauded

While last year it was Vikas Bahl’s ‘Queen’ that came in as a huge surprise, this year undoubtedly is the Varun Dhawan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer ‘Badlapur’ that is going to make headlines. Sriram Raghavan, after the ‘Agent Vinod’ debacle, churns out a film which is an example of what fine film-making is all about.

BADLAPUR THEATRICAL POSTER

BADLAPUR THEATRICAL POSTER

Rarely one would find an actor, who is just three films old, who would take up a challenging role, and pull it off strikingly. Rarely, in Bollywood, one would find a story-screenplay so nicely written and rarely would you find a character like Liak, played earnestly by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, whom you empathise with more than Raghu (Varun Dhawan).

That’s the power of a film like ‘Badlapur’. The sheer unpredictability of its characters, the transition that each one undergoes in the 2 hrs and 15 minutes of the film and the catharsis that one experiences through Raghu’s revenge in the penultimate moments.

Since the time Sriram Raghavan made ‘Ek Hasina Thi’, he has always had a knack of having grey characters. And that continues with ‘Badlapur’ as well, wherein even the least important character, with no major role to play in the film, springs up a surprise. And such small insights make ‘Badlapur’ a riveting experience.

Coming to the story, Raghu loses his wife Misha (Yami Gautam) and his son, who are killed under unfortunate circumstances after a bank robbery. While it is obvious to assume who is behind the robbery, Sriram Raghavan lets the audience think and ponder even as Raghu vows to take revenge, despite meeting his wife’s killer/s. He keeps you hooked till the last fifteen minutes with several twists and turns that spring up huge surprises.

It goes without saying that ‘Badlapur’ is Sriram’s finest work after Johnny Gaddar. The sharp writing (Sriram Raghavan and Arijit Biswas), the sleek editing (Pooja Ladha Surti), the top notch cinematography (Anil Mehta) and exemplary performances from the lead cast makes ‘Badlapur’ one awesome movie experience. A haunting background score by Sachin-Jigar also makes it more engaging, adding soul to the dark revenge saga.

Of the female leads, Huma Qureshi impresses with her seducing act, followed by Divya Dutta and Radhika Apte. Yami Gautam as Varun’s wife has a small role but plays it with conviction.

Varun Dhawan, in just his fourth film, impresses with his performance and plays Raghu’s character with so much maturity. It is good for an actor of his stature, who has so far played subtle roles, to do a film like ‘Badlapur’, which gives him so much scope as an actor. One cannot ignore the expressiveness of the actor and his desperation to seek revenge. Varun Dhawan is lucky to grab an opportunity, a film like ‘Badlapur’, so early in his career.

But personally, if ‘Badlapur’ raises its bar as a film, it is because of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and his character Liak. Liak is what keeps ‘Badlapur’ moving. Unpredictable, wicked and menacing is what could sum up his character. He again proves that one does not need a villain, dressed in dapper suits and superior in style to carry of a film. Sometimes being the wicked poor man may just win more brownie points!

Final Verdict: ‘Badlapur’ is a cathartic revenge drama that has only raised the bar of the films made in Bollywood. We need more of such films. It’s a film that surely deserves a watch!

Rating : *** 1/2

‘UGLY’ Stays True To Its Title, But Is Such An Anti-Climax

Having screened at the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and received rave reviews, there is obviously a huge expectation from a film like ‘Ugly’, directed by Anurag Kashyap.

Ugly Theatrical Poster - 2013

Ugly Theatrical Poster – 2013

And to be honest and really honest, the efforts of the ace director need to be appreciated for bringing out such realistic performances from almost all its lead characters. It is rare that an Indian film (the last I remember was Chandni Bar (Madhur Bhandarkar) and Kashyap’s Black Friday) is so realistic in its treatment and execution. ‘Ugly’ is probably one of those few films that breaks the rules of the typical Bollywood style of filmmaking.

Yet, in spite of being extremely realistic, hatke in style and having some really nice cinematography, the experience is merely satisfactory.

Kali (excellently played by Anshika Srivastava) gets kidnapped when her father Rahul (Rahul Bhatt) leaves her inside his car when he goes to collect a document from his friend. Rahul’s friend Chaitanya (Vineet Singh) tells him that his daughter is missing. When Rahul comes to the police station to lodge a formal complaint, he is confronted by Inspector Jadhav (Girish Kulkarni) who finds out that Kali is Shalini (Rahul’s divorced wife/Tejaswini Kolhapure) and ACP Shoumik Bose’s (Ronit Roy) daughter. Kali’s kidnapping gives Shoumik a chance to take revenge from Rahul for an incident of the past and he leaves no stone unturned to find his daughter back. And this is where ‘Ugly’ is ugliest in terms of Kashyap’s storytelling.

However, certain scenes in the film seem overstretched, especially when Inspector Jadhav questions Rahul over his ‘filmy’ name. While it infuses a laugh with its natural humour, it stretches a tad too long. Similarly, a scene where Chaitanya is interrogated in prison is reminiscent of a scene in Black Friday. And the biggest disappointment is the climax. Watch it yourself to experience!

For all through the 1 hour and 50 minutes, ‘Ugly’ treads along with certain twists and turns and keeps one at the edge of their seat. But it is the last ten minutes where ‘Ugly’ is a complete anti-climax.

‘Ugly’ stays true to its title and offers one plenty to ponder. Anurag Kashyap weaves magic with his actors, but sadly tells a story with too many loose ends. A little back story of the characters wouldn’t have done any harm. While Anurag Kashyap did release a five-minute short film ‘Kali-Katha’ (Watch it on YouTube) which gives a glimpse of Rahul, Shalini and Chaitanya’s character, Shoumik’s back story isn’t unveiled at all. At the same time, certain disjointed plot points leave one with a little more to think.

There are no white characters and no black characters in ‘Ugly’. Each character has shades of grey. And this keeps the thrill factor of the film alive.

Girish Kulkarni as Inspector Jadhav gets a perfect launch in Hindi Cinema. Having directed and acted in several National-award winning films in Marathi, Girish proves his mettle as an actor for the first time in Hindi cinema and he doesn’t disappoint a bit. It’s a terrific performance that deserves more than just applause.

Rahul Bhatt who was last seen in a dud called ‘Nayee Padosan’ makes a comeback after almost twelve years in a role that seemed tailor made for him.

Tejaswini Kolhapure as Shalini gets a role that will surely be talked about. Siddhant Kapoor is good in a small role.

Vineet Singh (Shorts/Bombay Talkies-Murabba) is the surprise package of ‘Ugly’. For many who would have seen him in a restrained role, be prepared to get surprised.

But ultimately ‘Ugly’ for me is all about Ronit Roy’s act as Shoumik Bose. The actor, surely has had a strong second innings in Bollywood as compared to his early days. After working with Anurag Kashyap in Udaan as the abusive father, Ronit Roy once again delivers a performance that speaks volumes of him as an actor. With less words and more expressive eyes, this one is surely a performance worthy of some awards.

And finally Anurag Kashyap. While many claim to say that the director just lost his way post Gangs Of Wasseypur II (which was his most commercial venture till date), the filmmaker returns to his roots of making dark, gritty films. While ‘Ugly’ might not be his best since Black Friday, it is surely a well-made film. A diehard Anurag Kashyap fan may just not be able to miss this one. And being an admirer of his work, I look forward with much eagerness for ‘Bombay Velvet’!

Final Verdict: ‘Ugly’ is a gripping film that stays true to its title. But in the end, it is such an anti-climax!

 

Rating: ***

One Can’t Ignore The Cuteness And Innocence Of ‘PK’

To begin with Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘PK’ bears a sharp resemblance to the Umesh Shukla film ‘Oh My God’ that starred Paresh Rawal. While the narrative of ‘Oh My God’ was more from the perspective of a common man, Rajkumar Hirani resorts to a more funny way in exposing the hypocrisy that exists around the concept of religion in India. He brings in a human-like alien aka PK (drunkard) (Aamir Khan) who is reprimanded, ridiculed and often misunderstood, owing to his innocent sense of asking questions in his tryst to find his lost remote control that shall help him go back to his home.

Rajkumar Hirani cleverly infuses humour and wit in his trademark style and truly justifies his point through PK that one needs an alien, an absolute outsider, from another world, someone who dresses just like humans, to make people realise the prejudices and the blind faith associated with religion and self-proclaimed godmen. But even PK gets caught in a web and is confused owing to the differences that exist in the name of religion.

PK meets Jaggu aka Jagat Janani (Anushka Sharma) who is also forced into following the beliefs of Godman Tapasvi Maharaj (Saurabh Shukla). Together, they embark on a journey to expose the misconceptions associated with religion.

Several hilarious situations laden with razor-sharp dialogues, which often take a sarcastic dig at society, make PK an interesting watch. While Rajkumar Hirani follows a narrative similar to his previous films, at no point of time does one feel that things are getting a tad too repetitive. Except the second-half when the romantic track between PK and Jaggu seems entirely unnecessary and hinders the narrative. Even the climax, after a brilliant first-half, seems way too detached from the main plot as it revolves around the personal story of Jaggu, more than the bigger concerns of society. Although, the track manages to come back on track, these scenes seem like speed breakers in an otherwise tight film.

Rajkumar Hirani has always been simple in his approach to making films, even while tackling the most difficult subjects. Be it ‘3 Idiots’ where he took a dig at the education system or ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’. He maintains his same style in PK as well and one must admit that ‘PK’ certainly is more bold and challenging as it is not easy to please all the gods (Read censor board, various religious organisations). PK, by no means tries to delve into any particular religion. Rather it boldly delves into many diverse faiths, which will raise many questions. But Rajkumar Hirani deals the issue with an ease, not letting his intentions fade away.

Aamir Khan as PK, in his second outing with Rajkumar Hirani, once again is the scene stealer. While his antics may come across as similar to his character in ‘Dhoom 3’, his over-expressive eyes and his ‘Satyamev Jayate’ style of questioning the society may seem a little too overboard, the innocence and the cuteness quotient of the character can’t be ignored. And this is where PK, the character, scores brownie points than the film.

Anushka Sharma as Jaggu is good as a television reporter, although her pouted lips seem to get all the attention.

Sushant Singh Rajput’s track seems unnecessary in the film. But the actor delivers his part seamlessly. Sanjay Dutt, in a small but important role, excels in his performance.

While Boman Irani has been a forerunner in Rajkumar Hirani’s films, the actor’s role in PK is reduced to a brief role. However, in little screen time that he has, he manages to strike a chord. Saurabh Shukla as the godman is exceptionally brilliant.

Additionally, a cameo by a rising superstar in the climax just adds to the star value of PK.

Shantanu Moitra’s music takes time to build on. But it is as soothing and subtle as the film’s plot. However ‘Love is a waste of time’, is certainly a wasted song amidst the plot that hinders the narrative.

Final Verdict: PK is a film that is thoroughly enjoyable. It has got a message which makes one think deeply. Well, it might not be as great as Rajkumar Hirani’s previous outings, but is certainly a film that will be remembered for its freshness and execution. Rajukumar Hirani once again proves a point that one doesn’t need a complex plot to keep the viewers engaged; a simple meal cooked the right way with a drink can do wonders. Recommended!

Rating: ****

Happy New Year: The ‘Indiawaale’ Manage To Win Hearts

Like the start in Farah Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’ (HNY) where Shah Rukh Khan sets of by saying that there are two kinds of people in this world, winners and losers, I believe that there are two kinds of films in the world. Films that are made with a script and films of Farah Khan, who successfully manages to become the leader after HNY to make commercial potboilers!

happy

Going by the recent failures of deadpan films without a script, HNY is a much better film as compared to its peers. However, it isn’t as great as Farah’s own ‘Om Shanti Om’ but yet promises abundance of entertainment in three hours.

Thankfully, unlike her previous outing ‘Tees Maar Khan’ which was a bore and sleepy affair, HNY is on the go right from the opening sequence where Charlie aka Chandramohan Manohar (Shah Rukh Khan) unveils his dashing eight-pack abs and mouths dialogues of all his previous hit films. It is followed up by his ‘keep it simple’ plan to avenge his father’s death and plan a robbery of diamonds worth crores of rupees from Charan Grover (Jackie Shroff). He then sets out on his mission ‘Happy New Year’ and manages to build a team of ‘losers’ (including him) who scale to great heights when they decide to take the route to participate in a reality-dance contest in an attempt to rob the diamonds.

Farah Khan sticks to what she has done in her last two films, ‘Main Hoon Naa’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ respectively, that is use the prowess of her characters. This, itself, makes up for an entertaining and a supreme first half where characters are introduced even as Charlie plans his heist. From Abhishek Bachchan’s ‘desi’ entry to Deepika Padukone’s ‘eazy’ Mohini dance, every character manages to entertain and surprise you as the film progresses to a not-so-riveting climax.

The director excellently blends Bollywood humour, her regular dose of spoofs on her industry colleagues and her cameo specialist actors. But where she scores brownie points is when the bunch of losers suddenly realise that their motive to win the contest is far superior and this is what makes ‘Happy New Year’ entertaining and patriotic at the same time. For once robbery takes a backseat and the troupe comes together to enthral Dubai. Taking a cue from late Manmohan Desai, whom Farah Khan has always regarded as her guru, the director manages to pull off HNY like a supremely executed film with minor glitches, a feat that many commercial directors haven’t managed to achieve.

Music by Vishal-Shekhar is good to hear on the big screen and is peppy. Even Vishal’s act with Anurag Kashyap in a scene would keep all in splits. From Manwa Laage to Indiawaale, each song carries the story forward and keeps pumping up the entertainment level.

At three hours, the film is stretched at places but the performances keep you glued. I must say that HNY isn’t Shah Rukh Khan’s film alone. While he does get maximum screen time, he is excellently complimented by a talented bunch of actors who lend him good support. My clear favourite remain Boman Irani and Abhishek Bachchan who pull of their acts in such wonderful fashion. Deepika Padukone, as Mohini, also compliments with her dancing skills and adds the glam quotient. Sonu Sood and Vivaan Shah are apt in their roles.

With ‘Happy New Year’ being a single Diwali release, it is only fair to say that the film has success written over it and the powerhouse star cast just makes it easy. I went with zero expectations and enjoyed my time at the theatre. Probably you do the same and you won’t be disappointed.

Final Verdict: Happy New Year may not be the intelligent kind of cinema. However, it is one of those expensive buffet outings which one can relish once in a while. This might not be close to Om Shanti Om but these ‘Indiawaale’ certainly manage to win hearts, in true Farah Khan style!!! ENTERTAINMENT GUARANTEED!

Rating: ***

Haider: Shahid and Tabu Make Up For The Botched Climax

Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Haider’ may certainly be compared with his own works, ‘Maqbool’ and ‘Omkara’ respectively. But while the director manages to rise above these films, in terms of narrative and storytelling, he fails to deliver where it matters the most, the crucial climax.

haider-2014-shahid-kapoor-movie-poster

Intentionally slow paced in the first half, ‘Haider’ seeps into a film which endlessly drags towards the end, leaving one half satiated just like how Tabu’s character is shown as a ‘half-widow’ as she desperately seeks for her husband’s return after he mysteriously disappears.

Haider (Shahid Kapoor) seeks revenge from his uncle Khurram (Kay Kay Menon), whom he holds responsible for his father’s disappearance, and is distraught to see him have an affair with his mother Ghazala aka Moijee (Tabu). When Roohdaar (Irrfan Khan) sends him a message, informing that his father has asked him to take revenge, Haider is instantly drawn into a world of bloodshed and hate even as his own family begins to believe that he is going insane and needs psychiatric treatment.

Haider is caught between two people Khurram and Roohdaar and is clueless about which of these are in his side, or whether he is just being used.

While I haven’t read ‘Hamlet’, like all Shakespearean tales, this one too has characters that all are grey, a mix of positive and negative shades. Vishal Bhardwaj interestingly infuses the conflict of Kashmir and a revenge saga of a son into ‘Haider’ which intensifies the story and makes it compelling especially with the visual treat that each frame offers. Thanks to the cinematography by Pankaj Kumar, whose frames are magical on screen.

However, in the second half, Haider loses its steam, towards the climax, and it seems like a botched up effort after a startling twist in the tale. A few questions particularly pop up in the minds with reference to Ghazala’s sudden association with Roohdaar. A broken link in the storyline (especially after the several cuts made by Vishal Bhardwaj himself to make the film crisper in spite of its 2:42 hours length) is difficult to digest as it leaves one clueless.

Nevertheless, Haider still manages to keep you tediously glued as the performances keep the film alive. Shraddha Kapoor as Arshia is good but she hardly is present in the film. Most of her romantic scenes create an impact but that’s about it.

Kay Kay Menon as Khurram is excellent and it is hard to miss the expressions that he delivers on screen. Ditto for Irrfan Khan who emerges as the surprise package in spite of having a miniscule role.

But it is Tabu and Shahid Kapoor who make up for all the flaws and make Haider a film, not among Vishal Bhardwaj’s best but certainly a film that helps one forget the debacle of ‘Saath Khoon Maaf’.

Tabu is first-rate in all her scenes and it’s a delight to watch the actress perform a role with so much conviction. Post Maqbool, the actress surely would be in contention for the awards just like the film’s main lead Haider aka Shahid Kapoor.

Haider, undoubtedly is Shahid Kapoor’s best performance. After a spree of flops and a second lease of life in ‘R Rajkumar’, Shahid Kapoor delivers a performance that many would find hard to believe. He goes a top notch above his performance in ‘Kaminey’, which was also noteworthy enough. Be it his restrained look, with eyes filled with hope to see his father, or the bloodshot-eyed, bald, psychic and revengeful avatar, it is hard to miss his antics that unveil on screen. A monologue, which socially reflects his political views on the valley, and his bird-cum-beastly act when he exposes Khurram while enacting a play (Bismil song) is simply astonishing.

Final Verdict: Haider isn’t Vishal Bhardwaj’s best and isn’t close to Omkara. But it still is a good film with performances of its characters that make it noteworthy. A visual treat of the valley with Tabu and Shahid’s act make it a full ‘Chutzpah’ (read brilliant) affair. (For the meaning of chutzpah, watch the film to know more!)

Rating: ***