‘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: ***

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MARY KOM – Priyanka Lives Up To The Legend

Hi All,

There were a few comparisons drawn in the theatre while watching ‘Mary Kom’. And the obvious reference was to an earlier biopic made on the life of the ‘Flying Sikh’ aka Milkha Singh, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’.While a few people sitting felt that the film has handsomely managed to weave the 5-time world champion’s life and justified it to screen, while there were a few they were just watching an extended version of the same film, with the only exception of the main lead and a sub plot.

Mary-Kom-Hindi-Movie-HD-Wallpapers

A viewer probably went to the extent of saying: “Just by showing a glimpse of training and adding a background inspirational song doesn’t make a film a biopic.” I personally felt that it was a little too harsh considering the efforts put in by the leading lady Priyanka Chopra, who also has gone ‘bald’ for a crucial scene, to make the character believable.

A sports biopic, especially on legends, will have its own merits and de-merits. But what makes ‘Mary Kom’ a good film is that it has the heart at its right place. Mary Kom’s glorious career comes alive on screen and makes an impression primarily in the second half when she makes a comeback after the birth of her twins.

Debutant Omang Kumar, who is known to be a master of vibrant frames and extravagant sets of former Bhansali films, makes a decent transition from art direction to a feature films and manages to weave the right amount of magic in getting the emotional act of Priyanka Chopra and the others right. He gets excellent support from his team who manage to take viewers to a curfew-ridden Manipur and the tension-stricken boxing ring, all wonderfully designed and executed by Vanita Omung Kumar, making ‘Mary Kom’ look as authentic and rich as possible.

The only possible flaw remains that the film gets a tad too repetitive when Mary Kom takes a panga with the boxing federation; a corrupt official tries to bring her career down aka ‘Chak De India’. All these look like a borrowed cue just to glorify the legend’s life in a way, and sometimes fictional. But that is the harsh reality of today that other sports like boxing are hardly given any recognition in India.

A film that is the least in running time, considering it’s a biopic, stands on the lone shoulders of Priyanka Chopra, who pitches in a performance that sure will compete strongly with her counterparts for the awards next year. Only if the awards play a fair game, with the many films in 2014 that have had extremely strong woman protagonists, Priyanka Chopra faces immense competition from the likes of Alia Bhatt (Highway), Kangana Ranaut (Queen), Vidya Balan (Bobby Jasoos), and Rani Mukerji (Mardaani). Looks like the year definitely belongs to the women!

Final Verdict: In the list of the above films, add Mary Kom as well. It may be a story with a thin plot but it is only made strong and punches hard with Priyanka’s riveting performance. To compare it with any other film would be injustice. It’s the effort that undoubtedly needs to be lauded.

RATING: *** 1/2

Ek Villain – Riteish Is The Showstopper In This Otherwise Dull Endeavor

Hi All, 

‘Ek Villain’ starts off in the most unexpected manner and in the first five minutes of the film, the tension builds up enough to keep the audience at the edge of their seat. But then it takes such a drastic fall that it fails to recover and rise to our expectations.

A film’s promo, which showed so much promise, so much vigour, sadly is uninspiring and fails on account of shoddy writing. No doubt Ek Villain has its golden moments but they are far too less in comparison to what director Mohit Suri gave in Aashiqui 2.

Ek Villain Poster - Image From The Web

Ek Villain Poster – Image From The Web

Guru (Siddharth Malhotra) is a gangster working for Ceasar (Remo Fernandes – the less said about his acting skills, the better). His life only revolves around killing people and avenging the death of his parents. But that changes all until he meets Ayesha (Shraddha Kapoor), who decides to change him from a gunda gangster to a hardcore romantic. While Ayesha’s limited life is not letting her complete her unfulfilled wishes from her bucket list, Guru helps the terminally-ill Ayesha in achieving them. Just when things look bleak, a serial-killer Rakesh Mahadkar (Riteish Deshmukh) begins to disrupt their love life. So the hero becomes the villain and battles against another villain!

As stated, Ek Villain starts of supremely well as Suri gets on the plot right away by showing a main cast being killed at the start itself. But the film dips downwards from then even as Mithoon and Ankit Tiwari try to weave their magic with the music. While they do succeed, the film hardly manages to rise, except in a few occasions like Siddharth’s grand entry in a cinema hall, playing Amitabh’s Shehenshah, like an angry young man or Riteish Deshmukh’s surprisingly powerful commoner role add the spunk that is otherwise missing in Ek Villain.

Remo Fernandes and KRK try to make an impression (who casted them is a funnier question!) but fail miserably.

Siddharth Malhotra suits the role and is aggressive as Guru. He once again shines bright after his last films in a role that is challenging.

Shraddha Kapoor is a delight to watch and has a gorgeous screen presence. She is growing as an actor and its evident in her performance.

But if the film manages to stay for the 2 Hours and 10 minutes and one is able to tolerate the shoddy writing, it’s because of an actor that surprises one and all with an act that wasn’t really expected of him. Riteish Deshmukh. He is the star of Ek Villain and by true means the showstopper of the film. Considering that his comic timing is impeccable and the actor hasn’t tasted much success when it comes to playing serious roles, Ek Villain springs up the biggest surprise in Riteish’s film career and will take it to a new high.

On the whole Mohit Suri manages to extract decent performances from his lead cast and like all his previous films focus on the soothing music. But a weak story and no major twists and turns makes this one a boring affair. It’s a good effort but lacks the richness and grandeur of Aashiqui 2 in terms of story and soul.

Final Verdict: The two things best about the film is the soothing music and Riteish Deshmukh’s immensely impressive act. Watch it if you are fan of Mithoon’s music and a die-hard fan of Riteish Deshmukh!

Rating: ** 1/2

 

 

2 States: Krrish and Ananya are the new Raj and Simran

Let’s get this straight. ‘2 States’ as a film may be liked by many but also may be equally disliked by many. Reason: the romance between our lead pair, the Punjabi, Krrish, and the Tam-Brahm, Ananya, isn’t like the cliché romance that Bollywood boasts of. Yes, it is filmy, frothy, glossy (true to producer Karan Johar’s style of filmmaking) but at the same time its real and manages to give a near-perfect take on modern relationships. Like ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’, even ‘2 States’ has characters that one can relate to, making the film stand out over the regular run-of-the-mill romances that the Bollywood has churned out over the years.

2_states_new_poster

A dialogue in the film by Krrish (Arjun Kapoor) goes: ‘Agar India me shaadi karni ho toh ladke ke family ko ladki ki family pasand aani chahiye. Aur ladki ke family ko ladkon ka. Aur agar uske baad thoda pyaar bach jaaye to ladka aur ladki pyaar kar lenge’.

To put it in a nut-shell the above dialogue sums up the basic premise of Chetan Bhagat’s autobiographical ‘2 States’, adapted by debutant director Abhishek Varman on the big screen.

Krrish (Arjun Kapoor), a Punjabi munda, falls in love with Ananya (Alia Bhatt), a Tam-Brahm, while studying at IIM-Ahmedabad. Their marital confusion begins when they relocate after their finishing school at two different locations. While they want to get married they have to convince their families to like each other, which by Indian standards, is considered as the ‘Grand Finale’ before the next stage of the relationship – marriage!

The best part about Varman’s direction is that he manages to stay true to the book, partly, at the same time adds his visual flavour and imagination. For all who have read the book, it is delightfully humorous to see Krrish and Ananya’s love story and their strategies to get their parents together.

The flaw however remains is that Varman stereotypes the Punjabis and the Tamilians using traits of racism, education, food and more. Another thing is that ‘2 States’, at 2 hours and 30 minutes, seems a little stretched as Krrish-Ananya, try their level best to win over their parents at the same time work on their relationship.

But again Varman bounces back with a hard-hitting climax that brings a smile to your face at the same time a tear or two. Credit also must be given to him for handling certain scenes, especially between Krrish and his alcoholic father (Ronit Roy), with extreme maturity and high sensitivity.

‘2 States’ also stands out from other romances as the dialogues penned by Hussain Dalal seem like day-to-day conversations, making the film more realistic in many ways. Whether it is Krrish-Ananya’s pre-maritaal sex talks or the Punjabi mother v/s Tamilian mother battling out on ‘how marriages are done in a community’, these conversations seem extremely realistic, giving a glimpse of how modern society actually behaves.

When it is a Karan Johar production, it is but obvious that we get to see a visual canvas on screen. And 2 States again is colourfully and visually enriching. Binod Pradhan exemplifies each frame with such detailing that it looks like one painting on celluloid. While Namrata Rao’s editing could have easily trimmed the film by a few minutes, it still is sleek and extremely inflow with the film.

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is a delight to hear and it is probably after ‘Taare Zameen Par’ that the trio has managed to come-up with a score which is so soulful. ‘Offo’, ‘Mast Magan’, ‘Chandaniyaan’ and ‘Locha-E-Ulfat’, my clear favourites. When was the last time, one had so many tracks as favourites?

And now coming to the performances:
A film like 2 States could have easily fallen in the trap of becoming another cheesy romance if not for its characters. Both Arjun and Alia make Krrish-Ananya as convincing as any modern Indian couple. Be it their practicality in understanding relationships, their ambitions, their love and hate for their respective families, Krrish-Ananya surely set an example of modern couples.

Arjun Kapoor is fantastic and it is a delight to see him as the sober romantic dude shedding his rugged image. After ‘Gunday’ this is his most powerful performance as an actor and he surprises everyone with his act.

Alia Bhatt has once again, after Highway, shown that she is here to stay and go a long way. As Ananya, she is simply fantastic and oozes with confidence. And she manages to pull off the Tamilian character (I say so being a Tam-Brahm myself) with much conviction.

Revathy and Shiv Subramaniam are first-rate and so is Amrita Singh as the loud Punjabi mother.

Ronit Roy is outstanding in his small role as the alcoholic father. After Udaan, this performance is sure to win him the awards at major ceremonies. He is completely in character that one loves to hate him until the climax!

But the lead pair stands out convincingly and bowl-over with their realistic act.

Final Verdict: To compare 2 States with DDLJ would be a sin in many ways (as the latter is and will always be a classic), but all I can say is that it’s time to move over DDLJ, Raj and Simran and welcome Krrish and Ananya into our world! The film stands out from many clichéd romances and is fresh like a breath of air. When we have gone for so many romances, that have lacked depth, 2 States is certainly far more enjoyable and applauding! It certainly deserves a watch.

Rating: *** 1/2

– Rahul Iyer –

Highway: Missing this wonderful experience would be a mistake

If Imtiaz Ali had made ‘Highway’ fifteen years earlier, when he first had written the script, the film would have sank without a trace and the audiences wouldn’t have been witness to Ali’s finest works, ‘Socha Na Tha’, ‘Jab We Met’, ‘Love Aaj Kal’ and ‘Rockstar’. It is only after Imtiaz Ali walked his way to success making the above films, that he made ‘Highway’, which itself was a smart move on the part of the director. Neither the audiences back then were ready for a film like ‘Highway’ nor was Imtiaz, as he said in an interview.

Highway-poster

While the outcome of this film in terms of box-office standards will only be decided in course of time, it will be only fair to say that ‘Highway’ may not taste as much commercial success as compared to Ali’s previous works because it is a concept that may appeal to a few and shunned by many. As I have always said in my reviews, anything different offered in the platter for a Bollywood audience, is sure to backfire and ‘Highway’ is just another different film.

Hopefully unlike ‘Lootera’, which appealed to a certain section of audiences and was shunned by the ultimate BOLLYWOOD lovers, Highway has its entertaining moments.

Veera Tripathi (Alia Bhatt) is getting geared for her wedding. While her family and relatives are excited about the rituals and preparations, Veera feels claustrophobic and wants to escape the madness happening inside the house. She and her fiancée then head for a small drive, which extends to travelling to the outskirts of the highway. But Veera’s fate takes a 360 degree turn, when she is kidnapped by Mahabir Bhaati (Randeep Hooda), a Gujjar; seeking revenge from Veera’s father (the motive is never known). While Veera is scared and frightened by the affair and pleads Bhati, eventually she overcomes her fear and begins to accept her fate only to be drawn closer to Mahabir. As Mahabir and Veera travel through the ‘Highway’, they experience a strange transformation in their lives, speaking to each other and sharing their life stories. The otherwise, rugged and harsh Mahabir goes soft on Veera, while Veera experiences a life that she has never seen before.

Like Imtiaz Ali’s previous films, characters are a strong point in ‘Highway’ and the detailing that has gone out to edge them just goes to show Ali’s observational skills. Inspite of the flaws, they appear to be realistic and deeply engaging. Another highlight of ‘Highway’ is its writing. It isn’t extraordinary yet engaging. Road movies are the less travelled genre in India. But ‘Highway’ stands out from the movies made in recent times (Road Movie – Dev Benegal, The Good Road – Gyan Correa, Road – Rajat Mukherjee) because it is so technically sharp, colourfully rich (Cinematography by Anil Mehta is par excellence) and the sound design (Resul Pookutty) is noteworthy. With minimal background score and silence doing the tricks, and sounds of the gushing water, the crickets and engine, ‘Highway’ seems more like being a part of the road trip than watching a movie. Even the shots seem so unconventional and different especially the sequence when Veera escapes and the camera is running along with her. And that’s precisely the reason a section of audiences may be in awe of it while a huge section-n may find it a tedious as it offers no masala, no entertainment to say!

A.R. Rahman’s music is captivating and soulful and perfectly blends with the theme of the film. In a film that has a subtle, minimal background score; Rahman weaves magic with tunes like ‘Tu Kuja’, ‘Pattaka Gudi’.

Coming to the performances, Randeep Hooda as Mahabir is fantastic to the core. Whether it is his ruggedness or his emotional outburst, Randeep is in fine form. It’s a bit sad considering the dominance of the stars in Bollywood that an actor like him is pretty under-rated. What Randeep brings in to ‘Highway’ is the natural harshness, reality of the other world that blends perfectly with Alia’s character, a little eccentric, bubbly and vivacious.

But wait. One will be in for a huge surprise after watching Alia Bhatt’s performance in ‘Highway’. I, like many other film lovers believed that she got the easiest break in ‘Student of the Year’ and played the candy-floss chic without much effort. But, I take back my words.

Alia Bhatt’s performance in ‘Highway’, only her second film, is one of the rare performances coming from an actress so early in her career. She brings in the freshness and carries of the role of Veera convincingly and more importantly naturally. Be it scenes, where she talks to herself, breaks into a dance sequence in the middle of the highway, a long monologue towards the climax, the emotional conversations with Mahabir about her troubled childhood, Alia steals the show completely and bowls one with her performance. She may have a little trait of Kareena’s character from ‘Jab We Met’, but she brings in her own style – A little eccentric, bubbly and yet so deeply emotional and lost. She would have easily gone overboard with her act and hammed in sequences, but she doesn’t and walks away with the meatiest role in the film.

Probably the only flaw in Highway is that it begins to meander towards the climax. At a point of time, it probably gets tedious with Mahabir and Veera’s romance headed nowhere and the audience knows the outcome. Also the last but one scene before the climax, which to me was the most important scene, seemed a little rushed through. Maybe it was intentional that after a long stretch of silence, there had to be that moment to wake the audience up again!

Final Verdict: All said, ‘Highway’ is a wonderful experience rich in visuals and sound. Missing this would be a mistake, at least for people who love road movies. It’s probably one of those films, which, considering the Bollywood taste is way different in approach, style and execution. With our audiences expecting the run-of-mill masala, the fate of the film is well-known. But nevertheless it’s one of the films that leads the way to Indian Cinema’s rather Bollywood’s future.

Rating: *** 1/2