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

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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!

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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: ***

Filmistaan – Cinema has no boundaries, this one’s truly for ‘Aman Ki Aasha’

There are two things that India and our friendly neighbours, Pakistan (watch the film and you will know why I call them a friendly nation), share in common – Cricket and Bollywood films. And both abundantly feature in debutant Nitin Kakkar’s ‘Filmistaan’, a film that for its gripping narrative and entertainment has won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi.

Filmistaan Official Motion Picture Poster

Having made a round of prominent film festivals, Filmistaan doesn’t boast of starry-names, yet features the greatest of Bollywood stars that have charmed one and all with their movies. It’s probably a cinematic experience that leaves a lump in your throat and leaves you moisty-eyed, especially when you see so many similarities of people from the other side of the fence. And Filmistaan succeeds exceptionally well here and manages to win the hearts of the audience.

Sunny (Sharib Hashmi) is a struggling actor who wants to make it big in Bollywood. To keep his finances going, he joins a foreigner on a documentary shooting expedition on the outskirts of Rajasthan. But to his bad luck, some men across the border kidnap him, mistaking him to be the foreigner, and Sunny paaji from Amritsar lands in a village in Pakistan. But then he finds so many similarities between their culture and ours that he manages to win the hearts of the villagers and befriends Aftaab (Inamulhaq), who pirates Bollywood DVD’s across the border for a livelihood. Soon a bond develops between the two that puts even Jai-Veeru to shame!

Filmistaan, for many reasons isn’t just a film. It’s one of those rare pieces of work where you genuinely feel that there is meaning in every scene. The best I remember is when the kidnappers are asked to shoot Sunny’s abduction video and they are unaware of the way to handle a camera, Sunny takes up the responsibility of shooting his own video and also frames it like a professional cinematographer would do. There couldn’t be a better scene to define the passion of the director which comes alive in this scene.

Another highlight of the film is also its exceptionally brilliant writing. The story, not for once, gets into a digressing zone and stays with the characters and the dialogues (Sharib Hashmi) strike a punch. From imitating actors to calling himself a no-one, Sharib’s performance is also to be credited for the success of Filmistaan.

For many who don’t know, Sharib Hashmi is the same guy who played Shahrukh Khan’s friend in ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’. His character of Sunny is wittily funny, deeply emotional.

He is equally supported well by Inamulhaq who as Aftab does a commendable job as the Pakistani pirated DVD seller who sets an example of the Indo-Pak friendship as Sunny and him connect with movies.

First time director Nitin Kakkar does a brilliant job executing a script with supreme maturity and conviction and manages to bowl one over with his direction skills. While he surely has taken a risk working with a star-cast, not that well-known, the risk has paid off exceptionally well.

Final Verdict: Filmistaan is a perfect example of a message of peace and suggests that there are no boundaries attached to cinema. With the ‘Aman Ki Aasha’ initiative, it can just be said the ‘Filmistaan’ is ‘the’ film that deeply connects with the issue. This is one rare film that thoroughly must be watched. Not just for the comical relief it gives but for the sheer meaning and message it delivers!

Rating: ****

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 –

REVIEW – BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG – A Riveting Tribute To The Legend

Hi All, 

It’s only after tasting defeat that one tastes the sweetness of success. That’s been the philosophy of many sporting legends and Milkha Singh’s life has been no exception. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, after a hiatus of four years (his last directorial was ‘Delhi 6’) brings ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ the journey of the living legend Milkha Singh alive on screen. 

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Right from the first frame one sees the story begin with a bang. Shuttling between past and present, an art that Rakeysh Mehra seems to have mastered since Rang De Basanti, we see the life of Milkha Singh unveiling and putting us through some surprises. 

Be it the young, innocent yet roaring Milkha Singh (played superbly by Master Jabtej Singh) trying to come to terms in a refugee camp, with the fact that his entire family has been killed in front of his eyes. Or his tryst to become one of India’s leading sprinters in his youth, rising with arrogance, making major sacrifices and vetting his  guilt by slapping  himself to not manage to stand tall to his coach’s expectations. 

But even before we see the heroism of Milkha Singh (Farhan Akhtar) and his sprints on the field unveil, there is a journey about why Milkha Singh went on to join the armed forces and his transformation from a street-smart, jolly -good rogue to a disciplined sportsman. From stealing coal from trains, to being stripped and beaten with shoe spikes for attempting to steal a national athlete’s blazer, there is a strong motive to why Milkha Singh’s journey needs to be told. His haunting past! Which just keeps coming back to him each time he is on his way to make history. Until its that one final race which takes him down memory lane and it’s here when he remembers his father’s last words, ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’. 

With almost three hours and seven minutes long, there is enough to be told about the legend. His small brush with romance with Biro (Sonam Kapoor) when he is whiling away time, or a fling with one of his trainer’s grand daughter (Rebecca Breeds) only to realise that love for women is not what Milkha is born for, it’s the love for running that he yearns for. Be it for just a glass of milk or otherwise. 

Prasoon Joshi and Rakeysh Mehra need to be credited for telling a story with such strong conviction. While Rakeysh Mehra, just goes a little bit too commercial here, never once he deviates from the journey of the legend. There are scenes which leave a lasting impression, especially the ones where Farhan Akhtar is practising his sprints, be it on the rocky terrains, the sandy rough grounds and more. At the same time Mehra adds a perfect blend of emotions to the story, not for once going melodramatic and overboard. The relationships, between the coach-student, brother-sister, family-son are so well tackled by Mehra that leaves one spellbound. 

Binod Pradhan’s cinematography is again a ,master stroke. Post his stint in Rang De Basanti, Binod once again experiments with his fast movements on the field, his framing and angles and more importantly playing with colours. PS Bharathi deserves a pat on the back for editing ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ exceptionally well. Be it the use of sepia tones while narrating Milkha’s childhood or the rich shades of brown and green on the track-field, or simply the sleek cuts of montage videos of the prestigious events, taking us back in time to experience it in present, giving you the feel of watching a sports documentary. 

Shankar Ehsan Loy’s music maight have been a bit off track, but yet the background score with a mix of rock is engaging and riveting. While ‘Mastanon Ka Jhund’ is funny, ‘Slow Motion Angrez’ (with a cameo by Loy) looks forced. But the best ones that stay even after leaving the theatre are  ‘Zinda’ and ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ beautifully blended in Arif Lohar and Siddharth Mahadevan’s voice. Goosebumps. 

There is a sense of heroism to Milkha Singh’s character on screen. Farhan Akhtar, with those abs and perfectly toned in body might quite be uncanny of the real Milkha Singh in his youth (we don’t know), but he does five hundred percent justice to his character. Whether its his dual emotions, being funny and being serious, arrogant and brash or just his running on the field. He does not run, he flies, like the Flying Sikh himself. His style, his mannerisms and his talks all adapted well and just perfectly. 

Sonam Kapoor in a cameo is delightful and so is Divya Dutta as Milkha Singh’s sister. Prakash Raj as the military trainer is funnily serious (with his Veerappan mustache). Dalip Tahil is good. Rebecca Shields and Meesha Shafi shine in the small part. 

But Yograj Singh and Pawan Malhotra as  Milkha Singh’s coaches are dual winners along with Milkha Singh aka Farhan himself. Both these actors as coaches are motivating and emotional at the same time. I give a two thumbs up to Pawan Malhotra, who goes a step ahead of Yograj in terms of performance. Its probably after Black Friday that we have got to see the best from this versatile actor. 

In the end, inspite of Farhan Akhtar finishing the line first with his class act, its the captain of the ship (justified in his cameo), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra himself who needs to be given an ovation for paying a riveting tribute to the legend. It is his strong  narrative and direction that makes ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ inspite of being tedious an applauding affair. Salutes. Also another point that I want to make is, the director surely has a fascination towards patriotism (his previous films Range De Basanti and Delhi-6 both had the flavour) and it’s his love that makes ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ more closer to the heart.  

Final Verdict: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is the best films to have been made this year. Celebrating the 100th year of cinema, this is double happiness. Inspirational, touching and sensitive. Run and grab a seat, this one’s surely not to be missed!

Rating: ***** 

Rahul Iyer