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

KICK Review: Another feather to the Salman-Sajid Combo

Irrespective of Kick’s fate at the box-office, one thing for sure is that whenever Salman Khan and Sajid Nadiadwala (who debuts as a director after producing many Hindi films, which mostly featured Khan himself) collaborate, the result is absolute fireworks.

Starting from Jeet , Judwaa, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and now ‘KICK’, the friendship has only grown better just like another Khan (tch tch..We all know who it is) bonded with his coffee counterpart. And like Salman-Sajid’s previous ventures, even KICK may prove to be a cash cow, even if it boasts of a wafer-thin plot defied of any logic.

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KICK, a remake of the Telugu film of the same name and a Tamil film, Thilalangadi, that starred Jeyam Ravi and Tamannah, stays almost true to its original, with a minute change of removing the sub-plots involving the secondary characters. Well one has to know that in a Salman Khan film, there has to be just one star, who acts, laughs, cries and in one word, ENTERTAINS!

‘KICK’ begins on a train in Poland wherein Shaina (a hot and extremely beautiful Jacqueline Fernandez), a psychiatrist, is discussing marriage with Himanshu Tyagi (Randeep Hooda), a cop, and talks about her KICK, Devi Lal Singh a.k.a Devil (Salman Khan), who left her to pursue his several KICKS! Meeting him during a wedding was her biggest mistake as he gave her a headache with a terrible hangover, but eventually when Devi manages to woo Shaina, she falls for his Being Human avatar. However Devi decides to leave her for a KICK to earn money, ala a superhero-style, crossing paths with Himanshu, thus beginning a cat-and-mouse chase between the two.

Probably if Salman Khan’s previous film, ‘Jai Ho’ wouldn’t have been made, KICK would have created a better impact as the climax is just an extended version of the former. The only difference is that it is stylized and non-preachy unlike its earlier counterpart. This and the odd picturization of songs is the other blemish in the otherwise entertaining film.

Himesh Reshammiya’s music along with Yo Yo Honey Singh and Meet Brothers Anjjan are good to hear on the big screen, but that’s about it.

KICK picks up wonderfully after the intermission with the entry of Shiv Gajera (an exceptional Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who manages to infuse more exciting moments even as Himanshu and Devi engage in their own sweet battle. With Rajat Arora (The Dirty Picture, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai) being at the helm of affairs at writing the dialogues, several punchlines leave a mark.

‘Mere Baare Mein Itna Mat Sochna…Dil Mein Aata Hoon Samajh Mein Nahin’. It is dialogues like these that define the purpose of the film. While KICK is definitely not for the film-school and art-house intellectuals and is meant to be a no-brainer, writers, Rajat Arora, Keith Gomes, author Chetan Bhagat and director Sajid Nadiadwala himself; try to infuse basic logic into the film at various intervals. Thankfully it pays off as unlike the recent spree of masala entertainers, this one has a plot to boast off, even if it is as thin as a sheet of ice.

After producing a spree of films, Sajid Nadiadwala tries his hand at direction and fares exceedingly well in his first attempt. However, his television style of shots of switching over to actors for their reactions seems a bit odd for a film. He is known to be a producer who doesn’t compromise on grandeur and this is evident in every frame of KICK.

A Salman Khan film is a one-man-show. But luckily, KICK gives a chance to all to match up to him. And well, Randeep Hooda and Nawazuddin, actually come close to it. Randeep Hooda as the cop is energetic and matches Khan in every sequence they share screen space. Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes an impact with his menacing smile as the evil Shiv Gajera.

Jacqueline Fernandez is good and one definitely shouldn’t miss her dance sequence which is wonderfully choreographed by Ahmed Khan.

Saurabh Shukla, Mithun Chakraborty, Archana Puran Singh play their parts well.

But the KICK one get, is only because of Salman Khan. Devi Lal Singh aka Devil is surely the next superhero who in his Krrish-cum-Dhoom style avatar manages to give a performance that may just break his previous records.

Final Verdict: Salman Khan may be getting old (if you notice strands of grey hair in a few scenes) but the energy that man possesses and he carries off, cannot be ignored. Enjoy and get the KICK!

Rating: ***

Miss Lovely – Honest, Disturbing but Flawed At Places

Hi All,

This week another Independent film directed by award winning documentary film-maker Ashim Ahluwalia hits the theatres. Thanks to some amazing responses at Cannes Film Festival and several others, ‘Miss Lovely’, like last year’s ‘The Lunchbox’ and ‘Ship of Theseus’, is lucky to have a mainstream theatrical release with limited slots across few multiplexes across the country.

Image Courtesy: Official Film Website

‘Miss Lovely’, in spite of the Censors being extremely cruel, is dark, disturbing and probably the most honest film coming from Independent Indian Cinema. While it is surely not for the faint hearted and the aam junta, even the Multiplex viewing audiences – BEWARE. You may like ‘Miss Lovely’ or completely disown it, because the 113 minutes film gives ample room for it. To put it in simpler words, there are places where long static frames of artistic frames, unintentional frames showing the vintage city of Mumbai in its best, grainy frames of the underbelly of Mumbai’s sleaze house and more disturb your attention. The approach certainly isn’t commercial, but very few audiences understand the symbolic (read Festival circuit films style of imagery) interpretation.

Right from the word ‘GO’, ‘Miss Lovely’ starts off with what the promos have promised. A peek into the C-grade film industry, which still is thriving across smaller cities, the film begins with vintage titles and shoddy-make up witch (quintessentially the Ramsay Brothers style of make-up), setting the tone of what to expect ahead. The soft-porn cum horror story is cut short when Sonu Duggal (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) in the middle of the horror flick airs a semi-porn clip titillating the sex-deprived souls ranging from mill workers to old men seeking pleasure.

While Sonu doesn’t want to be a part of the sleaze fest, he is forced to be a part of the business because of his brother Vicky Duggal (Anil George). Vicky and his aides are the kings when it comes to making these clips. From shooting a film at low light in a jungle to a shanty bedroom, the idea is only to entice the audiences (literally) with heavy sexual pleasure showing (blurred) bosoms, heavy doses of moans and grunts.

While Vicky is on the hunt to find new ladies, shamelessly ready to bare it all, we also see a realistic portrayal of cat-fights between Vicky’s own leading ladies Poonam and Nadia (based on the famous ‘Hunterwali Nadia’), quite as seen in Ekta Kapoor’s ‘The Dirty Picture’.

Meanwhile, Sonu meets Pinky (Niharika Singh), a struggling actress and falls for her. But Niharika shuns him when she comes to know that he is Vicky’s brother.

A police raid almost puts a closure to Vicky’s dirty business, when he decides to give the sleaze business a last shot. He shoots a porn film inside a closed factory taking help from Sonu. But as fate has its way, police raid and seize the equipment and arrest Sonu and the actors while Vicky manages to escape. Years after spending time in prison Sonu returns to find his brother continuing his business as usual and blames Vicky for the mess in his life.

‘Miss Lovely’ is brilliant at places where one gets exposed to characters and their tricks, the stunning visuals of the trade and its tricks. But there are many broken links, where Ashim Ahluwalia fails in his endeavour to keep the audience attention. Also with the Censors playing havoc with the film, it becomes a bit difficult to keep track of the events.

Another flaw of the film is its sluggish pace. Even if the running time is 113 minutes, the film is slow at places where long static frames of visuals begin to get disturbing. The film boasts of minimal dialogues and it’s the art design and situation that builds the performances and conveys the story, but it gets too boring at a point of time.

What one can appreciate in Miss Lovely is the effort and sincerity with which it is made. From stunning visuals of realistic locations, splendid art work  in aptly showing the vintage Mumbai of the early 80’s and 90’s and sound design so crisp, Miss Lovely surely is set to be a case for students to learn from.

However when it comes to commercial viewing as an audience, it’s the performances to an extent, which scores brownie points. Anil George as Vicky Duggal is rustic and realistic to core. He plays the character of a C-grade producer with conviction.

Niharika Singh as Pinky is good but is deprived of quality screen time. Yet, she manages to pitch in a decent act.

But it is once again Nawazuddin Siddiqui and his realistic portrayal as Sonu, which dominates Miss Lovely and keeps the interest alive. The actor once again proves his worth and shoulders the film on his acting prowess. Miss Lovely, as a film only comes alive at the climax, to say the least when a sudden character transformation happens in Sonu’s character -From an innocent, honest and ambitious hope of becoming a director to a brutal victim of the dark and harsh realities of life.

P:S Only if the Censors have been a little kind, this would have been much better and a more laudable effort.

Final Verdict: Miss Lovely is a decent and honest effort from Ashim Ahluwalia and certainly an eye-opener in a positive way for Independent films to get its foothold. It is disturbing at places but even boring at times. Watch it for its raw appeal and Nawaz’s performance.

RATING: ***

REVIEW: ‘The Lunchbox’ – A Full-Course Meal That Leaves One Hungry For More

Hi All, 

Two strangers in a crowded city, one a lonely housewife and other a lonely government servant. She pleases him with food. In return he sends her motivating letters. Until finally they decide to meet and break away from their monotonous, boring, loveless lives. That in a nutshell is ‘The Lunchbox’ for you. 

thelunchbox2

Ritesh Batra‘s ‘The Lunchbox’ is his first feature film after winning accolades for his short films. The film isn’t just a story about the magic of food alone. There is the spiciness of relationships, the sourness of the city of Mumbai, where in spite of having so many people around you, one still feels like a stranger and sweetness of love, where in the age of Internet and mobiles, Saajan Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) and Ila (Nimrat Kaur) still exchange letters over a ‘dabba’. 

The film might have not made it to the Oscars, where it could possibly even had the chances of winning it! But nevertheless ‘The Lunchbox’ triumphs hearts of the middle-class Mumbaikar or for that matter any Indian with its sheer simplicity and magical performances. 

Unlike most of the films which depict the city of Mumbai in a glorified manner, ‘The Lunchbox’ stays as real to the city as its characters. From the irritated dabbawala, who Ila yells at for delivering the food to a wrong address, to the bunch of kids at Saajan’s locality cribbing about the latter’s rude and arrogant nature, each of these simple, small characters make you feel so connected to the film and sneak a glimpse of one’s own life. 

Even Ila’s culinary experiments and her conversations with the next-door Aunty (Bharti Acherekar – only through background voice) seem realistic. Ritesh Batra’s exemplary writing, simple and to the point is as crisp and crunchy like Ila’s own special recipes she makes for her newfound love and stranger friend Saajan. Batra truly exemplifies that the road to a man’s heart is truly through his stomach.

So much that even Sheikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) gets attracted to the charm of this dabba each time his colleague Saajan opens ‘The Lunchbox’. With the aroma of sumptuous food also begins a bond of friendship, one that Saajan has been craving for.  

But the bigger question, a more curious one, is whether Ila and Saajan ever meet? And that’s where ‘The Lunchbox’ gives the biggest twist in the tale. A sweet-sour take on the love between two strangers, between two different age-groups. And that’s where it strikes the high point, quite a similar feeling to one biting on to a teekhi mirchi in a dal tadka only to find the jug of water beside us empty. Experience it yourself!

‘The Lunchbox’ is simple, straight-forward and beautifully embeds relationships within the film without making a dal khichdi. From the loveless chemistry of Ila and her husband to the humourous friendship between Saajan and Sheikh, Ritesh Batra poignantly focuses on various dynamics of life, including the power and the need of a strong companion for sharing thoughts. 

Michael Simmonds (Cinematographer) and John Lyons (Editing) give ‘The Lunchbox’ a realistic feel and dimension. The detailing of shots and the spirit of the city cannot be ignored and the two guys triumph with some moments that spring up nostalgia. Situations that are a part of our daily lives, yet unnoticed in front of our eyes. Shots and sequences that come in ‘The Lunchbox’ that are a glimpse of our own mundane and monotonous lives in a way. 

‘The Lunchbox’ is also effective because of its realistic casting. Nimrat Kaur plays the housewife with sheer conviction and ease. A perfect symbol (not offensive in any manner) and a reflection of many educated women, who sacrifice careers for a family! Irrfan Khan as Saajan Fernandes once again proves his worth as a brilliant performer. It’s the skin of the character that Irrfan gets into well, which is hard to ignore. A good example of his pavwala (read Christian) accent when he converses with Sheikh. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Sheikh is hilarious and entertaining. I am sure one might have come across such characters in real life! 

Kudos to Ritesh Batra for his take on relationships. And two big thumbs up for UTV Motion Pictures and Karan Johar for backing up ‘The Lunchbox’. A simple yet sweet film like this would have gone unnoticed if not for your sweet association. 

On the whole ‘The Lunchbox’ is a full course meal, that leaves on hungry for more! Need I say more. Time to grab a bite of this dabba!  This one will not be shared. It needs to be experienced! 

Rating: **** 1/2

(the half cut is for the abrupt end, if only there would have been something more spicy!)