Jab Harry Met Sejal: Will Not Be As Legendary As The Title Its Aping

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Will Not Be As Legendary As The Title Its Aping

Imtiaz Ali and Shahrukh Khan making a film together? Damn.

Two men who have been accused of rarely veering away from their tried and tested paths join hands with When Harry Met Sejal. Ali and his proclivity for tweaking the same basic story over and over again with every new project (except for Highway) combine with Shahrukh “please stop making romance/unfunny movies because you actually have so much more range” Khan.

In an interview, the “King” Khan (talking about his future projects) made the statement (being paraphrasing here) “I’m branching out from the so-called Shahrukh formula. Hopefully, the audience sees and appreciates my efforts.” Well, here we go Mr. Khan – I am a fan of most of your work (including the divisive latest ones Raees and Dear Zindagi), and was sitting amongst many other such fans hoping you’d surprise us with your latest offering. Alas.

From what I could glean (from in between the screams of a few young ladies) the movie tells the story of a Lothario named Harry – absconding from Punjab, now Canadian citizen and European tour guide – and a girl named Sejal who has lost her an engagement ring which is very important to her fiancée. The duo travels across Europe attempting to locate said ring while the film attempts to find some sort of romantic connection between the broken and distraught Harry and manic pixie Sejal.

For the full version of this review, please visit:

Jab Harry Met Sejal Review

Jagga Jasoos: A Love Letter To Cinema That Feels More Like A Greeting Card

Jagga Jasoos: A Love Letter To Cinema That Feels More Like A Greeting Card

Films like Jagga Jasoos are the reason I stopped doing letter/number scores on my reviews. The simple fact is that I cannot adequately describe my outlook about the film via a number or a letter. If I were to rate it a 3/5, would that mean the film is as enjoyable as all my other 3/5 reviews? No. Is it more enjoyable? Maybe? Is it better than the other 3/5 films? No. But, what constitutes that grade? What do I take into account for it? and what has my world come to? Too many questions, I’ll do my best to steer away from them.

Jagga Jasoos follows the life of the titular, Jagga Jassos (Detective) as he tries to find his estranged adoptive father in the backdrop of an illegal arms deal. That is the basic plot of the film, which kicks in only after the intermission has come and gone. That is first of the very few but very palpable complications the film has to work through.

I’ll mention an overlooked flaw. If Katrina Kaif’s character is 25 and Jagga is in high school, wouldn’t their romantic inkling be just a tad illegal? Food for thought and let’s move on.

There is something to be admired about the film and how it goes about its business. Taking a line from the screenplay of Kaminey, the film’s titular character has a stammering problem. To alleviate this, he is advised to sing his tête-à-têtes by his adoptive father. The film quickly becomes an out and out musical (not your run-of-the-mill stuff where the film pauses for a flow-killing song) comprising of 29 songs (some of which are masquerading as dialogue) on a whole. These music, lyrics, and visuals seamlessly blend to create a very unique optical and auditory experience.

This is cute, but as we know all too well, too much of a good thing is no good. This narrative style and structure combined with an unexplainable need for excess hamper the flow of the film. A film so vibrant and lively stalls many times as superfluous and overlong sub plots take center stage. These scenes are in the film to source character development but they come off as filler.

There is a saying that the worst sort of scene in any film is one that adds nothing of significance to the plot. Jagga Jasoos does not have those scenes but what it does have are sequences of emptiness punctuated by token bits of plot progression. This phenomenon truly takes a turn for the annoying during the conclusion. This is a segment of the film where bright colors and expertly choreographed extended chase sequences mean nothing as the resolution rings hollow. This is when one truly realizes the smoke and mirrors act the film has going on, even though those exact smoke and mirrors kept the film entertaining for the most part.

However, there is one aspect of the film that I can commend without any contention and that is its fearless leading man, the incomparable Ranbir Kapoor. The man is one of the finest actors working today. He is an actor who stands head and shoulders above the rest of his peers owing to his sheer ability and undeniable talent. His mere presence elevates films from the fiery bowels of mediocrity and makes them watchable. Saurabh Shukla, Saswata (Bob Biswas) Chatterjee and Katrina Kaif do their jobs well but all pale in comparison to the man carrying the film on his seemingly frail shoulders.

The photography, music, performances and ambient sounds that sync with said music showcase Anurag Basu’s talent as a director. Wrangling up the much maligned Pritam and deservedly lauded Amitabh Bhattacharya and letting the two men explore their craft on such a big canvas while trying to concoct a fully engaging near three-hour film is no mean task. Yes, the film does not wholly succeed in all that it is going for but the charm exuding off the screen more than makes up for the film’s shortcomings (again, for the most part). The camerawork and staging of scenes are impeccable. The choreographed line readings and actions are jubilant. I could go on and on.

I could pull a page out of the film’s playbook and be overtly clever while expressing my feelings about this it. But the fact is the more I think about the film, the more divisive I get. There is so much to love but the film has multiple glaring pitfalls. Every fun bit of visual brilliance or acting is completed with a pointless or overlong sequence. It’s a juggling act falling apart at the seams.

I’d read that the film had a troubled production owing to daily script rewrites and multiple edits. A film of this scale needs a steady creative vision which knows when to stay restrained. Even though the restraint is virtually non-existent in this effort, I would watch the hell out of another Jagga Jasoos (make it a franchise). Films like this come around once in a very long time. The film manages to be its own thing while it takes a whole lot of inspiration from multiple avenues of pop culture. It is a joyous celebration of all things cinema even if the final product does not deliver on the promising setup.

Lipstick Under My Burkha: Thought-Provoking, Uncomfortable, Heartfelt and Flawed

Lipstick Under My Burkha: Thought-Provoking, Uncomfortable, Heartfelt and Flawed

At a point in Alankrita Srivastava’s admirably conceived Lipstick Under My Burkha, Usha (played by the 60-year-old Ratna Pathak) finds herself shopping for swimwear and talks about brassieres. For a split second I found myself cringing, and then the thematic starkness of the film came to fore. The barefaced fact that a woman who is currently the age of my grandmother was at the time of her passing shopping for some brand new delicates and had the urge to connect physically with a man struck a deep chord with me.

I found myself reminiscing about my grandmother and wondering if she ever had these thoughts and yearnings, and how many of those went unrequited because the society she was a part of deemed them unwomanly. So many hopes and dreams lost into the ether because quashing them seemed easier than exploring them (for seemingly obvious reasons at that).

Lipstick Under My Burkha (which could straightforwardly be retitled Lipstick Under My Ghunghat) follows the stories of four “ordinary” women who live in the almost-metropolitan city of Bhopal. Rihana is a school-going rebel who has the precociousness to live her dreams, Leela is a beautician stuck between a rock (her fiancée) and a hard place (her lover) in a claustrophobic small town, Shireen is a housewife and mother of three who cannot avoid the sexual advances of her domineering husband but wants to find a smidgen of independence by taking up a job (unbeknown to him), and Usha is a 55-year-old widow whose sexual world is resuscitated by means of having a telephonic romance with a swimming coach.

For the full version of this review please click on the link below:

Lipstick Under My Burkha Review

Munna Michael: The Things My Job Makes Me Watch

Munna Michael: The Things My Job Makes Me Watch

As a person who writes about cinema, you are occasionally asked by your overlords to watch movies you wouldn’t be caught dead watching otherwise. I respect their requests and make my way to the theater, and am intermittently surprised by the genuine quality said movies possess. Those are the days I tell myself to never judge a film by its title or poster.

And then there are days like this.

Munna Michael is a dance-centric film starring Tiger Shroff as the titular Munna Michael. Due to a fatuous set of sequences the screenplay puts him through, he finds himself in Delhi employed as a dance instructor by a gangster Mahinder (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). The gangster (Mahinder) wants to learn the art form as a means to woo a bar dancer (Nidhi Agarwal) he is in “love” with, and who herself has aspirations of winning a dance reality show (the film pokes fun at reality shows but ends up focusing its final act on one). I’m in disbelief that I said those sentences and was still somewhat entertained by the first half of the film.

Films like these do not ask the audiences to reflect or introspect. I had no inclination to put much thought into it either, but I can only do that if a film keeps its entertainment quotient at a high and my boredom at a low. Since that is not the case, here are some nuggets.

For the full version of this review please visit: 

Munna Michael Review

Mom: Problematic, Plodding, Predictable, and Slightly Provoking

Mom: Problematic, Plodding, Predictable, and Slightly Provoking

Sridevi, a super diva of Indian cinema in the ’80s and ’90s, has found herself a new niche. The erstwhile glamor queen seems to have now made it a point to expose the audience at large to the oft-forgotten stories of the everyday woman. One such woman that most folk can relate to is a mother. Nearly every person that buys a ticket has had his/her life molded by a maternal figure, which brings the film its instant audience-investment.

Mom is about Devaki (Sridevi), a mild-mannered yet capable high school teacher. She keeps her household ticking along, she commands her classroom with élan, and she serves the society in her own way by imbuing values into her students, but through all her triumphs, she struggles to connect with her eldest daughter (Sajal Ali).

Her need to be accepted by her daughter leads her to help the young girl fulfill one of her wishes. This act of motherly love soon comes undone as, owing to some fragile male egos, the daughter is put through the unimaginable pain and trauma of an assault. And after the courts acquit the perpetrators and the police profess powerlessness, Devaki herself decides to exact revenge.

For the full version of the review please visit:

Mom Review

Kaminey: Vishal Bharadwaj Sees Your Guy Ritchie and Says “Hold My Beer”

Kaminey: Vishal Bharadwaj Sees Your Guy Ritchie and Says “Hold My Beer”

Kaminey is 2009 Hindi crime thriller directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, written by Vishal Bhardwaj, Sabrina Dhawan, Abhishek Chaubey and Supratik Sen and stars Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, and Amole Gupte. The film follows a day the life of two identical twins as they get caught up in an increasingly complicated web of drugs, mafia, police, marriage, and many other things.

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What makes a good crime thriller? Why is it that many have tried but only a few have seemingly succeeded? Is it because they can’t write characters with distinct shades of gray? Or is it because the style of said film is too reminiscent of films past? Or is it because the film forgets to add in genuine levity by means of characterization instead choosing to work with boisterous loudness? Oh whatever could it be? The answers are seemingly simple when one looks at them. It’s not the violence or swearing or “hot” ladies that make a thriller compelling, it’s why those aspects come into play that does.

Kaminey is one of those rare films that succeeds in being a compelling balls-to-the-wall crime drama. It offsets its humor with drama, it plays off sincerity with the unforgiving bleakness of the everyday world, it tells its story while keeping you second guessing every instance because it knows your prior conditioning with the multitude of twin-based Bollywood films you’ve watched, it pays homage to its many influences (which range from El Mariachi to Jackie Brown) while staying its own unique story and it does all this by being riotously hilarious and at times, genuinely moving.

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Shahid Kapoor is a sight to behold on-screen in a role which acts as a precursor to his much more acclaimed turns in Udta Punjab and Haider. He plays both Charlie and Guddu, the lisper and the guy who stammers respectively, with a surprising amount of heft and attention to detail. On a surface level, the most obvious end to this character trait is humor. He says it himself “main Fa (S) to Fa bolta hoon”. We giggle at his Fa because we know where out mind is racing off to. But a slight incision on that surface leaves the viewer with a deeper dive into the importance of communication when one runs into specific life-defining situations. To the world, you are the sum of all of your actions and words more than your internalized thoughts and this film prides itself in showing how one’s life can be thrown into a dryer loop owing to a flaw, albeit a slight one, in his/her communication patterns. The colorful supporting cast (who could have been a handful of throwaway heathens) pop off the screen because of their uniquely quirky traits and the downright ridiculous situations they find themselves in.

The film is chock full of subtle imagery and even more subtle commentary about the human condition. The film feels no need to draw attention to itself because it knows it’s kicking too much ass and has multiple layers in itself that one can sink into with multiple viewings (it knows you’ll come back to it).

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Onto the all the fun little touches and the broad strokes I liked about the film. The songs and score. Just delightful. It’s an extremely rare phenomenon when a film impresses me enough to make me look into its soundtrack but hot damn. Fatak and Dhan Te Dan have worked their way into my workout playlist and that is a much harder goal to achieve than your day-to-day movie award (not that the filmmakers were going for it). Big shout out to master lyricist Gulzar Saab.

The cinematography and editing style are extremely inventive. There is a method to the madness with how the camera moves whilst achieving some truly complex shots. It might not register starting with the first frame but I assure you that the proverbial lightbulb will go off once you do get comfortable with the flow of the film.

All the little nods go to those moments of visual storytelling and character motivations revealed via actions rather than words in a hyper-verbose film ( a hard trick to pull off). The fun English lines peppering the songs which say “slow” when the beat picks up despite the audible instruction. Shahid Kapoor playing the guitar to “Duniya Mein Logo Ko”. I could go on for days.

*cough* that little subplot shared between the brothers is slightly hackneyed *cough*

That shot of Shahid Kapoor running with the horses (yeah, I know all the overtones, undertones and everything else that shot is going for but), Man that shot is burnt into my retinas. It is the kind of moment that makes a movie star. So very good. I live for this stuff.

Suggestion: Please watch a version of the film with subtitles if you’re not comfortable with Hindi as a language.

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Trapped: The Unbearable Loneliness of Urban Living

Trapped: The Unbearable Loneliness of Urban Living
Trapped is a 2017 psychological thriller directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, written by Amit Joshi and Hardik Mehta and stars Rajkummar Rao and Geetanjali Thapa. The film follows the story of a man who locks himself in an apartment on the 35th floor of an empty high-rise residential building.
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Trapped was quite the interesting movie watching experience for me. I went in with balanced expectations and, the annoying teenagers who wouldn’t stop talking notwithstanding, the film delivered on them. The central performance is good, the premise is a winner and some scenes ooze tension, but this is where it stops for me. The film reaches for greatness and doesn’t quite get there. It makes for an interesting watch but not for a great think piece. The film plays as a metaphor for urban living and the effect fear has on a person’s life. It shows the loneliness of city life and how insignificant any one person is in the sea of people that make a city tick. The film does not make this obvious however as it chooses to focus on the story it is trying to tell. The film earns major points there even though it might not work in this film’s overall context. One doesn’t need to show off one’s intelligence, if one possesses the quality, it’ll show and this film follows this mantra.
My first gripe with the film before it starts showing off all its coolness is how it gets to its primary plot. Again, I understand its metaphorical nature but as its own self-contained story, it fails any semblance of a logic test. Look, I don’t care how desperate you are to find a home to rent, I refuse to believe you’ll rent a flat in a building which does not even have a front gate or another soul in sight. No sane person would do this as everything about it would raise red flags. As a corollary to this, the film goes to great lengths to show our lead character’s ingenuity. Showing me he is a competent enough guy while also telling me that he made the undeniably stupid choice in renting out a flat in a 40 building without an other soul in sight, really grinds my gears. Not to mention the literal deus ex-machinas that happen to keep the film from dying out. 
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The film has some truly inspired moments once these shenanigans are out the door. The sheer impossibility of escaping his situation is brilliantly told using the visual medium. The lead character’s desperation is illustrated fantastically. His innovative methods of trying to conquer his fears and limitations are disturbing yet joyous. The film damn near uses every single thing available in the apartment as a plot device, everything from empty paint cans to rocks. The film made me thirsty even though I had a Coca Cola sitting right next to me, I know the film is doing something right if I had that feeling going on. But then again, between these riveting moments, which form the bones of the film, the film does have enough in terms of meat to sustain itself for its 100-minute run-time which results in odd pacing issues.
I heard that the film was made off a 35-page script. I was equal parts amazed and skeptical when I received that information. All I could think of was, how does a film expect to fill its runtime with so little? Simple answer, it does not. But it is, however, a jolly good time if these pesky logical and pacing flaws don’t concern you. The film had me hooked as long as it did because of one simple reason, I was there with him in that apartment. I was busy looking around it and trying to figure out what could help me if I ever were to find myself in his situation. I’m sure most viewers watching the film would have a similar experience as it is a story that lends itself to intellectually sparring with its audience.
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Would I have done a few things differently? Yes. Would I have thought of a few things he does? No. But does the film succeed in engaging an audience? You’re damn right, it does.
OVERALL SCORE – 3-stars
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