Pagglait

Pagglait - Wikipedia
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Wikipedia describes Pagglait as a ‘dark comedy drama film.’ The movie is neither comical nor bleak. Elucidating on a theme that is interesting, but not Avant Garde, Director, Umesh Bist has done an appreciable job in assessing the pulse of the viewer. Pagglait is a cathartic experience of a young widow over the course of a thirteen day ritual following the untimely demise of her husband. Sandhya (Sanya Malhotra) loses her spouse Astik (unnamed and unseen) in unexpected circumstances and before she can even come to grips with her monumental loss, she is caught in a whirlpool of intricate family politics, bickering and a gobsmacking revelation.

The film begins with a family beset with grief upon the loss of a young son. Shivendra Giri (Ashutosh Rana), and his wife Usha (Sheeba Chaddha) receive a rude jolt when their son Astik dies suddenly. Even when they are coming to terms with their irreparable loss, a deluge of relatives add to the chaos and confusion. To add insult to agony, Sandhya finds a photograph of a beautiful woman carefully hidden amongst the possessions of her late husband. By a strange quirk of coincidence, Sandhya finds out that her husband’s past lover (or a carefully hidden current flame?) happens to be his workplace colleague, Akanksha (Sayani Gupta). Sandhya is now left to grapple with a new dilemma. Should she weep over the loss of a husband whom she did not even know well, or should she disparage him for two timing her in a remorseless fashion?  

Paggalait is a story of loss, pain, realisation, recouping, relief, and resurrection. Sanya Malhotra as a confused and confounded Sandhya essays her role to perfection. She is the epitome of patience, perplexity, and perseverance. She has an admirable poise that endears her to her audience. Ashutosh Rana as the grieving father is at his muted best. Walking the tightrope between eccentric relatives and the private mourning over the loss of a son, Rana demonstrates why he is easily one of the best in the business. He executes his role with a panache that is effortless. Raghubir Yadav, as Pappu (also referred to as Tayyaji) the elder brother of Shivendra, is irascibly brilliant. Hypocritical, irritating and dominating, Yadav is his inimitable self. Whether it be admonishing family members for their recalcitrance over a neglected ritual or consuming alcohol himself after dictating a period of prohibition for the rest, Yadav is his usual exemplary self. Sheeba Chaddha, in the role of a bereaved mother warms the very cockles of the heart. Helpless, hapless, and hurried, she is a poor women who is shackled to the dictates of not just elaborate procedures but also the damned pestilence of a coterie of a chatty and insensitive group of people.

As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with Standard Operating Procedures such as social distancing etc putting paid to the hopes of people flocking to the movies, the Over The Top (“OTT”) segment of the entertainment industry has elevated itself to a new level. The quality of some of the documentaries and movies is enticingly captivating. “Pagglait” squarely belongs to this category. Even though dealing with a topic and elaborating on a theme that is not novel by any stretch of imagination, the movie succeeds beyond any semblance of doubt in capturing the imagination of its viewers.

Here’s to more of such madness!

Operation Varsity Blues – Chris Smith

Netflix documentary to examine man behind college admissions scandal | KUTV

In her book “Let Me Tell You What I Mean”, Joan Didion in an achingly wistful fashion recounts her feeling of desolation upon receiving a letter of rejection from Stanford University. In an essay titled “On Being Unchosen by the College of One’s Choice”, which every parent ought to read, Didion mulls on how she  contemplated suicide while sitting on the edge of her bathtub with an old bottle of codeine-and-Empirin. Sanity prevails in the end as she brushes away the ominous thought. Upon hearing the news that her daughter’s application to Stanford was rejected, Didion’s father just shrugs and offers her a drink. “I think about that shrug with a great deal of appreciation whenever I hear parents talking about their children’s “chances””, muses Didion.

Director Chris Smith of “American Movie” fame brings to bear in a brilliantly matter-of-fact yet devastating manner, the infamous college admissions scandal that rocked and shocked the United States. In an original Netflix documentary titled, “Operation Varsity Blues”, Chris Smith showcases the brazen and seemingly inconceivable “side door” scheme perpetuated by the now convicted “education and life coach” Rick Singer. Matthew Modine, who essays the character of Rick Singer to un-distilled brilliance, boasts to one of his high profile clients, “if you want to use my side door at Harvard, it is $1.2 million. But if you wanna go through the backdoor, Harvard’s asking for $45 million.” Neither the scheming counselor nor the willing parent even considers the “front-door” option which has students getting into Ivy League Institutions through talent and grit alone.

Celebrities, business tycoons and magnates and fashionistas made a scramble for the Rick Singer’s side-door. When the scandal was unearthed and the dust settled down, Singer has pocketed approximately $25 million between 2011-18. Most of the money went in bribing college administrators and coaches. Singer had opened a jaw-dropping 761 side doors when the penny finally dropped. Throughout the documentary, Modine works the phones with a single minded determination bordering on the obsessive. Regaling his impressed and astonished potential clients with his modus operandi, Modine furiously works through 21 hour workdays, jet setting from coast to coast. The documentary also depicts Modine establish a for profit education counseling company “The Key”, in addition to setting up a nonprofit foundation “The Key Worldwide Foundation” that is exempt from tax. This is exactly what Singer did. Depending upon the institution which a parent wishes his or her child to secure admissions in, Singer named a price and the amount was wire transferred into the foundation’s account. The money was then channeled to enrich various “point men” such as Yale University Football coach Rudy Meredith and USC Water Polo Coach, Jovan Vavic, who were hand in glove with Singer.

Amongst the people who participated in this insidious scheme were Hollywood celebrities, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin; founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp, a food and beverage packaging company, Gregory Abbott; CEO of a boutique marketing company Trendera, Jane Buckingham; owner of a family wine vineyard in Napa Valley, Agustin Huneeus Jr; and senior executive at TPG private equity firm William McGlashan Jr. As Perry Kalmus, an independent education counselor bemoans in the documentary, “the running line in our industry is like, ‘the parents are applying to college’. The kid is the vehicle through which they apply to college. Chris Smith dexterously employs the wiretapped phone calls of Rick Singer and weaves a story line in a totally non-linear fashion based on such phone calls. Smith also succeeds in getting a firsthand testimony from one of the accused in the case, who incidentally was also the one who was let off with the lightest indictment on account of being held not maliciously culpable. Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer holds forth about how Singer pumped funds into his sailing programme but where the funds were actually utilized for enriching the very purpose for which it was reluctantly made available.

Smith also chillingly portrays the role played by Mark Riddell in the entire grandiose scheme of things conceived by Rick Singer. A Harvard graduate himself in addition to being a former director of college entrance exam preparations at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Riddell was paid $10,000 for each of the harmonized ACTs or SATs which he was required to edit for the students. Riddell frequently flew from Florida where he was residing to various test centres in Texas and California. At the test centres he doubled up as a proctor before manipulating applicant’s answers to arrive at a ‘predetermined’ score.

“The word prestige means deceit in French” explains John Reider, a former Admissions Officer at Stanford. Prestige that is generally attached to admissions into the hallowed portals of Ivy League institutions, according to Reider is just an “imaginary illusion.” In an era where education symbolizes more badges of honour than an infusion of character, and where – as Michael Sandel illustrates in his brilliant book, “The Tyranny of Merit” – entry into an elitist Ivy League Institution becomes the very end, rather than a mean, Chris Smith in a breathtaking manner blows the lid open to reveal a broken system that exploits anxieties of parents and the angst of children to the hilt thereby birthing a form of corruption that is not just endemic, but institutionalized.  

The insipid and almost laughable nature of “punishments” imposed by the Department of Justice on the perpetrators of the Operation Varsity Blues scam will only lead to an intermittent lull in proceedings before there arrives more grist for a perpetually working mill. Meanwhile the likes of Chris Smith still go about their work unstintingly in trying their best to throw some sand in the gear. May The Force Be With their ilk!

DARBAR – Emperor Rajini holds Court

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Prior to reviewing the hotly anticipated A.R. Murugadoss directed movie “Darbar” starring Superstar Rajinikanth (Rajini), that hit the screens on the 9th of January, 2020, a disclaimer is in order. I am an impossible, incorrigible and inveterate Rajini tragic. Hence there is an inevitability attached to the fact that a degree of bias would creep into my evaluation. Having said that I promise to be as objective as possible striving hard not to compromise assessment at the altar of adulation. So, not being Mark Antony’s Brutus, who after all was an honourable man, here goes!

First things first. “Darbar” is NOT “Baasha.” There is an unfair proclivity amongst critics and laymen alike to compartmentalize the Rajini Filmography into Baasha and post-Baasha periods. Employing Baasha as the gold standard against which its successors are judged is doing injustice both to the Superstar as well as his Directors. “Darbar” is 169 minutes of glorious Rajini mayhem, mania and mannerisms. Both Karthik Subbaraj, initially with “Petta” and now Murugadoss have phenomenally succeeded where the likes of Shankar and Ranjit have colossally blundered with Enthiran -2, Kabali, and Kaala respectively. The great poet, author and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore once famously said, “a mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand that uses it to bleed.” Murugadoss grasps this nuance to perfection and produces an entertainer that is by, for and of Thalaivar.

Aadithya Arunasalam (“Rajini”) a top cop is posted to the throbbing metropolis of Mumbai to put paid to a proliferating menace of substance abuse and trafficking in women. Arunasalam engages in a burst of extra judicial killings that reek of utter disdain and remorselessness. Managing to get to the root of the problem, Arunasalam succeeds in nabbing Ajay Malhotra (Prateik Babbar), the son of Vijay Malhotra (Nawab Shah), a business tycoon and the mastermind behind the purveying of drugs in the city. But when Hari Chopra (Suniel Shetty), a dreaded gangster who made a veritable mockery of the police force 27 years earlier before fleeing abroad, makes a menacing return to his motherland to wreak vengeance by targeting Arunasalam and his daughter Valli (Nivetha Thomas), all hell breaks loose.

In a plot that is if not gripping, exhilaratingly engaging, Rajini rules the roost. In a performance that mirrors “Padayappa” for entertainment quotient, and Petta for ‘Rajinisms’, “Darbar” is both Murugadoss tribute to Rajini fandom and Thalaivar’s offering to his fanatical followers. Oozing patented style that has made him one of the greatest entertainers in the annals of Indian cinema, Rajini holds Court, in what undoubtedly is his personal “Darbar.” There are the uncompromising slow motion fight scenes where antagonists come in bunches only to dispatched in multifariously unbelievable ways. Defying gravity they remain painfully suspended in thin air, before being ordered by their punisher to pay heed to the immutable laws of Physics. One of the highlights of the movie is a fight sequence in a railway station, the choreography of which is an exquisite paean to the charisma of Rajini. In more ways than one this is an age defying performance by the Superstar who at the time of this review is 70!

Although the introduction scene of Rajini takes on the contours of a by now expected panache, it is a tad bit weak by his own standards. A very clever and logical take on Rajini’s age is seen in the expectant albeit hesitant approaches made by Arunasalam towards Lily (Nayanthara). The crowning glory of the movie however is reserved for the interactions between Arunasalam and his daughter Valli (“Nivetha Thomas”).

Suniel Shetty as Hari Chopra is a looming Damocles Sword hovering over the head of Arunasalam. Considering the fact that he is making a comeback to the silver screen after a long hiatus, his role could have been meatier and substantial.

Nivetha Thomas as Valli holds her own in a performance that can only be termed brilliant. Effortless, effervescent and energetic, she is the most soothing foil to Arunasalam’ s raging temper. Yogi Babu as Kaushik is his usual natural self. Nayanthara plays the role of a charming and self-effacing woman who nurses an admiration for Arunasalam that goes beyond just camaraderie. However, her role is unfortunately one that just makes up the numbers.

Anirudh with his racy composition and an addictive background music proves why he is one of the most formidable young talents to be reckoned with in the musical world currently.  “Summa Kizhi” has all the hallmarks of a Rajini anthem. Santosh Sivan, with the free reign that he seems to have been accorded dishes out what is virtually a magical treat.

With the impudence of an Alex Pandian (coincidentally Murgadoss’s inspiration for this character), the impetuosity of a Petta and the inevitability of a Padayappa, Rajini reigns supreme as the Emperor of his Darbar. Even Manik Baasha would have approved of Aadithya Arunasalam, at least in so far as their methods of dispensing justice are concerned. But then again, I am not comparing.

KGF Chapter 1: Rocky’s Rage

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First things first, KGF – Chapter 1 is here to stay. A combination of cinematography, musical score, screenplay and execution on screen contrive to take KGF to levels hitherto unseen and heights previously unattained, in the annals of the otherwise illustrious Kannada film industry.

Coming to the plot of the movie, the genesis finds its voice in the year 1951. A confluence of two profund events in the form of the birth of the protagonist and the discovery of gold in the mines of Kolar Gold Fields (K.G.F) sets in motion a high octane, racy and rambunctious chain of events. Seeped in poverty Yash, a.k.a Raja Krishnappa Bairya (“Rocky”) heads to the city of dreams and dons, Mumbai to carve a niche for himself. Aided by a fearless nature and untrammeled ambition, Rocky soon becomes a don of fearsome repute. Rocky takes on the big bad boys whose synonyms are gold smuggling. After successfully warding away Inayat Khalil a menacing mafia don from laying down his marker in the bullion black market in Mumbai, Rocky is dispatched on what seems to be a ‘point-of-no-return’ mission back home where he finds himself face to face with the ruthless Garuda, the monarch of Kolar Gold Fields (KGF) who murders people for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Will Rocky liberate the enslaved miners from K.G.F thereby stopping Garuda in his tracks forms the crux and core of KGF.

Yash, as Rocky, scorches, and sizzles. He is suave, sleek and sensational. A gun toting, witticisms mouthing, human-wrecking machine, Yash holds his audience in absolute thrall as a brooding hulk who neither brooks opposition nor obstinacy. Breathtaking in all his stunt sequences, Yash has in one fell swoop and one single clean stroke, bid goodbye to his stereotypical romantic chocolate boy next door image. This paradigm shift is more than just welcome. There is a definite finesse to his performance that is refreshingly non-linear and electric. Even though at times the plot becomes thick and heavy with layers of complications and a plethora of characters, Yash manages to hold his own with a ridiculous ease that is frightening.

Ravi Basrur has reinvented himself with a background score that is easily the best in Kannada cinema over the past few or even many) years. The contextual and thematic scores are lilting and haunting leaving a scarring impression.

Prashant Neel excels in his screenplay and direction. Of especial mention is the climax which blisteringly sets up the excited viewers for the much anticipated sequel. The assiduous employ of monochrome, colour and VFX is a troika whose brilliant coalescence is one which till now has been alien to Kannada cinema.

The cinematography by Bhuvan Gowda is melancholic, simmering and impatient.

The veteran Anant Nag as the narrator and a senior journalist is his usual expected effortless self. Srinidhi Shetty as Yash’s accidental love interest just manages to hold her own even though the script has nothing spectacular or significant for her to deliver. Ramachandra Raju as the antagonistic Garuda is scary enough commensurate with the needs of the script.

KGF however is Yash and vice versa. This movie is sure to mark a renaissance in the acting career of this promising young star.

KGF – SALAM ROCKY BHAI!

PETTA – MARANA MASS!


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To quote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “in character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Director Karthik Subbaraj seems to have embraced Longfellow’s philosophy wholeheartedly in “Petta” the latest starrer featuring Superstar Rajinikanth. For a legion of the deified actor’s fans, a Rajini movie is an event for celebration, filled with joie de vivre! “Petta” provides the perfect recipe for such an occasion. Although avoidably heavy in the unraveling of its plot, the movie ensures that every single minute that Rajinikanth is on the screen, is absolutely worth its weight in gold for the adoring masses.

Bereft of the mind numbing sci-fi histrionics of an “2.0” and completely shorn of the grave and bellicose gravitas of either a “Kabaali” or a “Kaala”, “Petta” takes a hard core Rajini fan on a nostalgic trip down the memory lane. A memory that has at its underpinnings the powerful aura of a “Baasha” and a pugnacious verve of a “Padayappa”.  For starters, the swagger is back as is the style quotient. With the unabashed reclamation of these two elements, Superstar Rajinikanth is back! The stirrings of familiarity are felt at the very beginning with the evergreen introduction theme of Deva finally resurrected by Anirudh (with a refreshingly zany twang in the beat). The movie picks up momentum with the trademark slow motion walks, a whiplash adorning of the ubiquitous sun glass, and fight sequences tailor made to embellish the effervescence of the stylish Superstar!

Rajinikanth is Kaali, the new hostel warden at Saint Woods College, which is overwhelmed by corruption and inundated by the bullying antics of an influential group of students euphemistically terming themselves, “The Terror Group”. The no-nonsense albeit nonchalant Kaali, cleans house by teaching the leader of the bullying pack Michael (Bobby Simha) a lesson he won’t forget. In the process of reinstating order and restoring decorum, Kaali also provides an artful glimpse of his culinary skills and expertise with the nunchaku. Without missing a beat, Kaali also woos Mangalam (Simran) a divorced mother of one of the students at Saint Woods College.

Things really begin to get both interesting and murky as a series of events unleash with ominous vigour ghosts of a buried past. Enter a rabid right wing politician Singaram a.k.a Singhar Singh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and his more than gregarious son Jithu (Vijay Sethupathi), who also doubles as his father’s hitman. Add to the mix, Sasikumar and Trisha, you have a veritable mélange of characters who appear and disappear in a frenzy. However, the screen presence of every actor in the movie is overshadowed by the colossal presence of Kaali. Mouthing punchlines with panache, (with the dialogues being reworked from past Rajini gold standard hits), exuding the now familiar charisma in every stunt sequence, Rajinikanth sizzles and dishes out a masterclass in style. One is forced to admit that it is not Chitti/2.0 who set out screens alight, but Petta instead! With a no-holds barred energy and a charm that holds his faithful followers in absolute thrall, Petta, ensures that Superstar Rajinikanth rightfully reclaims his throne in the only manner that he knows – with style and substance.

Anirudh’s background music is one of the most noticeable and refreshing aspects of the movie. Vijay Sethupathi as Jithu is his usual flawless self, while Nawazuddin Siddiqui does ample justice and more to his role. Trisha and Simran however have their screen presence unfairly trimmed. But the duo do a stellar job in holding their own as does Sasikumar.

Karthik Subbaraj has unashamedly confessed that he is a fanatical worshipper of Superstar Rajinikanth. And in “Petta” he provides ample testimony to his adulation. Practicing what he preaches, Subbaraj ensures that “Petta” is by, for and of Rajinikanth!

PETTA – MARANA MASS!

ROBOT 2.0


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A Hodge podge of Quantum Physics (with references to the forces of Gravity, Electro Magnetism, Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces), an introduction to the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges that use the techniques of Kirlian photography, the true worth of the usually neglected science of ornithology all layered in with the crass and basic human emotion of greed coalesce together to form Shankar and Superstar Rajinikanth’s much awaited mega offering “2.0”.

In so far as the visual effects are concerned, 2.0 can give any Hollywood movie not just a run, but a very sprint for its money. However, in so far as the plot is concerned, the 140 odd minute spectacle is a clash of contradictions. Strong and susceptible in equal measure, the narrative grips but also meanders, enthuses but also enervates. But significantly, unlike a usual Thalaiva blockbuster does not hold you in thrall. The classic and unrivaled Rajini imprimatur is missing and such an absence is felt in dollops!

At the core and crux of 2.0 lies the proverbial tussle between the untrammeled rampage of technology and the battle to preserve the Planet’s eco system. Spurred on by the unceasing and ravenous appetite of 1.3 billion people, cellphone companies commence constructing a plethora of networks paying scant regard to the radiation courtesy the high frequency waves generated by the aural medium. Pakshi Raja (Akshay Kumar) is a famed ornithologist whose concern for the welfare of flying species extends beyond mere contributions to journals and lip service to technological hazards. Running from pillar to post, knocking on the doors of a myriad authorities, Pakshi Raja coaxes, cajoles and coerces the powers that be to bestow some sympathy on the birds. When all he gets for his efforts are brickbats, insults and a few blows to his body he decides to take things into his own hands and his roiling rage takes flight – literally. Transforming himself into a very embodiment of evil, the ornithologist steals cell phones from every user in the city of Chennai and harnessing its power rains havoc upon the inhabitants.

Enter Dr. Vasikaran (Rajinikanth). Heeding a call from the Government to rescue the public, Vasikaran resurrects his previously shelved robotic marvel and alter ego Chitti. Strictly obeying the three quintessential dictums of Issac Assimov’s laws of robotics, Chitti with the guidance of his creator, and another feminine humanoid, Nila (Amy Jackson) manages to contain the evil force that is Pakshi Raja. What otherwise seemed like a happy ending turns out to be the surreal lull before the ominous storm. When the dead and the buried are revived all hell breaks loose! Pakshi Raja makes a rampant and more vengeful appearance and this time it seems that there is no stopping him. Or is it?

Akshay Kumar as Pakshi Raja is stellar and executes his demonic role with sheer aplomb. A wrathful hell-raiser who is remorseless when it comes to intentions, he revels in his character leaving no stone unturned to make a mark in his Tamil debut. Standing toe to toe with Chitti, Akshay holds his own without even faltering once. The transition from the ornithologist Pakshi Raja to the evil wrecker in chief is exquisitely executed by one of the most bankable stars in current day Bollywood. If it is the intention of Akshay Kumar to make inroads into Kollywood, he has succeeded marvelously!

Amy Jackson has a meaty role to essay as the humanoid Nila and does justice to her role. The partner in crime of Chitti, she is torn by an irresistible attraction towards Chitti (human emotions are preprogrammed into her) and a call of duty.

But as may be expected, the heartbeat of the movie is Rajini a.k.a Chitti. Back with a thunderous bang, Chitti regales, resonates and reverberates with an ease that is effortless and with a style that is inimitable. The hideous and portentous laughter of Chitti Version 2.0 takes off from where it was last heard in Enthiran. Only this time instead of being directed at its creator, the mocking is exclusively reserved for Pakshi Raja. The Superstar of Indian cinema seamlessly slots into his niche and delivers a jaw dropping act that is delightful and delectable. However, it is not just Dickens’ Oliver  Twist who asks for more. One can be forgiven in assuming that the predilection of one of India’s premier Directors has been more towards Graphical effects than on his Great protagonist. This was an opportunity for Shankar to harness the blistering potential of Rajini and hurl his style and substance at his adoring legion of impossible and incorrigible fans. There is no semblance of doubt that at least in this regard, he missed the proverbial bus. At times the fact that true genius manifests itself in simplicity can be sorely and inadvertently missed.

Some of the dialogues are absolute sizzlers and no one other than Rajini could have done justice to them. The devilish intent and the disdainful show of respect for his opponent by Chitti 2.0 has glorious shades of “Moondru Mudichu” and “Moondru Mugam”  Chitti is a paradoxical concoction of innate sophistication and ingrained irascibility. More than anything else, he is Superstar Rajinikanth; he is Thalaivar; he is the emperor of style in Indian cinema. An emperor whose vicissitudes and prowess could have been lent a much wider lenience by Shankar than what he has resorted to in this instance.

While the background score has the usual flair and flamboyance of A.R.Rahman, Shankar has done a great job of going extraordinarily easy on songs with expansive sets. The cinematography is captivating and the dialogues a mix of the matter of fact and the macabre.

In a nutshell: 2.0 – RAJINI!

Sui Dhaga: Made In india – A paean to Make In India

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A wholesome entertainer, ‘Sui Dhaga’ is a Horatio Alger movie with a marked desi flavour. Staid, prosaic and yet warming the cockles of every heart, Yash Raj films have attempted, and succeeded in delivering a film that is sub par on the stereotypical glamour quotient, but packing a punch on the substance front. If you expect to see dainty damsels clad in revealing chiffon prancing around trees, and chocolate boy heroes clumsily strumming guitars all the while reminiscing about their muses, then ‘Sui Dhaga’ is not the movie for you.

Mauji (Varun Dhawan) undergoes a series of humiliating taunts courtesy his employer, a dealer in sewing machines and driven by extreme exasperation quits his job after a melt down. Mamata (Anushka Sharma), his muted but powerfully influential and immensely well balanced wife supports his move and goads him on to be an entrepreneur. Facing intense opposition from his pessimistic father (Raghuvir Yadav) and having to put up with the nagging pleas from an ailing mother, Mauji is at a cross road in his life. Battered by an uncompromising world and bounced around amongst people with ulterior motives, Mauji has only the ever reliable Mamata to bank on if he has to succeed in his endeavour to carve out a niche for himself.

Varun Dhawan essays a commendable performance as a naive, honest and hardworking Mauji. He has acted out of his skin to make himself relevant, indelible and immaculate. This performance will undoubtedly go a long way in paving the way for Dhawan to carve an inimitable niche for himself.

If Mauji is the heart of ‘Sui Dhaga’, Mamata is its pulsating, calculating and remarkable brain. Sui Dhaga is made for, by and of Anushka Sharma. Effortless, fluid and phenomenal she carries the movie on her slender albeit able shoulders. Thoroughly de-glamourised and possessing a screen presence that is powerful, Anushka has pulled off a veritable coup. Standing like a rock beside her struggling husband, she punches beyond her weight to make things happen for him.

Raghuvir Yadav is his usual brilliant self. He irritable and gruff manner paradoxically endears him to everyone as does the incredible innocuousness of Yamini Das (Mauji’s mother).

The rest of the ensemble is stellar in the roles carefully devised for them and there is not a single character who either disappoints or disgruntles.

‘Sui Dhaga – Made In india’ – tailored to perfection!

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam – A Drama in Crimson

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Chekka Chivantha Vaanamis a subtle, succinct and searing tribute by Maniratnam to Quentin Tarantino. With unmistakable shades of “Reservoir Dogs”, assaulting the viewer in the closing phases of the movie, one of the most acclaimed directors in the annals of Indian cinema both delivers as well as disappoints. The innovative, ingenious and inimitable genius of Mani is explicitly missing in this movie. But the lack of originality is more than adequately made up for by a gripping plot, a flowing narrative and a couple of jackhammer twists that leave the audience craving for more.

Senapathi (Prakash Raj) is the archetypal gangster, who after trysts with both death and destiny has carved out an unassailable niche for himself as sophisticated gangster of reckoning. He is assisted in the management of his sprawling empire by his eldest son Varada (Arvind Swami). Senapathi has two more sons deeply engrossed in managing their own business (legal and illegal) affairs overseas. While Thyagu (Arun Vijayakumar) deals with the Sheikhs in Dubai, Ethi a.k.a Ethiraj (Silambarasan) has his personal dalliance with arms dealers in Serbia.

Senapathi and his wife Lakshmi (Jauasudha) on their way back from a temple are subject to a gruesome assassination attempt when two hired hitmen disguising themselves as policemen, fire at the car in which Senapathi and Lakshmi are traveling and toss a grenade inside the vehicle to make sure that the occupants are taken care of. Even though the couple barely survive, this tumultuous incident drives a vertical rift between the brothers who begin warring for power.

In the meantime, Chithr (Jyotika) the wife of Varada, enlists the help of her husband’s close friend and a cop known for his volatile predilections, Rasool Ebrahim (Vijay Sethupathi) to shield her husband from any untimely and unfortunate exigencies. What happens next is a couple of hours of intrigue, intensity and incredulity.

Arvind Swami as the self-professed heir apparent of Senapathi, essays a very suave and selfish portrayal. Fierce as an underworld don and fecund as a key protagonist in a dysfunctional family, this veteran actor is a joy to behold.

Arun Vijay as Thyagu is refreshing. We see an uninhibited and smooth style, the credit for discovering which has to go to Manirathnam. This film might be the stepping stone for Arun’s future successes.

Silambarasan as Ethi sizzles! If Arvind Swami is the engine of the movie, Silambarasan is the heart. Spontaneous, graceful and natural, Simbarasan carries the day in most of the scenes where he appears. His verve, vivacity and viciousness makes one wonder why an actor of such talent and caliber is such a poor judge of characters to be essayed by him. Directors of note and repute better watch this movie in general and Silambarasan in particular!

But without an iota of doubt, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is Vijya Sethupathi’s movie. This phenomenally talented actor has delivered a performance to be remembered, and has executed a role to be revered. As the abrasive, humorous, loyal and conflicted custodian of the law, Vijay Sethupathi dazzles, revels and regales his audience. While fans will drool over this performance, many will transform into fans! A Rasool Ebrahim, Sethupathi is simply brilliant. Whether it be dialogue delivery or the timing, this splendid actor leaves nothing to chance.

While Jyothika and Prakash Raj are as usual effortless, it is a joy to behold the evergreen Jayasudha onscreen.

The soundtrack by A.R. Rahman is haunting if not indelible and the Santosh Sivan’s Cinematography does not disappoint. The dialogues are appropriate and the stunts aesthetic. However, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is both a highlight and a disappointment. A disappointment because this is not Manirathnam at his original best, but paradoxically a highlight on account of the overall context and content of the movie.

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam – A drama in crimson!

KRRISH 3 – (K)ATASTROPHE

Mutilate a few characters from X-Men; plagiarise a part of an ending from the latest Superman release; put Robocop to unbridled shame and Presto – you are left with an unpalatable concoction titled KRRISH3! Deficient in intent, demoralising in content and deplorable in execution, India’s indigenous Superhero elicits more derision rather than entice demand. The movie has for a plot, the demented intentions of a devious scientist going by the clichéd name of Kaal. Not only is Kaal deranged in mind, he is also debilitated by quadriplegia. But the physical deficiencies are more than made up for by an inexplicable supernatural power which allows him to lift, levitate and line up objects using the magic of telekinesis. Just to demonstrate the extent of his prowess, Kaal for the benefit of an exhausted audience manages to shatter a few glass windows, shear his adopted father with a knife and spin chairs around a room, all with a face that though meant to be contorted is in reality constipated! The role of Kaal is played by Vivek Oberoi who for most part of the movie keeps traipsing through his ‘state-of-the-art’ laboratory in a wheel chair and staring at a bank of blinking monitors with an unblinking eye.  As the movie would have you believe, blame it all on a mischievous strain of DNA! It is a matter of great mercy that the pioneers in the field of DNA Watson and Crick are not around to see this fiasco. But there is no denying that the two of them would be screaming, kicking and cart-wheeling in their respective graves!

As Kaal indulges in his favourite past-time of creating deadly strains of virus, deliberately spreading their toxicity across the globe and concocting an antidote from his – yes you guessed it right – BLOODY DNA, all with the intent of making tons of money to find a cure for his quadriplegia, there is an imminent need for a superhero to stop the mad genius in his tracks. Not only is it amply evident that Kaal has no inkling of more temperate or intemperate money making avenues such as playing the share markets or perpetuating scams, he banks on India as a potential target for the most obvious reason – more the population, more the spread of infection and more the spread of infection, more the quantum of anti-dote required and more the quantum of anti-dote – you guessed it right – more the rolling of banknotes! At this juncture I would request the forgiveness of an exasperated reader as I could have explained the rationale in a few words, but attribute this condition to the movie! I am affected or rather infected! By the way the choice of India is arrived at by Kaal by a contemptuous twirl of a compact globe accompanied by the same constipated look of purpose!

Cutting to the chase, the green coloured, miniature kidney-bean shaped virus (why are these obnoxious things always green making them look more eco-friendly rather than esoteric?) is transported to India by a couple of mutants, one of whom has the ability to morph and take the form of any living human and re-morph into a female mutant looking more like a product straight out of a Lakme Beauty Salon rather than an intimidating alien! Appropriately she is named ‘Kaya’ (played by Kangana Ranaut). Giving Kaya Company are two mutants, one of whose power lies in a tongue capable of extraordinarily ugly elasticity and whose utility ranges from the trivial (such as flicking ice creams off cones) to the terrible (slurping butterflies and strangulating unsuspecting necks). Very soon India, or rather Mumbai is held in the throes of an incapacitating virus and a great many casualties occur.

Enter KRRISH or to be more precise KRRISH and his father! The offspring by this time is understandably tired after having pulled off an incredulous rescue act, involving the freeing of a locked landing gear of a Boeing 747, or was it an Airbus A-320? Who cares, the flight was really big anyway!  Unlike Superman who instinctively materialises at the scene of an impending disaster, KRRISH (3 that is – not the father), seems to rely upon the accuracy and reporting timeliness of News Channels on Cable Television. For in what must indisputably be the singular instance of its kind, a News Channel telecasts the fact that a flight approaching the Mumbai Airport has developed landing gear snags. Our Superhero appropriately is tuned in to the television set at the right time. Decorating his face with a suitably grim look, he dons his flowing black attire complete with a cape, puts on his mask, the latter looking like one that is strategically torn before being worn, and half-flies, half-jumps, adding slinging and catapulting motions before attaching himself to the front wheel of the aircraft in distress. The rest is not worth describing.  Enough of digression. Back to the insidious virus! After a couple of emotional father-son bonding within the confines of a laboratory, a cure for the virus is finally found and Mumbai is relieved of the mayhem. This not only puts Kaal to furious tumult, but also results in a statue of KRRISH being unveiled. The unveiling is inevitably accompanied by a song and dance sequence involving, inter alia Mrs and Mr.KRRISH!

What follows is an intolerable, indecipherable and incomprehensible sequence of mangled mutants, men enraged, machines engaged and matters dissolved. The scene where pieces of metal mysteriously cling themselves onto a rejuvenated Kaal, is sufficient, in isolation to bring unrestrained tears of regret to the movie goer. The intended-to-be-ROBOCOP look fails miserably and Kaal ends up looking as though his wardrobe was designed by a street side scrap metal vendor. However the most peculiar bit in the movie involves a continuous voluntary trembling of the head and face of KRRISH when he dons the mantle of a superhero! It is as though the superhuman powers are accompanied by an unfortunate bout of Cerebral Palsy, or maybe the shaking leads to strength – after all it is common to “shake well before use”.

Even after reading this review, if you feel like watching the movie, remember this phrase “Light Leads to Life” or was it “Light gives light”? But please do not deny that you were forewarned! If there were to be a filter embedded in the human brain which would weed out the ridiculous and retain the relevant, the only bits that would remain after a viewing of KRRISH 3 would undoubtedly be the trailers of the other ensuing releases! By the way I had just watched “Thor” the previous day and to describe my sacrilege in the parlance of KRRISH and Kaal, it was like “consuming poison after partaking the anti-dote!”

Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH disappoints and Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH’s father disappoints tremendously! Priyanka Chopra as Mrs KRRISH is completely wasted as her only value add lies in either emphasising the fact that she is pregnant, or vigorously shaking her hands and legs to uninspiring tunes with utter disdain to her pregnancy! Vivek Oberoi as Kaal, must surely be regretting his choice in the role. If not then definitely he ought to get his DNA examined! He might be mutating from an intelligent specimen to an imbecile! Kangana, first as a mutant on a mission and then a maiden in love, has done no good whatsoever to her career prospects. The soundtrack is incredibly insipid. It also does its bit to disturb great souls resting peacefully in their graves. For example, after listening to the track “Raghupati raghava Raja Ram” (especially the bit hummed by a Jamaican looking Barbadian or an Antiguan or a Trinidadian), Gandhi would surely abhor all tenets of non-violence, if he were to be reborn! None of the songs have an iota of retention value. The action sequences range from the macabre to the heartlessly mimicked.

All in all this is a movie which needs to be avoided like the plague! KRRISH 3 – DON’T EVER CONSIDER EVEN IF ENTRY IS FREE!

For those of you who have already been mind numbed and brain murdered by an unfortunate viewing – please read up “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” – by James Watson. You will understand that the makers of this movie had no clue as to what they were engaging in!

SPECTRE – An Apparition that fails to haunt

Right from the time Sam Smith begins his nerve jarring wailing with “The Writing’s On The Wall” and till such time the dust settles at the end in a crescendo of explosion, Sam Mendes’s latest James Bond flick “Spectre”, grunts, gasps, heaves and barely remains alive as it gets mashed, blended and ultimately lost trying to be a medium between the past glittering offers of the franchise and the current stirrings of time.

Whether it be the clichéd muttering of “hello Pussy” (a lame attempt at sacrilegious innuendo) by 007 whilst being latched on to a torture chair, or remorselessly trying to whip women up into bed (including one inconceivable sexual jaunt right after a funeral with the wife of the deceased), “Spectre” loses its plot massively. What begins with a bang ends with a predictable whimper, and an extremely feeble one at that.

The movie begins with a heart stopping, gravity defying, high altitude fight sequence within the confines (and at times outside) the confines of a helicopter, that has as its audience a packed mass of frenzied crowd celebrating the Festival of the Dead in Mexico City. Two deaths and a destruction of a massive block concrete, later, Bond is grounded by M as the Mexican fiasco was an unauthorized mission. However, the unyielding Bond refuses to be shackled to inaction and with the aid and assistance of a reluctant Q, smuggles himself out to Rome for attending the funeral of the very man whom he had assassinated.

A sexual romp, a high speed car chase, and a solo investigative mission to Austria gets Bond not only a sniff into the murky underbelly of an insidious organization called “Spectre”, but also gets him acquainted with a beautiful doctor going by the name of Madeleine Swan. Avid Bond aficionados will remember Spectre as the very organization which first made its dreaded appearance in the 1971 Bond offering, “Diamonds are Forever”

In the meantime, in a radical move, MI5 is merged with MI6 to create a gigantic institution of Surveillance, with a Charter known as “Nine Eyes”.  This part of the script has an uncanny resemblance to the immortal Dystopia of George Orwell, “1984”, where the “Big Brother” looms over all he can survey. The new Head of the merged Network, Max a.k.a “C”, takes an instant aversion to the “007” programme and intends to replace the work of human agents with mechanistic modes of Surveillance.

What is the objective of this invidious organization called “Spectre?”; Is there a method to the madness of the “Nine Eyes” Charter?; Who is the elusive Dr.Madeleine Swan?. Bond has to risk his life and take hitherto envisaged gambles to go to the root of these mysterious questions.

The answers lie in the long drawn out, but very paced 148 minutes of bedlam and bedding.

Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, distinguishes himself as the brain behind the monstrous Spectre. While holding his own on most occasions, he tends to lapse into moments of extreme melo-dramatic monologues that do very little to embellish an otherwise brilliant performance;

Lea Seydoux as Dr.Madeleine Swan, manages to stay pretty as well as stern. But unlike the normal Bond girl, who possesses a detached attachment towards the protagonist, she manages to evoke passions that can only colloquially be described as “mushy” in Bond. This is where she unfortunately fails when compared with say, for instance the spectacular Eva Mendez in “Casino Royale” or the sexy Halle Berry in “Die Another Day”

Ben Whishaw as “Q” displays his innate talent as an actor but is made to mouth irrelevant and meek humoured dialogues, most of which concern his shared habitation with a pair of cats;

Naomie Harris as “Eve Moneypenny” has barely any role worth its muster;

Dave Bautista as “Mr.Hinx”, the silent assassin, just grunts and groans through murders and portrays a feeling that he would do well to return to the ring in the World Wrestling Federation rather than try his hand in acting as a formidable adversary of the most celebrated fictional agent on the Planet;

Andrew Scott as “Max Denbigh” a.k.a “C” is a refreshing antidote to disappointment. With an irritating accent and equally exasperating actions, he manages to get on to the nerves of the watcher and at times elicits feelings of murderous rage – an outcome which was exactly what was expected out of him;

Monica Bellucci, as “Lucia Scarria” is completely wasted as all she has to do is fall to the seductive temptations of Bond, bed him and flee the silver screen thereafter!

The value of Judy Dench as the conscious keeper of Bond, and the irreplaceable “M”, is brought out in stark detail from watching the performance of a stiff Ralph Fiennes. No way near the perfection attained by the marvelous Dench, he ploughs his way through his role with poker faced expressions, that at times are literally painful to watch;

But the saviour of the movie is Mr.James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. In his fourth installment as the celebrated, womanizing, cold blooded agent and assassin, the Englishman waltzes and breezes through the movie with effortless panache and élan. Exquisitely fine tuning his expressions and whole heartedly plunging into his action sequences, Daniel Craig provides a clinical demonstration behind the current reasoning of him being the best Bond, post the Sean Connery era. It is a travesty that Sam Mendes has not strived to extract the best out of this invaluable performer. Making Bond mouth corny lines instead of candid conversations, choosing to cast him as a sex maniac instead of a cleverly plotting, conniving seducer, and more than everything else, placing a god dammed white cat on his lap and making him mutter “Hello Pussy” under his breath (an unwarranted, unforgivable and unwanted act of travesty) takes some gloss and sheen out of an otherwise impeccable and extraordinary performance.

The action sequences are as usual, magnificently shot and the background music deserves wholehearted applause and appreciation. To reiterate, although the movie is a bit too lengthy for comfort, the sensible pacing of it compensates for the exertion that could have been. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” is a charade, when weighed against the brilliant Adele’s “Skyfall”

Overall, this 24th movie to roll out of the stables of the James Bond franchise, even though possessing the customary thrills and the expected spills, inexplicably loses its way in trying to establish a connect between many previous sub-plots that are intricate. Sam Mendes forgets to look to the future as he gets too very occupied and enmeshed in traversing the past.

SPECTRE – An Apparition that just refuses to haunt!