Mardaani – A Review

Pradeep Sarkar directs Rani Mukherjee in Mardaani where she plays a crime branch inspector shivani shivaji roy for whom the issue of human trafficking becomes personal when a girl from a shelter who she treats as her own daughter gets kidnapped and gets sold into sex trade.

I am pleasantly surprised to say that on a day when I saw two movies about femme fatales Rani Mukherjee tops Scarlet Johansson.

Sarkar known more for his period romance Parineeta than action capers also pleasantly surprises in this edge of seat cat and mouse chase which feels fresh and devoid of clichés. Sarkar chooses his antagonist perfectly as a smooth talking, Breaking Bad loving , tech savvy, fresh faced yet ruthless “Under-19 team ka 12th player” aka Kid ( as helpfully supplied by the subtitles) played marvelously by Tahir Raj Bhasin.

Without delving too deeply into the story of one-upmanship that ensues between Shivani and the Kid it is suffice to say that not for a minute will you be bored in this brilliantly crafted gem.

Sarkar tackles the demon of Children being abducted and sold into Sex-trade and tackles it with such deft and finesse that he achieves the impossible – getting the message across without grossing out the audience or holding up cue cards to navigate them to the moral dilemma or the much-favored hammering the point home so hard that by the end the audience doesn’t give a damn. I was physically shaken and left trembling by the final minutes as the climax unravels and to me that is a clear sign of the movie being impactful.

Rani Mukherjee delivers what I believe is her careers best performance. She is subtle and sharp witted at the same time. Her performance is nuanced to the point where she doesn’t need to mouth a single word or need to bawl to express her anguish, a single tear as she comes face to face with her brother/husband ( I am confused as to who he was supposed to be) who is made a pawn in this game against a criminal mastermind.

The ability to infuse the sense of urgency and the clear and present danger in the first few minutes as bodies begin dropping without the slightest of bangs is near perfection. Sarkar manages to create an atmosphere of intrigue with ease. Also the first phone conversation Shivani has with the Kid as she is unpacking dinner is sheer delight as Rani unperturbed continues as if catching up with an old mate rather the man responsible for having kidnapped her daughter.

I could continue heaping platitudes on the virtues of this movie and it wouldn’t do justice to just how wonderfully surprised I was to come across this days after being subjected to the torture that was Singham Returns. It is movies like these that keep the hope alive that Bollywood still can produce meaningful cinema. If ever there was a need for a sequel this is the franchise. What Sarkar and Rani have created will continue to bear fruits for year to come as long as Sarkar continues to treat each of the forthcoming (hopefully) outings with the same intelligence and freshness as this one.

Do yourself and India as a whole a favor and go watch this movie not only because it is brilliantly directed, acted and crafted, but also because this is a subject matter that has been debated to death but cinema one of the most impactful mediums was doing nothing to spread the awareness and it has finally picked up the gauntlet and with such panache.  

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Lucy – A Review

Lucy Movie PosterLuc Besson directs Scarlet Johansson in and as Lucy – ironically named after the first woman ever ( a fact shared in the film of which there are many). Lucy is the first human to ever access more than 10% of their brain power. Morgan Freeman joins along for the ride as the a professor who specializes in similar subject matter.

Besson dreams up themes which have been part of many a spirited debate in the theoretical sciences which argue that human’s aren’t done evolving yet and that once we are able to unlock the additional capacity that our brain possesses, we shall be able to accomplish hitherto unimaginable feats. But the choices Besson makes turn this sci-fi high concept into nothing more than a high adrenaline slick action caper.

Scarlet Johansson who accomplished so much more in last year much loved sci-fi romcom Her with just her voice, channels her inner Keanu Reeves with the mandatory wooden expression. I am yet unable to understand why do sci-fi creators always feature protagonist with no ability to express emotions? If we are going to be more evolved in the future wouldn’t we be more expressive? More emotive? More human? But she packs a serious punch as she whoops ass wushi ( that’s samurai in chinese) style.

Morgan Freeman can recite the phone book at it would sound exciting as hell. Here he reprises his role as the voice over for IMAX documentaries and acts as a narrator so that the audiences can garner some semblance of what the hell is going on. Is Freeman really the go to guy for any science related stuff in Hollywood? Or perhaps he is chosen for his abilities to make the most inane of mumbo-jumbo sound legit.

Besson makes a lot of poor choices which even under the guise of sci-fi creative license are inexcusable. Like the first time lucy walks into the hospital she just suddenly develops the ability to read Mandarin?  Couldn’t Besson just provide Lucy with some light reading on the taxi ride to the hospital so that it seems like she learnt Chinese? I mean even Small Wonder had more sense than Besson shows here.  The action is fine and fun and at 88 minutes the movie never ones drags but at times feels like logic was sacrificed at the floors of the editing room.

Despite the minor flaws the movie is entirely entertaining and Scarlet Johansson is on the screen slowly walking up and down corridors for a good part of the 88 minute run. And just for that go see Lucy.

Singham Returns – A Review

 Rohit Shetty directs Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan in Singham Returns would be an overstatement as he doesn’t do much directing but instead decides which corny dialogue to be delivered in the worst possible way by which of his comically stereotyped characters along with which of India’s social woes as the background.

Not having seen the 2011 blockbuster Singham, but having heard rave reviews about the same and also having been recently enjoyed the guilt trip that was Kick I decided to give this one a try. Very few movies have the ability to make me feel physically sick and Singham Returns manages to do just that. The only actor not hamming it is Anupam Kher who decides very early on that this is too messy even for him to be a part of and decides to off himself.

Amol Gupte who is quickly losing all credibility as an actor (and a director) plays a nirmal-baba like character who needs a few laxatives thrown in with his mugs of beer because he seems severely constipated while trying to deliver lines that give Anu Malik’s shayaris a run for its money in terms of how badly constructed they are. Zakir Hussain as Prakash Rao is ridiculously caricatured politician who verbalizes every thought that crosses the peas in his head that he calls brain. Ashwini Kalsekar as the Barkha Dutt wannabe journo with a penchant for being as loud and intolerable as Arnab Goswami has more of a role to play in the movie than Kareena Kapoor Khan but is in equal parts annoying. Speaking of Kareena Kapoor Khan the superstar who can only be afforded by masala blockbusters; she has played the same annoying character in numerous other outings and the results are entirely banal. KKK (if your brain grey matter is the racial minority then Kareena Kapoor Khan is the violent assault on it) has lost the size zero look, the pout and all semblance of being a perfect bimbo which is what got her so far – she literally has nothing going for her here – might as well retire to the Pataudi Palace.

Ajay Devgn shows signs of being a tolerable actor when he looks all grim and speaks minimally but then loses all his marbles the minute he has to do his signature “aata maazi satakli” and other moves. He is ridiculous. Mahesh Manjarekar does the impossible – in this ham-fest he rises above and refuses to ham and comes off looking as the better actor amongst all. The only redemption to be found is towards the end where Dayanand Shetty AKA Daya-the-darwaza-todoing-expert is asked to break the doors down – I’ll admit I clapped.

Daya Breaking Doors in Singham Returns 3

Rohit Shetty tries to make a bullet point presentation of all of India’s woes and all of the current affairs news blimps :

  • Corruption in the political system
  • Communal tensions
  • Black Money
  • Introduction of fresh blood in politics inspired by a saintly figure hell-bent on fixing points 1 & 3
  • Judicial impotence
  • Media overreach

The one news item he misses out on is that of sexual assault – but he achieves that by assaulting the audiences’ intelligence in the most horrific of ways.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that there is absolutely no reason why you should want to go watch this movie. There is nothing to be gained by subjecting yourselves to such an unevolved attempt at movie making. If you need alternative ways to kill time consider these : watch kick instead, watch CID on TV Daya breaks more doors there, Knit – winter’s coming or at least it feels so here.