Simran – A Review

Image result for simran posterHansal Mehta directs Kangana Ranaut in Simran, a story inspired by the real-life bombshell bandit Sandeep Kaur. While Sandeep was a well-educated and financially independent nurse, Praful Patel played by Kangana is a young divorcee working in a menial, dead end job trying to clobber together enough money to put in a deposit for a house of her own so that she can escape the daily barbs of her father.

 

If the story sounds sad and depressing, let me assure you it is anything but that. Kangana is a one woman tour de force. Right from the first time we are introduced to her, on her lunch break she deftly evades the overtures of her ex-boyfriend and present-boss, she lights up the screen with her self-assured yet unassuming presence. On a bachelorette trip to Las Vegas, Praful is introduced to the temptations of gambling and this is where things from good to scary really quickly. To right the wrong Praful goes down a dangerous path. Kangana Ranaut is fantastic in every single frame, you feel joy in her giddy goofy behaviour and she makes you feel her anguish when her father is lobbing insults at her and everything she has worked for seems to slip away from her grasps. But there is an inherent lightness to her being that no matter how dire the situation she breathes levity into it and you know that things will be ok. This is her best following the success of Queen where she turned the acting game on its head and claimed the mantle.

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The supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired. The goons Bugs and Mr. Hipster Beard are neither terrifying nor believable. The love interest played by Sohum Shah sucks the life out of the scene each time he is on. He is laden with the most absurd lines and insists on speaking in chaste hindi in spite of him being from Rajkot, Gujarat. His character is so poorly written that if you subtract him from the story it wouldn’t change one bit – and that is perhaps what the director should have done. Praful’s Father is very one dimensional. He is given fantastic dialogue, but with nothing to take the edge off of his shouting, and insults he is rendered unlikeable towards the end there is one scene where is fussing over Praful and making her eat in one moment and the next moment he is at her throat – this kind of balance would have really made the story stronger. The actress who play Praful’s mother is a small saving grace to the entire ensemble cast. As is Timothy Ryan Hickernell – the bartender in Las Vegas, who even in a tiny role leaves a lasting impression. Seeing how he has been picked to play the slain journalist Danielle Pearl in his forthcoming Omertta, Hansal Mehta seems to agree.

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The music by Sachin-Jigar is fantastic and stays with you long after. Pinjara and Single Rehne de are instantly hummable and Lagdi hai Thai is appropriately festive. the camera work by Anuj Dhawan is spectacular – especially in the Las Vegas scenes. To me this is a movie about nuances, the small dialect peculiarities, the very modest living of the Patel family, the realism of it all. The editing seems choppy in places, especially where you dont see Bugs hitting Praful but she seems to have fallen on the floor and is later shown with scrapped knees.  The revenge plot towards the end seems unnecessary and almost an after thought. However that is quickly corrected when Praful is eventually led away. The final scene where she comes up with another hare-brained idea of investing in stock and getting rich because “Sue” told her is a brilliant touch.

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Hansal Mehta’s direction and his innate Gujarati sensibilities come to the fore as he crafts and entirely believable narrative involving a Gujarati NRI family. Kangana’s diction is perfect and not a caricature as most portrayals of Gujaratis in Bollywood tend to be. The story by Apurva Asrani is a compelling one but his screenplay needs tightening up. Every scene with Sohum Shah was a disservice to the movie – fortunately there were only a few. The dialogues with the exception of the ones for Sohum Shah are mostly fantastic.  From the cheesy pickup to the tongue in cheek to veiled self-deprecating insults lobbed at herself when her parents are watching the story of the Lipstick Bandit unfold on television, Kangana delivers them with aplomb.

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In the end it is Kangana who carries the entire movie to a satisfying end. The way she immerses herself in this character and her sincerity make you overlook a weak screenplay and a supporting cast that leaves a lot to be desired. Ignore the noise around the controversy as she doesn’t need that to sell her movies – her name alone should now be sufficient enough.

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Watch this for an almost unbelievable but true story. Watch it for Kangana is in top form. Watch it because Kangana renders the Male lead role obsolete when she takes centre stage.

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Rangoon – A Review

Image result for rangoon movieVishal Bhardwaj directs Kangana Ranaut, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan in Second World War based Rangoon. Bhardwaj and Kap00r teaming is always exciting and Bhardwaj extracted perhaps Saif Ali Khan’s best performance in Shakespeare’s Othello adaptation, Omkara. But it is Kangana Ranaut who is the one woman tour de force who carries the movie on her lissom shoulders.

 

Kangana plays a Bombay based action heroine Miss Julia, the star of Rusi Billimoria’s production house. Saif Ali Khan plays the Howard Hughes inspired Rusi Billimoria. Similar to the starlets of the west who perform for the soldiers fighting at the front, Miss Julia is whisked off to the Rangoon border to boost the morale of the soldiers at the request of the hindi-shayari spewing Major General Harding. Sergeant Nawab Mallik is entrusted with Miss Julia’s safety on the journey to Rangoon. Shahid Kapur plays the sergeant who in the stunning opening sequence was captured by the Japanese forces and held as a POW.

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What follows from there on is a weak story line which is compensated to a fair extent by Kangana’s brilliant acting, fantastic camera work and surreal virgin landscapes. There are parts where the CGI work shows, but in the rest of the scenes it is seamless. The songs are hummable and the performances on the songs elevate it several notches. In particular Bloody Hell, Tippa and Mere Piya Gaye England are fantastically crafted. Overall the production value and the attention to detail is commendable.

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Kangana is fantastic! She mixes a femme fatale like beauty with a vulnerability that demonstrates the full range of her repertoire. It is her innocent child like demeanour that makes her dancing in front of the Japanese soldiers for dear life believable and endearing. Every frame she is in, she fills it up with light and life. Her interaction with the japanese soldier they are holding as captive is one of the absolute highlights of the movie, remniscent of her interaction with Taka in Queen. Shahid Kapur is restrained and able in the supporting role to Kangana. Saif Ali Khan’s performance grows on you as you realise the kind of control he wields on Kangana and how subtly he plays it. Richard McCabe who plays Major General Harding hams it up to the nines and begins to grate on you after a while.

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While Vishal Bhardwaj does a fine job of recreating a bygone era and extracting the best from his actors, eventually it is the script that lags and slows up proceedings. The editing does the movie no favours either and as the end result the movie suffers. The INA sub-plot and the eventual climax seem more like an afterthought than the driving force.

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Go for the visuals and for Kangana’s mesmerizing turn as Miss Julia. When the history of Bollywood is written, Kangana will be touted in the same vein as Madhuri Dixits and Madhubalas, not only gorgeous but immensely talented and capable of carrying an entire movie on their own.  Mildly entertaining overall this one is a must watch only for Kangana and the beautiful landscapes.

 

Queen – A Review

Vikas Bahl directs Kangana Ranaut in Queen a flipped on its head Euro-trip movie which puts the female lead in all the same positions that were exclusively male bastions. Happy women’s day indeed.

Queen starts off with an upbeat “London Thumakda” by Amit Trivedi shot to show a Delhi household in the middle of wedding preparations. Right from the get go you know that this is going to be a fun ride. Everything feels real, organic almost in the same way as band baaja barat did, but more so. This is not a YRF-Johar wedding household this is very Delhi and very real and very relatable.  What follows is the main premise of the movie and it would be a crime to leak it because it ends up being a very fun turn of events – well not so much for Rani.  Well that is until she decides to go on her honeymoon by herself to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing Paris.

Kangana plays Rani the eponymous Queen who goes from being a naïve home-science girl from Rajauli, Delhi to being the globetrotting backpacking Chick in the due course of the movie. Kangana lives and breathes Rani so much so that it is impossible to imagine this role to be played by anyone else. She is restrained while still being uninhibited and in that one scene where she gets drunk and goes off on a rant – in my books it ranks right up there with Mr. Bachchan’ drunken rant about liver problems. Yep she is THAT good. Not for once you would believe her to be putting on an act – Bahl and Kangana have both put in a lot of thought in terms of the smallest idiosyncrasies that define the quintessential first time “abroad” travelling naïve Indian girl. Take the insistence on hanging onto her purse for dear life whether it is while getting mugged or while doing a faux-strip tease where she stuffs her sweater in the purse. This is Kangana at her absolute best and honestly I would argue that it ranks right up there with one of the best female performances of the year when the year concludes.

Kangana is supported by an assortment of characters who she crosses paths with on her Euro trip – there is Lisa Haydon who plays Vijaya Lakshmi the Indian-French-Spanish hybrid who eases Rani into the Parisian way of life. Then there are the Troika of hostel mates Oleksander – the Russian artist, Taka the Japanese tourist and Tim the French Musician who help Rani forge the unlikeliest of Bromance while in Amsterdam. Rajkumar Rao plays Vijay – Kangana’s fiancé and is quite effective yet again. He is an actor who has a knack of picking superb roles without giving a second thought to the length of the role and always comes off as earnest.

Bahl packs a solid punch in the first half where the laughs come easy and you fall in love with Rani. The second half is where a little more thought would have made this movie perfect. The sub-plot with Rukhsar the red-light district exotic dancer was almost entirely unnecessary. Also in final adventure that Bahl puts Rani on I feel he tries to be too ambitious and it chips away a little bit the honesty with which he has built the whole thing up. But it is a minor complaint when compared to the enormously entertaining and entirely believable journey that Bahl takes Rani on. Also I would like to believe the “Alice in Wonderland” Sweatshirt that Bahl put Rani in wasnt a mere co-incidence and that is the level of detail that makes this a movie worth revisiting so that you can pour over the details and soak in its richness.

Watch this movie for the fantastic Kangana Ranaut. Watch this as it takes Euro Road Trip, Drunken street antics, and platonic bromance from the tightly held grasps of the male leads of Bollywood and puts in the closely guarded purse of Rani from Rajauli Delhi!