Veere Di Wedding – A Review

Image result for veere di weddingShashanka Ghosh directs Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar and Shikha Talsania in “not a chic-flick” Veere di Wedding. After the career ending critique from “The Aunty”, I was going in with abysmal expectation and maybe that or maybe the fact that I saw it with Kareena’s biggest fan in the world – I found the movie to be mildly entertaining and brimming with potential.

Kalindi played by Kareena is friends with Avni played by Sonam Kapoor, Sakshi played by Swara Bhaskar and Meera played by Shikha Talsania. Kalindi lives in Australia with her boyfriend Rishab played by Sumeet Vyaas who proposes to her and Kalindi accepts reluctantly. She returns to India and the 4 BFFs get together for their Veere’s wedding. Avni is a ball-busting family lawyer permanently harassed by her well-meaning mother played by the fantastic Neena Gupta to get married. Sakshi is a rich party girl who got married to a NRI in a rush and is now back to staying with her parents who do not really know what transpired for the marriage to break down. Meera married an American and lives in America raising her young child and probably the most “normal” of the bunch.  The four friends get back together and each of their respective storyline unravels.

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Kareena is for most parts hilarious as she goes about the Big Fat Indian (Delhi) wedding charade nervously scratching as she is made to dress up in ridiculous outfits and paraded in front of relatives who are of no consequence. Sonam Kapoor continues her trademark vapid and vacuous portrayal of any character she lays her hands on. Her dialogue delivery couldn’t be more stunted. Swara Bhaskar – as the aunty said – is playing a rich girl for the first time and it is a poor man’s idea of what a rich person does all day. Her dishevelled look with a cigarette permanently stuck in her mouth with sunglasses that serve no purpose as she peers from above is just an abhorrent performance. Nothing about her feels believable. Meera lives in America with her Caucasian husband John after having been disowned by her family for marrying “outside” the religion. She is the most believable and the most likeable. They try to give her a flaw too – excessive drinking but it feels half-baked and an after-thought. Shikha is the best thing about this movie and I cannot wait for her to headline a project all on her own where she is unencumbered by the lesser talented actresses. She has a Ugly Betty/ Jane the Virgin vibe about her that I cannot shake and I want the nouveau brave Bollywood to take a chance with her!

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The biggest problem is that director Shashanka Ghosh and writers Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri try to make this feature film in the vein of producer Ekta Kapoor’s multiple story arc TV-shows. There is simply too much going on and at 2 hours there is not nearly enough time to resolve even one story arc to successful completion. Take this for instance, Kalindi is reticent to get married because her parents used to fight a lot, her mother passed away and her father remarried to a socialite, she is estranged from her father, who is estranged from his gay-brother who is the only family Kalindi knows of. Then there is the whole insane plot about Kalindi’s Fiancé’s family being fraudsters. Sonam and Kareena went around town lamenting about how difficult it was to get a female-led film financed and it shows – there are awkward product placements after awkward product placements and they are not even trying to be subtle. Bikaji snacks get more screen-time than the amazing Neena Gupta and that is a crime against cinema. Also at the very end of the film some random local furniture company’s product placement literally made me lose it.

Veere Di Wedding Brand Promotions Advertisements Bikaji

With Sonam being the driving force behind this movie getting made it was always going to be fashion centric and for most parts the fashion is exceptional and forward looking except for that one ridiculous outfit that Kareena wears for her wedding. A 25-year old vintage Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla outfit deserved to be better treated than that.

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The dialogues are mostly fun but when they go for crass they really go for it and the payoff is limited. The songs are mostly forgettable except Tareefan which only really plays when the credits roll.

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Lastly I am reminded of the Instagram post that Neena Gupta shared on Instagram where she simply stated “I live in Mumbai and working am a good actor looking fr good parts to play” and I couldn’t be more thrilled to finally seeing her on the big stage. She is a treasure and I do hope she gets more roles and meatier characters to play because even in the limited screen time she is allotted here she really shines through.

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It might be the Kool-aid talking but I did not hate Veere di Wedding. There was incredible potential had the writers and director taken one of the girl’s tracks and resolved that story arc and made this into an anthology the result would have been a lot more successful.

 

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Udta Punjab – A Review

Abhishek Chaubey directs Shahid Kapur, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh in Udta Punjab a story set in Punjab and the crippling effects of drugs and the complicated narco-politics. Udta Punjab hogged the headlines for a better part of the two weeks leading up to its release with its run-ins with the chief of the Censor board in India.

Udta Punjab is a story of two halves, the privileged – a Rockstar and a doctor and the under privileged a migrant labourer and cop trying to find his conscience. A half that is putting up a valiant fight in the war on drugs and the other that is responsible for perpetuating the drug menace.

Shahid Kapur plays Tommy a Rockstar whose songs promote drug abuse and the only way he can seem to perform is by getting high. Daljit plays Sartaj a Cop who turns a blind eye to the drug trafficking and accepting bribes. Kareena plays doctor Preet who runs a rehab project and treats patients of overdose. Preet is also a campaigner for the war on drugs. Alia plays an unnamed Bihari migrant worker who falls victim to drug addiction when she is kidnapped and kept locked up as a sex slave. She fights the addiction and tries to find ways to escape her predicament.

Udta Punjab is a story of halves, in that the first half tries to establish the backstory for each of its four protagonists and the second halve sees their story to its conclusion. The second half is gritty and grim with a couple of elements of slapstick which bring a welcome relief to the tragic drama unfolding. The first half suffers in comparison with the over the top antics of Tommy which add nothing to the movie. Also because the epiphany that he feels in the second half cannot somehow be reconciled with how his character has grown. The first half grates and the second half has pacing issues. Also Kareena is less Doctor and more investigative journalist. It honestly would have worked better had she played a journalist who is the sister of a doctor who runs the rehab clinic – the story would have seemed more plausible.

The actors all put in strong performances ranking them in ascending order of merit we start with Kareena who puts in a restrained performance that is a rarity from her. Diljit shuffles between a bumbling do-gooder cop and a hot headed corrupt cop but with the amount of time he gets on screen he is immensely watchable and a welcome authentic regional casting choice as a Punjabi cop. Shahid Kapur is fantastic the opening Chitta ve number is reminiscent of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Kaminey’s Dhan Te Nan vibe. He gives himself completely to the role and the only reason why he is the top performer in this movie is because his character is not fully developed. They try to make him into a good guy towards the end and the transition is sudden, abrupt and a bit disingenuous. The best of the lot is Alia Bhatt. She as the unnamed Bihari migrant farm worker who ends up suffering the most is the only character that you are invested in from the beginning. Her vulnerability and inner resolve make you root for her from the very get go. Alia has mastered emotional outburst – she showed glimpses of brilliance in Highway but here she goes ballistic when she recounts her tale and the misery she has gone through in the second half. When Shahid suggest suicide to end this misery, she throws a shoe at him for putting such thoughts in her head. You know her strength. You know she won’t give up. Alia is a beautiful privileged star child who was launched into Bollywood with a dream launch but the path she has carved out for herself with the acting choices is worthy of appreciation. She is the stand out star of this movie despite a role that isn’t that big.

The music isn’t that great. The story telling is chaotic. The dialogues are either too run of the mill or make no sense. Especially the Jameen Banjar Aulad Kanjar makes no sense because Punjab’s land is one of the most fertile and its sons form a majority of the forces protecting our borders. Abhishek Chaubey’s direction isn’t distinctive enough but Rajeev Ravi’s work behind the camera is stunning.

The controversy that preceded the movie and the PR by its makers would lead one to believe that this was a movie that would make ground shattering statement that would hold up a mirror to the society. This movie does that in parts but it essentially bungles up a fantastic opportunity. It is neither Requiem for a Dream which shows the devastating effects of drugs nor is it Sicario which focuses on the war on drugs. But thanks to Alia Bhatt’s riveting performance this rises above the mundane.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – A Review

Kabir Khan directs Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan in this year’s Eid release Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Critics often scoff at a Salman movie claiming their own irrelevance at a “bhai” movie due to his huge fan-following who will make a beeline for the cinema frothing at the mouth regardless of the absurdity of the plot and Salman’s Bhagwaan Dada inspired Dance moves.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is the story of Hum Saath Saath Hai’s strait-laced Prem meets Maine Pyaar Kiya’s hard-working-to-impress-the-girl’s-father Prem going on a Gaddar-like mission to reunite a mute 6-year old Pakistani girl with her parents. India Pakistan stories with a Kashmir angle are more often than not laced with political commentary that tends to end up being preachy and sermonizing about the need for peace and how we are the same people made to take opposing stances due to vested political interest. While it tends to tug at the heartstrings a little bit with some of the familiar tropes, Bajrangi Bhaijaan mostly steers clear of the Aman-ki-aasha stereotypes.

Salman khan is having a sort of renaissance where he acknowledges that he isn’t the most talented actor but still manages to infuse a sense of earnestness to his performance. He was phenomenally entertaining in Kick and here too he commits fully to his hunuman-bhakt, stoutly Hindu good for nothing but still a heart of gold do-gooder. Salman is good at being Salman and he makes no effort to put on a Haryanvi accent and I am thankful for that. He keeps the face-pulling to a minimum and his entry with the selfie song is whistle-worthy. Kareena Kapoor Khan is blissfully underused. And in the time she spends on screen she is not unbearable. Nawazuddin Siddiqui stars in a small but crucial role in the second half as Chand Nawab a small time freelancing reporter who is chasing a breaking story which will earn him some credibility with the news channels. But the real hero of the movie is Harshaali Malhotra the young girl who plays Shaahida/Munni. There is no doubt she is one of the cutest kids to ever grace the Bollywood stage, but she manages to lighten the mood and make Salman’s quirks seem charming instead of childish. The little girl has a screen presence that dwarfs even that of Bhai’s and that is no mean feat.

The cinematography by Aseem Mishra is spectacular. He manages to capture the beauty of Kashmir for what it is always thought to have been. This is not the harsh landscape of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider but reminiscent of RK’s Heena. In fact the open scene of Shaahida playing on the slopes of her village reminded me of Zeba Bakhtiyar’s introduction to the tunes of “Mein hoon khushrang heena…” Julius Packiam’s background score especially during the chase sequences is worthy of the Hollywood scores, but it does tend to overpower in certain scenes and a slight restraint would have worked wonders. Of the songs Selfie Le le is a guilty pleasure and a worth entry song to The Bhai of Bollywood but the one song that stayed with me is the Adnan Sami Qawwalli, Bhar do Jholi meri. Story writer Vijayendra Prasad is having quite a purple patch with both Baahubali and Bajrangi Bhaijaan having a successfully run at the box office. The story works well mostly with no gaping plot holes. A tighter edit in the second half would have made the movie land more of a punch. It does seem to drag on for a bit with the scenes with Om Puri and entirely unnecessary flab that could have and should have been cut.

Put your prejudice aside and go enjoy a well-crafted, and decently acted movie that manages to entertain like only Salman Khan knows how to. Here’s looking forward to next Eid for Sultan!

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.