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7 Watchable Films That You Probably Missed  In 2021



Baawri Chhori:

Maybe they were  not hyped  enough. Or  perhaps  some of  the reviews put you  off. But these 2021 films  certainly deserve a  second glance.

  1. Baawri Chhori: Though the  pronounced influence of Vikas Behl’s Queen is  everywhere discernible in this short-and-sweet  little film, Bawri Chhori will nonetheless make you smile.  It comes  from the right place , a modest but genuine  place, and it pulls no punches, as  Radhika(Ahana Kumra) takes  off from her smalltown in Punjab to London to  wreak revenge on her husband who  deserted her.Just like that! No money,  no contacts, just a passport and  loads of  vengeful confidence to get even with the man who wronged her, Ahana Kumra plays  the part with  a controlled zest.  Just because she is desi and emotional  it doesn’t mean that she has to be loud and abrasive  all the time, right?Right! Ahana plays the vengeance-seeking Punjabi   wife with a restrained chutzpah. She anchors the show and she has solid support from an austere unpretentious screenplay which is written like as  an adventure story with Radhika running into various desis in London who give her a  warm bed, warm food and well…warmth. If only the real  world was  so friendly!
  2. Meel Patthar  Some have compared   Ivay Iyr’s road film to Nomad Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland. The film that  Milestone most resembles  is Ognjen Glavonic’s  haunting Bosnian drama  The Load where  the great Leon Lucev  played a truck driver carrying cargo through dangerous territory.Not only does Milestone follow  a similar trajectory it even has the trucker bonding with a  young  man who is eager  to learn. Come to think of it, the leading man in The Load Leon Lucev and the principal actor  in  Milestone Suvinder Vicky bear a  striking resemblance to one  another.And they are  both brilliant.I don’t know  if  director Ivan Iyr has anywhere acknowledged his debt to the Bosnian  film or even  acknowledged seeing it(great  minds think alike, etc). But  the protagonist  Ghalib’s bleak brackish brutal existence echoes  the Bosnian  film all the way to its rather unexpected and thoroughly unconvincing ending.But before that Milestone contains many rewarding interludes which show the  hand of a master creator who  doesn’t fear silences   and has the guts to face up to his hero’s feelings and  failings .When we first meet  Ghalib he  seems broken but  not damaged  irreparably. We are  given to understand that he has recently lost his  wife who, we gather, stopped loving  Ghalib after some  kind of  a betrayal which is too  raw to talk about.
  3. Sandeep Aur  Pinky FaraarAfter  getting over the  juvenile irony of the hero with a  feminine name Pinky and  the heroine  with a masculine name Sandeep/Sandy  the narrative rapidly stops  getting impressed by its own uniqueness and stops laughing at  its own jokes to deliver  a rousing finale where Arjun Kapoor , in what must be considered a  bold attempt to play against gender stereotyping,  gets into an elaborate  Kathakali-styled  costume  and makeup  to facilitate  his fugitive partner’s getaway.Of course  Pinky and Sandeep are warring constantly. How  could they not be, when she is a pregnant corporate banker  on the run after her boss/lover turns  against her. In a classic twist   of  the  murderous knife, Pinky who is  supposed to  assassinate  Sandy becomes her  saviour. The  film is  shot  at a scenic little town called Pitthoragarh  on the  Indo-Nepal border where  Sandy and Pinky take refuge in a kindly couple Raghuvir Yadav and Neena  Gupta’s place.Neither of the actors  seems inclined to  flesh out their  sketchy roles. This  is the most treacly aspect of the otherwise  surprisingly clenched  unsentimental  drama.Parineeti Chopra delivers a  finely tuned  portrait of  a woman on the verge of  a nervous  breakdown.Pregnant, pennyless, desperate and defeated, she is  unlike any  female hero we’ve seen  in  recent times. The same goes  for Arjun who portrays the unselfconscious metro-sexual man with a quiet conviction. He is  specially effective in  the  closing  scenes where  his feelings for Sandy bubble to the surface.Also watch out for Sukant  Goel as an ostensible docile  bank manager. He is  a revelation.Admirably  Kapoor and  Chopra are never  shown to be cuddling closer to one  another. In one  sequence Kapoor is shown cleaning Chopra’s  blood after a violent miscarriage. It’s a brilliant  moment of gender  introspection done with a quiet  sense of regret and loss. Sadly such moments  show up in the erratic film and then  vanish  into bylanes  as zigzagged as  the town where the  implosive saga unfolds.Sandeep & Pinky Faraar  is  nonetheless worth a watch. It should have been released  on the digital  platform  where  it has the potential  of being a  cult hit.
  4. Skater Girl:  10 minutes   into the  film,and I was convinced  this was Slumdog Millionaire on a skating board in Rajasthan.Then  45 minutes later something magical happened. She is called Waheeda Rehman. I don’t know  how or where this enchantress, now  in the winter  of her life, showed  up as a doppelganger  of Gayatri  Devi,telling us  why  she would fund a  skatepark in  Rajasthan.We  appreciate.  I have to admit by the  end  of it all , I was cheering and sobbing in a climax  certainly inspired  by  Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It  Like Beckham ,  when Prerna flees from her  marriage mandap to participate in a skating championship  where, hallelujah,the ethereal Waheeda Rehman shows up again. Now if she’s supporting the  film, I am in.Besides the  two main  child actors  the film has some really likeable actors like the chap who plays Jessica’s affable  local guide and host Vikram(Ankit Rao).Ambrish Saxena and Swati Das are  excellent as  Prerna’s  harried parents . But what was the need for a romantic  side-plot where (low caste) Prerna is wooed by  a Brahmin boy Subodh(Vinayak Gupta) who has the shiniest teeth since God  invented Colgate.Skater  Girl is  effective when it avoids being schmaltzy and over-cute. When Prerna tells  her mother  that Jessica Madamji is from London the  mother replies, “Yeh  kaun sa goan hain?”Really? At the  end we are told that the skatepark built in the Rajasthan village to shoot this film now stands  permanently  as  a recreational   nirvana for  children in  and around  the venue.For this  alone, I  forgive the film its excessive  cuteness. Besides,  Waheedaji  mentions that some day she will tell  us her character’s back  story.So  I  am looking forward  to  the sequel. But now I  have to go. The skating board beckons.
  5. Thalaivi: A  bio-pic that tells the  truth about its subject in an objective but never disrespectful tone. Hats off to writer  K Vijayendra Prasad  who proves  himself the true Baahubali of screenwriting. He  eulogizes  the controversial chief minister  of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha  without turning the  film into a sugary hagiography. It’s  a complimentary  to the  subject matter, but not obsequious.As  seen  by the  insightful team of   ThalaiviiJayalalilthaa  is scheming  and  conniving, iron-clad in her determination to be – to use  a definition applied to Mrs Indira Gandhi—the  only man in her cabinet. But she is  also a woman hopelessly and helplessly in love, with , who else,  the 1950s and 60s’ Tamil matinee idol M G Ramachandran, played with such fragile flourish by Arvind Swami  that if MGR were alive to see  this  bio-pic he would have wanted to be the way he’s played  by the actor.I wonder what  Jayalalithaa would have thought   of this bio-pic! As portrayed by Kangana (in her most  humane  performance since Queen)  Amma is  atrophied  by her  ambitions  and  stumped by her love for the man who cannot love her back. Not in the way she wants. Her performance in several details reminded me  of  Kirthi Suresh in Mahaniti. But Kangana plays  her  actress-in-love-with-married-actor role with a  lot more agonized vulnerability. She is so much in love that  she  would forsake her dreams to just be near her man. Once Jayalalithaa’s political ambitions kick in, the  narrative assumes a  kinetic force, palpable  and  unstoppable. Towards  the end  Ranaut  actually begins to resemble Amma. Director A  L Vijay exercises a firm grip over both the love story and the politics of  Jayalalitha’s life. Her telephonic conversations with MGR just before his death, and the stunning cremation sequence where she  gets jostled and  molested, are  outstanding in projecting an  aura  of  doom and  chaos. Kangana Ranaut goes through the  film with a commanding exuberance, never excessive in her expressions  of love and desire,  always  in the right proportions. Arvind Swami is as  good, if not better.
  6. Bhavai Like a  fulsome  wholesome Gujarati thali,  Bhavai(earlier entitled Raavan Leela which made a  lot more sense) has  a lot  to offer us. It’s a  surprisingly  appetizing dish,  pleasing to eye  and  the palate . And appealing to  the  mood of festivity  that  the Dussehra season awakens  in  all of us, whether we like it  or not.Set in the bustling drama of  a Ram Leela troupe  in  a village in  Gujarat(the last time we  entered the heart of a nautanki team it was  in Shailendra’s  ill-fated classic Teesri Kasam) this is a flamboyant-yet-austere stark-yet-spicy film swirling and dancing in the tides of topicality and temporality.If there is   a quality of timelessness  in the  growing fondness between ‘Sita’ and ‘Raavan’ (last explored in Mani Ratnam’s Raavan, though in  an entirely  different context)  there is  also  a headlinish twist  in  the  tangy tale with the sudden  invited  appearance  of  radical Hindu elements  jumping in  to  thwart   the romance  between ‘Raavan’ and  ‘Sita’. The film is handsomely  shot by cinematographer  Chirantan  Das who captures Kutch as  region  of disarming  innocence. The music and songs(by Prasad Shaste and Shabbir Ahmed) add tremendously to  the  festive  flavor.Not since  Kundan Shah’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron have I seen a director  have so much fun  at the Ram Leela.
  7. Shiddat Shiddat is  about true love and the walls and hurdles of cynicism  and  moral policing that people in love  have to face even today where  caste community and  bank balance determine  marital alliances.The heart can  go  fly a kite.Jaggi as played  by  the wonderful Sunny Kaushal is all heart. Sunny, true to his name, is that  spot of sunshine in our godforsaken  grim grimy  world ,  that epicenter of  optimism which  would  like to us  believe  that true love  still exists. So when he falls in  love with the  spirited swimmer Kartika(a typecast Radhika Madan) while training her to be a better sport(and also sharing a one-night with her) Sunny thinks it’s for keeps.When Kartika  takes off to London to  get married to  the man of her  wealthy parents’ choice, Sunny follows his dream to the wedding mandap.Almost. Shiddat is    a  terrific idea for a rom-com  .Writers Shreedhar Raghavan , Dheeraj Rattan and  Pooja Surti have packaged what seems to   be the first true  Bollywood rom-com in years. The  characters sparkle with  an  ingrained vivacity.Even the  supporting  characters, like  Kartika’s best friend(the Aruna Irani slot)  will strike you as  roles re-defining the  equations and regulations of  mainstream  Hindi cinema .Shiddat shakes up the  status quo, rearranges  the tropes  of  a rom-com and comes up trumps. It is  a zingy loopy sometimes crazy sometimes moving  look at that thing called  love as seen  through different prisms and  perspectives. The  editing(A Sreekar  Prasad) goes a long way in amplifying the  plot’s  mischievous manoeuvrings through a labyrinth  of  enticing ideas.There are  some  incisive comments on  illegal  migration and  stowaways, apparentlyinspired  by the Spanish film Adu   directed  by  Salvador Calvo , smartly  written  into the  plot. No,  love  doesn’t conquer. But it  sure as  hell lives up the philosophy  of  the film’s theme song Yamma yamma kya khubsoorat samaa, bass aaj ki raat hai zindagi kal hum kahan tum kahan.
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