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Bollywood Movie Reviews

Criminal Injustice To Miss Criminal Justice 2

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Criminal Justice Season 2: Behind  Closed Doors(DisneyHotstar)

Starring  Kirti Kulhari, Pankaj Tripathy, Jisshu Sengupta, Mita Vashisht, Deepti Naval, Ashish Vidyarthi

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Directed by Rohan Sippy, Arjun Mukherjee

Rating: ****

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A  jar of  Vaseline and  an abusive  shout-out from the bedroom(Kutti bann,become  a  bitch) are  the key to this season’s  Criminal  Justice. Grim  and  taut, and utterly engrossing(I never once fast-forwarded  the narration) Season 2  of  Criminal Justice is  every bit  as  riveting as  Season 1 where Vikrant Massey tasted  the nightmare of  the Indian prison system in all its stomach-churning glory.

 This  time  it is  Anuradha Chandra(Kirti  Kulhari) ,devoted   dutiful  beautiful  wife to  hotshot lawyer Vikram Chandra(Jisshu Sengupta) who is  accused of stabbing  her  seemingly  perfect  husband to death . Our most favourite on-screen lawyer  Madhav Mishra is  pulled  out of  his wedding  to handle the  case . Leaving  behind in Patna his  aggrieved  wife(who complains  that  they haven’t been able to do their ‘First Night’)  Madhavcatches the  first flight to Mumbai to defend  the seemingly indefensible woman, a  classic  Hitchcockianmurderess  so beautiful and  haunted  that  only KirtiKulhari could play her.

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What  I loved  about CJ2 is  that it pulls none  of  the stereotypical stunts of a suspense thriller.No annoyingredherrings,  no  false leads and no  attempt to mislead us. From the start we know  Anu is  guilty. The question is not a straightforward one  of  guilty/not-guilty.This time justice is  not  a court concern alone. Writer ApurvaAsrani    skillfully digs  deep into the crevices that  deshape Indian marriages .

 If Anuradha  was  being systematically  driven beyond the brink by her bedroom brute of a husband, there is  the  other couple, two cops Harsh and Gauri(played  with disarming  naturalness by Ajeet Singh Palawat and  Kalyani Mulay) who seem to be aligned on opposite sides in both their professional and  domestic dynamics.

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 On a  lighter  note there’s  the  show’s  eminently likable hero, the  low-level lawyer Madhav Mishra with a  neglected newly-married  wife(played by a refreshingly unspoilt  new actress Khusboo Atre). Of course Madhavrespects women . But unknowingly he has fallen into the trap of playing the  traditional role  of  the  domineering husband who dictates every move his wife makes by pretending to give  her the  freedom to do what she wants, until she breaks out with a flourish that hits Madhav and  us in the solar plexus.

Madhav’s marital  metamorphosis   has its roots in SatyajitRay’s Apur Sansar  although I’m pretty sure  this couple has never heard  of Ray or his masterpieces. Madhav’s very healthy professional relationship with his lawyer colleague Nikhat(Anupriya Goenka, charming) is also  explored with something that most Indian films lack: an instinctive understanding of an asexual relationship between  two colleagues of differing genders.

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 The  ground rules and the background material of Criminal Justice 2 is solidly constructed .The scenes  in the prison are  suitably stark, with Shilpa Shukla putting in a persuasive performance as a headstrong inmate.  The repeated shots of puke could have been avoided,  though. Also the background score seems partly inspired by Francis Lai’s score in  Romeo & Juliet.

At the  forefront is  the  case… ah, the  stabber  wife Anuradha whose teenaged daughter Rhea(Adrija Sinha) is the only eyewitness to the crime.  The  young  actress has a very tough role and she negotiates her trek through the tough turf with the  expertise  of  a veteran.  The show is  in fact suffused with memorable  performances—Deepti Naval and Mandira Bedi are a  delight to  watch together and apart , and I wish there was more of them—none  more so than Pankaj Tripathi and  Kirti Kulhari who are  the backbone,  the soul of the plot.I can’t imagine  what this  season of Criminal Justice would have been without them. 

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Ms Kulhari’s final lingering closeup of  relief and happiness after  8 episodes  of trauma will stay with  viewers  for a while. She plays the murderess as a  victim  without a trace of self-pity. The series is  stunningly assembled,  often surpassing the original British series by adapting the British  legal  system  to a homegrown reality. The cynicism, the corruption,the  power  of the privileged  to  subvert the law….   It all comes together in  ways that are  both  exciting and disturbing. What a wonderful  way  to end this  confounding year!

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Pathaan Is A Slick Spin On SRK’s Stardom

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Pathaan

Pathaan Movie Review: There is  no reason why any review of  Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan(directed  by Siddharth  Anand  but it’s  an SRK showcase all the way) needs  to be written.  The two-and-a-half hour eruption of stylish action will be  seen at  least once by every movie patron in India, and then of course out West where Sharon Stone, I believe,  has already bought bulk tickets for the entire  weekend for her  friends, family, fans and househelp .

Movie: Pathaan
Cast
Shah Rukh Khan as Pathaan, a RAW agent
John Abraham as Jim, a rogue agent turned leader of ‘Outfit X’
Deepika Padukone as Rubina Mohsin, a ISI agent
Ashutosh Rana as Colonel Sunil Luthra
Manish Wadhwa as General Qadir
Dimple Kapadia
Siddhant Ghegadmal
Gautam Rode
Gavie Chahal
Shaji Choudhary
Diganta Hazarika as an ally of Pathaan
Salman Khan as Tiger/Avinash Sing Rathore (cameo appearance)

Directed  by  Siddharth Anand

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Rating: *** ½

Pathaan is  a very slick action film. The stunts  leave us  open mouthed , like Sharon Stone  when  she saw SRK pass by.

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We get to see Shah Rukh Khan more than  just pass by in the title role. He is  all there muscled and armed ready to take on  the world to protect his  country. There is a lot of stress in the rippling writing  on how patriotic  ‘Pathaan’ is. And  if we  consider the fact that the audiences do not  separate  the  character  from the actor when it  comes to Salman or Shah Rukh, then the dialogues on nationalism(by Abbas Tyrewala) make a lot  of sense.

The political undertones(Article 370 is the triggering  point for the  bullet bath) are not to be missed. The  director won’t let you.

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Speaking of Salman and Shah Rukh their  Karan-Arjun kinship in their sequence together is winsomely rugged.  Most of  the  film is designed to give Indian fans  of  Shah  Rukh Khan and action cinema  a run for their money.

Director Siddharth Anand  has a fairly firm grip over  a plot that  goes all over the place. Not that there is much of it  to go anywhere. The  screenplay is slinky skeletal and  not epic in intent content or  impact. But there is always a sense  of urgency built into the  goings-on. So that we never get a chance to get distracted.

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On the  other hand, the  unfolding of the  surprises  in the plot is a bit like doing a Santa on a  child who already knows about the Christmas gifts hidden  under the bed.

Visually, Pathaan is  a feast  of fury. The  fights especially between  Shah Rukh and John Abraham(the latter as a seething terrorist grits his teeth so hard we fear for his teeth) are virile  and  boisterous. The sound decibel  drowns out all subtlety.

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But then who is in this for tact? Be prepared for your senses  to be attacked.
 

Pathaan Premise
Pathaan, an exiled RAW field operative is assigned to take down his old nemisis named Jim, a former RAW agent turned rogue, who leads “Outfit X”, a private terrorist organization, which is planning to spread a deadly virus dubbed “Raktbeej” across India.

 

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An Action Hero, Fastpaced  Funny &  Spot-On

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An Action Hero

An Action Hero

Starring  Ayushmann Khurrana, Jaideep Ahlawat

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Written &  Directed  by  Anirudh Iyer

Rating: *** ½

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There is something delectably different  about this  mass entertainer. It is  neatly  plotted and to-the-point. It avoids  the  bullshit element  in mass entertainment. The  eponymous  Action Hero  Ayushmann  Khurrana has no  family or girlfriend  waiting for him after the  shooting.

 Where  does Maadhav  come  from? Why does he have  a British passport(why not a  Canadian passport?)  if not to escape  swiftly after he  accidently kills  a Haryanvi  goon? The slayed goon(menacingly  played by  Sumit  Singh)is well connected.It can’t get any  better than Jaideep Ahlaway, can it?

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In London, Ahlawat’s Bhoora  Solanki  is   shown to be  ruthless  in his  pursuit  of justice for his  brother.And yet he lets Maanav slip out of his hands, not once but repeatedly.
A secret fan, perhaps? The  breathless plot  allows  no room for  back-story speculation. It is  all done in the spirit  of a super-heist, without the ransom. The film is enjoyable most of the way  except  for some major diversions. The  subplot  about a restaurateur Sai(Neeraj Madhav) doesn’t fit in.It’s the kind of character  that pops  up in a  long-running  television serial. Also the  entire track about the  dreaded  international don(modelled on you-know-who) is  so out of its depth it feels more  like an afterthought than an organic  part of the plot.

That said, there is plenty to enjoy in An Action Hero. Both Khurrana  and Ahlawat are in revved-up form. They  play against each most effectively, almost like  a on-the-run Tom and a persistent  Jerry . The  plot should have focused on them.

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The comments on media trial and the demonization  of  Bollywood are hilarious.This is  a  clever intelligent  film that  sometimes trips over in self-admiration but manages to stay  afloat most  of   the way.

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Uunchai, Not  Quite The Dizzying Heights, But Special

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Uunchai

Uunchai

Starring  Amitabh Bachchan, Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Danny Denzongpa, Parineeti Chopra, Neena Gupta and Sarika

Directed  by Sooraj Barjatya

Rating: ***

The aging  protagonists  aspire to travel only to the  foothills  of  the Himalayas.The  film too doesn’t aim  for the summit, but is  happy to be grounded  cosily somewhere  at  the foothills  as  long as  the footfalls  are there.

Uunchai certainly deserves an audience. For all its flaws  of wheezing  pacing and panting drama  it is  nonetheless a  film that comes  from  the heart,although I must admit it  doesn’t really stir up a storm  of  emotions  in the audience. But yes,it is  touching  if  you are  a  sucker for  cinema   on lifelong  friendships and unconditional  loyalty.

Mr Bachchan logistically takes pride of place, as  Amit Shrivastava(the surname is the Bachchans’ actual passport identification). Amit is  a successful author who sells fake gyan  to  the multitudes.

Sudhro,” warns idealistic friend  Bhupen(Danny Denzongpa) and then promptly dies.

Bhupen three best friends, played  by Bachchan, Kher and Irani now decide to take a trek to the  base  of the Himalayas. Writer  Abhishek Dixit(based on  story by  Sunil  Gandhi) has his  art  in  the  right place. But he  chokes it up with too many  back stories  for every character so  that the  film at  170 minutes feels like  marathon  run for  the  elderly  which becomes  an ordeal for the  spectators once the participants  lose their energy.

One  subplot in Gorakhpur about Anupam’s ungrateful ancestors(featuring Kher’s brother)  cribbing endlessly about haveli repairs  and rising  costs   should  have been taken  out on the editing table.  And pray tell,   which daughter tells her  visiting parents and  their close friends to f…k  off since her birthday guests would feel uncomfortable?  These are characters that needed  not only polishing up but also  a  vigorous  shake  by the shoulders .   They  are so  unidimensional  they belong in an animation film.

Another weird plot twist:  why should Bhupen’s friends be upset with the  love  of his life(Sarika) for  abandoning him?  This is  quite what Neena Gupta  rightly describes  as overstepping the line of friendship.

Neena Gupta’s  marital  bonding with  Boman Irani comes  across as  very real and endearing. This, I suspect  is more to do with the  two actors’ skills than  anything else. By the time the  plot reaches  the  Himalayas we  are as exhausted as  the protagonists.

These are  identifiable people  who  deserved a more compact and  incisive  plot, not this meandering road trip which seems to been constructed like  building  blocks in a child’s hands .

Nonetheless Uunchai  has a sufficient  heart  to make it a special film.But it could have been much more special with more skilled writing.

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Monica O My Darling , The Twisted  Tormented  World  Of Vasan Bala

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Monica O My Darling

Monica, O My Darling(Netflix)

Directed  by  Vasan Bala

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 Rating: ****

Somewhere in the acquisitive  amoral  chaos of Vasan Bala’s twisted  kingdom, Rajkummar Rao and Huma Qureshi, playing two of the most  shamelessly self-serving jerks in  recent  cinematic history, are  down on the floor, wrestling  with an Usha Uthup pretender singing ‘Loving You So Much  I Want To Kill  You.’

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Yes, physically  wrestling, until one  of   them is  almost dead.

It is  a deliciously demonic  moment defining the gender-proof  nature of human greed. When you are so money-minded that your conscience  has  gone  for  a call of nature, then be prepared to battle it out man-to-man  , even if you are a  woman.

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Alas, such  delightfully  epiphanic moments are  hard to  come by in Vasant Bala’s first directorial  deep-dive since Mard Ko Dard Nahin  into the bowels  of eccentricity. Playing a  dude who doesn’t feel  any physical  pain no matter how  hard to blow Abhimanyu Dassani was at once wicked and  amiable in Mard Ko Dard….

Rajkummar Rao as Jayant  a small-town boy from Angola  working in a giant  robot-manufacturing  organization in Mumbai is much more wimpy,  partially demonic, partially  a victim of  fate…if Fate looks anything like  Huma Qureshi  who plays Monica  a crooked  femme fatale  a  squealer-dealer  in  pursuit of  big bucks via big  …never mind.

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Qureshi’s Monica  is  a delectably  subverted  femme fatale.An imposter Marilyn Monroe who lets  the skirt fly only when she  is  sure there are men looking.Somehow  I felt Ms Qureshi fell short  of  the character’s  brazen  avarice.Her cabaret  at the beginning  of the film again proves  after that limp item song in Gangubai  Kathiawadi that she better leave  the dancing to those  better  equipped.

 Her performance as a  woman who  empowers herself by   conning men is  tonally correct, but  unable to  scale the  summits of seductive salvation  it was written to. Radhika Apte as  a gritty sarcastic cop nails it. It’s  interesting to see  how the women in poor Jayant’s life bully him: Qureshi  at  first, then Apte and then  of course the bimbo esque  boss’ daughter played  with an arresting airheadedness  by Akansha  Ranjan Kapoor.

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Monica O My Darling has a sharp tangy taste to its  storytelling . But it  eventually gets tangled  in its own ambitions. It wants to be  dark sexy  voluptuous enigmatic  satire, but  lacks the wherewithal  to  leap over the  plotting hurdles that impede  the protagonist Jayant’s  progression from a harmless smalltown dreamer to a scheming rat.

Rao is  dependably  strong in his weak character. There are other extremely  powerful actors like  the underused Sikandar Kher, Sukant Goel and  Bagavathi Perumal . Two of these men are being  blackmailed by Monica. She is  clearly a threat , to herself. Ditto the  film. Monica O  My Darling wants  to give the conscience-free  female lead a  sense  of Huma.

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But she is  clearly not up to it.

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