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Uunchai Uunchai

Bollywood Movie Reviews

Uunchai, Not  Quite The Dizzying Heights, But Special

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Uunchai

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

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Directed  by Sooraj Barjatya

Rating: ***

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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

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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.

 

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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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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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Phone Bhoot Propagates Primitivism,  Fanaticism  &  Dimwittedness

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Phone Bhoot 

Phone Bhoot

Rating: *  1/2

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There is too  little  of everything in Phone Bhoot  except the two bratty boys  Siddhant Chaturvedi  and  Ishaan(he has dropped the ‘Khattar’ in his name)  who are  all over the place  like two bad viruses. For  long patches Katrina Kaif  vanishes: she has every right to since she  plays a   bhoot. Must be the most chic ghost in town . We  only have  to see poor Sheeba Chadha’s makeup and scruffy  look to know  why Katrina  did  this  film.

She  just wanted to show  the world  how pretty   a ghost can be. Thank  you for that.

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And  there  ends my sarcasm laden  praise for this  eerie  abomination…eerie  and funny is  what  it aims at. Dreary and  phony is  what  we get in Phone Bhoot, a film so devoid  of any merit  that you wonder why  it was made in the  first film. Born out of  a desperate  sense  of   urgency to score a  win,  the  film tries to be a Stree on   speed. Instead it  ends up being a  witchcraft tale  with  no head or tail

Jokes include  a headless  head  of  security of Jackie Shroff’s  staff . Shroff plays  Atmarama  a dreaded  satanic  presence who  is  more  farcical than fearsome.The  jokes are  so  labored that they are  repeated  twice  so  we get  it. The whole  film is  joke, though not in the way  it was  intended  to be.

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I wish I could say   there  is more chemistry  between the  two boys Chaturvedi  and  Ishaan then  there  is among the  boys  and Katrina. That  would  be untrue. The two boys  excel only at  showing  us  who can  make  more faces  on   camera. Chaturvedi wins hands down. It is tragic to  see  the  once-promising  Gully Boy reduced  to  this insufferable ham  .

Ishaan(sans Khattar) is  more  subdued  and  controlled.  But we can see the  struggle to remain sober  is constantly  thwarted  by  the  loud screechy bhoot-pret-atma  nonsense  that unfurls  in front  of   Khattar. As  for Katrina,if this  is  all  the  film industry  has to offer the pretty actress, just  check out.

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Phone  Bhoot  thinks  it is the meta screen provider  for generations that have  NOT grown up on  Chanda Mama and  Amar Chitra Katha stories.  The idea is to give  a groovy  cool  spin to  grandma’s tales. But it doesn’t work. The  endeavour is not only insincere  but blissfully blind to propagating  blind faith.

From  primitivism  to  paganism  to heretic  mumbo jumbo, where is  Hindi  cinema  heading  in pursuit  of that elusive success?This is  the same production house which  has given us milestones  like Dil Chahta Hai  and  Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara? Is  success  so  vital that  you sell your  soul to the  devil?

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Interestingly I  saw  Sourabh Shukla’s  name in  the credit titles for   associate  director  or  something.  I guess the  mess was   foreseen.

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