Kartik Aryan: From a comic actor to a versatile star

A rundown of Kartik’s journey from Pyaar Ka Punchnama to Chandu Champion

Starting with Pyaar Ka Punchnama Kartik has done 17 movies so far. He  started out with lighter roles that have shades of comedy and romance but with movies like Dhamaka, Freddy and the latest Chandu Champion Kartik has proved that he has got good range. He also tried his hand at an out and out commercial movie Shehzada, a remake of Telugu smash hit Ala Vaikuntapurramulo, though the movie ended up being a disaster because of the weak direction. However to Kartik’s credit he did make for a credible all-round hero.

In Pyaar Ka Punchnama Kartik played one of the frustrated boyfriends; there is a particular scene where Kartik vents outs his anger in a lengthy monologue about issues that men face in contemporary relationships. It struck a huge chord with young boys making Kartik an instant hit.  The sequel of Pyaar Ka Punchnama had an even bigger monologue that Kartik aced. For a long period Pyaar Ka Punchnama image stayed with the actor but thankfully Kartik managed to come out of those shadows.

Singing Ami Je Tomar in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2

One of Kartik’s biggest strengths has been his charming nature and an endearing goofiness. A good example of this is Anees Bazmee’s Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (2022); in this movie he played the role of Ruhan Randhawa. In the process of helping a girl he pretends to be a fake Baba convincing people that he has the ability to communicate with the spirits of dead people.

Kartik generated a lot of humor with his dialogue delivery and expressions. He brought the house down on many occasions particularly when he pretends to be an expert Baba.

At the same time he was equally intense in the song Ami Je Tomar where he pretends to be possessed by the devil. Apart from his goofiness what also makes Kartik a success is his ability to experiment and work in genres that people don’t associate him with.

Kartik Aryan as the disgrunted man in Dhamaka

Much before Chandu Champion there was Ram Madhvani’s Dhamaka released in the year 2021. In Dhamaka Kartik played the role of a former prime time anchor Arjun Pathak now demoted to a radio jockey. On the personal front too his life isn’t going well. In short he is a disgruntled man. The character is far away from the usual boy next door roles and Kartik did a wonderful job in portraying the different shades.

In the year of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 there was also Shashanka Ghosh’s Freddy a dark psychological romantic thriller about an introvert dentist who craves for companionship. Often times Kartik’s character of Dr Freddy Ginwala is mocked for his social awkwardness. In the title role Kartik aced the many aspects starting from desperation to the eventual dark turn.

kartik-aaryan Freddy showing the simmering rage within the calmness

The best part of Kartik’s performance was how he showcased the simmering rage beneath the calmness. Even in terms of body language one can see the big variation.  In spite of similarities to Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker Kartik made sure that his performance has its own individuality.

Now to the latest Chandu Champion directed by Kabir Khan. The role of Muralikanth Petkar, a Paralympics champion is a tough one to portray both emotionally and physically.

Kartik in this movie also appeared as an older man for the first time in his career. Before the movie there was lot of chatter about how he went from 39 percent body fat to just 7 percent.  

Kartik-Aaryan in Chandu Champion

The physical transformation was definitely extraordinary getting the perfect look to portray an athlete. But more than the physical transformation what stood out was how Kartik showcased the despair of Muralikanth after getting paralyzed waist down. There is a deep sadness including a suicide attempt. Kartik made sure that the audience’s heart went out for Muralikanth, because of which audiences feel happy for Muralikanth when he creates a world record in the sport of swimming.

Kartik Aaryan Sattu (Satyaprem Ki Katha) from a simpleton to standing up for his wife

Talking about romantic dramas Kartik’s best performance in this genre is Satyaprem Ki Katha (2023). Directed by Sameer Vidwan  Satyaprem Ki Katha was an impactful romantic drama focusing on the issue of date rape. Kartik’s Sattu starts off as a goofy guy but there is a solid emotional graph too as the movie takes a serious turn. The performance is particularly good in the high emotional moments. The evolution of Sattu from a simpleton to someone who stands for his wife was very well showcased by the actor.

This is a brief rundown of Kartik’s roles that showcase his versatility. Here’s hoping that this younger star goes from strength to strength and does many more versatile roles.  

Akshay Kumar and the need for reinvention

A rundown on how Akshay Kumar went from being a bankable star with numerous hit films to an actor struggling to get good openings.

Starting from the year 1991, Akshay Kumar aka “Khiladi Kumar” acted in over 100 films.

At the beginning of his career, Akshay was primarily known as an “Action Star” because of his physicality and fitness levels. The “Khiladi” tag was the result of the action sequences and this image has stayed with the actor to date.

However, thanks to acclaimed South Indian director Priyadarshan, the actor’s image took a huge turn with the film Hera Pheri (2000). In Hera Pheri, Akshay Kumar played a street-smart guy called Raju.

The film gave him ample scope to display his comic skills. The movie also had a couple of emotional scenes which he pulled off with ease.

Hera Pheri opened new doors for Akshay Kumar. The film did not get a good opening but emerged as a box-office success gradually.

It is considered to be one of the best comic films made in Hindi cinema. It was a remake of the Malayalam movie Ramji Rao Speaking (1989).

The combo of Akshay Kumar and Priyadarshan entertained the audiences further in the likes of Garam Masala (2006) and Bhagam Bhag (2005) — also a remake of the Malayalam classic Manichitrathazhu (1993).

In these films, Akshay Kumar raised many chuckles with his comic timing.

A special mention must be made of the scenes in Garam Masala, where his character juggles multiple girlfriends.

However, it wouldn’t be fair to categorise Akshay as just a comic actor.

More than a comedy actor

Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Waqt: The Race Against Time’. (X)

There are the likes of Aankhen (2002) and Waqt: The Race Against Time (2005), among others, where Akshay Kumar proved himself as a versatile actor.

In Aankhen, he played one of the blind men whom Amitabh Bachchan uses as a pawn to take revenge against the bank where he was working and humiliated.

The Bollywood actor got the nuances of the role spot on and was very impressive, particularly in the face-off with Bachchan.

In Waqt: The Race Against Time, the actor played a spoilt son who undergoes a metamorphosis the hard way. He was both goofy and also intense in equal portions.

Akshay Kumar as a social commentator

Akshay Kumar in ‘Padman’. (X)

There was also a period when Akshay Kumar found success with films dealing with social issues but with commercial ingredients. Case in point being Toilet: EK Prem Katha (2017), and Padman (2018).

What made Akshay’s performance in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha commendable is how he transforms himself from a son, who is scared of his orthodox father, to bringing a change in the mindset of an entire village. There is a visible effort in getting into the skin of the role.

Another movie worth mentioning in this category is R Balki’s Padman. It was about an entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganatham who made low-cost sanitary pads for women in rural areas.

The actor did a wonderful job of conveying the determination of a man who is mocked constantly and considered a madman by the people around him.

There are scenes in Padman that not many leading stars would have attempted. A case in point is the portion where Akshay’s character tests a sanitary pad on himself with disastrous results.

You also have a speech in the pre-climax at the United Nations, which is very moving.

An impressive Airlift

Akshay Kumar in ‘Airlift’. (X)

Apart from the above-mentioned ones, Akshay Kumar was also hugely impressive in the thriller drama Airlift (2016).

He was seen as a businessman who helped in the evacuation of Indians in Kuwait during the invasion of that country by Iraq’s supremo Saddam Hussain. This invasion is the beginning of the Gulf War.

Akshay’s character Ranjit Katyal starts as an arrogant businessman for whom profit is the only thing that matters. But soon, we see him vulnerable and helpful.

There are occasions where Ranjit is down and out but he still keeps going. Airlift is easily one of Akshay’s best performances.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Akshay Kumar was having a mostly dream run with hits upon hits.

In fact, the actor’s box office figures were much superior to Shah Rukh Khan who was going through a lean patch at that time. But all that changed drastically post-pandemic.

Malfunction of formula

Akshay Kumar in ‘Samrat Prithviraj’. (X)

The formula that worked so well for Akshay all those years has now come crashing down.

It is a well-known fact that the actor hops from one film set to another in a stipulated time. He likes having many releases in a year and method acting has never been his forte.

Akshay’s co-stars have often joked about it openly during movie promotions. Sure this strategy paid big dividends in the past, but now, it backfired with the actor becoming the butt of many jokes.

Certain jadedness came both in terms of script selection and also the actor’s attitude.

A good example of this is the movie Samrat Prithviraj (2022). It was clear while watching the film that the actor looked upon the project as just another film instead of getting into the skin of a very important historical character.

What he ought to have done was something like Hrithik Roshan in Jodha Akbar (2008).

The rumour has it that producer Aditya Chopra asked Akshay to grow a real moustache but Akshay refused to do it.

Even if you look at the movie Mission Raniganj (2023), there is no effort in getting into the headspace of Jaswanth Singh Gill — an engineer who risks his life getting the trapped miners out.

Even the Punjabi accent is more put on than anything else.

Latest failure

Akshay Kumar in ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’. (X)

But the most shocking of all is the recent Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (2024). In fact, the genre of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan fits perfectly on the radar of Akshay Kumar — a combination of action and comedy.

However, the Bollywood actor appears as a pale version of his Khiladi avatar.

In fact, Tiger Shroff was in much better form with some genuinely funny one-liners. At least he appeared to be enjoying himself, unlike Akshay, who was literally sleepwalking through the role.

This is a sad scenario because Akshay is a capable actor who has shown that he can deliver good performances.

It is high time that Akshay Kumar does some serious introspection both about the kind of films he is choosing and also his working pattern.

Kareena Kapoor Khan: An actor who stays relevant and is a strong force to reckon with

An overview of how Kareena Kapoor Khan is flourishing with author-backed roles and spreading joy among her fans.
Published in: Southfirst

Starting from her debut film Refugee in 2000, Bollywood actor Kareena Kapoor Khan has been part of over 60 movies, including special appearances and dance numbers.

The special appearances include Zoya Akhtar’s Luck by Chance (2009), Priyadarshan’s Billu (2009), and Lovely Singh’s Kya Love Story (2007).

In a career spanning well over two decades, Kareena Kapoor has carved a niche for herself — as a glamorous heroine and a good performer.

In Refugee, she was offered a performance-oriented role which she pulled off with finesse.

Of course, there are films where Kareena came across as too over the top in pitching her performances, like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001) and Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (2003).

Karan Johar once commented that Kareena was not even aware of for whom she was crying in one scene. But having said that, the actor also proved herself to be a versatile performer in many movies.

Kareena Kapoor, a versatile actor

Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor in a still from ‘Jab We Met’. (X)

A good example of this is Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli (2003). In the movie, Kareena Kapoor Khan played the role of a sex worker who speaks a rustic language.

It was a brave choice, particularly considering the glamorous image of the actor, but Kareena sunk her teeth into the role playing her part with empathy and conviction.

In the film Dev (2004), directed by Govind Nihlani, the Bollywood actor played a deglamorised role. She shared screen space with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and more than stood her own.

A scene that deserves a particular mention is when Kareena’s character comes forward to expose the powerful men responsible for the riots before the police commissioner.

The actor effortlessly conveyed the grit of a determined young woman.

Ken Ghosh’s Fida (2004) is another important film in her career. In the flick, Kareena appears as a girl next door with a lot of tenderness. But in the second half, the character takes a huge turn and she is the villain who dupes Shahid Kapoor’s character.

Another noteworthy performance in Kareena Kapoor’s filmography is Vishal Bharadwaj’s Omkara (2006). Her role (Dolly) goes through many emotions from love, awe, fear and bewilderment.

The Hindi actor does not have many lines but she made a big impact with her expressions.

Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met (2007) is, of course, a monumental film in her career. Kareena’s Geet has many shades. From a bubbly and overtly talkative young woman, the character goes through heartbreak in the second half.

But still, there is an inner resilience. Kareena Kapoor delivered an award-worthy performance.

A strong screen presence

Kareena Kapoor Khan and Aamir Khan on the sets of ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’. (X)

When it comes to married female actors, there is a tendency to slow down post-motherhood and have long breaks. But Kareena Kapoor Khan’s speciality lies in maintaining her glamorous image even after two children and getting author-backed roles in different genres.

These films include Laal Singh Chaddha (2022), Good Newwz (2019), Jaane Jaan (2023), and the latest Crew (2024).

In spite of Aamir Khan playing the title role, Kareena registered a strong impact in Laal Singh Chaddha. Her Roop is a conflicted woman who loves Laal Singh and dreams big for herself.

Kareena Kapoor played her part with a lot of compassion, additionally, she also looked stunning.

In Raj Mehta’s Good Newwz (2019), the Bollywood actor appeared as a working woman named Deepti Batra, who has been trying to get pregnant for a long time.

She had a meaty role and she did a swell job. The actor was particularly good in a dramatic monologue with Akshay Kumar.

In Sujay Ghosh’s Jaane Jaan, Kareena played a single mother, who escaped an abusive marriage. Things take a dramatic turn when the past catches up in the form of her abusive husband played by Saurabh Sachdeva.

Kareena’s Maya D’Souza was a mixture of steely resilience, vulnerability and charm, among other things. She delivered a knock-out performance.

Crew, an absolute riot

Kareena Kapoor in ‘Crew’. (X)

Now, to her last release Crew. In this film, Kareena Kapoor Khan plays an air hostess who is unapologetically greedy and doesn’t mind taking a shortcut to get rich. At the same time, there is also a deep loneliness.

The Hindi actor did a wonderful job of portraying the different facets of Jasmine. Additionally, her scenes with Tabu were an absolute riot.

Kareena Kapoor also got into production with Hansal Mehta’s directorial The Buckingham Murders (2023), which premiered at the London Film Festival on 14 October last year. Her performance has been much appreciated.

This is a brief outline of Kareena Kapoor’s past and recent roles. Here’s hoping that the senior actor continues to shine bright and spread joy among her fans with varied roles.

Mammootty : An actor who constantly reinvents himself and pushes the barriers of a traditional superstar

Mammootty’s brilliance lies in the fact that even at 72, he has a burning passion to excel and challenge himself as an artiste.

Mammootty has acted in over 400 movies so far, mainly in Malayalam but a few in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, English, and Kannada as well. He left a solid imprint in all the languages.

The actor won three National Awards for Best Actor and nine Kerala State Film Awards. He also has a record of 13 South Filmfare Awards.

It is easy for an actor to get complacent and play safe when you are in the industry as long as Mammootty. But his brilliance lies in the fact that even at 72, he has a burning passion to excel and challenge himself as an artist.

The passion to challenge himself as an artist is visible in the subjects he chooses.

In Peranbu (2018), he played a father to a daughter suffering from cerebral Palsy. The character goes through many emotions and there are times when Mammootty’s Amudhvan comes across as helpless and very much vulnerable.

On the other hand, in the film Puzhu (2022), he played a caste bigot and a single father with an overbearing nature. The way he treated his son is similar to how he would handle a criminal.

Both these characters are as different as chalk and cheese in terms of how they are written. Mammootty excelled in bringing them to life.

Mammootty as a cop

Mammootty in ‘Kannur Squad’. (X)

Then there are the cop characters like the ones in Unda (2017) and Kannur Squad (2023).

In Unda, Mammootty was seen as SI Manikandan. He leads a group of freshly trained policemen on election duty in a Maoist area. Though Mammootty plays the primary character, there is nothing invincible about him. Mammootty blends with the surroundings and never overpowers the story. Manikandan is a man who is both scared and vulnerable, but there is also a strong inner strength. Mammootty brings these aspects with his trademark gravitas.

The actor also cracks you up on many occasions with his subtle humour.

In Roby Varghese’s directorial Kannur Squad, Mammootty played an ASI leading a special investigative team.

The role of ASI George is not a big stretch for Mammootty but the actor shines bright as the determined squad leader.

He also had some delightful massy moments, including an action stretch in the dark. The physical agility of Mammootty in the mass sequences is praiseworthy.

Many facets of the Malayalam Superstar

Mammootty in ‘Bramayugam’. (X)

In Kaathal-The Core, the Malayalam Superstar plays a homosexual who has not made peace with his sexuality yet.

Mammootty deserves all the accolades for not just accepting this bold role but also doing a brilliant job of portraying the different emotions.

The actor particularly shines in a heartbreaking conversation with his father Devassy played by RS Panicker.

In the 2023 flick Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, Mammootty plays a Malayali man James who starts behaving like a Tamilian farmer named Sundaram upon entering an unknown village. There are many quirks to the role.

In the hands of a lesser actor, the whimsicalness of the entire scenario would have fallen flat. But Mammootty, the legendary actor that he is, transforms James into Sundaram and back to James smoothly.

Rorschach (2022), directed by Nissam Basheer is another film which shows a different facet of Mammootty.

In the movie, he plays the role of a mysterious stranger Luke Anthony. He is a man with secrets and has a mission to accomplish.

Director Basheer did a brilliant job of exploring the psyche of a man whose thirst for vengeance is not fulfilled even after the enemy dies.

Mammootty magnificently embodied Luke Anthony’s endless appetite for revenge.

Bramayugam, directed by Rahul Sadhasivan, showcases another shade of Mammootty’s on-screen villainy.

In the beginning portions, his character Kodumon Potti appears to be a benevolent man. But, as the story progresses, his actual personality is revealed.

Mammootty terrified the viewers with just his body language. It was clear that he had a blast in portraying the wickedness.

Other language films

Mammootty in ‘Swathi Kiranam’. (X)

Regarding the other language films, late K Vishwanath’s directorial Swathi Kiranam (1992) is widely considered one of Mammootty’s best films in Telugu and his overall career and rightly so.

What added to Swathi Kiranam’s brilliance,  apart from the gripping narration, was Mammootty’s stellar act as an egoistic musician.

The actor conveyed the feelings of jealousy, remorse etc in a very impactful manner. Swathi Kiranam introduced Mammootty’s brilliance to the Telugu audiences much before the Yatra films (2019 and 2024).

In Tamil, Thalapathi (1991) is a significant film in the actor’s filmography. Acclaimed director Mani Ratnam pulled off a huge casting coup by casting Rajinikanth and Mammootty together.

Rajinikanth played a character modelled on Karna from Mahabharata in this contemporary take. Mammootty, on the other hand, was the modern Duryodhana.

In spite of Rajinikanth’s star power in the Tamil industry, Mammootty dazzled the viewers with his fabulous act. It is hard to take your eyes off the screen whenever the actor appears.

Mammootty also made a huge impact on the international shores with the English and Hindi bilingual Dr Bahasaheb Ambedkar (2000).

He got into the skin of one of the most revered personalities of Indian history with utmost ease. He skillfully portrayed the tenacity of Dr Bahasaheb Ambedkar while at the same time showcasing his vulnerabilities.

This is just a small appreciation of Mammootty’s recent roles. The list is by no means exhaustive given his long journey in films.

Here’s hoping this legendary actor continues enthraling the viewers with many more varied roles.

More Glamour Than Acting: A Critique Of Deepika Padukone’s Recent Choices

It is to the credit of Deepika that she took a big risk with her glamorous image when she produced and acted in ‘Chhapaak’ (2020).
published in southfirst

Deepika Padukone has always been a glamorous star. But earlier, she used to balance glamour with acting.

But of late, it has been more glamour and less acting.

Starting with Gehraiyaan (2022), Pathaan (2023), Jawan (2023) and now, Fighter (2024), all followed the same route — all in two years.

It is not that Deepika did not have her share of good performances.

For instance, in Shoojit Sircar’s Piku (2015), the actor shared the screen space with the legendary Amitabh Bachchan and the late Irrfan Khan. And still, she held her own opposite these stalwarts.

Lost in Bhansali’s grandeur 

Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat
Deepika Padukone in ‘Padmaavat’. (X)

In her first collaboration with Sanjay Leela Bhansali — Ram Leela (2013), Deepika Padukone delivered a performance that had the right mixture of spunk and vulnerability.

In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013) and Tamasha (2015), there was both glamour and acting.

In Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, her character goes from being a nerd to a more confident woman.

Deepika pulled off the different shades with finesse.

In Tamasha, the actor had less screen time. Nevertheless, she did make her scenes count.

The song sequence “Agar Tum Saath Ho”, in particular, deserves a mention.

But Deepika Padukone was disappointing in two of Bhansali’s big films — Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018), where she was central to the plot.

The Bollywood actor could have done so much more but confined herself to looking glamorous.

In both these films, Deepika was overshadowed by Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh respectively.

Her choice of roles

Deepika Padukone in ‘Chhapaak’. (X)

It is to the credit of Deepika Padukone that she took a huge risk with her glamorous image when she produced and acted in Chhapaak (2020). The Bollywood film was based on a real-life acid attack survivor named Lakshmi.

Performance-wise, Deepika was good, and credit has to be given to her for taking a risk like Chhapaak. However, the movie suffered from a documentary-style approach, and the key flashback portion required more heft in terms of writing and acting.

The financial failure of Chhapaak seems to have had an impact on Deepika’s selection of roles. This is visible from Gehraiyaan (2022).

Directed by Shakun Batra, Gehraiyaan was a keenly anticipated film, given the critical and commercial success of his Kapoor and Sons (2016). It was a complicated relationship drama. In the name of performance, Deepika Padukone was mostly seen doing only intimate scenes with Siddanth Chaturvedi’s Zain.

The focus was more on glamour rather than delivering a solid performance. In fact, Ananya Pandey was much better in the few emotional scenes that she got. The characterisation of Alisha also did not help Deepika Padukone. The best example of this is the portion involving the pregnancy drama.

Lost in action

Deepika Padukone in Pathaan
Deepika Padukone in ‘Pathaan’. (X)

In Pathaan, Deepika  Padukone made for a good action heroine. The actor was fluid in her movements as the Pakistani agent named Rubai. But there was no stand-out emotional scene. Even the love story between her and Shah Rukh jumped out of nowhere.

The highlight of Deepika’s presence remained the controversial “Besharam Rang” song. In Atlee’s Jawan, Deepika Padukone comes only in the second half as the wife of father Shah Rukh Khan.

In that extended special appearance, she has only two moods — one is anguish, and the other is sadness. On top of that, Deepika’s portions majorly slowed down the proceedings and brought the screenplay to a grinding halt.

Now, in her latest outing Fighter, Deepika Padukone’s character is supposed to represent women’s empowerment. She goes against her father’s wishes to become a fighter pilot.

However, for most of the flick, she is required to flirt and look at Hrithik Roshan’s Patty with adoration. She is supposed to heal him. Even the strained relationship with her father ends only because of Hrithik’s character. There is a glazed look that Deepika Padukone carries, throughout Fighter, which is painful to watch.

Even the scenes of her operating the fighter plane resemble a man driving an auto. Glamorous characters can also have substance, a case in point being Deepika’s Cocktail (2016). In the film, she plays an angst-ridden rich girl. The actor looked stunning as always and was impressive performance-wise.

Deepika Padukone and the power position

Deepika Padukone is in a position where she can pick and choose roles that showcase both her beauty and acting. The actor need not settle with the likes of Pathaan and Fighter. It is high time that the Bollywood actor gives more importance to the role she plays rather than acting with big male stars.

For example, when Vicky Kaushal acted with Alia Bhatt in Raazi (2018), he was not such a prominent name as he is now. Similarly, Shantanu Maheshwari was a rank newcomer when he worked with Alia in Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022).

In both films, Alia Bhatt gave more importance to the part and the story rather than focusing on the commercial viability of her male actors.

Some Of The Best Malayalam And Tamil Films in 2023

The year of Mammootty

2023 can be easily called as the year of Mammootty both critically and commercially. The legendary actor had three releases this year and all of them are so distinct from each other. The Malayalam film industry did not see a lot of commercial successes this year but for Mammootty, who is 70 now, 2023 will always be hugely memorable.

It all began with Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (Like an Afternoon dream). The film belongs to the genre of surrealism where a Malayali man enters into a Tamil village and starts behaving like a Tamilian. Though it looked absurd on the surface the audiences thoroughly enjoyed these unexplained situations. This is majorly thanks to Lijo Jose Pollissery’s direction coupled with Mammootty’s performance.

Next up was the police procedural Kannur Squad. The film was based on a real-life accident where a bunch of police officers had to head north in order to catch and bring back some criminals. More than the story what made the film gripping was the direction of Roby Varghese Raj and also the star power of Mammootty. The actor had some powerful mass dialogues coupled with well choreographed action sequences. However, Mammootty saved the best for the year end with Jeo Baby’s marital drama Kaathal – The Core. The homosexual angle was dealt with utmost sensitivity without falling into the trap of mainstream clichés. Jeo Baby also did a brilliant job in exploring the predicament of Jyothika’s character.

Among the other Malayalam actors Tovino Thomas found both critical acclaim and commercial success with the film 2018. It was a survival drama based on the Kerala floods that had devastated the state in 2018. The film had an ensemble cast with everyone doing justice to their parts.

Regarding Tamil Film Industry Siddharth struck gold with his production ChithhaChithha is a hard-hitting drama about the bond between Eeswaran (Siddarth) and his niece Sundari (Sahasra Sree). While Eeswaran is like a father figure to Sundari, he absolutely adores her. The backdrop of Chithha is the killings of young girls by a pedophilic serial killer. Chithha is not a movie that is easy on the eyes, it has some highly disturbing visuals but this film is a must watch particularly for those who like intense dramas based on an important social topic.

Now let’s take a deep dive into the best of Malayalam and Tamil in 2023

Malayalam

1 Kaathal – The Core

In the last few years many movies and web series have depicted homosexuality in different angles. What makes this Mammootty and Jyothika starrer refreshing is the utmost humanness with which Jeo Baby presented the situation. The life of Mathew Devassy (Mammootty) takes a drastic turn when his wife Omana (Jyothika) files divorce after twenty years of marriage.

Kaathal – The Core unfolds in a very leisurely manner. This is a movie that needs to be watched with some patience as the story takes time to kick in. But once the plot and the conflicts are established there is no looking back.

A very strong aspect of Kaathal – The Core is how Jeo Baby has dealt with the relationship of Mathew and Omana. Omana has no personal animosity towards Mathew despite not having a fulfilling relationship with him. She understands his sexual orientation and not only wants to have a life of her own but also wants Mathew to make peace with his sexuality. There is an inherent decency in the way both the characters have been written and that is what makes this marital drama refreshing.

The courtroom portions also have some impactful dialogues and scenes. Mammootty undoubtedly deserves all the accolades that came his way. It is not just about accepting a path breaking role but the veteran actor also did a brilliant job in showcasing different emotions. Jyothika also stood tall with her graceful performance. On many occasions she lets her subtle expressions do the talking. Another actor worth mentioning here is R.S Panicker as Mathews’s dad Devassy.  There is a heartbreaking scene between him and Mammootty when the latter apologises for forcing his son to get married in spite of knowing his son’s feelings.

2. Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

In this film Mammootty played a man called James returning with his family from a pilgrimage. He has a peevish personality in terms of easily getting irritated and always being doubtful about people even if they do some good to him. On the way back from the pilgrimage James tells the driver to stop the vehicle at a certain place when others are in deep sleep. He walks straight into a Tamil Village and starts behaving like a Tamilian man called Sundaram. Everyone is puzzled but they wait patiently to understand who the man is because he was behaving exactly like the missing Sundaram. This leads to many amusing situations with both his old and new families.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is one of those films where audiences can interpret the story in different ways because director Lijo Jose Pellissery does not give any explanation for the behavior of James. There is no particular medical condition that you can pin point and as a result the audiences are constantly playing a guessing game. This is a major plus for the film.

Cinematographer Theni Eshwar also did a brilliant job in capturing the beauty and the quirks of the village through his lens. There is surrealness to the frames. What also made the transformation of James into Sundaram a smooth process was Mammootty’s incredible performance.

3. Kannur Squad

Roby Varghese Raj’s Kannur Squad is a solid police procedural that engages the viewers in spite of some generic mainstream elements. The film is based on the real-life incidents that happened in Kannur between 2007 and 2013.

Roby Varghese struck a perfect balance between the commercial tropes and the grittiness needed for the subject. Mammootty in this film is ASI George who leads a special investigative team.

Kannur Squad takes a little time to get going but gathers momentum soon when the plot moves into a thriller mode. What also works for the Kannur Squad are the back stories of the team members. They have been well written and add a certain weight. An interesting aspect of Kannur Squad is that one of the officers is facing serious corruption charges but is still on the investigative team. Certain rifts happen in the team at a crucial juncture because of this.

A particular stretch that has to be mentioned here is the one involving the Tikri village in U.P. The action sequences in the dark were brilliantly shot.  As viewers there is a certain tension that we feel about the safety of these police officers.

The role of a police officer is not new for Mammootty but the veteran actor shined bright as the determined squad leader. There are some delightful massy moments also involving Mammootty which the actor pulled off with great panache.

4. 2018

Jude Anthany Joseph’s 2018 is a well-made survival drama that engrosses the viewers throughout. The film is set in the village of Aruvikkulam. The first half an hour is devoted to establishing the lives of the villagers. Tovino Thomas plays a former army soldier. He drops out of army as he feared death. Among the other cast members there is Lal and Narain (Mathachan and Winston) respectively. They make a living through fishing.

For a survival drama like this it is imperative that the technical department puts its best foot forward. Thankfully the atmospherics of 2018 are solid. The VFX team in particular deserves appreciation as they successfully created a chilling atmosphere. Cinematographer Akhil George’s work is also A class.

Apart from extracting solid performances Jude Anthany Joseph also did a wonderful job in showing the unity between villagers in times of crisis across caste, religion and politics.  

One area where 2018 could have been better is showcasing the role of the government and the media during those tough times. While the performances were brilliant all round Tovino Thomas deserves a particular mention for how he portrayed the different shades. His character transitions from fearing death to becoming a brave man who fights against all odds.

5. Thuramukham

Rajeev Ravi’s Thuramukham is a hard-hitting tale of the workers movement in Kochi. The film is based on the real-life incidents that happened in Mattancherry area. Apart from the exploitation of the workers Rajeev Ravi also showed how the headmen and the bosses pit the poor against each other.

What makes Thuramukham even more compelling is how the director integrated a family drama into this narrative. Mymood (Joju George) is a worker who is forced to leave Mattancherry because he raised his voice against the work site supervisor ‘moopan’. Moopans are part of a nexus that ensure the ‘Chappa system’ prevailing in the harbor. As a result of his leaving his wife Umma is forced to bring up their three children on her own. While the elder son Moidu becomes the leader of a gang working for the cruel contractors, the second son Hamsa joins the union fighting against the Chappa system.

In spite of the lengthy running time and the leisurely pace Thuramukham is a must watch for how Rajeev Ravi has documented the struggles of poor and oppressed in the format of a commercial pot boiler. He brings to life an important chapter in history that is forgotten. The cinematography and the music are in perfect sync with the rustic nature of the film. The director has done a good job in capturing the spirit of those who fought for labour rights.

The performance of the actors across the board also adds a lot of power with specific mention to Nivin Pauly and Poorna Indrajith.

Now to the best of Tamil films in 2023

1. Chithha (Uncle)

S.U. Arun Kumar’s Chithha is a powerful film on many levels. On one hand it is a solid emotional drama about a strong bond between a doting uncle Eeswaran and his niece Sundari (Sahasra Shree). S.U Arun does not waste any time in establishing how Eeswaran is a father like figure to Sundari. He bathes her and also combs her hair. On the other hand the film also offers a fresh perspective on how to help a sexual assault victim. It is not just only getting angry and swearing to take revenge.

The film also touches upon how men and women react differently to a crisis and what kind of approach they adopt. Nimisha Sajayan plays Sakthi. She and Eeswaran had a misunderstanding in the past but in the present they end up falling in love all over again. Their romance has some fine moments of tenderness that acts as a soothing balm to this otherwise grim story. However, Nimisha’s role is not pertained to just being a love interest. There are scenes where she asks some important questions and nudges Eeswaran to not get swept away in his aggressiveness. Chithha is for most part is a disturbing yet gripping watch but there are some scenes which needed trimming. These portions include the scenes of Sundari and the kidnapper. The very thought of a little girl being held captive by a serial rapist is hair-raising thought in itself.

2. Farhana

Farhana headlined by Aishwarya Rajesh and directed by Nelson Venkatesan is a gripping thriller about human psyche. In Farhana Aishwarya Rajesh played a middle-class housewife who joins a bank call center. Her husband and father in law run a shoe shop but the money isn’t sufficient for Farhana to manage the household. Farhana is initially reluctant to go for the interview but she gets through the exam with distinction marks.

In order to earn more money she shifts from the bank call center to a friendship chat center. Initially the lewd talks from the male callers disturb Farhana but soon she comes across a caller who talks to her in a sympathetic and sweet manner. She feels overwhelmed as she is not used to this kind of affection. But soon the story takes a dark turn.

A big strength of Farhana is how the title character has been written and performed. Farhana starts off as shy and under-confident but soon the character undergoes many changes and Aishwarya Rajesh did a brilliant job in showcasing the various nuances. The thriller elements were also very well done. The backdrop of this mystery man and how he ends up being a tormentor has some chilling moments. Similarly, how Farhana uses technology to get even with her tormentor gives a lot of high. In the second half the screenplay does become loose with some unconvincing scenes involving the husband but there is no denying that this thriller/drama packed a huge punch.

3. Por Thozhil (The Art of War)

Por Thozhil is a gripping whodunnit about two policemen whose working methods are very different from each other. On one hand there is Prakash (Ashok Selvan) who is heavily bookish. His way of doing an investigation is majorly inspired from the crime novels that he has read. Loganathan (R. Sarathkumar) is blunt and has little patience for the bookish ways of Prakash. Naturally they do not get along well but during the course of an investigation they end up forming a bond while coming across some shocking revelations.

In most psycho thrillers the theme of a disturbed childhood plays a key role. This one also touches upon a similar theme but the gripping execution of Vignesh Raja makes sure that the audiences don’t feel a sense of de javu.

Late Sarath Babu’s role is a major highlight of Por Thozhil. His character has been well designed and the actor has done a terrific job in evoking fear. As far as the two main policemen are concerned both R. Sarathkumar and Ashok Selvan have done a wonderful job. Jakes Bejoy’s background score coupled with Kaliselvan’s cinematography elevate the drama further.

Year-Ender: Best Telugu Web Series Of 2023

In 2023, different kinds of thriller stories like ‘Dayaa’ and ‘Dhootha’ have been attempted. However, non-thrillers like ‘Save the Tigers’ struck a chord with the audience.

Web series in Telugu have seen a slow but gradual increase. The quality of these shows cannot be compared to Hindi. However, there have been some good ones.

For example, the 2021 Telugu web series Unheard by Aditya KV was an impactful show that dealt with the freedom struggle from the point of view of Hyderabadis.

Ideological standoffs between the revolutionaries and different opinions about the Nizam rule were brought out well in the web show. Though Unheard had a stage-like atmosphere, which took some time to get used to, it was nevertheless a fascinating web show, particularly for those who are interested in history.

In 2022, acclaimed filmmaker Krish Jagarlamudi adapted the work of Malladi Venkata Krishnamurthy into a gripping Telugu web series titled 9 Hours. Krish was not the director but he was involved creatively.

As the title suggests the story was set in the stipulated time of nine hours. Three prisoners plan to rob three banks and go back to jail before anyone finds out.

The best part of 9 Hours was the unexpected revelations that shocked the viewers. Though most of the story takes place in a single location, it never comes in the way of the audience’s enjoyment.

Now, in 2023, different kinds of thriller stories have been attempted — even paranormal. For example, Pavan Sadneni’s Dayaa revolves around a freezer van driver whose life turns upside down when he finds a dead body inside his van.

Dayaa poster
A poster of ‘Dayaa’ Telugu web series. (X)

JD Chakravarthy played the title role in his OTT Debut. Pavan Sadneni did a good job of keeping the audience invested with his skilful direction.

It was a right mix of mystery and drama while dwelling on the dark side of human nature. JD Chakravarthy led the ensemble cast with his skilful acting.

Among the thrillers with paranormal activities, Vikram K Kumar’s Dhootha was a riveting saga, making important points about politics and journalism.

But other thrillers like Mansion 24Athidhi, and Vadhuvu could not create the same impact.

On the other hand, non-thriller web series like Save the TigersKumari Srimathi, and Newsense struck a chord with their target audience.

Interestingly, we have two major Telugu web shows in 2023 dealing with the nexus between journalism and politics.

Now, let us get into the details a little more:

Newsense

A poster of Newsense web series
A poster of ‘Newsense’ web series. (X)

Newsense directed by Sri Prawin Kumar was an insightful take on the nexus between media and rural politics. The story was written by real-life journalist Priyadarshini Ram. This clearly showed in the authentic presentation.

Newsense touches upon several issues like the impact of sensationalising news and doesn’t shy away from criticising media and its corrupt practices.

Thankfully, there are no filmy clichés despite being set in the much-abused area of Rayalaseema.

The perspective of a female journalist, rarely seen in Telugu shows, is another plus to this web series.

Bindu Madhavi played the role. Her interactions with Navadeep’s Shiva have a certain playfulness and the dialogues have the appropriate rustic touch.

Navadeep got into the skin of a street-smart journalist and embraced the many grey shades of his character with aplomb.

Bindu Madhavi also lights the frame whenever she is on screen.

Among the supporting cast, Nanda Gopal made a solid impression as sub-inspector Edwin.

Newsense has only one song Myneeru Pillagada. This track made for a soothing watch and listen.

It is streaming on Aha.

Save the Tigers

A poster of Save the Tigers
A poster of ‘Save the Tigers’ web series. (X)

Director Teja Kakumanu‘s Save the Tigers is similar to Anil Ravipudi’s F2: Fun and Frustration (2019) in terms of husbands having issues with their wives. However, this web show has its individuality.

What made Save the Tigers entertaining is how the director used the background of his protagonists. The title is a reference to married men — that they should be saved from going extinct much like the tigers.

The main protagonists are Ghanta Ravi (Priyadarshi), Rahul (Abhinav Gomatam), and Vikram (Krishna Chaitanya). There is nothing common between them in terms of their backgrounds. They only meet at the school where their children are studying. But soon start bonding big time.

Save The Tigers hits the ground from the first frame. Several scenes tickle your funny bone. The interactions between Abhinav’s Rahul and Rohini playing the servant were an absolute riot. Fortunately, there are no body-shaming jokes here.

The director was also successful in creating conflicts that have substance. For example, Vikram’s wife is an activist-cum-lawyer. Their daughter is the emotional anchor between them like many children.

The Telugu web series also subtly touches upon workplace harassment without breaking the entertainment flow.

The story of Save the Tigers is not high on logic but that does not become a major deterrent. The performances of the three main leads were flawless.

Priyadarshi got the body language of a dairy farm owner spot on. Abhinav Gomatam’s satirical humour leaves the audience in splits.

A particular mention must be made of the scenes where he is struggling to get over writer’s block.

Krishna Chaitanya’s character does not come with any major comic punches but still, the actor was mighty impressive in his scenes. His acting skills are most visible when he expresses his frustration on being sandwiched between his boss, mother and wife.

Save the Tigers is an absolute binge-watch with just six episodes of short duration.

It is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

Kumari Srimathi

Thiruveer and Nithya Menen in Kumari Srimathi
Thiruveer and Nithya Menen in a still from ‘Kumari Srimathi’ web series. (iamThiruveeR/ X)

Kumari Srimathi directed by Gomtesh Upadhye was a heartwarming tale of a female entrepreneur.

The backdrop is a beaten-to-death genre of a family feud. Still, Gomtesh brought a freshness to this tale. The freshness comes from how he depicts the journey of Srimathi in establishing her restaurant-cum-bar in Ramarajulanka.

Some subtle points are made about how society differentiates men and women while doing the same business.

Apart from Nitya Menen’s Kumari, there were also other strong female parts. Whether it is the mother Devika (Gautami) or grandmother Seshamma (Talluri Rameshwari), the scenes between the three gave the show some of its best moments.

But the love triangle where two men compete for Kumari’s affection falls out of place.

Among the male characters, Prem Sagar made a big impact as the semi-villain. His character has some of the best punch lines too.

Nani has a special appearance which does not last long but the viewers feel a sense of nostalgia for seeing the Ala Modalaindi (2011) jodi again.

Overall, Kumari Srimathi was a well-made feministic tale. The Telugu web series is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Dhootha

Dhootha poster 2023
A poster of ‘Dhootha’ Telugu web series. (X)

Director Vikram K Kumar is mostly known for romantic and science fiction films, but he is also not new to the genre of paranormal thrillers.

Vikram earlier made a Tamil film with R Madhavan — Yavarum Nalam (2009). It was a nail-biting suspense thriller dubbed into Telugu as 13 B. In the movie, the television set was a major character.

In Dhootha web series, newspaper cuttings play a pivotal role. Whenever a newspaper cutting appears viewers get tensed up because there is a back story to the newspaper by the same name.

There are some hard-hitting dialogues about the dangers of intersecting politics and journalism. This web show makes it very clear that nothing good will come out of politicians running newspapers.

Naga Chaitanya as Sagar is initially presented as an ideal husband and righteous media person. In fact, many aspiring journalists look up to him. However, layers upon layers of secrets start tumbling down soon.

Naga Chaitanya did a splendid job in this grey-shaded role. A particular mention must be made of the mental and emotional breakdowns.

Most Impactful Hindi Web Series Of 2023

A good thing about these web series is several of them have left a huge impression in the minds and hearts of the audiences.

In the last few years, the number of web series in Hindi has been on the rise, particularly after the advent of mainstream production houses in the OTT space.

For example, YRF Chief Aditya Chopra forayed into the digital space in 2023 with the impactful human drama The Railway Men, based on the Bhopal gas tragedy.

First-time director Shiv Rawail had a difficult subject to deal with given the sensitivity of the issue. However, the newbie more than rose to the challenge. He didn’t shy away from addressing the moral corruption within the political landscape of that period.

Zoya Akhtar, of course, created her own stamp in the OTT space with the two seasons of Made in Heaven and Dahaad.

Similarly, acclaimed director Neeraj Pandey struck gold with the web series Special OPS and The Freelancer (though he is only the creator and not the director of The Freelancer his imprint is visible).

A good thing about these web series is several of them have left a huge impression in the minds and hearts of the audiences.

Kaala Paani, directed by the duo of Sameer Saxena and Amit Golani, was a gripping dystopian drama set in the backdrop of a mysterious disease in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The show dealt with various themes like environmental exploitation and the harmonious relationship that indigenous people share with nature. It did suffer from pacing issues but still, it was gripping enough.

The ensemble cast led by Mona Singh also delivered brilliant performances. For Mona Singh, it was a double whammy after her impactful turn in Made in Heaven Season 2.

Similarly, director duo Prashanth Nair and Randeep Jha also delivered an unforgettable tale of courage and resilience Trial by Fire based on a real-life story.

After a long gap, Abhay Deol did some of his work here as Shekhar Krishnamurthy. Much like the other Deols — Dharmendra, Sunny, and Bobby Abhay — also rocked this year but in the digital format.

Now, let’s check the most impactful web series made this year in Hindi.

Made in Heaven Season 2

Radhika Apte in Made In Heaven Season 2
Radhika Apte in ‘Made In Heaven Season 2’. (S)

Contrary to the title Made in Heaven, there is nothing heavenly about how most of the marriages are portrayed in the two seasons. There were solid expectations from the second season, given how the first one was received.

Directors Zoya Akhtar and Neeraj Ghaywan among others not only delivered a solid follow-up but also pushed the envelope further in exposing the double standards and hypocrisies that dwell in our society through different weddings.

Just like the first season, here too, the social aspects came out strongly. Yes, the show could have been done with a crisper edit, but that didn’t diminish the impact of these stories.

Out of all the episodes, my two most favourite are the ones directed by Neeraj Ghaywan. One of them is about a successful author and Professor Pallavi Menke (Radhika Apte).

She is a Dalit Buddhist who asserts her Dalit identity at every step, including her wedding ceremony. Radhika Apte’s fiery performance coupled with Neeraj Ghaywan’s direction made this a punch-packed episode.

Another episode directed by Neeraj Ghaywan revolves around a man and a woman in their 50s having an extramarital affair without the knowledge of their respective spouses. Neelam Kothari and Samir Soni played Kriti and Gulshan respectively.

They were lovers while in college. This episode ends with Kriti taking a bold step that obviously doesn’t go down well with her children.

The performances across the board were first class with special mention to Radhika Apte and Mrunal Thakur in their extended special appearances.

Mrunal played a beauty queen struggling in an abusive relationship. The actress did a wonderful job, particularly in the breakdown scenes.

Dahaad

Gulshan Devaiah in Dahaad
Gulshan Devaiah in ‘Dahaad’. (X)

Dahaad directed by Reema Kagti and Ruchika Oberoi was more than a police procedural about a serial killer.

Some important social issues were also addressed in a hard-hitting manner.

Zoya Akhtar wrote the screenplay for Dahaad. For those who are not aware, Dahaad is inspired by the story of a real-life serial killer Cyanide Mohan.

Vijay Varma as the serial killer was terrific. He played socially deviant roles in the past too, like Darlings. Here too, he makes a huge impact as Anand Swarnakar.

He appears to be a do-gooder on the surface but what he actually does is seduce women from the lower strata of society, particularly the daughters of those who cannot afford to give dowry.

He camouflages himself into a different person each time and seduces them with sweet talk. Once they fall for him and sex takes place, he believes they are characterless and deserve to die.

Vijay was simply fantastic both as a serial killer who has unresolved issues with his dad and also as the middle-class married man who pretends to be a great husband and father.

Another standout feature of Dahaad is the performance of Gulshan Deviah as Devilal Singh. Devilal Singh is not only a determined police officer but also weathers a big storm at home due to his progressive outlook.

Devilal wants his daughter to be independent and not confine herself to being a housewife in future. His wife doesn’t think that way and this results in a conflict between husband and wife.

His progressive outlook can also be seen in the few scenes he shares with his son. The best example of this is the moment when Devilal tells his son that it is natural to have curiosity about sex at his age but at the same time, he needs to be cautious in these matters.

Gulshan was absolutely magnetic in every scene.

Sonakshi Sinha was adequately fierce but her performance feels like a letdown in comparison to others.

Another area where Dahaad slightly faltered was its climax. The confrontation scene between Vijay and Sonakshi needed to be more powerful. Still, Dahaad was definitely a worthy roar.

Scoop

Karishma Tanna in Scoop
Karishma Tanna in ‘Scoop’. (X)

Hansal Mehta has made a niche for himself with stories based on real life, whether it is Shahid (2012), Aligarh (2015) or Omerta (2017).

His web series debut Scam 1992 (2020) was also based on the real-life rags-to-riches story of stockbroker Harshad Mehta.

Continuing this route, Hansal Mehta once again chose a real-life story for his second web series — Scoop. This time the focus was on a real-life investigative Journalist Jigna Vora.

Jigna Vora was falsely suspected of having a hand in the murder of another investigative journalist, Jaideb Sen (Prosenjit Chatterjee). As a result of her arrest, Jigna changes from being a confident journalist to a dejected woman. Karishma Tanna delivered a breakthrough performance in the titular role.

Apart from Karishma, Harman Baweja and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub were also competent in their respective parts.

In fact, the character of Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is also based on a real-life person named Hussain Zaidi. Hussain Zaidi is, of course, a prominent investigative journalist along with being a prolific writer. He was the mentor of the real-life Jigna.

A strong aspect of the Scoop web series is not only how Hansal Mehta depicted the challenge faced by these journalists in their everyday lives and the effect it has on them, but he also did a first-class job in showing the prejudices that female professionals face.

Hansal Mehta also deserves credit for how he fearlessly exposed the nexus between Dawood Ibrahim and the police.

Hussain Zaidi was also involved in this web series as part of research and his hand is clearly visible on many occasions.

Jubilee

After co-directing Sacred Games in 2018, Jubilee is the first full-fledged web series that Vikramaditya Motwane directed. He successfully transported the viewers into the 1940s.

Aparshakti Khurrana in Jubilee
Aparshakti Khurrana in ‘Jubilee’. (X)

The focus was the Hindi film industry of that time with the backdrop of the Independence movement and partition.

It is broadly inspired by the lives of prominent yesteryear film personalities Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani (Shrikant Roy and Sumitra Devi in the web series). Prosenjit Chatterjee and Aditi Rao Hydari played these parts.

The other prominent characters include Binod Das (Aparshakti Khurrana) Shrikant’s Man Friday who aspires to become a big actor. Niloufer Qureshi (Wamiqa Gabbi) is a courtesan.

Sidhant Gupta is Jay Khanna, a Pakistani refugee who is desperate to find a footing in Bombay. They both are street smart and end up striking a friendship with a common goal of making it big in the city and Roy Talkies.

Jubilee is a show that immerses the viewers from the first frame. The technical department deserves major kudos along with the director.

The art direction in particular is top-notch. The sets of Priti Gole and Yogesh Bansod are truly era-appropriate. Similarly, the cinematography of Pratik Shah enhances the overall experience.

What also made Jubilee binge-worthy was how Vikramaditya captured the turbulent political atmosphere and the effect it had on the film industry. Many scenes resonate with today’s times.

For example, there is a moment where Prosenjit Chatterji’s Shrikant Roy talks about the dangers of using cinema for propaganda. The characterisations were also layered particularly the ones essayed by Sidhant Gupta, Wamiqa Gabbi, and Aparshakti Khurrana.

Sidhant Gupta perfectly portrayed the pain and also the fighting spirit of a young man who has suddenly become a refugee in what was until recently his own country.

Wamiqa Gabbi’s Niloufer is someone who has big aspirations and to fulfil those dreams she takes all the possible routes. Some of it is questionable too but at the same time, Niloufer never comes across as compromising. Wamiqa effortlessly portrayed all these shades.

Aparshakti Khurrana took a huge U-turn from his regular comic roles. His character Binod Das has some grey shades which the actor pulled off with panache.

Certain passages in the show could have been done with a tighter edit.

Also, Aditi Rao Hydari’s Sumitra Devi needed to be more power-packed both in writing and performance. Her romantic scenes with Jamshed Khan (Nandish Singh Sandhu) with whom she tries to elope are loosely written.

Despite these flaws, Jubilee is still a very well-made web series.

Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo

Filmmaker Homi Adajania created a niche for himself with the likes of Being Cyrus (2005) and Finding Fanny (2014).

With Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo, the director made his digital debut. The show was produced by Dinesh Vijan under Maddock Films.

Dimple Kapadia in Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo
Dimple Kapadia in ‘Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo’. (X)

Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo was a formidable tale of four badass women set in the remote village of Hastinapur, somewhere in Rajasthan.

Savitri (Dimple Kapadia) is a matriarch who runs a company named “Rani Cooperative”. On the surface, this company produces various products but there is also a dark side.

Savitri’s team of women includes Kajal (Angira Dhar), Bijilee (Isha Talwar), and Shanta (Radhika Madan). While Shanta is the rebellious daughter Kajal and Bijilee are daughter-in-laws of Savitri.

These four together run drug business with a firm hand and live life on their terms. Deepak Dobriyal played the role of “The Monk” who is the arch-villain. Ashish Verma and Varun Mitra played the sons of Savitri.

Their characters have zero knowledge about the nature of their mother’s business. However, they soon come to know.

A strong aspect of Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo is how the director Homi Adajania makes Savitri’s palatial haveli a character in itself.

This is a place that is full of secrets. There was also an authenticity to the way the village was portrayed and the rustic makeover of these characters.

Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo is high on both thrills and emotions. There are many moments of tension and unpredictability as the plot thickens.

The emotional aspect can be particularly felt in the characterisation of Dimple Kapadia. Savitri is extremely brutal and menacing. At the same time, there is an emotional gravitas in the way her flashback is revealed.

Similarly, Isha Talwar’s Bijilee had the additional layer of homosexuality. Thankfully, this angle was dealt with sensitivity.

There are also some laugh-out-loud moments, thanks to Ashish Verma playing one of the sons. He brought in many chuckles with his understated humour.

Through his web series, the director also paid homage to both Mirch Masala (1987) and Bandit Queen (1994).

Talking about the performances, Dimple Kapadia led the ensemble by exuding both raw power and required vulnerability.

Angira Dhar and Isha Talwar also stood out with their power-packed performances.

The one slight flaw is the underutilisation of the legendary Naseeruddin Shah. The senior actor was a delight to watch in his portions. Still, the viewers feel that there could have been more of him.

Overall, this group of women gave a solid high to the viewers.

Best Of Tollywood 2023: These Telugu Films Not Only Made Good Business But Also Won The Hearts Of Audiences With Their Content

In 2023, the Telugu film industry did not have any monstrous successes on the scale of RRR (2022) but there are many decent hits like Hi NannaMiss Shetty Mr PolishettyBhagavanth Kesari, and Virupaksha headlined by stars and tier-2 actors.

Small-budget films like Writer Padmabhushan and Balagam also struck a chord with audiences and critics alike.

Further, in 2023, several new and unconventional themes have been explored in Tollywood.

For example, Balagam was a human drama set against the backdrop of a funeral in rural Telangana. The practices of a specific region were portrayed with authenticity and this majorly contributed to the audience’s connection with the film.

Writer Padmabhushan delves into the struggles of both an aspiring writer and the unfulfilled aspiration of a housewife who wanted to become a writer. This is again a theme that we don’t see in Telugu cinema.

Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty explored the concept of a young man falling in love with an older woman in the backdrop of sperm donation.

Hi Nanna is about the trials of a single father and a complex love story that ends happily. Both these films worked well with their target audiences.

The biggest surprise of 2023 though is the transition of Balakrishna from a macho hero to a father hero. In Bhagavanth Kesari, the actor played a foster father with a salt-and-pepper look that went with his age.

Lastly, Virupaksha was a paranormal thriller that raised some important points about the prejudices and superstitious beliefs set against the backdrop of a particular village.

Now, let us delve a little more into these Tollywood releases:

Hi Nanna

First-time director Shouryuv delivered a riveting emotional saga about a single father and his daughter, along with a mother who battles her inner demons. Hi Nanna moves at a slow pace and is definitely not for those who prefer high-octane entertainers.

A poster of the film Hi Nanna
A poster of the film ‘Hi Nanna’. (X)

The trio of Nani, Baby Kiara, and Mrunal Thakur were simply splendid in their respective parts. For Nani, the role of Viraj is a cakewalk. But still, the actor was a delight to watch — whether it was the boyishness of a young lover or a determined single father in the later stages.

Baby Kiara more than held her portraying innocence and vulnerability like a pro.

Mrunal Thakur as Yashna/Varsha delivered a performance that was a step ahead of last year’s Sita Ramam (2022) in many ways.

On many occasions, she conveyed various feelings with just her expressive eyes, proving yet again why she is a bundle of talent.

Overall, Hi Nanna proved to be a perfect balm for those traumatised by the violent father-and-son dynamics of Animal.

Another strong aspect of Hi Nanna is the mostly soothing soundtrack of Hesham Abdul Wahab. My favourite songs in the album are “Samayama”, “Gaaju Bomma”, and “Ammaadi.

The one song that sticks like a sore thumb though is “Odiyamma” featuring Shruti Haasan in an extended cameo, which the film could have easily done away with.

Sanu Varghese’s cinematography is icing on the cake, particularly the portions where Viraj talks about his wife in a fairy tale format.

Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty

P Mahesh Babu’s Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty is a romantic drama filled with many layers. On one hand, you have an older woman Anvitha (Anushka Shetty), who wants children but not through marriage. She wants to go for IVF, that too, by choosing her sperm donor.

Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty best telugu films 2023
A poster of ‘Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty’. (X)

On one level, the movie has a distinct hangover of Ayushmann Khurrana’s Vicky Donor (2012). But Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty is very much its beast.

A big strength of the film is how P Mahesh Babu has sketched his two protagonists.

Anvitha comes across as very stubborn, at times cold-hearted too, but having said that, the viewers also understand why she is the way she is. The inner trauma of Anvitha was both well-written and enacted.

The director was successful in creating an authentic middle-class milieu through the characters of Murali Sharma and Tulasi playing Siddhu’s (Naveen Polishetty’s) parents.

Miss Shetty Mr Polishetty benefitted immensely from its two primary actors — Anushka Shetty and Naveen Polishetty.

Anuskha fits perfectly into the part of an older woman who is scared of getting into relationships.

Naveen Polishetty was an absolute livewire. His real-life experience of doing standup comedy came very handy. However, he was equally good in the more dramatic portions.

Jayasudha had an extended cameo as Anvitha’s mother, and her fan act of Balakrishna raised some chuckles. A couple of flaws include the rushed transformation of Siddhu’s parents, particularly the father.

Also, the likes of Nassar could have been utilised better.

Bhagavanth Kesari

In Bhagavanth Kesari, director Anil Ravipudi successfully moved away from his regular style of filmmaking and delivered an emotional drama that showed a different side to Nandamuri Balakrishna. At the same time, he satisfied his hardcore fans.

Balakrishna in Bhagavanth Kesari
Balakrishna in ‘Bhagavanth Kesari’. (X)

Bhagavanth Kesari is primarily about an ex-police officer turned foster father to Vijji (Sreeleela).

As a young child, Vijji meets Bhagavanth in a jail where her father (R Sarathkumar) worked. Bhagavanth feels an emotional connection with the child from the beginning. After the sudden death of Vijji’s father, he takes over her responsibility.

The biggest USP of Bhagavanth Kesari is easily the emotional drama between Bhagavanth and Vijji. The thought processes of Bhagavanth and Vijji are vastly different from each other.

Vijji’s interests lie more in marrying the love of her life. Bhagavanth, on the other hand, wants to raise her like a lion. In that process, he pushes Vijji to do certain things.

In these portions, the attitude of Bhagavanth reminds the viewers of Aamir Khan’s Mahavir Singh Phogat in Dangal (2016).

Director Anil Ravipudi also made some important points about good and bad touch through a rousing monologue of Balakrishna.

Both Balakrishna and Sreeleela delivered powerful performances. Balakrishna’s command over the Telangana dialect was also commendable. Arjun Rampal made for a worthy opponent.

He brought in the right amount of swag and ruthlessness. It is not the most innovative character, but Arjun Rampal still made it work.

Virupaksha

Karthik Varma Dandu’s Virupaksha is a solid paranormal thriller that scores equally on both the atmosphere and the content.

The filmmaker proved to be a worthy successor to his master — the hugely successful filmmaker Sukumar, who is also the screenplay writer for this film.

best of tollywood 2023 telugu films virupaksha
Sai Dharam Tej’s ‘Virupaksha’. (X)

Virupaksha is one of those movies that instantly draws the viewers in with its ambience. It has some genuine jump scares; on more than one occasion, the viewers would want to close their eyes.

Sukumar’s screenplay is filled with many layers. He, along with his director, comes up with valid arguments against prejudices and superstitious beliefs that stem from ignorance.

They also deserve credit for not making their protagonist Surya (Sai Dharam Tej) larger than life. There are no unnecessary songs or comedy tracks that deviate the audience’s attention.

The twists and turns are engrossing till the end.

A special mention must be made of the climactic punch regarding the character of Samyukta Menon’s Nandini.

On the performance front, Sai Dharam Tej delivered a convincing performance. But it was Samyukta who stole the show with a complex character.

The supporting cast comprising Rajeev Kanakala, Ajay, and Sai Chand were also fine in their respective parts.

Hello Meera (Amazon Prime)

Hello Meera, directed by Srinivasu Kakarala, is a well-made experimental film.

The story revolves around a single character. Gargeyi Yellapragada played the titular role.

Meera is all set to marry a man called Kalyan and is busy finalising the last-minute formalities for her big day in Vijayawada.

A poster of the film Hello Meera
A poster of the film ‘Hello Meera’. (X)

She is on her way back home, but at that exact moment, a cop from Hyderabad calls her to report to a police station at the earliest. The reason is her ex-boyfriend had attempted suicide mentioning her name in the suicide note.

What follows is a story that is not just high on thrills but also dwells on the prejudices that a modern woman faces.

It is not an easy task for any filmmaker to write and engage the audience with a script with only a single actor at its centre. But Srinivasu Kakarala more than rose to the occasion. He ensured that the audience was invested in the plight of Meera. As viewers, you want her to come out safe from this ordeal.

Hello Meera has a series of voice conversations. At times, it does get monotonous, but these voice characters also have a variety.

For example, there is her conservative mother, a father who stands by his daughter, and a future partner who comes across as slightly insensitive.

Teja Paruchuri of Vismai Foods has given his voice to the future spouse.

Gargeyi Yellapragada as Meera is thoroughly impressive. Her reactions to different situations do not come across as staged at any point. She is supremely natural. Her character of a modern woman who is forthright and owns up to the mistakes she has made in the past is something that many modern women can relate to.

Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire

Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire directed by Prashanth Neel is an important movie for its leading man Prabhas. The Baahubali star has been struggling big time to maintain his image as a pan-India star.

Prabhas in Salaar
Prabhas in ‘Salaar’. (X)

Many thought that Om Raut’s Adipurush (2023) would bring back the lost glory, but nothing of that sort happened. In fact, the movie only added to Prabhas’ misery.

With Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire, Prashanth Neel delivered a masala treat which should appeal to the fans of Prabhas.

The biggest strength of Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire is the intense brotherhood showcased between Prabhas’ Deva and Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Vardha.

Deva’s intense affection for Vardha is visible right from the first scene, and this brotherhood only becomes stronger as the film goes on. Not surprisingly, Prabhas shares most sparks with Prithviraj.

Shruti Haasan played the role of Aadhya. She speaks in a heavily accented American accent, which is irritating, to say the least. Prabhas and Shruti do not have many scenes and aren’t romantically paired at least in this first part.

Prabhas doesn’t have many dialogues, but the actor is successful in portraying the raw aggression reminiscent of Chatrapathi (2005) days.

Prithviraj is also wonderful in portraying both the vulnerability and determination of a future successor caught in the power struggle.

The world of Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire is similar to Game of Thrones in terms of drama and character dynamics.

Some of the themes explored by the film are the right to leadership and loyalty among others. Prashanth Neel has done a good job of depicting these themes.

Saalar: Part 1-Ceasefire ends with a cliffhanger that sets a good base for the second part.

Apart from an irritating Shruti Haasan, the KGF (2022) hangover does play a spoilsport. Also, the bloodshed in the second half gets too gory much like Animal which was also released in December.

Best Of Bollywood Films 2023: An Overview Of Some Impactful Hindi Movies That Did Good Business

2023 has definitely been a far better year for Bollywood in more ways than one. Films like PathaanJawanAnimal, and Gadar 2 have become major blockbusters.

In addition to being blockbusters, both Pathaan and Jawan opened to good reviews.

On the other hand, Animal had mixed reviews. Despite severe criticism about the toxic masculinity promoted in the movie, Animal broke many box office records majorly due to the performances of Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, and Bobby Deol.

Gadar 2, as a film, has no emotional impact like its prequel, but there was enough for the hardcore masses to enjoy. Sunny Deol proved he still has the charisma to play a mass hero by pulling off the gravity-defying action sequences.

Apart from these blockbusters, other films that attained hit status include Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and OMG 2.

2023 has also been a year where not-so-mainstream actors Pankaj Tripathi and Vikrant Massey successfully carried their films on their shoulders. Well, I’m talking about OMG 2 and 12th Fail.

Now, let us get into more details about the best of 2023 Bollywood films, not necessarily the blockbusters.

Pathaan

Siddarth Anand’s globetrotter was an eagerly-awaited movie since it marked Shah Rukh Khan’s comeback to the silver screen as a leading man after a long gap of five years.

Shah Rukh in a still from Pathaan
Shah Rukh in a still from ‘Pathaan’. (X)

Siddarth Anand had a huge responsibility on his shoulders, and the director more than succeeded in delivering a popcorn entertainer with the aid of a fast-paced screenplay by Shridhar Raghavan.

What also made Pathaan the perfect mass entertainer was the strong antagonist in the form of John Abraham.

The combat sequences between Shah Rukh Khan and John were well-executed. John Abraham’s Jim was not just menacing, but he carried an angst. Jim had a solid back story explaining why he did what he did.

Another strong aspect of Pathaan is the backstory of how this spy gets this name. The scenes of Shah Rukh Khan with the locals of Afghanistan have so much warmth in them.

Shah Rukh had a blast playing a full-fledged action hero. He was in equal parts charming and rugged. However, after delivering a series of subpar outings, John Abraham surprised everyone in this action entertainer.

Dimple Kapadia, as the boss lady, was also in fine form.

There were some things in Pathaan which did not quite work. One was the simplistic way the topic of patriotism and the Pakistani angle were dealt with.

Also, the love story between Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika practically jumped out of nowhere.

However, in the final tally, Pathaan was the ideal mass comeback for Shah Rukh Khan.

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani and Satyaprem Ki Katha were easily the best romantic films Bollywood produced this year.

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani poster
A poster of ‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’. (X)

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani had all the staple elements that one expects from a Karan Johar entertainer.

There were larger-than-life sets and some exquisite costumes, particularly gorgeous saris worn by the women. However, there was more to the film than just mere gloss.

Karan Johar subverted some of his own themes from his previous films — like how fear is camouflaged as respect in our culture. He also made some pertinent points on the side effects of toxic masculinity.

Most importantly, Through the role of Ranveer’s Rocky Randhawa, Karan Johar presented a protagonist willing to change and evolve into a better human being.

Just like Ranbir Kapoor’s Ranvijay Singh in Animal, Rocky does not share the best relationship with his father. But he never uses it as an excuse to become a wild “animal”.

In Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, many scenes could be watched on repeat mode. The sequences of Rocky flirting with Alia’s Rani Chatterjee in his broken English and her amusement bring a smile to the viewers’ faces.

The decency of Ranveer backing off when Rani clarifies that nothing more can happen between them was refreshing.

The scene where Rani proposed to Rocky in the middle of a road was definitely filmy but adorable, given how Karan switched the gender roles.

A major highlight of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani was the recreation of the song “Dola Re Dola” from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002).

Ranveer’s Rocky Randhawa performing Kathak with his prospective father-in-law (Tota Roy Chowdhury) was a pleasant surprise.

The different emotions that Rani Chatterjee went through — from shock, wonder, and finally extreme happiness — were portrayed brilliantly by Alia.

In the second half, the messaging got heavy. Nevertheless, it was not a deterrent.

The performances of the principal cast were brilliant all through, with particular mention of Tota Roy Chowdhury as the Kathak-loving man.

Satyaprem Ki Katha

A still from Satyaprem Ki Katha
A still from ‘Satyaprem Ki Katha’. (X)

Just like Rocky Randhawa in Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, Kartik Aryan’s Sattu in Satyaprem Ki Katha was also a protagonist willing to evolve and change.

Sattu was initially shown as an underdog well out of Katha’s (Kiara Advani) range.

But circumstances not only bring them together but also get them married.

Katha had a haunting past that was initially assumed to be the result of a bad break-up with her ex-boyfriend. But later, it turned out to be something more sinister.

The film was essentially a relationship drama while dealing with an important social issue like date rape.

Director Sameer Vidwans did a good job of depicting the issue of consent in relationships.

At times, Sattu came across as too patient with Katha, but he was never presented as some social reformer. The change in Sattu happened gradually.

Both Kartik and Kiara delivered brilliant performances.

The supporting cast, led by Gajraj Rao, was also in fine form.

OMG 2

OMG 2 poster
A poster of ‘OMG 2’. (X)

This spiritual sequel to the 2012-released film Oh My God was a compelling social drama that looked at the taboo yet important subject of sex education.

The best part of Amit Rai’s direction was how he normalised the discussions around physical intimacy without making it look awkward or uncomfortable.

One of the standout scenes in OMG 2 was Pankaj Tripathi’s Kanti Sharan Mudgal explaining how the body parts of males and females should be taught in school. Pankaj Tripathi did complete justice to the arc of his role.

Akshay Kumar had an extended cameo as Lord Shiva’s messenger in human form.

In Oh My God, Akshay played Lord Krishna. Much like that film, here too, he played the part with the right amount of divinity.

The scenes of Akshay imparting wisdom to Kanti Sharan were good to watch.

Jawan

Jawan was a film that can ideally be described as a Khichdi of Shankar’s brand of vigilante cinema and Shah Rukh’s Chak De India.

At its core, Jawan was a father-and-son drama with 50 shades of Shah Rukh Khan as both father and son.

Shah Rukh Khan in Jawan
Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Jawan’. (X)

Atlee absolutely nailed these father-son moments besides addressing various grassroots problems like underdeveloped government facilities.

One of the women in Shah Rukh Khan’s vigilante gang was played by Sanya Malhotra. Her backstory was based on a real-life person named Dr Kafeel Khan.

Dr Kafeel Khan was falsely accused of the death of several kids at a hospital where the real issue was a lack of proper facilities along with corruption. Dr Kafeel Khan tried to procure oxygen, but his best efforts failed to save the children.

Yes, the presentation of these grassroots issues was simplistic, but still, it hit the viewers hard.

Jawan also benefitted immensely from Shah Rukh Khan submitting totally to the director’s script and giving it his all.

Nayanthara also made a solid Bollywood debut in her dual-shaded role as a determined NSG commander and a single mother.

On the other hand, Vijay Sethupati made for a good opponent, particularly in the second half.

The same cannot be said about Deepika Padukone and Sanjay Dutt.

The energy dipped during the brief flashback scenes of Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika.

Sanjay Dutt’s extended cameo did not add great value to the proceedings.

Nevertheless, Jawan, on the whole, proved to be “paisa vasool” entertainment.

Jaane Jaan (Netflix)

A poster of Jaane Jaan film
A poster of Bollywood film ‘Jaane Jaan’ . (X)

For those who are not aware, Sujoy Ghosh’s Jaane Jaan was based on the best-selling Japanese novel “Devotion of Suspect X“, which already has many onscreen adaptations.

Jaane Jaan was primarily about a single mother named Maya D’Souza (Kareena Kapoor), who runs a local café.

Maya has a dark past related to her ex-husband (Saurabh Sachdeva). Jaideep Ahlawat, Maya’s neighbour and a Mathematics teacher, secretly loves her but is socially awkward. Every day, he visits the café, leading to some amusing moments.

Maya’s life turns upside down after the re-entry of her ex-husband. From here, the movie goes into the zone of the Drishyam series.

Jaane Jaan was a survival thriller about a determined single mother. In this story, she gets the help of a neighbour who would go to any lengths to save her.

The soul of Jaane Jaan was the relationship dynamics between Kareena Kapoor’s Maya and Jaideep Ahlawat’s Naren. Sujay Ghosh did not miss a single beat in depicting this complex love. He also did complete justice to the novel “Devotion of Suspect X“.

The hill station of Kalimpong also became a character in itself, thanks to Avik Mukhopadhyay’s cinematography.

The scenes between Kareena and Vijay Varma, playing a charming cop for a change, were good to watch.

Both Kareena and Jaideep got into the skin of their characters.

Vijay Varma brought a lot of charm to his scenes.

12th Fail

12th Fail film poster
A poster of the film ’12th Fail’. (X)

12th Fail, directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, was a classic underdog drama about a real-life IPS officer — Manoj Kumar Sharma.

The DNA of 12th Fail was quite similar to the underdog stories that Rajkumar Hirani directed — 3 Idiots (2009) and Munna Bhai (2003, 2006) films.

It was meant to give the viewers a warm hug and make them leave the theatres with a happy feeling.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra mostly succeeded in his endeavour. The director, along with his leading man Vikrant Massey, did a wonderful job of showcasing the numerous challenges that Manoj faces.

There were places in the first half where the pace dipped, but having said that, there was also a lot to enjoy, especially if you are a fan of inspirational films based on real life.

Apart from the overall strong performances by technicians, 12th Fail scored distinction marks.

The cinematography of Hemant Wagh, in particular, stood out — whether it was the initial scenes in Chambal or the later ones in Delhi Streets.

Dunki

srk dunki
A still from Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘Dunki’. (X)

Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki will not do the business of Shah Rukh Khan’s last two films — Pathaan and Jawan, but there is no denying that this is an important film in terms of how it addresses an important social issue.

The issue is about borders existing only for the underprivileged. It presents a hard-hitting tale of immigrants in this case Punjabi migrating to England through illegal means for different
reasons.

The first half of Dunki is mostly a breezy watch, but things take a serious turn just before the interval. Vicky Kaushal has an extended special appearance and is at his usual best.

The comic portions in this film don’t have the brilliance of the Munnabhai MBBS (2003), Three Idiots (2009), and PK (2014), but it recovers ground, particularly in the second half when the proceedings get serious.

The second half shows the many dangers Shah Rukh’s Hardy, Taapsee Pannu’s Manu and others go through to reach London. Here, their utopia comes crashing down. The viewers get a short but powerful glimpse of the menial jobs that these immigrants have to do even after securing citizenship.

One of these immigrants is Vikram Kocchar’s Buggu. Buggu passes the IELTS exam and goes to London legally before Hardy and Manu, but he is still not living a happy life.

Rajkumar Hirani’s directorial skills come out in the second half the way he handles the drama.

One of the things that work for Dunki is the love story between Shah Rukh Khan and Taapsee. Both the actors share a good chemistry in both light and emotional scenes.

Anil Grover and Vikram Kocchar also bring a certain gravitas to their respective parts.

Overall, Dunki is a well-made social film. It is not flawless but there is a lot to take away.