Kill: Visceral action yet a thrilling ride

Kill movie banner

Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt elevates a standard action plot by bringing class divide and blurring the lines between what we consider as hero and anti hero.

  • Starcast: Lakshya, Raghav Juyal, Tanya Manikatla, Abhishek Chauhan, Ashish Vidyarti and others
  • Director and writer: Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt
  • Music: Shashwant Sachdev and Vikram Montrose
  • Cinematography: Rafey Mehmood
  • Producers: Karan Johar, Guneet Monga etc
  • Production houses: Dharma Productions and Sikhya Entertainment

On surface the plot of Kill may appear as a series of action sequences, a show reel for debutant Lakshya to establish himself as a massy hero who can vanquish villains even after facing severe blows.  But what makes Kill different from other violent movies is a strong emotional poignancy. The character graph of Lakshya’s Amrit Rathod from a commando who initially just wants to control the situation to eventually becoming a bigger monster has strong undercurrent of emotions. As the movie progresses Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt questions our notions of what we consider as hero and anti-hero. No wonder Kill got rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival, kudos to Karan Johar for giving a movie like this a significant platform along with Guneet Monga.

The initial minutes of Kill are devoted to the love story between Amrit Rathod and Tulika (Tanya Maniktala). Tulika is returning to Delhi after a reluctant engagement. Amrit and his fellow commando/ friend Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan) are also on the same train. Amrit is making plans on how to convince his future father in law with the help of Viresh. A romantic story soon turns into a catastrophic night thanks to a group of dacoits (armed robbers). The leader of this gang is Fani (Raghav Juyal). Ashish Vidyarthi plays Fani’s father and a fellow dacoit. The father and son don’t get along well. What should have been a simple robbery ends up in a violent bloodbath because of Fani’s thoughtless actions who is desperate to get his father’s approval and love. Nothing more can be revealed here.

The initial moments start as a love story

A strong aspect of Kill is the humanizing of the dacoits. There are portions of the second half where the armed robbers vent out their vulnerabilities and fears. They want an escape from this havoc seeing the brutal deaths of their family members. On more than one occasion they plead to Ashish Vidyarti’s Beni about deboarding the train.  Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt is successful in bringing out a strong sense of brotherhood. He also subtly highlights the class divide and the impoverished state that leads to these men becoming robbers and looting rich people. On the surface they appear as ordinary men but there is a deep angst within.

The scenes between Ashish Vidyarti and Raghav Juyal is another major highlight of the movie, there is a constant friction in spite of both being armed robbers. A particular scene that has to be mentioned is the one where Beni talks about how Fani has dumped his father’s values and principles. To this Fani replies sarcastically that they are dacoits and he isn’t Amitabh Bachchan’s Narayan Shankar  from Mohabbatein to talk about principles and values, this scene raises ample chuckles.

The action sequences by nature are very violent and definitely not for family audiences, however stunt directors Se- Yeong along with Parvez Sheikh deserve kudos for coming up with innovative combat sequences in the confined spaces. A particular mention must be made of how they have used the window curtains that become death traps. Cinematographer Rafey Mehmood camera work is also fantastic. He successfully captures the tense atmosphere through his lens.

Kill wouldn’t be what it is without the brilliant acting particularly lakshya and Raghav. Lakshya makes for a perfect action hero. He captures the turmoil of Amrit many times with just his eyes and overall body language. Lakshya fully convinces the audiences that Amrit has become a killing machine. Fani’s taunt at Amrit on how he isn’t a hero but a big monster feels very true. Raghav Juyal best known for his dancing skills springs a very pleasant surprise. He knocks it out of the park as a cold blooded villain who has his own vulnerabilities. Fani’s anguish at seeing the violent deaths of the family members including his own father has been well portrayed by Raghav.

Both Lakshya and Raghav deliver terrific performances

Tanya Manikatala does well in her brief yet important role. She brings in an understated strength to Tulika. Her lovey-dovey moments with Amrit that include him proposing to her in a toilet seat comes across as a respite from the breathless action. Ashish Vidyarthi also makes his presence amply felt as the frustrated father who prophesies that the reason for him dying before time would be his son. Abhishek Chauhan has a straight forward role of being Amrit’s ally in the initial phase nevertheless the actor has his moments.

True to the title Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt has killed it, this violent saga may make you apprehensive of train journeys but it is a must watch for those who like blood and gore with a solid storyline.

Chandu Champion: This true story of grit and determination takes the viewers on a roller coaster of emotions

This Kabir Khan directorial begins off hazily but soon finds its grove. Kartik Aryan delivers a knockout performance putting his blood and soul. He doesn’t miss a single beat
  • Starcast: Kartik Aryan, Vijay Raaz, Bhuvan Arora, Rajpal Yadav, Yashpal Sharma, Shreyas Talpade and others
  • Director and writer: Kabir Khan
  • Additional writers: Sumit Arora and Sudipto Sarkar
  • Producers: Sajid Nadiadwala and Kabir Khan
  • Music: Pritam
  • Production Companies: Naiadwala Grandson Entertainment and Kabir Khan Films
  • Cinematography: Sudeep Chatterjee
  • Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
  • Genre: Biographical drama

There was a period in Hindi cinema when the on-screen portrayal of disabled/ differently enabled people used to be all about the Bechara syndrome. They were often portrayed as objects of pity or to evoke comedy. But this depiction has undergone a significant change in the recent past. Case in point being Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black featuring Rani Mukherjee. In this movie Rani Mukherjee played a visually impaired girl Michelle based on Helen Keller’s life. Michelle is never reduced to a stock caricature, there is a strong determination to prove herself. In Guzaarish Hrithik Roshan played a popular magician Ethan who suffers paralysis and turns into a radio jockey. Although Guzaarish is a grim story that focuses on Euthanasia/ mercy killing yet it is also a tale of resilience. The scenes of Ethan as a Radio jockey and how he spreads hope through his wit are in particular were compelling.

This year you have had the biopic of the visually impaired businessman Srikant Bolla starring Rajkummar Rao. In this movie director Tushar Hiranandani made some scathing remarks on how some people think that the best way to help the blind is only through making them cross the road. Now you have Kabir Khan’s Chandu Champion based on an incredible true story of Muralikant Petkar. India’s first paralympic gold specialist.

The movie begins in the present with an older Muralikant Petkar (An outstanding Kartik Aryan). He is narrating his tale of glorious days to a bunch of cops. From his younger days itself Murali had a huge dream of winning an Olympic gold medal for India inspired by KD Jadhav an Olympic medalist. He openly says that his dream is to win an Olympic gold medal only to get ridiculed and bullied by his fellow classmates. At one point Murali also runs away from his village. He joins the Indian army and finds a strong ally in the form of Karnail Singh (Bhuvan Arora) who gives Murali hope that he can become the next Milkha. Vijay Raaz plays Tiger Ali. He is a coach cum father-like figure who trains Murali for the boxing championship. He reaches the finals but only ends up with a silver medal leading to a strained relationship with the coach. In the life altering 1965 Kashmir war Murali faces many wounds in the process of trying to save his colleagues. Murali ends up in a prolonged coma becoming paralyzed waist down. At one point he even tries to commit suicide by having excess pills, but destiny has other plans for him. The rest of the story is about how Petekar manages to overcome all the odds fulfilling his dream of winning gold along with why he is narrating his life story to a bunch of policemen.

There is no denying that Chandu Champion has a hazy start. The scenes of Murali in the military camp has a distinct hangover of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. The humor at places is also reminiscent of that however the movie finds its grip soon. The scenes of Murali preparing for the boxing championship and how he pummels down his opponents only to lose in the finals has been brilliantly written and enacted. The Pre interval block of the 1965 war and the life altering event sets a solid base for the second half.

The second half becomes even more engaging. The portions of Murali’s despair touches a strong emotional chord. As viewers you root for him to succeed in life. The return of Tiger Ali and the way he motivates Murali to dream big again is wonderful to watch. This time the sport is swimming with the aim of winning gold in the 1972 Summer Paralympics. But here again the path is far from easy as the sports committee is not too keen on funding a player for the Paralympics event. The way Murali overcomes all these challenges and sets a world record by clinching the gold medal in 37.33 seconds is exhilarating to watch.

An aspect of Chandu Champion that elevates the movie from just a template underdog drama is the message that it conveys regarding disability and differently abled people. There is a powerful monologue where Murali talks about how differently abled are not looking for sympathy. It critiques the Bechara syndrome and how sometimes even their best efforts are not given due recognition.

Chandu Champion is also technically strong. Sudeep Chatterjee’s cinematography coupled with Juluis Packam’s background score elevates the movie’s emotional core further. The cinematography of the boxing and the paralympic sequences in particular deserve a special mention.

Pritam’s music is not of the blockbuster type but the songs Tu Hai Champion and Sarphira make a strong impact.

Coming to the man of the moment Kartik delivers a career defining performance. His physical transformation is of course beyond commendable but beyond the physicality the actor also shines bright in the scenes of showing helplessness, frustration, resilience and grit. He more than holds his own opposite the veteran Vijay Raaz. The hunger to be taken seriously as an actor is very much visible. Even as an older man he is pretty good.

Vijay Raaz as the coach has an interesting arc and is not just used for comic relief. He brings in a lot of emotional depth. His emotional moments with Kartik Aryan give the movie some of its best moments. Bhuvan Arora also makes a strong impact in his limited screen time. The camaraderie between him and Kartik is very much on point.

Shreyas Talpade as the funny cop and Sonali Kulkarni as a journalist could have been used better though.

Chandu Champion is an inspiring story that needs to be watched on the big screen. Muralikant Petkar, Kabir Khan and Kartik Aryan take a bow.

Mr and Mrs Mahi: Rajkumar Rao and the music are the only redeeming features of this underwhelming romantic/sports drama

Director Sharan Sharma disappoints after a promising debut in Gunjan Saxena. Janhvi Kapoor needs to get out of her stock expressions
  • Starcast: Rajkumar Rao, Janhvi Kapoor, Kumud Mishra, Zarina Wahab and others
    special appearance (Arjit Taneja)
  • Director and writer: Sharan Sharma
  • Additional writer: Nikhil Mehrotra
  • Production Company: Dharma Productions and Zee Studios
  • Music directors: Vishal Mishra, Tanishk Bagchi and others
  • Cinematography: Anay Goswami
  • Running time: 2 hours and 18 minutes

Sharan Sharma’s first movie Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl was much appreciated for its strong storytelling particularly the father and daughter relationship. The movie also packed a powerful punch in showing how Gunjan broke through the mostly male stronghold to make a place for herself. For Janhvi Kapoor the movie was a resurgence after the mixed reviews to Dhadak.

Sharan Sharma’s second venture Mr and Mrs Mahi had all the potential to be a solid feel-good movie, but this time the director has disappointed the emotions land rarely and the cricketing portions are a dampener. It also doesn’t help that Janhvi seems to have stepped straight out of Baawal sets in a different universe. Sure, the character sketch leaves a lot to be desired, but Janhvi’s monotonous expressions doesn’t really help. She really needs to up her game significantly particularly in the times of talented young actresses like Nitanshi Goel and Pratibha Ranta from Laapaata Ladies. Or even Mrunal Thakur who has delivered some impactful performances.

Mr and Mrs. Mahi tells the story of a failed cricketer Mahendra Agarwal (Rajkummar Rao) and his doctor wife Mahima Agarwal (Janhvi Kapoor). Mahendra toils away in his father’s sport shop. Mahendra’s dream was to play for the national team however that didn’t transpire for many reasons. There is a constant undercurrent of tension, the father Hardayal Aggarwal (Kumud Mishra) considers Mahendra as a defective piece. The son on the other hand looks at himself as a complete zero. Adding to Mahendra’s woes is the elder brother Sikander Aggarwal (a caricaturist Arjit Taneja). Sikander is a big television actor whose face is seen on billboards; fans throng after him. This adds to Mahendra’s insecurity. Things take a turn when Mahendra comes upon his wife’s cricketing abilities. He manipulates Mahima into believing that she is made for cricket. Mahendra is successful in making Mahi a star, but their marriage takes a beating as Mahendra’s desire for fame has not been quenched.

One of the few redeeming features of Mr and Mrs Mahi is the top notch Rajkummar Rao. Yes, Mahendra is not a likeable person. On more than one occasion he comes across as very selfish and also insensitive but at the same time it is impossible to hate Mahendra completely thanks to the layered character and Rajkummar Rao’s portrayal. The way Rajkummar showcases the psyche of a broken man is a testament of his immense talent. The actor also raises some chuckles in the scenes where Mahendra records videos promoting himself on how Mahma has reached this far because of him.

The music composed by the various composers does make for a good listen and watch. A particular mention must be made of Vishal Mishra’s “Roya Jab Tu”. This song takes place when Mahendra and Mahi have a spilt and her game has taken a severe beating. Anay Goswami’s cinematography is suitably glossy and does make the movie visually appealing.

Director Sharan Sharma does make some important points on how the need for fame can drive a person insane and also the aftereffects of suppressing childhood dreams. However, these scenes are far and few in between.

A major problem with Mr and Mrs Mahi is the lack of depth in both the characterization and the acting performance of Janhvi. For most part the viewers see the film from the perspective of Mahendra and this leaves little room for Mahima. Often times she comes across as a pushover whether it is the father making her choose a doctor career or the husband manipulating her to become a cricketer. There is little agency here and by the time Mahima gives it back to Mahendra it becomes too late.

As mentioned in the beginning Janhvi needs to get out of her stock expressions. The emotions of fear and vulnerability are the same as we have already seen in the likes of Baawal and Mili. Sure, she has worked on the cricket aspect but other than that there is nothing new. Also, the cricketing aspect feels superficial given that Mahima is never seen fielding on the ground.

Mr and Mrs Mahi is strictly an average watch only elevated somewhat by Rajkummar Rao.

Srikanth: Rajkummar Rao leads a gripping tale of self-determination that feels like a warm hug

Director Tushar Hiranandani deserves huge appreciation for not using the blindness of Srikanth Bolla as a tool of self-pity.
Srikanth (Hindi), 10-05-2024, Biography , Drama, 2 hours 14 minutes, U, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Rajkummar Rao, Alaya F, Jyothika and Sharad Kelkar
  • Director: Tushar Hiranandani
  • Producer: Bhushan Kumar and Krishan Kumar
  • Music Director: Anand Milind, Tanishk Bagchi, Sachet Parampara, Ved Sharma
  • Cinematography: Pratham Mehta
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

There was a time when biopics on different personalities used to sell like hotcakes. Cases in point are Farhan Akhtar’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Vidya Balan’s The Dirty Picture (2012), and Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja  (2015).

These movies raked up both critical acclaim and commercial success.

However, the genre has somewhere lost its sheen in the last few years, particularly the ones related to sports like Taapsee Pannu’s Shabhaash Mithu (2023) or even this year Maidaan (2024). The box office numbers of the Ajay Devgn-starrer are still far away from the producer’s investment.

A major reason for Indian biopics losing its sheen is the overt melodrama along with the predictable beats.

Nevertheless, director Tushar Hiranandani’s Srikanth, based on the visually impaired businessman named Srikanth Bolla, is a welcome change in more ways than one.

Sure, there is a fairytale-like structure in how Srikanth overcomes his obstacles. But, at the same time, the movie does throw light on some important things.

How we should not view differently-abled persons through the lens of pity, instead we should engage with him or her as equals.

Synopsis

‘Srikanth’ is a biography. (X)

The movie begins with the birth of a boy. The father is initially ecstatic about a son being born and rushes home.

He names him Srikanth after the famous batsman Krishnama Chari Srikanth. However, all this changes once the fact of his son being blind comes out.

In the beginning, both parents have a hard time worrying constantly about the child. Things are further compounded by neighbours and relatives who think that Srikanth has no future.

At one point, the father almost buries him alive. But better sense prevails with the wife stopping him.

The rest of the plot looks at the journey of Srikanth from just another village boy to an inspiration for many people like him.

Analysis

Generally, Indian biopics do shy away from showcasing the grey areas of their protagonists. Here too, Tushar Hiranandi surprises big time.

In the second half of the movie, Srikanth has a downfall in business because of his overconfidence and also a bitter attitude towards his business partner-cum-friend Ravi (Sharad Kelkar).

There is a scene where a media person talks about how Srikanth wouldn’t be successful if Ravi hadn’t backed him up.

This does not go down too well with Srikanth; he believes he is wholly and solely responsible for his victory.

Writers Jagadeep Siddhu and Sumit Purohit have written some crackling dialogues that stay with the viewers long after the movie has ended.

A good example of this is the sequence where Srikanth is not allowed to board the plane on account of being visually challenged. The officials insist on someone accompanying him.

How Srikanth turns the situation around with some crackling dialogues not only brings a wide smile but the lines also provide a reality check on how persons with disabilities are not treated as equals.

The monologue at the end also deserves a big thumbs up.

There are scathing remarks on how some people think that the best way to help the blind is only by making them cross the road.

Takeaways

Jyothika at ‘Srikanth’ press meet. (X)

A strong aspect of Srikanth is how the director has projected the stark contrast between India and the West regarding the education facilities for the differently abled.

There are scenes where Srikanth faces rejection for wanting to choose science, though he tops the 12th board exams. The challenges of the protagonist with the Indian educational system have been presented poignantly.

Tushar Hiranandani also does a wonderful job of showcasing the bond between Rajkummar Rao’s Srikanth and Jyothika’s Devika.

Devika was a teacher of businessman Srikanth when he studied at a special school for the visually impaired in Hyderabad.

However, her association with Srikanth goes much beyond school. She is his friend, philosopher and guide.

Devika supports him in every step that he takes but at the same time, she also gives him a reality check when needed.

The best example of this is the portion where she lambasts him for becoming insecure and bitter in the second half.

A speedbump

Rajkummar Rao in ‘Srikanth’. (X)

The love story between Rajkummar and Alaya F though comes across as a major speedbump.

Alaya F has a charming presence but her character of Swathi appears and disappears at the whim of the writers.

The blossoming of love between the two feels rather hurried. Also, there are times when the all-round abilities of Srikanth become a little difficult to digest; like the scenes where he plays basketball and cricket without any hiccups.

The romantic songs of Sachet Parampara “Tu Mil Gaya” and “Tumhe Hi Apna Maana Hai” are soothing in nature. However, the recreation of “Papa Kehte Hain” from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  (1988) is the major highlight of the soundtrack.

Rajkummar and Jyothika excel

In the title role, Rajkummar Rao delivers an exceptional performance. The actor just disappears into the role starting from the mannerisms.

He particularly shines in the scenes of Srikanth grappling with insecurities. There is also a goofiness to Srikanth which Rajkummar brings out expertly.

Jyothika also makes a big impact bringing the right mixture of warmth and fierceness.

Sharad Kelkar plays the business partner-cum-friend with a lot of empathy.

Final take

Srikanth makes you think about how differently-abled persons should be treated as mainstream and deserve equal opportunities, just like anyone.

Do Aur Do Pyaar: A well-made marital drama about the difficulties in sustaining love

Vidya and Pratik Gandhi bring alive the complexities of a couple who loses love. They are in extramarital relationships, unknown to each other.
Do Aur Do Pyaar (Hindi), 19-04-2024, Romantic-Comedy, 2 hours 19 minutes, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Vidya Balan, Pratik Gandhi, Ileana D’Cruz, and Sendil Ramamurthy
  • Director: Shirsha Guha Thakurta
  • Producer: Tanuj Garj, Atul Kasbekar, and Swati Iyer Chawla
  • Music Director: Abhishek-Ananya and Subhajit Mukherjee
  • Cinematography: Kartik Vijay
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

There was a period when romantic movies used to end with the cliché of “happily-ever-after”. The messiness and complexities of marriage used to be sidestepped by the filmmaker.

But all this has changed in the recent past, thanks to the new-age directors who looked at the difficulties in sustaining love and how it is not all about cuddling with each other. This, of course, also has a lot to do with the way our society has evolved.

Shirsha Guha Thakurta’s Do Aur Do Pyaar is a good example of the new-age sensibilities.

Synopsis

Do Aur Do Pyaar primarily focuses on Ani and Kavya (Pratik Gandhi and Vidya Balan respectively). On the surface, they both are successful professionals living in a plush apartment in Mumbai.

However, their married lives are anything but that. They are in extramarital relationships, unknown to each other.

‘Do Aur Do Pyaar’ is a rom-com. (X)

Ani is going steady with a struggling actor Nora (Ileana D’Cruz).

On the other hand, Kavya is having an affair with a hotshot photographer Vikram (Senthil Ramamurthy). They are almost ready to move into a sea-facing apartment.

Their respective partners want to take the relationship to the next level but Ani and Kavya are still struggling with revealing the news to each other.

Words of affection have long gone. And now, the only exchange of Ani and Kavya is anti-allergic medicine, etc.

Interestingly, Ani and Kavya elope and marry, leading to a strained relationship with their respective families, particularly with Kavya’s strict father Venkat (Thalaivasal Vijay).

Back to the present. Things take a turn when Kavya’s grandfather dies. So, they both pack their bags to Ooty. This journey rekindles old memories.

The rest of the story is about whether Ani and Kavya give their marriage a chance or find lifelong happiness with Nora and Vikram respectively.

Best treatment by Shirsha Guha Thakurta

The premise of rediscovering love or choosing between lovers isn’t exactly a groundbreaking story, but the movie works because of the treatment.

Director Shirsha Guha Thakurta avoids the approach of moralising and getting into overt melodrama. There is a certain lightheartedness for the most part, and this works big time for the film.

Even the tense moments are peppered with some chuckle-worthy dialogues. For example, there is a scene where Ani has a nervous slip-up calling his father-in-law “Appam” mixing Appa and Uncle. This is just one of the numerous examples.

The scenes of Ani and Kavya rekindling their love all over again in Ooty and falling for each other again while doing mundane things back home give the movie some of its best moments.

The distinct characterisations of Ani and Kavya have come out well. For example, Kavya is the more temperamental one, and Ani, on the other hand, is a man burdened with responsibilities with poked-faced humour.

This variation in characters has come out well and adds to the drama, particularly when it reaches the point of crescendo.

The extra-marital relationships have also been treated with dignity.

Sendil Ramamurthy’s Hindi accent does get bothersome on occasions, but as viewers, you feel the love of Vikram and how deeply he wants her.

Vidya’s chemistry with Senthil is on par with the one shared with Pratik.

Similarly, Ileana D’Cruz’s Nora can occasionally come across as clingy, but her desire to have a normal life with Ani has been well written and enacted.

Explores complexity of relationships

Sendhil Ramamurthy, Vidya Balan, Pratik Gandhi, and Ileana D’Cruz. (X)

The complex relationships of rebellious daughters with their fathers are something we have seen before. But once again, it is the writing that makes the difference.

A scene that deserves a particular mention is when a frustrated Kavya asks her father the secret behind his long-lasting marriage. The father replies, “There is no secret. We just showed up every day.”

On the surface, it is a simple dialogue but the director makes a strong point that consistency in a marriage is quite important.

The second half of Do Aur Do Pyaar does sag somewhat in terms of writing. The attempts of Ani and Kavya at rekindling romance and juggling the existing relationships get repetitive. But still, these are not a major grouse.

Performances

Both Vidya Balan and Pratik Gandhi give top-notch performances apart from sharing a sizzling chemistry.

Ileana D’Cruz also gives a fine account of herself, in both light moments and dramatic bits.

Sendil Ramamurthy, too, is convincing as a hotshot photographer completely smitten by Kavya.

The music by the various composers also adds to the narrative. The case in point is the numbers “Tu Hai Kahaan” and “Jazbaati“.

Verdict

Do Aur Do Pyaar needs to be watched for the fine acting performances and the director’s depiction of modern complexities in a marriage.

Bade Miyan Chote Miyan: Action and a swashbuckling Prithviraj Sukumaran are the highlights of this Ali Abbas Zafar’s directorial

‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’ isn’t quite an Eid feast, but still, it is moderately engaging.
Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (Hindi), 11-04-2024, Action, Comedy, Thriller, 2 hours and 43 minutes, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff, Prithviraj Sukumaran, Ronit Roy, Alaya F, Manushi Chillar, and Sonakshi Sinha
  • Director: Ali Abbas Zafar
  • Producer: Vaau Bhagnani, Jacky Bhagnani, and Himanshu Kishan Mehra
  • Music Director: Vishal Mishra
  • Cinematography: Marcin Laskawiec
  • Rating: 2.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

Action-based movies with patriotism are one of the favourite themes of mainstream Indian directors.

The storylines are simple, there is a deadly enemy who wants to cause harm to the nation and brave-hearted soldiers have to tackle him with lots of action-packed sequences.

Director Ali Abbas Zafar’s Bade Miyan Chote Miyan follows this formula to the hilt. the first half has some minor suspense regarding Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Kabir. But the rest of it is utterly formulaic.

Synopsis

A poster of ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’. (X)

Both Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff haven’t had the best time since the pandemic and the movie isn’t likely to change that although Tiger comes off much better here than his last two ventures.

Bade Miyan Chote Miyan focuses on two ex-soldiers — Rakesh aka Rocky (Akshay Kumar) and Firoz aka Freddy (Tiger Shroff). They are court-martialed for not following orders. However, they have the reputation of being the bravest officers.

Eight years later, Rocky and Firoz get back to tackle an enemy who wants to cause mayhem in the country with the help of AL.

This tech-savvy villain aims to create a situation where India will find itself in a war-like situation with its volatile neighbours. This is the story in brief.

Analysis

The first half of Bade Miyan Chote Miyan keeps you guessing about the antagonist’s motivations and why Kabir has so much anger towards Rakesh and Firoz. It also helps that the pace in this half is frantic with a lot of action thrown in.

Marcin Laskawiec’s cinematography goes well with the scale of the movie and the cinematographer deserves distinction marks for capturing the scale of a war-like situation.

The action sequences are also of a good standard, particularly for those who enjoy hand-to-hand combats and cars and choppers crashing in Rohit Shetty style.

The banter between Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff does have some funny moments, thanks to the one-liners of Tiger. For instance, Tiger gets the most fun repartees like the scene where he says, “Yeh aadmi hai ya dandruff, jaata hi nahi!”

The back story of Prithviraj Sukumaran’s Kabir and the reason behind his angst has been well-written and enacted.

After playing a victim who undergoes a lot of suffering in Aadujeevitham (The Goat Life), the actor has a ball playing to the gallery in this one.

A major problem with Bade Miyan Chote Miyan is the portions after the flashback of Kabir, a certain monotonousness creeps in.

The complex geo-political situation of India with Pakistan and China is merely used as a background with oversimplified solutions.

The film also suffers from a lack of strong female characters. The absence of an unnecessary romantic track is welcome but the female characters in Sultan (2016) and Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) were far better written.

Performances

Prithviraj Sukumaran plays the antagonist in ‘Bade Miyan Chota Miyan’. (X)

Tiger does a good job of portraying the suave and charming nature of Firoz.

Akshay Kumar, on the other hand, is mostly wasted except for the action bits.

Prithviraj Sukumaran makes for a delightful psychopath who has ambitious dreams.

Rakesh’s serious nature feels like an extension of Neeraj Pandey’s Baby (2015).

Manushi Chhillar lands lethal blows on her enemies, but beyond action, there isn’t much.

Alaya F irritates the audience with her comic timing.

Sonakshi Sinha repeats her “damsel in distress” act with a one-tone expression.

Verdict

Bade Miyan Chote Miyan is strictly for those who like seeing larger-than-life stunts with a predictable storyline.

Maidaan : A treat for football buffs and Ajay Devgan fans

Regardless of the underdog template, ‘Maidaan’ must be watched in theatres to know the past glory of Indian football and a forgotten hero — Syed Abdul Rahim.
Maidaan (Hindi), 10-04-2024, Sports Biography, 3 hours 1 minute, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Ajay Devgn, Priya Mani, Gajaraj Rao, Rudranil Ghosh, and Raphael Jose
  • Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
  • Producer: Zee Studios, Boney Kapoor, Arunava Joy Sengupta, and Akash Chawla
  • Music Director: AR Rahman
  • Cinematography: Fyodor Lyass
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

In a cricket-frantic country like ours, it takes a lot of courage to make a movie (Maidaan) on a sport like football, that too, in a period which very few in this generation would be aware of.

There was a period when Indian football was at its peak under the coach Syed Abdul Rahim. He faced many challenges and hardships, including a battle with deteriorating health.

However, he and his team overcame many difficulties and won at the Asian Common Wealth Games 1962 in Jakarta Indonesia.

After that success, India never won again. Unfortunately, Rahim also passed away some months later and Indian football has never been the same again.

Synopsis

Ajay Devgn in Boney Kapoor’s ‘Maidaan’. (X)

Maidaan begins in the year 1952. India faces a shameful defeat in the Olympics. Syed Abdul Rahim (Ajay Devgn) takes on the challenge of handpicking raw talents from across the country and forms a team that wins against all odds.

Along with Rahim, the movie also throws light on legends PK Banerjee, Chuni Goswami, and others. There is also Priya Mani as Rahim’s wife Saira. She is an important pillar of support to Rahim.

Saira is also seen trying to learn English. Gajraj Rao plays sports journalist Prabhu Gosh. It is a role which is a far cry from Amit Sharma’s previous directorial Badhaai Ho (2018).

First and foremost, the template of Maidaan is similar to many underdog sports dramas, particularly Chak De! India (2007).

Here too, the Indian football team goes into the 1962 Olympics without any expectations of winning. It faces a humiliating defeat in the first match with Korea but makes a strong comeback, thus surprising everyone.

Works despite predictability

A still from ‘Maidaan’. (X)

Despite the predictable scenarios, what makes Maidaan work is the detailing of Amit Sharma.

The director gives a wholesome account of the events that led to India’s win at the 1962 Asian Games.

A big strength of Maidaan is the characterisation of the central protagonist.

The highs and lows of Rahim’s journey and how he crossed numerous obstacles have been well-written and enacted.

The husband and wife scenes have also come out strongly. Priya Mani’s attempts at learning English while conversing with her husband bring a smile to the viewer’s face. There is a certain old charm in their romantic scenes.

Priya Mani’s Saira is not just a dedicated homemaker. She has a voice of her own, which comes out strongly in a couple of scenes.

The actor aces her part and makes her presence amply felt.

The choreography of the football sequences is easily some of the finest you would see on the big screen.

Cinematographer Fedor Lyass along with action director RP Yadav do an outstanding job in capturing the intensity of a football match. You know how things will turn out, but still, you will clap.

AR Rahman’s music is not of the chartbuster type. However, the songs help propel the drama.

They are mostly used in the background and come at the right time. My favourite ones are “Ranga Ranga” and “Jaane Do“.

Through Maidaan, Amit Sharma has also touched upon how regional politics is a huge bane for any sport and how football is the heaviest causality.

Performances

Gajraj Rao in ‘Maidaan’. (X)

The first half of Maidaan does make the viewers impatient.

Amit Sharma’s detailing does deserve appreciation but the portions depicting the federation politics could have done with some serious trimming.

Also, the hangover of other sports films does hinder the viewing experience at some points.

As Syed Abdul Rahim, Ajay Devgn brings his trademark intensity. The actor does a terrific job of showcasing the different facets of Rahim — the passion for football and the tactical acumen. A particular mention must be made of the scenes where Ajay depicts Rahim’s battle with lung cancer while ensuring that his team wins.

Among the football players, Chaitanya Sharma as PK Banerjee deserves a particular mention. The young actor delivers a fiery performance.

Gajraj Rao and Rudranail Ghosh as the thorns in the flesh do a good job of making the viewers hate them, although the characters border on being caricaturists.

Final take

Maidaan is a big-screen experience that should not be missed.

Crew : A much-needed female buddy film in mainstream Hindi cinema

Despite the implausible heist portions of the second half, Rajesh A Krishnan delivers a fun movie aided by the trio.
Crew (Hindi); 29-03-2024, Comedy-Thriller, 2 hours 4 minutes, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, Kriti Sanon, Diljit Dosanjh, and Kapil Sharma
  • Director: Rajesh Krishnan
  • Producer: Ektaa R Kapoor and Rhea Kapoor
  • Music Director: Badshah, Diljit Dosanjh, Vishal Mishra
  • Cinematography: Anuj Rakesh Dhawan
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

The number of movies with well-known female actors playing buddies can be counted on fingers, particularly in mainstream Hindi cinema.

Sure, there have been the likes of Parched (2015) and Dhak Dhak (2023). Both movies celebrated sisterhood in their own way. But, as far as mainstream cinema goes, male bonding has always been more in number.

Rhea Kapoor went against the tide when she produced Veere Di Wedding (2018), starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhaskar, and Shikha Talsania.

Veere Di Wedding had its problems in terms of storytelling. But it still did strike a chord with the target audiences.

And now, Rhea Kapoor is back with another female buddy film starring actors from different schools of acting — Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Kriti Sanon.

Writers Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri have taken inspiration from the real Kingfisher Airlines and the fugitive Vijay Mallya.

Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri along with Rajesh A Krishnan have combined elements of heist and comedy and have made a movie that engages the viewers for the most part.

Synopsis

Tabu in ‘Crew’. (X)

The story of Crew is about three air hostesses — Geetha Sethi (Tabu), Jasmine (Kareena Kapoor Khan), and Divya Rana (Kriti Sanon).

On the surface, the three appear to be leading a glamorous life, but in reality, they struggle to keep themselves afloat.

For example, Geetha wants to use her provident fund to start her own business with her husband (Kapil Sharma), while Jessica is looking for someone to fund her start-up.

On the other hand, Divya has loans to repay. Additionally, she has given a picture of being a pilot to her parents when she actually is an air hostess.

The three work for Kohinoor Airlines, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. They have been facing a salary crisis for the last six months.

Crew begins with three of them being detained on suspicion of smuggling gold, but that is only a part of the movie.

In simple terms, the story of Crew is about how the trio is pushed to a corner and takes a route that isn’t ethically right to survive.

The film also gets into a heist mode in the later half when the three decide to take revenge on the fictional Vijay Mallya when he flees from the country.

Sisterhood and chemistry

Kriti Sanon in ‘Crew’. (X)

For a film of this nature, the female actors must have a crackling chemistry and a genuine sense of sisterhood.

Fortunately, both the sisterhood and the chemistry are very much on point.

The jokes, the fights, and the eventual patch-up feel authentic.

Rajesh A Krishnan also deserves credit for never getting into a judgmental mode about the things the trio do.

All three come with their share of flaws, and this makes the movie more endearing.

The brilliant performances, particularly of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Tabu, make Crew hugely enjoyable.

After an intense performance in last year’s Jaane Jaan, Kareena lets her hair down in a complete contrast role.

Her Jasmine is a hustler who is unapologetically greedy and doesn’t mind showing off. However, there is also a deep loneliness.

Kareena does a terrific job of portraying the different facets of Jasmine.

Tabu’s Geetha is someone who is torn between her responsibilities and desires. The accomplished actor is her usual brilliant self. Some of her comic exchanges with Kareena are an absolute riot.

The two also have a delightful action scene in a private jet.

Kriti Sanon is fairly good and holds her own, particularly in the scenes portraying Divya’s moral dilemmas.

Other characters

Kareena Kapoor Khan in ‘Crew’. (X)

Despite their limited screen time, the male characters are also fun to watch. The husband and wife scenes between Kapil Sharma and Tabu have a lot of warmth.

The same applies to Diljit Dosanjh as Jasveer. The actor is his usual charming self and the way he flirts with Divya is adorable.

The viewers feel bad for Jasveer when Divvya deceives him for her needs.

Khulbhushan Kharbanda is Jasmine’s grandfather and an important pillar of support.

Again, the scenes they share are few. But still, Khulbhushan Kharbanda makes for an adorable grandfather.

Implausible heist drama

A couple of aspects come across as stumbling blocks in Crew. One is the heist portions, which border on being quite silly.

The landing portions of the film could have been done with better writing.

Also, the styling of the characters in some scenes leaves a lot to be desired.

They come across as too stylish, which doesn’t gel with the protagonists’ backgrounds.

Verdict

Keeping aside these small niggles, Crew is a breath of fresh air in many ways. It is a definite respite from the regular propaganda and the mass-heavy films we have been seeing in Hindi cinema of late.

Swatantra Veer Savarkar: An Honest Insight Into India’s Freedom Struggle From A Different Perspective

The most interesting aspect of ‘Swatantra Veer Savarkar’ is the depiction of his ideological clash with Mahatma Gandhi.
Swatantra Veer Savarkar (Hindi)
22-03-2024, Drama, Biography, 2 hours 58 minutes, U/A, Theatre
  • Main Cast: Randeep Hooda, Ankita Lokhande, Amit Sial, and Rajesh Khera
  • Director: Randeep Hooda
  • Producer: Randeep Hooda
  • Music Director: Vipin Patwa
  • Cinematography: Arvind Krishna
  • Rating: 3/5

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is someone who does not need a particular introduction. Savarkar is a hugely polarising historical figure with more than one controversy.

He was the one who laid the foundation for the present Hindutva regime and has also been accused of having an indirect hand in killing India’s Father of the Nation — Mahatma Gandhi, the reason being the ideological differences along with Nathuram Godse being a student of Savarkar.

A biopic on a person like Savarkar is not easy to make, given his vastly turbulent life that is filled with many incidents.

Acclaimed actor Randeep Hooda not only plays the title role but also directs and co-writes the story.

The rawness of a first-time director is quite visible, particularly in the second half, but there is no denying the passion with which Randeep mounts the film.

Synopsis

In simple terms, the story of Swatantra Veer Savarkar is about the different stages in Savarkar’s long and turbulent life.

It starts with him losing his father at a young age. Then we see how the grown-up Savarkar decides to become a freedom fighter and does the things he does.

The major life-turning events of Savarkar are shown in great detail in the movie. This includes interaction with Gandhi, and his life imprisonment in the Andaman Islands aka Kaala Paani.

Stand out scenes

Ankita Lokhande in ‘Swatantra Veer Savarkar’. (X)

Among the many passages in the film, my favourite ones are the scenes featuring Randeep Hooda and Amit Sial as the supportive elder brother Ganesh Damodar Savarkar (Amit Sial.) The bond between the brothers comes out strongly and moves us.

For example, there is a scene in the second half when Veer Savarkar and Ganesh Damodar Savarkar unexpectedly cross paths in the Andaman jail, Damodar is surprised to see his younger brother there and, in that shock, he forgets to hug him.

The portions of how Abhinav Bharat was formed and the ideology behind it are well shown.

The most interesting aspect of Swatantra Veer Savarkar is the scenes of ideological clash with Mahatma Gandhi. Thankfully, the clash of ideologies has been handled with maturity.

There is an important scene when someone tells Savarkar that he hates Gandhi. In response, Savarkar says he doesn’t hate Gandhi but dislikes the ideology of non-violence.

We are also shown that Gandhi wrote letters to the British government seeking the release of Savarkar from the Andamans. He also praises Savarkar, though they have a different approach to the freedom movement.

When Gandhi dies, there is a genuine pain that we see. In fact, Savarkar condemns the act of Nathuram Godse and says that Godse shouldn’t have done this.

Randeep Hoods — The USP

Another major USP of Swatantra Veer Savarkar is its leading man Randeep Hooda.

Randeep Hooda has always been one of the most dependable actors going to any lengths to portray his characters with authenticity — physical and mental.

Here too, Randeep immerses himself into the role, whether it is the fiery freedom fighter of the first half or the prisoner in the long and elongated portions of Kaala Paani.

The physical transformation is, of course, brilliant. But the way he showcases the fighting spirit of Savarkar makes his performance even more admirable.

Among the other actors, Amit Sial stands out as both a supportive elder brother and a freedom fighter himself.

Ankita Lokhande does not have many dialogues but does a fine job in her limited screen time. She effectively portrays the inner strength of a freedom fighter’s wife.

Crammed narrative

Savarkar’s life is on a huge scale given the many incidents. There are times when, as viewers, you might feel that the movie is crammed with too much information and a web series would have been a better option.

The second half in particular needs some brevity. The portions of Savarkar being tortured both physically and mentally need some serious trimming.

Also, the vilification of Congress reaches the point of exhaustion. It does not add anything substantial to the narrative.

Talking about the technical departments, cinematographer Aravind Krishna does a good job of capturing the vast landscape through his lens.

The production design and the art design are also in complete sync with the era of the film.

Final take

Swatantra Veer Savarkar can be watched if you like detailed history lessons and, of course, if you are Randeep Hooda’s fan.

Shaitaan: A Chilling Atmospheric Horror-Thriller With A Delightfully Deranged Madhavan

Despite some hiccups in the second half, ‘Shaitaan’ is a welcome return to form for Vikas Bahl after the atrocious ‘Ganapath’.
  • Main Cast: Ajay Devgn, R Madhavan, Jyothika Saravanan, Jangki Bodiwala, and Anngad Raaj
  • Director: Vikas Bahl
  • Producer: Ajay Devgn, Jyoti Deshpande, and Abhishek Pathak
  • Music Director: Amit Trivedi
  • Cinematography: Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti
  • Run time: 2 hours 12 minutes
  • Genre: Horror-Thriller
  • Rating: 3.5/5
  • Published in: Southfirst

Vikas Bahl has had a roller coaster of a journey starting with Chillar Party (2011), which he directed along with Nitesh Tiwari.

His second film Queen (2013) was much acclaimed for its progressive story along with getting good box office numbers.

Shaandaar (2015) was unfortunately a massive flop, but Vikas struck back with Super 30 (2019). It was a moving drama about the mathematics teacher-educator Anand Kumar (played by Hrithik Roshan). Despite some flaws, Super 30 was a well-made inspirational drama that talked about how education should be a level playing field.

Later, though Vikas Bahl went through a rough patch with Goodbye (2022) and Ganapath (2023), Ganapath ended up being a tough one to endure for both critics and audiences.

But with his latest Shaitaan, the filmmaker has made a good comeback.

Shaitaan is based on the Gujarati film Vash (2023). Since I have not seen that, this will be a standalone review.

Combining horror with suspense is not an easy task given the clichés of the Indian horror genre. But thankfully here there are no creaking doors. The scares mostly come from the sinister plans of the antagonist.

Synopsis

Ajay Devgn in ‘Shaitaan’. (X)

Shaitaan begins with the introduction of Kabir (Ajay Devgn). His family consists of Jyothi (Jyothika), their teenage daughter Jahnavi (Janki Bodiwala) and their son Dhruv (Anngad Raaj).

The first 10 to 15 minutes are devoted to the family moments.

Soon, everything becomes topsy-turvy with the arrival of Vanraj Kshyap (R Madhavan), an expert hypnotist who puts Jahnavi completely under his spell. She obeys every command he gives.

Soon, the commands of Vanraj become increasingly dangerous to both Jahnavi and the rest of her family.

Kabir and Jyothi are helpless in front of this demonic man.

The rest of the story unravels the mystery behind what makes Vanraj so powerful and what are his motives in wreaking havoc. But the most important question is whether Kabir and his wife can save their children from this highly dangerous tormentor.

Analysis

For a film of this nature, building an effective atmosphere of dread is of utmost importance. Director Vikas Bahl scores big time in creating a sense of unease with the help of his cinematographer Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti.

Amit Trivedi’s background music also helps big time, particularly in the portions where Vanaraj talks about his sinister plans.

Vanraj wants to control young women and make sure that they do not become rebels with a combination of black magic and science.

On occasions, the viewers are reminded of the Pied Piper story—a man who lures all the children to seek revenge on the mayor for not giving him gold as promised.

Coming back to the movie, the second half of Shaaitaan does lose its grip with some monotonous moments.

The plot is paper thin and this also contributes to some of the dogginess. Also, the psyche behind Vanraj doing these things could have been explored with more heft. But still, they do not become a major problem.

Brilliant cast

Madhavan in ‘Shaitaan’. (X)

What also makes Shaitaan work is its brilliant cast.

Ajay Devgn, as Kabir, is back in the Drishyam mode playing a determined father wanting to save his family. In spite of the obvious similarities, the actor does a terrific job of showcasing both the vulnerability and determination of Kabir.

There are many occasions where Kabir comes across as helpless and it is in these portions that Ajay particularly shines.

Jyothika is also in fine form. She plays her part with utmost honesty. A particular mention must be made of her combat scene with R Madhavan.

Janki Bodiwala is also pitch-perfect. She laughs, cries, and dances as required with absolute finesse.

Anngad Raaj is cute and his scenes with Ajay are quite adorable.

Last but not least, Madhavan is simply outstanding. As Vanaraj, the actor showcases a vastly different facet of his that audiences haven’t seen before.

Sure, he did play a grey character in Mani Ratnam’s Yuva (2004), but this performance is something else. He does a first-class job of portraying the sadistic and sinister nature of Vanraj.

The actor has had a blast in exploring the mean streak of his role.

Final take

Shaitaan is a good watch for those who are interested in stories that combine horror with suspense. The movie is also a treat for Madhavan’s fans.