The Railway Men: Aditya Chopra Hits A Sixer With This Gripping Saga Of Unsung Heroes

Presents a realistic picture.

The Railway Men (Hindi)

  • Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Babil Khan, R Madhavan, Divyenndu Sharma, and Juhi Chawla
  • Director: Shiv Rawail
  • Producer: Aditya Chopra
  • Music: Sam Slater
  • No. of episodes: 4
  • OTT platform: Netflix

The Bhopal Gas tragedy of 1984 is one of the darkest chapters in Indian history. Thousands lost their lives, and thousands are still suffering from the severe aftereffects.

As the title suggests, The Railway Men limited web series focuses the lens on the little-known heroes of the Indian Railways and how they had put their lives at stake to save as many lives as possible on that fateful night.

There are four main characters in the web show. Iftekaar Siddiqui (Kay Kay Menon) is the station master of Bhopal Junction. Imaad Riaz (Babil Khan) is the newly joined locomotive pilot.

R Madhavan plays the Central Railways GM. Divyenndu is a thug who wants to take advantage of the chaos around them but contributes to the rescue mission.

Meanwhile, Journalist Jagmohan Kumawat (Sunny Hinduja) runs a crusade against the American company Union Carbide — even before the gas leak — and warns the locals against the impending danger. This, he does, in spite of the attempts to silence him.


Babil Khan in The Railway Men
Babil Khan in ‘The Railway Men’. (NetflixIndia/ X)

Through the four episodes, director-cum-co-writer Shiv Rawail presents a horrifying picture of the tragedy.

The Railway Men web series hits the ground running for the first time. The director doesn’t mince any words in throwing light on the moral corruption within the political landscape, including how the chief of the Union Carbide factory got away without any punishment. This he does successfully through the character of Sunny Hinduja.

What also works for The Railway Men is the strong emotional connection that Shiv Rawail builds through his characters.

The subject of the Bhopal Gas tragedy is a difficult subject to handle for any director, let alone a debutant, but the newbie more than lives up to the challenge.

The limited web series has quite a lot of close-up shots of poison emanating from people’s mouths. These scenes are difficult to watch, but they leave a solid impact on the viewers’ minds.

A realistic portrayal

Kay Kay Menon in The Railway Men
Kay Kay Menon in ‘The Railway Men’. (NetflixIndia/ X)

The web series also presents a realistic picture of the aftereffects of the gas leak.

Of course, as viewers, you do feel happy when the four men together save some lives. But the series is also a reminder of how things are still bleak for those who survived that night.

The production design of Rajat Poddar is another plus for the series. He does a splendid job of creating an authentic atmosphere.

The Railway Men also briefly touches upon the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, along with another brief subplot about a group of women who were going to participate in a swimming competition.

The angle involving the anti-Sikh riots has been well integrated, but the other one doesn’t really work.


R Madhavan in The Railway Men
R Madhavan in ‘The Railway Men’. (NetflixIndia/ X)

The performances of all the actors are top-notch, starting with the excellent Kay Kay Menon. The actor is at his usual best, portraying the determination and courage of Iftekaar.

Divyenndu Sharma portrays the dual-shaded personality of his character well. He delivers some punchy one-liners.

Babil Khan is also flawless. He perfectly adopts the Bhopali dialect. He is one of the men who dies on that tragic night.

R Madhavan has a late entry, but the actor is authoritative in all his scenes. There is a solid monologue involving Madhavan, where he delivers with his usual panache.

Juhi Chawla plays the solo woman representative of the government. She is good in her brief role.

Here, it has to be said that the women characters could have been more impactful.

Final take

The Railway Men is the first web series that YRF has produced. Let’s hope that Aditya Chopra continues to bankroll more web shows on various subjects.

Aditya Chopra and his penchant for giving second chances

One of the major characteristics of Yash Raj Films (YRF) is how it nurtures talent and gives several chances to directors and artistes in spite of their initial failures.

For example, Kabir Khan’s directorial debut Kabul Express (2006) wasn’t a commercial success but the director still got an opportunity to direct two more major Yash Raj Films — New York (2009) and Ek Tha Tiger (2012).

Both did well at the box office, especially Ek Tha Tiger, which laid the foundation for the flourishing spy universe.

Here’s the list of Bollywood celebrities who won multiple opportunities from the YRF chief Aditya Chopra despite their failures:

Maneesh Sharma

Maneesh Sharma has directed five films — all for YRF.

The first is the romantic comedy Band Baaja Baaraat (2010) starring Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma. The movie had low expectations, but Maneesh and Ranveer surprised the audiences.

A poster of the film Tiger 3

A poster of the film ‘Tiger 3’. (X)

Maneesh’s second film too was a Ranveer-starrer: Ladies vs Ricky Bahl (2011). Though it didn’t replicate the success of his debut, the Bollywood movie didn’t break Aditya Chopra’s trust in the director.

A third film, Shuddh Desi Romance (2013), was offered to him again. It was an engaging romantic comedy dealing with how the younger generation looked at marriage commitment in small-town India. The movie also dwelt on live-in relationships.

Its success led to Maneesh Sharma getting his fourth opportunity with the YRF — to direct Shah Rukh Khan in a double role. As the title Fan (2016) suggested, the film was about an obsessive fan who gets heartbroken with his idol.

Maneesh Sharma did a decent job in the first half, but the young director lost his grip in the second half, and everything went topsy-turvy.

In spite of the failure of Fan, Maneesh got yet another opportunity to direct a large-scale action film — Tiger 3 (2023).

Maneesh Sharma aimed to make a geo-political film with a lot of action. However, his inability to handle big scale once again came to the fore.

The hand-to-hand combats, Emraan Hashmi’s characterisation, and Shah Rukh’s extended cameo were all brilliant in Tiger 3. But the film never rose above the sum of its parts.

There is no denying that Tiger 3 is doing good business, but having said that, it is also a setback for the spy universe, particularly in comparison to the previous two films War (2019) and Pathaan (2023).

Vijay Krishna Acharya

Vijay Krishna Acharya made his directorial debut with the action drama Tashan (2008). The film had a galaxy of stars — Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar, and Anil Kapoor.

It was an old-fashioned revenge drama in Hollywood style. True to the title, the film had plenty of style, particularly the characterisation of Akshay Kumar’s Bachchan Pandey.

A still from the film Thugs of Hindostan

A still from the film ‘Thugs of Hindostan’. (X)

But, just gloss can never substitute for a gripping story. And, that was what happened with Tashan too.

Kareena definitely found her soul mate in Saif Ali Khan and vice-versa, but for Aditya Chopra, the movie was a big loss.

However, Tashan‘s failure did not stop the producer from trusting Vijay Krishna Acharya again with the third instalment of the Dhoom franchise.

Vijay Krishna Acharya was only a story writer for the first two Dhoom films (2004, 2006) but for Dhoom 3 (2013), he was both writer and director.

Dhoom 3 did bring in profits for its producers, but at the same time, it was a step back as it paled in comparison to the fun and thrills provided by Dhoom 2.

Only Aamir Khan’s star power coupled with a more engaging second half made Dhoom 3 a hit at the box office.

Aditya Chopra was even more generous when he allowed Vijay Krishna Acharya to direct Bollywood “Shahenshah” Amitabh Bachchan and Mr Perfectionist Aamir Khan together in Thugs of Hindostan (2018).

Unfortunately, for the fans and the production house, the experience was far from memorable. The film brought huge losses to everyone concerned.

Vijay Krishna Acharya’s last directorial is a religious comedy/drama titled The Great Indian Family (2023) also produced by YRF.

Despite being a much better product than Thugs of Hindostan, The Great Indian Family didn’t do much at the box office. Now, we have to wait and see if Aditya Chopra will give him another chance.

Shaad Ali

Shaad Ali was an assistant director to Mani Ratnam for Dil Se (1998).

Later on, he helmed seven films as a director. Of these seven projects, four were produced by YRF.

A poster of the film Kill Dil

A poster of the film ‘Kill Dil’. (X)

The first is the romantic comedy/drama Saathiya (2002), a remake of Mani Ratnam’s Tamil blockbuster hit Alaipayuthey (2000). Saathiya was a moderate success and was well-received by the critics.

Before Saathiya, Rani Mukherjee had only seen limited success. With the film, her career saw a resurgence. For Vivek Oberoi, it was the third success of that year.

Shaad Ali’s second outing, Bunty Aur Babli (2005), also did well at the box office.

It gave Abhishek Bachchan a much-needed hit as the leading man. His sizzling chemistry with Rani Mukherjee also helped the movie become a blockbuster.

Later, Shaad Ali faced massive roadblocks in the form of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007) and Kill Dil (2014).

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom was an expensive musical that brought no profits. It had a hit soundtrack composed by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. But good music and glossy cinematography couldn’t compensate for the lacklustre direction.

Shaad Ali was clearly not comfortable dealing with a story of this scale.

Despite Jhoom Barabar Jhoom‘s failure, the director helmed another YRF film — Ranveer Singh’s Kill Dil (2014). It was an action comedy film about two assassins raised by a local gangster. Here too, there was ample style but little substance.

Shaad Ali’s journey with YRF has come to a stop for now.

Siddarth P Malhotra

Siddarth P Malhotra’s debut directorial was We Are Family (2010). It is an official adaption of Stepmom (English, 1998).

Rani Mukherjee in Hichki

Rani Mukherjee in ‘Hichki’.(X)

The film was produced by Karan Johar and had the likes of Kajol and Kareena Kapoor.

It had all the elements required to be a solid emotional drama, but Siddarth P Malhotra couldn’t do complete justice to it.

Despite We Are Family’s failure, the young director got an opportunity to helm a YRF film starring Aditya Chopra’s life partner, Rani Mukherjee.

Hichki (2018) was about a teacher with a passion for teaching in spite of suffering from Tourette syndrome and the impact she has on students of class 9F.

These students come from a nearby slum and are not interested in studies. Rani Mukherjee, as Naina Mathur, transforms their lives with patience and perseverance. Hichki was a classic underdog story that resonated well with the audience.

Siddarth P Malhotra showed that Aditya Chopra’s trust in him wasn’t misplaced.

Karan Malhotra

Just like Siddarth P Malhotra, Karan Malhotra, too, started his career with Dharma Productions.

He directed the action drama Agneepath (2012), a remake of the 1990 film of the same name.

A poster of the film Shamshera

A poster of the film ‘Shamshera’. (X)

While the original film had Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role, the remake had Hrithik Roshan and two terrifying villains, Rishi Kapoor’s Rauf Lala and Sanjay Dutt’s Kancha Cheena

Agneepath was a well-made masala film that registered good numbers at the box office.

Later, Karan Malhotra directed Brothers (2015), also a remake. However, the source material this time was an English film titled Warrior (2011). He tried to replicate the success of Agneepath with the same treatment, but this time, the results were far from satisfying.

The failure of Brothers led to Karan Malhotra stepping out of Dharma Productions.

After a gap of seven years, Karan Malhotra directed Shamshera (2022) produced by Aditya Chopra.

The film was a period-action drama about an oppressed tribe with a double dose of Ranbir Kapoor. Ranbir gave it his all, but the movie ended up being a poor clone of the Baahubali (2015 and 2017) films.

Unlike the other Malhotra, this Malhotra couldn’t live up to the expectations of the YRF Chairman.

Pradeep Sarkar

Late Pradeep Sarkar directed five films. Of them, three were produced by YRF.

These include Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007), Lafangey Parindey (2010) and Mardaani (2014). Among these, only Mardaani did good business.

Not many would have trusted the Parineeta (2005) director with a subject like Mardaani, but the late Pradeep Sarkar ensured that Aditya Chopra’s trust in him was not misplaced.

Mardaani is a significant film in the career of Rani Mukherjee. 

Rani Mukherjee in ‘Mardaani’. (X)

Vani Kapoor

Vani Kapoor has acted in seven films so far. Out of seven, five were produced by YRF.

The Bollywood diva started her career promisingly with Shuddh Desi Romance. But her next outing, Aaha Kalyanam (2014), a Tamil-telugu remake of Band Baaja Baaraat produced by YRF (the only South film bankrolled by YRF) was a dud.

Despite Aaha Kalyanam’s failure, Vani Kapoor was paired opposite Ranveer Singh in Befikre (2016). Unfortunately, neither the film nor Vani could create any impact.

Still, she was cast in another YRF film – War (2019). But there wasn’t much heavy lifting for her, as the focus was primarily on Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff.

The actress was last seen in another YRF dud Shamshera (2022).

Vani Kapoor will next be seen in the web show Mandala Murders, co-produced by Aditya Chopra.

Here’s hoping that the actress will finally be able to repay the trust of her mentor.

Manushi Chillar

Manushi Chhillar has acted in two movies so far. Both were bankrolled by Aditya Chopra.

In spite of the failure of Samrat Prithviraj (2022), YRF gave her another chance in The Great Indian Family, which again was a failure.

The actress is a good looker, but she hasn’t proved her acting credentials until now!

She will be next seen in Operation Valentine alongside Varun Tej. The Telugu actor is making his debut in Bollywood with this Telugu-Hindi bilingual. It is hitting the screens on 8 December.

Apurva : Tara Sutaria Delivers A Knockout Punch In This Predictable Yet Gritty Survival Drama

Keeps you hooked.

Apurva (Hindi)

  • Cast: Tara Sutaria, Abhishek Banerjee, Rajpal Yadav, and Dhairya Karwa
  • Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat
  • Producer: Murad Khetani
  • Music: Vishal Mishra
  • Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Apurva is based on an extraordinary real-life story of a girl named Apurva who was kidnapped by some goons in the Chambal area.

With no substantial help, Apurva fought them all alone and emerged as a victor.

The film begins by establishing the extreme cruelty of the four bad guys.

The main antagonists among these are Abhishek Banerjee and Rajpal Yadav. From there, we see how Apurva’s (Tara Sutaria) path crosses with these four local dacoits.

Excellent characterisation

Tara Sutaria in Apurva
Tara Sutaria in ‘Apurva’. (X)

To put it briefly, the story of Apurva is about how a city girl transforms herself into goddess Durga and kills the bad guys, of course, not literally.

The big area where Apurva scores is the gritty atmosphere that pulls the viewers into the story.

Despite tonal similarities with NH10 (2015), director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat and his technical team stage the Chambal area with authenticity. There is no artificiality whatsoever.

What also works for the film is a sense of dread that the director creates among the viewers with the help of the background score.

The characterisations of the dacoits are another major plus for the film.

Abhishek Banerjee and Co are truly scary as psychopaths. As a result, the viewers anxiously wait for Tara Sutaria’s Apurva to come out safe.

The characterisation of Apurva from a city girl to finding herself in a life-threatening situation has been written well. Her love story with Sid (Dhairya Karwa) gives some much-needed light moments. Both actors share good chemistry.

A brilliant Tara Sutaria

Tara Sutaria debuted with the sequel of Student of The Year 2 in 2019. Since then, she faltered in the selection of roles.

But here, the actress has an author-backed part, and Tara delivers a commendable performance. It is a juicy role with different shades, and Tara doesn’t miss a single beat.

Dhairya Karwa also does well as the supportive fiancée. He succeeds in portraying the love and desperation of Sid.

Coming to the local dacoits, Rajpal Yadav and Abhishek Banerjee successfully make the audiences hate them, particularly Abhishek, who plays an unhinged man with a lot of glee.

The major problem with Apurva is the excessive bloodshed and cuss words that won’t go down well with all. The serious hangover of NH10 also acts as a deterrent in some parts.

The police characters feel cardboard, more like an add-on, and don’t serve any purpose.

Same case with Apurva’s parents. They are hardly there.

Final take

To sum it up, watch Apurva if you are a fan of gritty dramas and real-life stories.

PI Meena web series: A lethargic detective drama with an annoying protagonist

PI Meena (Hindi)

  • Cast: Tanya Maniktala, Parambrata Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Vipin Sharma, Harsh Chhaya, and Vinay Pathak
  • Director: Debaloy Bhattacharya
  • Producer: Daniel Varghese
  • Music: Amit Chatterjee
  • No. of episodes: 8
  • OTT platform: Prime Video

For any detective/investigator story to work, two things are of primary importance, Firstly the audience should feel that the protagonist is having fun in solving the case. Secondly, the dangers that he/she faces should make the viewers anxious about what will happen next.

Earlier this year, Vishal Bhardwaj delivered a pulpy thriller titled Charlie Chopra & the Mystery of Solang Valley. It was a thoroughly enjoyable web show with an excellent Wamiqa Gabbi.

The setting of Solang Valley also became a major character itself, thanks to the cinematographer Tassaduq Hussain.

Unfortunately, PI Meena doesn’t even reach 5 percent of what the Vishal Bhardwaj directorial had achieved or even the Sujoy Ghosh directorial Jaane Jaan where the hill station Kalimpong was a significant part.

The protagonist in PI Meena comes across as too brooding with no sense of fun and the city of Kolkata fails to become a major character.


PI Meena web series Amazon Prime Video
‘PI Meena’ is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. (X)

As the title suggests, Tanya Maniktala plays a private investigator named Meena. She is haunted by a tragic past involving her brother Joy who is in a coma.

On many occasions, we see Meena pouring out her angst to him.

Though Meena works as a private investigator, the cases only involve unfaithful spouses and rotten fiancés!

Pritam Sen (Harsh Chhaya) is her boss. He has a swanky office and powerful connections as well with higher levels of power. However, this doesn’t make any sense given the kind of cases they get.

Parambrata’s Chatterjee’s Subho Roy is Meena’s partner in crime and also a romantic interest who is very concerned about her. Subho Roy also has aspirations of getting into politics, though his interest in politics isn’t exactly about serving the nation.

The story takes an unexpected turn when Meena witnesses a bike rider named Partho Dey (Sawon Chakrobarthy) being knocked down by a truck. Surprisingly it doesn’t occur to Meena that she should take a picture of the departing truck.

Anyway, she takes the wounded Partho to the hospital and also files a police complaint.

Partho’s mother (Zarina Wahab) believes that her son has been murdered and this isn’t a simple case of hit and run.

Meena decides to dig deeper into the case and the investigation takes her to Littnong where she meets Dr Andre Rakshaw (Jisshu Sengupta).

There is also the track of the virus outbreak running simultaneously. Revealing anything more wouldn’t be appropriate.

Parambrata and Jisshu Sengupta shine

Parambrata Chatterjee and Jisshu Sengupta are solid in their performances.

Parambrata’s charming act is a major relief, particularly in comparison to Tanya’s constant brooding.

Subho Roy isn’t a complete saint or a sinner and Parambrata does a good job in bringing out these nuances.

Not a lot can be revealed about the character that Jisshu Sengupta plays. But it is a role which has many secrets.

At one point, he advises Meena to seek something more when she is in a big web of confusion. Jisshu Sengupta is brilliant in keeping the audience guessing about his actual intentions.


Tanya Maniktala as PI Meena
Tanya Maniktala as PI Meena. (X)

There is no denying the gravity of Meena’s past, but on many occasions, she comes across as an unreasonable schoolchild who is annoyed with everything and everyone.

At no point do the viewers feel that Meena is having fun in solving the case. The constant frown on her face irritates the viewers.

Projecting intensity is different from coming across as bad-tempered and this is where director Debloy Bhattarchya and Tanya falter big time.

Actors like Vinay Pathak and Zarina Wahab are hardly there. They have been utterly wasted.

Another big problem with the series is its depiction of Kolkata. The city never feels like a major character. As a result, the viewers feel that the plot could have been set anywhere and didn’t particularly need this place.

The loose editing also plays a major spoilsport. The episodes could have much crisper and eight episodes feel too long for this story.

After a decent beginning, the web series goes in many directions like the journalist girlfriend of Joy among other things. But these tracks only add to dragging down the proceedings.

Final take

To sum it up, PI Meena is a good cure for insomnia.

Aarya Season 3 Part 1: A binge-worthy web show propelled by Sushmita Sen’s roaring performance

Leaves you wanting more!

Aarya Season 3 (Hindi)

  • Cast: Sushmita Sen, Vikas Kumar, Indraneil Sengupta, Ila Arun, and Viren Vazirani
  • Director: Kapil Sharma, Shraddha Pasi Jairath, and Ram Madhvani
  • Producer: Endemol Shine India and Ram Madhvani Films
  • Music: Vishal Khurana
  • No. of episodes: 4
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

Aarya web series is a significant part of Sushmita Sen’s career.

In the web show, Ram Madhvani brought out a very different side of the actress that the audiences weren’t used to. Her performance and the show were widely appreciated.

The second season turned out to be a worthy follow-up. Yes, the initial portions were a little sketchy, but the web series became more gripping as it went along.

Season 2 was mostly about how Aarya’s children dealt with the untimely death of their father Tej (Chachundur Singh).

An important subplot in the second season was depression and substance abuse through the character of Aarya’s daughter Aaru (Virti Vaghani).

Her son Veer (Viren Vazirani) had matured beyond his years and became a strong pillar of support for his mother and siblings. This also includes the youngest one Adi (Pratyakash Panwar).

Sushmita Sen played a grieving wife, a scared mother and also a tough woman dealing with the crime lords. The actress did a solid job of portraying all these shades.

Now you have Aarya Season 3 in two parts.

Season 2 ended with Aarya (Sushmita Sen) becoming a don. The first person that she had gunned down was her biological father.

He had a hand in the death of her husband Tej. The first episode of Season 3 has a slight recap set to the song “Bade Acche Lagte Hain“. It was a song that Tej was hugely fond of.

Aarya Season 3 begins with her getting shot. From there, the story moves into a flashback mode and tells what happened four weeks earlier.

In the flashback, it is revealed that Aarya is planning to expand the drug business. She has become a complete lady don.

Her chief enemy is Sooraj (Indraneil Sengupta), whose biggest mission in life is to destroy Aarya.

Aarya Season 3 isn’t just about her struggle with the mafia gangs. It is also about the inner battle that Aarya is going through.

In the previous seasons, it was clearly shown that Aarya had no interest in being part of this world, but now, she is a don herself.

Aarya constantly justifies her actions by saying that whatever she is doing is a part of protecting her family.

Season 3 is essentially about the challenges that Aarya faces both as a lady don and also as a mother who is dealing with her rebellious children, particularly the elder son.

Taut writing

One of the strong aspects of season 3 is how the directors portray the struggles of Aarya. On one hand, she tries hard to be a successful businesswoman; on the other, she faces difficulties in being a good mother — the conflicts arising from these situations give the show some of its best moments.

Aarya raises her children amidst all this blood and gory. The loose morals and ethics around them inevitably have a psychological impact.

For example, a situation comes when the elder son picks a gun to avenge the death of a woman whom he dearly loves. This woman was pregnant with his child when she died.

The youngest of the lot gets involved in a brawl.

Directors Ram Madhavani, Kapil Sharma, and Shraddha Pasi Jararth have done a brilliant job in designing their characters.

Another strong point of Aarya Season 3 is its antagonist.

Indraneil Sengupta’s Sooraj is not an inherently bad man. There are times when we see him being vulnerable, and there are a couple of tender moments too.

Indraneil Sengupta does a fantastic job of portraying both the ruthlessness and the ache of a husband who has lost his wife.

Ila Arun as Nalini Sahiba has a brief role, but the senior actress packs a strong punch whenever she is on screen.

Nalini Sahiba is a mini antagonist who will have a bigger space in Part 2 of Seasons 3.

Sushmita Sen is spellbinding

The scenes between Sushmita and the elder son (Viren Vazirani) have also been written with much depth. Viren particularly stands out in the confrontation scenes.

Sushmita Sen once again shows why she deserves meatier roles in films with this roaring performance. The actress makes the transformation from a scared mother to a lioness in a seamless manner.

Sushmita not only brings in the required authority with her body language but is equally effective in showcasing the vulnerable side of Aarya.

In the technical department, Vishal Khurana’s background score stands out the most. His background score plays a big part in elevating both dramatic and action bits.

There are a couple of areas where the directors could have done a better job. One of them is the characterisation of Sikander Kher, who gets minimal screen time this time.

Also, Vikas Kumar as ACP Yonous Khan doesn’t offer anything new with his portrayal.


Part 1 of Aarya Season 3 ends with a thrilling cliffhanger, which increases the expectations of the audience.

Kangana Ranaut: The Rise And Decline Of The National Award-Winning Actress

Kangana Ranaut made her acting debut with Anurag Basu’s directorial Gangster in the year 2006.  The film co-starred Shiney Ahuja and Emraan Hashmi.

In this movie, she played a young woman with a traumatic past. This included falling in love with a wanted gangster and running away with him.

Gangster opened to mostly positive reviews and Kangana was praised for her performance.

On the flip side, the success of Gangster led the actress to play similar roles (troubled women) in her subsequent films — Woh Lamhe (2006), Raaz: The Mystery Continues (2009), and Fashion (2008).

35 films to date

With Chandramukhi 2 (2023) and Tejas (2023), Kangana Ranaut has done 35 films so far.

Some of her most notable performances are: Tanu weds Manu films (2011 and 2015), Queen (2013), FashionRangoon (2017), Manikarnika (2019), and Panga (2020).

Vikas Bahl’s Queen is a significant film in the Bollywood actor’s career as her role of Rani Mehra is quite a departure from the likes of Gangster and Fashion. And, the actress rightfully won her first National Award for Best Actress for this film.

The Tanu Weds Manu films are another major landmark in Kangana’s career, particularly the sequel. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Kangana Ranaut played a double role and was hugely successful in carrying the film on her shoulders.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns did much more business than the prequel. The actress also got her second National Award for Best Actress for this film.  The other National Awards came for Manikarnika and Panga respectively.

A downward graph

After Tanu weds Manu Returns, Kangana Ranaut became a bankable star actress considered on par with heroes. But unfortunately, after that, the graph has been going downwards with every new release.

It is a combination of bad script choices coupled with her excessive rants on social media which haven’t done her any favour even with her fans.

For example, she labelled both Swara Bhasker and Taapsee Pannu as needy outsiders.

She even called Vikrant Massey a cockroach.

Her continuous attacks on Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt are something that everyone is familiar with.

Before the release of Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022), the actress went on record that crores of money would bite the dust along with the film.

She also attacked Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl (2020) before its release.

All this has come back to haunt the actress with her latest release Tejas (2023). Fittingly, Vikrant Massey’s 12th Fail, released on the same day, has emerged as a big success.

Now, let’s focus on Kangana’s non-performing films and give an overview of why they have fared the way they have starting from Tejas.


Tejas, debutant director Sarvesh Mewara’s Air Force thriller/drama, was a mix of patriotism coupled with women empowerment. But the filmmaker failed to succeed on both counts.

Sarvesh Mewara’s direction was dull, but having said that, Kangana Ranaut’s single-tone act made the film even more unbearable.

Irrespective of the scene that the actress was performing, there was a robotic quality to the way she was delivering her dialogues.

Ideally, the big speech about the Indian soldiers should have an emotional connection. But viewers don’t feel any connection because it comes across as more of a real-life rant that the actress is known for.

Chandramukhi 2

Rajinikanth and Jyotika-starrer Chandramukhi (2005, Tamil) is a movie that enjoys a special place in the hearts of the viewers.

It is widely considered as Jyotika’s best. Her performance as a married woman suffering from a split personality was a treat to watch.

Jyotika’s act was always going to be a tough one to match, but the extent to which Kangana Ranaut failed in Chandramukhi 2 (2023) was unimaginable.

A lot of the blame for this fiasco lied with the sketchy characterisation. But the fact that Kangana didn’t match even 5 percent of what Jyotika did in the prequel was also to be blamed.

Adding to viewers’ woes were Kangana Ranaut’s Bharatanatyam dances that generated unintentional comedy.


The real-life story of Jayalalithaa is an inspiring one in many ways. She was a woman of steel with many highs and lows.

Before Thalaivi (2021), there was a web series called Queen (2019) directed by Gautham Menon and Prasanth Murugesan.

Both directors did a good job of portraying Jayalalithaa’s life. Ramya Krishna who played the title role was also solid in her performance.

But AL Vijay’s Thalaivi did not match Queen.

Vijay did a good job in the first half exploring the relationship between Jayalalithaa and MGR (Kangana Ranaut and Aravind Swamy respectively).

But in the second half, the director slipped badly and from then on it was all downhill.

The political side of Jayalalithaa was shown in a rushed manner. At certain points, it looked like AL Vijay was more interested in playing to Kangana’s real-life image rather than the story.

Another problem with the film was the characterisation of Nassar’s Karunanidhi; it was more of a caricature.


Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga (2020) was a sports drama that revolved around a former kabaddi player who gave up her dreams just before a major tournament.

The movie did receive glowing reviews with Kangana receiving critical acclaim.

Kangana Ranaut’s role of Jaya was easily one of the best characters in her filmography. But, in spite of all the positive reviews, Panga was a non-starter at the box office.

A reason that could be attributed to its failure was a certain fatigue that had set in with this genre.


Manikarnika co-directed by Kangana Ranaut and Krish Jagarlamudi was not an absolute disaster in comparison to the above-mentioned films.

The movie did reasonable business but wasn’t a blockbuster hit as the actress claimed.

Kangana Ranaut made for a perfect Jhansi ki rani. The ferociousness and swagger required of a Queen was very much there.

Neetu Lulla’s costumes also came in for much praise particularly the ones worn by Kangana Ranaut.

However, the big problem with Manikarnika was that it became all about Kangana alone with not much space for anyone else.

The cardboard British characters were another eyesore.

Judgemental Hai Kya

Actor-director Prakash Kovelamudi tried to do many things with Judgemental Hai Kya (2019).

On one hand, it was a dark comedy. In the second half, the film turned into a whodunit combined with commentary on mental health.

However, this khichdi of genres didn’t amalgamate into something truly memorable.

The film had solid performances from both Kangana Ranaut and Rajkumar Rao.

Of course, the actress is no stranger to playing mentally unhinged characters and she did do a good job. Rajkumar Rao also did a wonderful job in his negative role.

Just like Thalaivi, this movie too suffered from the curse of the second half. It could have been so much more but it ended up neither here nor there.

The multiplex audiences didn’t completely get it and the masses were simply not interested in it.

Katti Batti

Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti (2015) is a concoction of many films. There was clear inspiration from Hollywood romantic movies coupled with his directorial debut Kal Ho Na Ho.

For reasons best known to Nikhil, he placed the weight of Katti Batti on the shoulders of a struggling Imran Khan.

Kangana Ranaut enters and exists as per the convenience of the screenplay, though she rated her performance in this movie on par with Tanu Weds Manu Returns.

Not surprisingly, the audiences preferred to do “Katti” with the flick!

Well, it is sad to see a good actress losing both on- and off-screen and getting embroiled in unnecessary controversies.

Wish Kangana Ranaut would refocus on her craft and deliver many more Queens and Tanus!

Mansion 24: An Unimaginative Horror Flick With Clichéd Jump Scares

Mansion 24 (Telugu)

  • Cast: Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, Satya Raj, Rao Ramesh, Tulasi, Nandu, and Avika Gor
  • Director: Ohmkar
  • Producer: Ashwin Babu and Kalyan Chakravarthy
  • Music: Vikas Badisha
  • No. of episodes: 6
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

After carving a niche for himself in television, Ohmkar made his directorial debut with the film Genius (2012) which didn’t live up to the title and ended up being a dud.

But the filmmaker found success with Raju Gari Gadhi released in 2015. It was a mix of comedy, horror, and family emotions culminating with a message.

The movie was a success at the box office and this led to two more films made with the same title.

However, the subsequent films Raju Gari Gadhi 2 (2017) and Raju Gari Gadhi 3 (2019) weren’t financially successful.

Now, the director has made his web series debut with Mansion 24 where the story is heavily reminiscent of his previous work. The only difference in Mansion 24 is that you don’t have any comedy track to ease the tension-filled atmosphere.


Kalidas (Satya Raj) is one of the most revered archaeologists in this country. In the middle of a particular excavation, he disappears without any trace. Not surprisingly, he is labelled as a traitor.

Amrutha (Varalakshmi Sarathkumar) is an investigative journalist and daughter of Kalidas. She takes it upon herself to trace his whereabouts and clear her father’s name.

In this quest, she heads to a mansion that is both abandoned and haunted.

Seetharam (Rao Ramesh), the supposed watchman, tells Amrutha about the various paranormal activities that have happened in the mansion.

In a nutshell, the story is about the various challenges that Amrutha faces in her journey to find out about the alleged betrayal of her father.

Mini-stories fall flat

To give credit where it is due, director Ohmkar is initially successful in creating a strong emotional foundation, the viewers do want Amrutha to succeed.

Also, through the mini-stories, Ohmkar touches upon some societal issues by talking about the ghosts within us.

However, the problem with these mini-stories is the lazy writing. Most of the characters have been poorly etched. As a result, the viewers don’t enjoy these mini-stories as much as they should.

The only segment which has some meat is the one involving Nandu and Bindu Madhavi. Nandu plays a ruthless conman with the right amount of scariness.

The viewers feel afraid of Nandu whenever he appears on the screen.

Bindu Madhavi brings an emotional gravitas to her part of a woman, who has a personal score to settle with Nandu’s character.

Another big problem with Mansion 24 is the characterisations of Satya Raj and Tulasi. Tulasi plays the mother of Amrutha. Neither of them has been fleshed out sufficiently.

Adding to the woes is a melodramatic scene where the mother suddenly recovers from a severe health issue.

Varalaxmi Sarathkumar is effective in portraying the different nuances of Amrutha. The actress manages to rise above the sketchy writing, the viewers wish that she had chosen a much better story.

Characters hear strange sounds, there is a man with a long beard who mouths Sanskrit slokas, and all the ghosts wear white clothes among others. The bankruptcy of ideas is clearly visible.

The cinematography and the production design are in tune with the show’s nature, but there is no element that particularly stands out. The tried and tested horror elements are all there.

Final take

To sum it up, it is high time that Ohmkar let go of the horror genre and did something different.

Sultan Of Delhi: A Clichéd Gangster Saga With All Style And Little Substance

Milan Luthria’s OTT debut ‘Sultan of Delhi’ is an extension of his film ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbai’, but not in a good way.

No coherence!
Sultan of Delhi (Hindi)
  • Cast: Tahir Raj Bhasin, Anjumm Ssharma, Vinay Pathak, Nishant Dahiya, Anupriya Goenka, and Mouni Roy
  • Director: Milan Luthria and Suparn Verma
  • Producer: Namit Sharma
  • Music: Ammal Malik and Anu Malik
  • No. of episodes: 9
  • OTT platform: Disney+ Hotstar

There was a time when Milan Luthria was a hugely successful filmmaker.

Both The Dirty Picture (2011) and Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (2010) found acceptance by critics as well as audiences. A common feature between both these films was the dialogue-baazi that appealed to the masses.

However, in the last few years, Milan Luthria became all about style with little to no focus on the content.

The best examples of these are Baadshaho (2017) and Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobaara (2013).

Unfortunately, the director’s OTT debut — Sultan of Delhi — is another major misfire. It is also directed by Suparn S Varma.


The web series starts with the story of Arjun (Tahir Raj Bhasin).

Arjun is a descendant of a generation that migrated to the capital region after partition. His experiences at the refugee camp make him more courageous with an attitude of taking life head-on.

Arjun’s determination to overcome the scars of his past leads him to the criminal world. In the beginning, it is the arms trade.

Bangali (Anjumm Ssharma) is an accomplice-cum-friend. Soon enough, they fall under the tutelage of Jagan Seth (Vinay Pathak).

Arjun’s chief adversary is Rajendra (Nishant Dahiya), an entitled brat who constantly looks down upon Arjun. He doesn’t shy away from flaunting his privilege.

Like Arjun, Rajendra too has big dreams. Aiding Rajendra in his quest is his late father’s mistress Shankari  Devi (Anupriya Goenka).

The rest of the story moves along with different tangents. There is a bromance between Arjun and Bangali, their romantic relationships, and the equation with Jagan Seth, etc.

Bromance is the only saving grace

To give credit where it’s due, director duo Milan Luthria-Suparn Varam does a good job of establishing the bromance between Arjun and Bangali.

The scenes featuring Tahir and Anjum Sharma are easily the saving grace of this web series. The friendship feels organic and when things take a dark turn the viewers feel sorry for them.

The romantic angles fall flat though. This is a combination of poor writing coupled with uninspiring performances from most of the women characters.

The only female actress who makes an impression is Anupriya Goenka. She portrays the negative shades with absolute relish.

Mouni Roy suffers the most on account of weak characterisation.

Nishant Dahiya plays the brat with the right amount of snootiness.

Vinay Pathak also does well in his grey-shaded role.

Fails to evoke emotions

A big problem with the Sultan of Delhi is how it deals with the portions featuring the refugee camp. They are staged with indifference and feel more like a checklist that needs to be done away with.

In the web series Jubliee and also the first Gadar, there is a sense of heartbreak that the viewers feel. But here, the audience doesn’t develop the required empathy.

Sultan of Delhi also suffers on account of many outlandish sequences. For example, there is a sequence involving ammunition trade. For no rhyme or reason, you have unnecessary murders of policemen.

Milan Luthria and Suparn Varma do an equally pathetic job of showcasing the politics of that period. The best example of this is a segment involving a Bengali filmmaker by the name of Roy Babu.

There is no denying that these sequences have been stylishly mounted but there is a visible hollowness that irritates the viewers.

Final take

To sum it up, Sultan of Delhi is all about empty posturing. The genre of gangster drama seriously needs a reinvention as it has become all about style with no focus on coherence.

(Views expressed here are personal.)

Vijay Varma: A Decade Of Formidable Talent – From ‘Pink’ To ‘Jaane Jaan’

If we observe Vijay Varma’s filmography, we predominantly notice two types of roles – negative/grey roles and cop characters.

Vijay Varma started his acting career in 2008 with a short film titled Shor. But his big screen debut started with Chittagong in 2012. It was followed by late Satish Kaushik’s Gang of Ghosts (2014) and Priyadarshan’s Rangrezz (2013).

However, none of these movies gave a significant push to his career until Pink (2016) came along. Since then, as the saying goes, there is no looking back for the Bollywood actor. Vijay Varma is an FTII student, and this clearly shows how the actor has adapted to different roles. If we observe his filmography, we notice that two types of roles majorly stand out – negative/grey characters and cop roles. Let’s check them out here:

Ankit Malhotra

Pink was a breakthrough film for Vijay Varma where he played a deeply misogynistic person -Ankit Malhotra. He was the one who eggs on Rajveer Singh (Angad Bedi) to take revenge on Taapsee Pannu’s character, Minal. Ankit Malhotra just doesn’t stop there,  he also molests her in a moving jeep and throws her on the road. He really looks menacing in that scene. We hate him as much as Angad Bedi.


Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy (2019) saw Vijay Varma as a neighbourhood crook Moen who was also a friend of Ranveer Singh’s Murad. He was not a psycho but had his own grey shades. Throughout the film, viewers couldn’t make out if he was good or bad. The Bollywood actor owned the part with a brilliant performance.


In Imtiaz Ali’s web series She (2020), Vijay Varma played a drug peddler named Sasya. In spite of not having a lot of screen time, he owned every frame that he was in. What also added to the performance was how he spoke Hyderabadi Deccani – a language spoken in Hyderabad where he grew up. Vijay also got the body language of the drug peddler spot-on.


In Darlings (2022), Vijay Varma played an alcoholic, abusive husband named Hamza to Alia Bhatt’s Badru. He was someone who was extremely cruel and at the same time, lovey-dovey depending on the situation. Vijay looked like a truly scary psychopath. The actor received a lot of positive hate for his portrayal of Hamza. By Vijay’s own admission, it was not an easy task to be an abusive husband to the “heartthrob of the nation.” The Bollywood actor also said that he was very scared of unintentionally hurting Alia in the scenes involving physical abuse. Those scenes were so real that every time he appeared on the screen, we were as terrified as Alia. Coincidentally, their first feature films (Chittagong and Student of the Year) were released in the same month (October) in 2012.

Anand Swarnakar

Initially, the viewers have a positive impression of Vijay’s character Anand Swarnakar in Dahaad (2023). Apart from being an excellent Hindi professor, Anand also runs a mobile library for the underprivileged. But soon, this bubble breaks as the real face of Anand is revealed. Vijay Varma was absolutely terrific – both as a middle-class married man struggling to make ends meet and as a serial killer who has severe unresolved issues with his father.


Monsoon Shootout is an early film by Vijay Varma shot in 2013. It had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, but theatrically, it was released four years later in 2017. In the movie, Vijay Varma played a cop who was deeply influenced by his father’s principles. His father told him that all life’s choices were not black and white, and there was a middle path too. In spite of sharing screen space with a heavyweight like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vijay Varma more than held his own. He did a swell job of showcasing the different nuances of his character.

Ravi Shankar Tripathi

In the web series Kaalkoot (2023), Vijay Varma’s Ravi Shankar Tripathi was vastly different from the mainstream cops that the audiences are used to. For example, Dabbang (2010) and Singham (2011). He was a soft-spoken cop who considered himself a misfit in the police department. There was a constant desire in him to resign. But as the show progressed, his character underwent a transformation. This show had come right after Dahaad where he played a serial killer. He made the audience forget that this was the same man who appeared as a serial killer.

Karan Anand

In Sujoy Ghosh’s Jaane Jaan (2023), an OTT film, Vijay Varma appeared as a charming cop. It was the closest he came to doing romance. The scenes where he flirts with Kareena Kapoor’s Maya D’Souza were so adorable to watch. He gave the film some much-needed lighter moments in an otherwise tense atmosphere.

Vijay Varma is now 37. He has already done 24 films, including web series. Here’s hoping that our filmmakers will tap his potential – much more in future – which goes beyond the above-mentioned characters!

Published in SouthFirst on 15.10.2023. Click on the below link for

Alia Bhatt And Her Tryst With Different Languages And Cultures

An overview of how the talented Bollywood actress covered various Indian States and different dialects through her roles.

In a career spanning over a decade, Alia Bhatt has represented women characters from different parts of India. These women are not only varied in terms of physical demographics but also their social strata.

The states that Alia Bhatt has represented so far include Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Goa, Rajasthan, Kashmir, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Bengal.

Though most of them are Hindu characters in three films, she played Muslim characters, too. They are Sehmat in Raazi (2018), Safeena in Gully Boy (2019) and Badru in Darlings (2022).

Alia Bhatt has proved her efficiency in moulding herself to suit each of them.

Let me start with the latest picture:

Rani Chatterjee

Rani Chatterjee in Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani (2003) is a Bengali journalist who settles in South Delhi.

The Bengali imprint was clear in the gorgeous sarees she wore and also in the way she spoke her mind like any educated Bengali woman would do.

This came out brilliantly in her introduction scene itself when she bashed a minister for his sexist comments about how women should dress and what they should eat. It was much more of a massy entry than Ranveer got.

Alia Bhatt’s Bengali accent wasn’t flawless, but the actress ensured that it didn’t become a distraction with her screen presence and acting capabilities. Well, Alia was bang on when she pronounced “Khela Hobe” which means “the game is on”.


In Gangubai Kathaiawadi (2022), which won Alia a National Award for her performance as Gangubai, the actor’s dialect had a mix of Gujarati and Marathi.

On many occasions, we see her speaking in the Kathiawadi accent. It came from the family that her character Gangubai was born in.

Alia Bhatt was not only good at showing a gamut of emotions through her eyes but she also aced the dialect.

The Gujarati touch can be particularly seen in the song “Dholida“.


In SS Rajamouli’s RRR (2022), there was one heavy scene that Alia Bhatt shared with Junior NTR’s Komaram Bheem. It came at a juncture when Ram Charan’s character Alluri Seetharama Raju was in jail and on the verge of being hanged.

She had to speak lengthy Telugu dialogues and the actress didn’t miss a beat in conveying the emotions.


In Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017), Alia played a rebellious girl from Rajasthan’s Kota who aspired to be an air hostess. Marriage was the last thing on her agenda.

Through her character Vaidehi, the Bollywood actor represented the ambitions of many small-town girls. She was also successful in pulling off the Kota accent.


In Udta Punjab (2016), Alia Bhatt’s character Bauria is that of a Bihari migrant who goes to Punjab in search of work. For this film, the actress learnt the Bihari dialect under the guidance of the acclaimed actor Pankaj Tripathi.

There is a lengthy monologue where Bauria pours her heart out to an astonished Tommy Singh, played by Shahid Kapoor. Alia Bhatt was brilliant throughout the film, but her performance in this scene was heartbreaking.

It is not just about conveying the pain and pathos, but it is also about how she convincingly says it in the Bihari accent.


In 2 States (2014), her very third film, Alia played a Tamilian.

In 2013’s Chennai Express, Deepika was criticised for her over-the-top portrayal of a Tamil girl. Although Deepika is a South Indian by birth, she has an exaggerated accent.

On the other hand, Alia Bhatt was much appreciated for portraying Ananya in a more nuanced way and speaking Tamil more naturally. At no point does her accent bother the viewers.

Other roles

Regarding the Muslim characters she played in Gully Boy and Darlings, both roles had a backdrop of slums in Mumbai.

In Gully Boy, there is a particular slang that the actress uses. Despite not being the central character, her dialogue became one of the highlights.

In a scene, she says, “Mere boyfriend ke saath koi gulu gulu karenga toh dhoptuingi hi na usko.”

In Darlings, Alia Bhatt’s Badru constantly spoke in odd plural phrases. These included “I loves you” and “bad lucks”.

In Raazi, the Bollywood actor played a Kashmiri Muslim named Sehmat. Naturally, there was some Kashmiri touch to her dialogues and the actress expectedly got it bang on.

What made the role of Sehmat even more interesting was that Alia is half Kashmiri and half Gujarati in real life.

Given the speculation that Alia Bhatt would play Roopmati in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s upcoming film, she might soon add another name to her cross-cultural list of characters!