Friday, 29 January 2016

Saala Khadoos :: Movie Review

Saala Khadoos helmed by Sudha Kongara is a well concocted inspiring flick not only about boxing but also about determination, selfless love of a guru (coach) towards his shishya (protege) and red-tapism, politics prevalent in sports bodies of our country. To begin with, if we start to count the number of competent sports movies made in our country, we can count them on fingers. This is a genre which has lot of potential but unfortunately very few filmmakers have tried to helm movies on this genre. Barring, Bhag Milkha Bhag or Mary Kom which were biopics, the only recent film that comes to my mind is Shimit Amin's Chak De. But, Chak De was about Hockey and Saala Khadoos is about boxing. The basic premise of the movie seems to be inspired from the Hollywood flick Million Dollar Baby where Client Eastwood trains his protege played by Hillary Swank. What works heavily in favor of Saala Khadoos are the earnest performances delivered by its star-cast especially the lead pair R.Madhavan and newcomer Ritika Singh. Saala Khadoos is a rugged sports flick which keeps you engrossed in the on-screen proceedings. Generally, movies revolving around sports resort to the formulaic 'emergence of an underdog theme' but Saala Khadoos doesn't travel the beaten path. India has lot of such champs but we need more mavericks who can find out the hidden talents present in our country and than further train and nurture them to become champions.  Sudha Kongara shows how true champs get going under the able guidance of their mentors even when the going gets extremely tough. Sudha shows her female protagonist as a born fighter, but than she escalates the drama to showcase how the fierce fighter gets converted into a perpetual winner when she finds her true Dronacharya in the form of a selfless boxing coach. It is her coach who instills the confidence in her to emerge victorious by facing the odds that are stacked up against her. Saala Khadoos portrays enduring mentor-pupil affinity through some really well captured scenes and dialogues. 

The story of Saala Khadoos has been penned down by Sudha Kongara who has interlaced the basic premise of pupil-mentor affinity with trajectories like scheming officials in sports bodies, sibling rivalry along with a dash of romance but the narrative has a soaring quality and texture. It simply takes off with any room for breathing space. The breathless quality of storytelling goes well with the protagonist's stormy and mercurial nature. The movie begins by introducing Adi (R. Madhavan) who was a boxer and is presently the coach of girls boxing team. He has a bad equation with a corrupt boxing official (Zakir Hussain) who fabricates a sexual harassment charge against Adi and gets him transferred to Chennai. Adi is quite frustrated as he knows there is no potential in girl boxers of Chennai. Upon reaching Chennai, he comes across Madhi (Ritika Singh) who is a foul-mouthed fisher woman by profession but has a natural penchant for boxing. Adi senses the potential in her and decides to take her under his wings. Since Madhi is reluctant to enter boxing arena, Adi decides to pay her Rs.500 every day to come for boxing training as he sees a champion in her. How Adi manages to train her and convert the fisher woman into a boxing champion is what forms the rest of the story. 

R.Madhavan has undeniably delivered the best performance of his career till date in Saala Khadoos and carried the movie on his broad shoulders. Madhavan has imbibed the traits of his character both physically as well as emotionally and ably enacted them on-screen meticulously. R.Madhavan has delivered an exemplary realistic performance which is a testament to his hard work and dedication towards portraying this character. Right from his body language to expressions....everything is pitch perfect in this movie. Madhavan looks totally convincing as the boxing coach who despite his eccentricities is ready to go to any length to groom his protege unto a champion. Truly, a match winning performance.     

Ritika Singh as Madhi is a revelation. It is Ritika's spirited portrayal of a pugilist that makes it possible to ignore the flaws in craft as it's hard to point a finger at her performance. Right from the body language of a boxer, to her mercurial temprament and the fight within her, Ritika simply nails it. We see Ritika in two different avatars in this movie; while in the first half she comes across as a carefree, foulmouthed fisher woman ready to pick up fights; in the second half we see a mellowed down avatar of hers who is more focused, determined raring to go. And, to her credit, Ritika is equally convincing and at ease while portraying both these avatars. Ritika literally makes you feel for her character with her brilliant and realistic portrayal. 

The musical soundtrack of the movie has been composed by Santosh Narayanan which is average but he scores brownie points for his background music. The cinematographer of the movie is Sivkumar Vijayan who has done a splendid job behind the lens. Right from capturing the aggression in boxing ring, Vijayan's camera glides across capturing the anger and frustration of the movie's protagonists turn into retrieval with effortless ease making it a delight to watch. The movie has been edited by Satish Suriya who has done a crisp job at the editing table and kept the run-time of the movie to 109 minutes. As a writer-director, Sudha Kongara deserves accolades for making this unusual but competent sports film. The way she has conceived and crafted the guru-shishya dynamics in the film is applause-worthy. As a director, Sudha Dongara has made sincere efforts and managed to impress. 

One aspect which makes Saala Khadoos worth a watch is that it has its heart and soul at the right place. It might not be as exciting or thrilling as the average Bollywood masala fares but it still manages to entertain you due to earnest performances and inspiring storyline. 

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Friday, 22 January 2016

Airlift :: Movie Review

                                              Image result for 3 and a half stars out of five

Airlift helmed by Raja Krishna Menon portrays the incongruity of over 1.70 lac Indians stranded in Kuwait during 1990 and their evacuation in the most realistic, entertaining and thrilling manner making it a great watch. Airlift narrates a story which needed to be told. After all, its the story about the world's largest civilian evacuation till date which was done by India. It was in August 1990 that Saddam's army took control of Kuwait and unleashed a reign of terror. There were around 1.70 lac Indians living in Kuwait at that time who found themselves stranded in most averse situation. During those turbulent times, one person who selflessly made a difference with his efforts to get all the Indians safely was Ranjit Katiyal. Ranjeet who was a proud Kuwaiti and successful businessman saw his world tumbling in one day when Saddam's forced invaded Kuwait. He could have easily left Kuwait with his family but he chose to wait and stay there to help all fellow Indians stranded there. And, one person, who takes Airlift several notches higher with his impeccable act is Akshay Kumar as Ranjit Katiyal. Akshay exemplary portrays the character of a real life hero, a hero whose conscience gets awakened during the most troubled times. Most importantly, Airlift tells us that with unswerving ascendancy and attenuate virility, how a hero is concoction of the troubles that humanity be bequeathed from its shortcomings. I would like to applaud the makers for choosing this story so that cinegoers come to know about this incident which never got a mention in our history books as average Indian including me was completely unaware about this world's largest civilian evacuation done by Indian Government. More than 500 planes were flown over war zone area by Air India to safely evacuate 1.70 lac Indians. And, most importantly, it tells us the story of a unsung real life heroes like Ranjit Katiyal who risked their everything just for the sake of their fellow-Indians. Since this is a realistic movie, so, in the end Airlift tells us that there were two commendable emigrants namely Mr Matthews and Mr. Vedi who were the masterminds behind this rescue operation and that both of them were amalgamated into Akshay's character.   

The story of Airlift has been penned down by Raja Krishna Menon and the credit for writing the screenplay of the movie goes to Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia and Ritesh Shah. The writers have audaciously woven a tale with layers of human emotions with select personal stories without going over the top. There is no exaggeration, excessive melodrama or playing to the galleries and this the biggest USP of Airlift. It is the story of a man whose conscious and heroism gets awakened in the gravest situation. The film's opening scene begins a day before the invasion where Ranjit Katiyal (Akshay Kumar) is clinching a business deal in Kuwait. He likes to be known as a Kuwaiti instead of Indian and prefers Arabic music over Indian music. He is a shrewd businessman who is living a luxurious life with his wife Amrita (Nimrat Kaur) and his young daughter. His world comes tumbling down when Iraq invades Kuwait on August 2,1990. As Ranjeet moves out of his home, his car is stopped by forces and his driver is gunned down in front of his eyes. Fortunately for Katiyal, a convoy of Iraqi Major Zayd (Inaamul Haq) is passing by at that moment who recognizes Katiyal and his life is saved. Major Zayd offers free passage to Ranjit Katiyal and his family in lieu of huge money. Just when Ranjit is planning to leave the country with his family, he finds several of his employees stranded in his office with a sense of security around him. It is at that moment, the selfish businessman Ranjit gets transformed and decides that he won't leave the country until all the fellow Indians are evacuated safely. He with the help of his rich friends organizes a camp for 1.7 Lac Indians. The rest of the film portrays how Ranjit tries to use all his contacts and negotiating skills for the safe evacuation of all Indians from the dire situation. 

Akshay Kumar has come a long way as an actor since his Khiladi days and his impeccable act in Airlift is a testament to that. Undeniably, Akshay is the soul of Airlift as with his powerful act he literally owns the screen in the movie. There is a virile vividness about Akshay's character in the movie (who is both strong and vulnerable) which Akshay has captured brilliantly. The ease with which Akshay has portrayed his subtle transformation from a selfish business tycoon to a humbled refugee with a mission to save lacs of people around him is commendable. There are several scenes in the movie where Akshay simply talks with his expressions rather than words like the scene where his driver is killed in front of him or the scene where he goes to fetch the wife and daughter of his slain driver. You can watch the transition in his body language with passing time when no Government help arrives. Akshay is simply OUSTANDING in the movie

Nimrat Kaur who was last scene in critically acclaimed Lunchbox is a scene stealer in the movie. Nimrat also gets to portray a complex character in the movie as she is a disgruntled wife albeit for different reasons as the movie progresses. As the movie opens, she is angry with her husband because she she feels he is a self-centered business tycoon but later she is miffed over him because now the same self-centered man decides to be a messiah for other stranded Indians ignoring the choice of leaving the country with his family. Nimrat ably portrays myriad emotions in the movie. Her act is a treat to watch in the scene where confronts cantankerous whining man portrayed by Prakash Belawadi

Inaamul Haq who gets to portray a major character in a movie after Filmistan is spot-on in the movie. As the greedy and sinister Iraqi Major, Inaamul has nailed his character to perfection. His expressions, dialect and penchant for Amitabh Bachchan is a treat to watch in Airlift. Inaamul provides quite a comic relief in the movie with his delightful act. 

Feryna Wazheir shines and makes her presence felt with her subtle yet powerful act as Tasneem in Airlift.

Purab Kohli has enacted the character of Ibrahim Durrani with utmost conviction in Airlift. Purab has ably essayed the character of a man who helps Akshay in his mission whilst he is also trying to locate his missing fiancee. Prakash Belawadi stands out as the cantankerous old man who is always whining about one issue or other. Kumud Mishra shines with his typical Babu act in Ministry Of External Affairs who puts in sincere efforts for the evacuation of stranded Indians. 

The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Amaal Mallik & Ankit Tiwari is ear pleasing. The cinematographer of the movie is Priya Seth who has not only ably captured the devastated city swaddled with fear but also the fractured souls of characters in the movie. Priya's framing of desert sequences lends a unique texture to Airlift. The movie has been edited by Hemanti Sarkar who has kept the run-time of the movie to 124 minutes. As writer-director, Raja Krishna Menon has kept things as close to reality as possible which is applause worthy. Raja has made honest efforts to give the film a docu drama feel which is evident throughout the movie. He has devoid the movie of any over dramatized situations or exaggerated flourishes which heavily works in favor of the movie. Raja Krishna Menon has packaged the movie in such precise and unapologetic way that we get the feeling of being there during the time of the action.
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Friday, 8 January 2016

Wazir :: Movie Review

Wazir helmed by Bejoy Nambiar is an intelligent movie that portrays the story two battered souls in a thriller format with strong undercurrents of emotional turbulence making it a descent one time watch. Nambiar's previous two flicks namely Shaitaan and David had one thing in common ; strong characterizations and slick,stylish execution which is very much evident in Wazir too. The highlights of Wazir are its plot especially the well etched out characters, bravura performances and its editing with a crisp run-time of 103 minutes. 

The story of Wazir has been penned down by Vidu Vinod Chopra where as the screenplay has been jointly written by Vidhu & Abhijat Joshi. The basic plot of Wazir is quite interesting with the narrative displaying the kind of unpredictable writing that we seldom get to watch in Hindi movies. The best part is how the game of chess especially the chessman (chess pieces) have been interwoven into the screenplay ; be it the mysterious character of Wazir or the other characters who have been shown as simply pawns in this broader game of life. A lot of the dialogues on life's whimsies expectantly use chess tropes for which due credit must be given to the dialogue writers i.e. Abhijeet Deshpande and Gazal Dhaliwal. Wazir is a story about friendship of two individuals with fractured souls albeit for different reasons. The common grief that both of them share is loosing of their loved ones. When it comes to their characterizations ; while one of them Farhan Akhtar is brave yet defeated by a personal tragedy, vulnerable and honest , the other Amitabh Bachchan is a wheel chair bound genius with bouts of wit and a mastermind. I liked the way the movie opens building up the swift romance between ATS officer Danish (Farhan Akhtar) and Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) without wasting any time. Their idyllic life suffers a major jolt when a tragedy strikes and they both are unable to come out of the grief. Hereafter, Danish meets Omkarnath/Panditji (Amitabh Bachchan) who is a wheel chair bound chess champion. Panditji lost his wife and his legs in a road accident. But fate plays a cruel joke in Panditji's life when his young daughter dies a mysterious death at Minister Qureshi's (Manav Kaul) residence. He is told that his daughter died after falling from the staircase at Qureshi's residence where as Panditji believes that she was murdered. Danish begins to investigate this case and soon Panditji is attacked and threatened by a mysterious man Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Who is Wazir, Will Danish be able to uncover the truth behind the murder of Panditji's daughter is what forms the rest of the story.  

Amitabh Bachchan as Pandit Omkarnath Dhar is as masterly as any fine actor be in Wazir. Right from his first shot, he takes possession of his character in the way, only he can. Bachchan exemplary portrays a character who often resorts to humor in order to overcome his personal grief and stay alive. He mostly emotes through his eyes and in his eyes you can see not only the desperation but also the strength and determination of a helpless father who is out to seek revenge.  

Farhan Akhtar has come up with another impressive performance in Wazir. He ably enacts the journey of a character from being emotionally drenched and anguished to a determined and loving friend out to seek revenge. His camaraderie with Amitabh Bachchan is the highlight of the movie. Farhan has a reputation of delving deep unto the skin of the character & In Wazir he literally looks like an ATS officer that he is supposed to play in the movie.

Aditi Rao Hydari proves her mettle as an actress by portraying the character of a grieving mother with utmost conviction. She looks truly captivating in the movie and has enacted her part gracefully in the movie.

Manav Kaul has turned out to be the surprise element of the film with his impeccable performance. As the power hungry Kasmiri politician, Manav looks malevolent and sinister all the way. His expressions are a treat to watch in the scene when Farhan visits his office to investigate about Panditji's daughter death.

Neil Nitin Mukesh plays his part to pitch perfection in Wazir. His devilish grin and evil antics stay with you for a long time after you exit the theater. Neil has made the most of the screen time assigned to him in the movie.

John Abraham has come up with a impressive cameo in Wazir. During his short stint on-screen, he literally looks his part of being an ATS officer.

Technically Wazir is a marvel. Right from its music (Advaita, Rochak kohli, Prashant Pillai, Ankit Tiwari), cinematography (Sanu Varghese), background music (Rohit Kulkarni) to its editing (Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Abhijat Joshi) is in tandem with Bejoy Nambiar's eloquent vision. As a director, Bejoy Nambiar once again proves that he is master of his craft when it comes to helming stylish, slick flicks. Though, he is let down by a convoluted second half yet he manages to engage you in the movie till the very end because Wazir remains true to its purpose, of conveying the emotions that underline the action.

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