Friday, 27 May 2016

Saadey CM Saab :: Movie Review

Saadey CM Saab written, produced by Sumeet Singh and helmed by Vipin Parashar which talks about the murkier world of politics is a potboiler laden with all ingredients to satiate your yearning for a message induced commercial film. It's heartening to see Punjabi filmmakers breaking away from the set pattern of making Rom-Coms or mindless comedies and trying to tread fresh grounds. The highlight of the movie is the bromance between its three main protagonists that has been effectively portrayed on-screen by Harbhajan Maan, Rahul Singh, Gurpreet Ghuggi and an equally strong antagonist act by Dev Gill. The movie showcases how plotting and scheming has become an integral part of politics with politicians stooping down to any level just to grab power. There is a dearth of politicians who used to connect with common man with a strong will to solve their problems. The movie takes a deep insight into the today's political world and ably tracks down its demons. The movie states that where as the political leaders should be working on the ground level for welfare of the people but instead they are busy plotting to usurp the power. On surface, this might look like an uncomplicated story, but scratch the exterior and there's strong current of elements ready to explode and engulf you. That is probably why Saadey CM Saab appears to exude much greater energy and exuberance than it intrinsically possesses. This movie with its able plot and spot-on characterizations is the kind of political thriller that will make you think about the kind of politics that we are subjected to these days. While the first half is thoroughly entertaining and keeps you engrossed in the proceedings, it is the second half that takes its toll on the movie. Excessively long second half especially with deliberately inserted tracks slows down the tempo of the movie. Had the second half of the movie been toned down, it would have done much favor to the movie. Though, the movie ends on a positive note by stating that however scheming or plotting one might do but it is always the truth which prevails and wins in the end. 

The story of the movie has been penned down by Sumeet Singh Manchanda and the screenplay has been written by Rajan Khera, Shekhar Gupta and Sumeet Mavi. I'll say that one of the biggest strengths of the movie has turned out to be its clever writing as erudition sits easily, spontaneously and unobtrusively on Sumeet Singh's narration. The most recognizable elements of Punjabiyat are in full florid display, hence making it a full on entertainer. The best part is that the script breezes past without any major breakdowns primarily because it sticks to its chosen line and to top it all, it offers some quirky detours that are made all the more engaging due to the consistent quality of acting by most of its artistes. Sumeet Singh has ably exposed the underbelly of politicians through couple of well written scenes. Politicians try to malign the image of their opponents by getting them implicated in fraudulent cases and if that doesn't work, they can even go down to the extent of getting them eliminated. The movie highlights that a true politician is the one who works on the ground level listening to the grievances of common people with a resolve to solve them. The story of the movie becomes all the more valuable as elections are due in Punjab next year. It gives a strong message to the people that they should and must vote for the leaders who have worked for their welfare and not just on the basis of political party or face value. The movie begins with an assassination attempt on CM aspirant, Yudhveer (Harbhajan Mann) who gets hit by a bullet. He is taken to hospital by his bosom pals i.e. Inder (Rahul Singh) and Dimpy (Gurpreet Ghuggi). Flashback ensues and we are told how Yudhveer has risen the ranks in his political party with his smart thinking and manipulative skills. Yudhveer has set his sight on CM's chair in the upcoming election but he has political rival in the form of Daman (Dev Gill) who also aspires to be next CM of the state. Present CM dies in a car accident and the party proposes name of Yudhveer for the candidature of CM in the forthcoming elections much to the disliking of Daman. Flashback ends and cut to present, Yudhveer after being discharged from hospital looses his memory and returns to his native village. Inder and Dimpy being Yudhveer's best buddies follow him to the village as they want to ensure that Yudhveer becomes next CM and not Daman. Will Yudhveer becomes the next CM of the state, Was the accident of late CM an accident or political murder, Will Daman allow Yudhveer to become next CM, Will Inder & Dimpy be successful in their attempt to make Yudhveer regain his lost memory is for you to go and watch at a theater near you. 

Harbhajan Mann has truly evolved as an actor and his fine performance in the movie proves it. We have seen him portraying sweet characters but in this movie we get to see him playing a character of a shrewd politician. It was kind of a litmus test for Harbhajan Mann to move away from his sweet, charming image n instead portray a character having manipulative grey shades and Harbhajan has passed the test with flying colors. What is more surprising is that Harbhajan looks more confident while enacting the character of a shrewd politician as compared to his simpleton character when he looses his memory. This is perhaps one of the finest performance of Harbhajan Mann till date. 

Rahul Singh who makes his foray into Punjabi films with this movie looks totally at ease while portraying the character of Inder. His body language, dancing as a Punjabi is so appropriate that not even an iota of doubt comes into your mind about him being Non Punjabi. He has made a perfect debut in Punjabi film fraternity and his confident look in the film speaks of itself. He along with Ghuggi act as support system of Mann in the film and their camaraderie has to be seen to be believed. Rahul is a complete package as an actor and wish to see him more frequently on Punjabi Celluloid. 

Gurpreet Ghuggi has shed the tag of a being a just comedian and started to do mature characters. Though, he tickles your funny bones with his witty one liners and frequent banters with Rahul Singh but he also portrays his matured side of a able friend in the movie. 

Dev Singh Gill who has appeared in S.S.Rajamouli's telugu hit Magadheera gets to play the main antagonist in this film. He has perfectly fitted the bill as the devilish and cunning politician Daman who can go to any lengths to become CM of the state. The best part about Dev is his intimidating screen presence which he has utilized to the optimum in the movie. 

Kashish Singh who portrays the character of Manvi makes her presence felt in the movie with her charming act. She looks totally cool while driving mobike and playing the love interest of Harbhajan. 

The musical soundtrack of the film that has been composed by Avishek Majumder, Goldkartz, Rishi Siddharth has all the en-trappings of becoming a chart buster with its varied tracks. The title song "Saadey CM Saab" and "Chup Kar Jaa" are the pick of the lot. A special mention of Raashid Rangrez (Production Designer) and Shabana Khanam (Art Director) for their effective contribution in their respective fields as they both have created the perfect milieu for the characters to play around. Plenty of credit for the tonal correctness of the movie goes to its cinematographer i.e. Sunita Radia. Sunita's camera has ably captured some stunning vistas. The movie has been edited by Protim who has kept the run-time of the movie to 143 minutes. I feel had the movie been more crisper say about at least 10-15 minutes especially in the second half, it would have been much better. As a producer, Sumeet Singh Manchanda has left no stone upturned to make this movie on a lavish scale which is visible during on-screen proceedings. Coming to the captain of the ship i.e. director Vipin Parashar, he has succeeded in making a political thriller whose basic premise is woven around bonds of friendship. Though, there are several messages imbibed in the movie but Vipin has crafted the movie in such a way that it comes across as entertaining and not preachy. Notably, Vipin has captured the exuberance of Punjabi youth through his characters especially Rahul's and Ghuggi's that we can relate to having or seen friends like them. The way Vipin has shot the song "Chup Kar Jaa" is worth applauding. 

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Friday, 20 May 2016

Sarbjit :: Movie Review

Sarbjit helmed by Omung Kumar which portrays the journey of a sister to bring her brother back home from across the border is marred by contrived storytelling and its the earnest performance by Randeep Hooda that elevates the stature of this movie. Sarbjit's story has all the en trappings to make for a heart felt biopic but excessive melodrama and deliberate insertion of typical Bollywood elements spoil the fun. Sarbjit Singh was a Indian farmer living in village Bhikiwind,Punjab who strayed into Pakistan under the influence of alcohol from his village which is located on the border. Pakistan authorities caught him and claimed him to be Manjit Singh, a spy for Indian intelligence agency RAW who has been working undercover in Pakistan. He was tried and convicted by Supreme Court of Pakistan for a series of bomb attacks in Lahore and Faisalabad that occurred in 1990. Sarbjit claimed that he was a farmer who has mistakenly entered Pakistan but after lot of torture he was made to sign a statement claiming that he was Manjit Singh, an Indian spy. His family especially his sister, Dalbir Kaur made persistent efforts and launched a nationwide campaign to prove his innocence. She met top politicians on both sides of the border to secure his release from Pakistani prison. This story has helluva potential to make for an engaging film but unfortunately the makers have not been able to capitalize on the same. Instead of focusing on the intricate details of Sarbjit's life story and ordeal, the film chooses to focus on melodrama offering the audience a screechy and mawkish drama. Since Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been cast as Sarbjit's sister, so most of the screen time has been assigned to her which doesn't help the cause of the film. And, Randeep Hooda who has brilliantly transformed himself as per the character's requirements is seen in bits and pieces. Apart from that, the mediocre script doesn't offer much to the movie's actors other than scream, sulk or cry. What the film offers is the family's struggle, protests, hunger strikes, inept attitude of officials on Indian side and inhuman tortures coupled with Pakistanis baying for Sarbjit's blood on the other side. What further dampens the proceedings is the non linear pattern of storytelling. The film moves back and forth in time quite often giving it a directionless feel. It gives you a feel as if several disjointed scenes have been stitched together which at times have no bearing on each other. I've seen two back to back biopics i.e. Azhar, Sarbjit and both have failed to hit the right chords for somewhat similar reasons. Where as Azhar chose to tell a one sided story from only Azhar's point of view and chose to ignore other characters, Sarbjit chooses to focus only on his sister Dalbir Kaur enacted by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan so much so that even the character of Sarbjit's wife enacted by Richa Chaddha largely remains confined to the background. Moreover, both these biopics have tried to laden the film with typical Bollywood elements which fail to give the biopic that authentic touch. However, one particular scene when Sarbjit's family goes and meets him in prison after decades has been masterfully conceived and is bound to bring tears to your eyes. And, the movie ably raises the question and makes you wonder about the reasons of distrust between India and Pakistan and when and how will this legacy of hatred come to an end. 

The story, screenplay and dialogues of the movie have been penned together by Utkarshini Vashishtha and Rajesh Beri. They have failed to pen down the essence of Sarbjit's inspirational life story. It's truly inspirational that Sarbjit never lost his sanity despite being brutally tortured during his captivity in Pakistan spanning over two decades. And, his sister Dalbir Kaur who valiantly fought to bring him back and in a way dedicated her life for this cause. It's a pity that such inspirational story gets reduced to a emotional melodrama majorly because of its writing flaws. While watching the movie, it comes across as if the movie has been made to invoke the emotions of audience rather than depicting the tragedy. And, the disjointed screenplay adds to the confusion as one moment they talk about tracking the original terrorist who was involved in Lahore blasts based at Canada, next moment you see the same person being caught in Chandigarh. You hear about Human Rights Activists from Canada offering to help Sarbjit but they never come in the picture. It is the inconsistency in the screenplay that takes its toll on the film. The film begins with Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) along with other villagers frantically searching for her brother Sarbjit (Randeep Hooda) in the fields of their native village. Months later, she receives a letter from Pakistan that has been written by Sarbjit. In the letter, Sarbjit has written that how he accidentally crossed the border under the influence of alcohol and was caught by Pakistani patrolling cops. He was tortured for several months and made to sign a statement declaring him as Ranjit Singh, an Indian agent responsible for Lahore blasts. After this, movie moves back and forth in time depicting Dalbir's struggles to prove that her brother is not a terrorist.  A Pakistani lawyer Awais Shaikh (Darshan Kumaar) comes to the aid of Dalbir by taking up Sarbjit's case much to the dislike of fanatics in Pakistan. 

Randeep Hooda is proving to be one of today's best method actor. After his delightful performances in Main Aur Charles, Laal Rang he hits all the right notes as and in Sarabjit. As the film moves back and forth in time, we see Sarbjit growing from a young rural farmer to an aged prisoner and Randeep has portrayed the character brilliantly. The physical transformation that he went through (loosing oodles of weight) for portraying this character is worth applauding. You can literally feel the pain of Sarbjit who is languishing in Pakistani prison courtesy the acting prowess of Randeep. Right from the body language to facial expressions to linguistic skills, Randeep has got everything SPOT-ON. I can't think of any other actor who could have portrayed the character of Sarabjit more aptly than Randeep. He has ably portrayed a character who was on the verge of loosing his sanity. As an actor, Randeep has grown leaps and bounds and i will once again reiterate that Randeep is one of the finest talents around in Bollywood as of today.     

Though Jazba was touted as comeback film of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan but i feel Sarbjit is truly the comeback film of hers. She has delivered one of her finer performances as Dalbir Kaur, sister of Sarbjit. She has enacted the ageing facet of her character with aplomb. It is over the top scenes of her character i.e. shouting, crying at several junctures that act as spoilers, yet she has carried herself well in the movie. She is brilliant in the scene where she looses her baby as she has brilliantly enacted the shocked, numb state of mind in that scene.

Darshan Kumaar once again proves his versatility as an actor by portraying his character to the hilt in Sarbjit. His act as Awais Shaikh, the Pakistani lawyer comes across as very earnest. After Mary Kom & NH 10, Darshan once again nails down his character to pitch perfection. Darshan makes the empathy of his character towards Dalbir & Sarbjit look very natural and convincing.

The musical soundtrack of the movie is quite average despite having been composed by a battery of music directors including Amaal Mallik, Jeet Ganguly, Shail-Pritesh, Tanishk Bagchi & Shashi Shivamm. The cinematography by Kiran Deohans is immensely gratifying as Kiran's camera glides across Sarbjit's inner and outer world searching for a meeting point between two worlds through visuals that suggest an uncomfortable kinship between feelings and their geopolitical counter-point. We often see Sarbjit in situations where his emotional world is manifested in interaction with himself. The movie has been edited by Rajesh Pandey who has kept the run-time to 131 minutes. I feel he could have restricted the run-time by at least 10 minutes. As a director, Omung Kumar has done an average job and has been let down by a weak, disjointed screenplay. Also, he has gone overboard with melodrama which in a way affects the efficacy of a biopic. He has tried to pack too much including jingoism instead of focusing on a straight forward narrative. A couple of emotional scenes have come out well especially the one where Sarbjit's family meets him in prison which is the highlight of the movie.

Sarbjit is a classic case where an inspiring biopic gets reduced to a average melodramatic film because of inconsistent, disjointed storyline and over the top execution. It can be watched once especially by those who like to watch glycerine induced melodramatic tearjerkers. 

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Azhar :: Movie Review

Azhar helmed by Tony D'Souza has turned to be a strictly average Bollywood film which fails to hit the right chords because of its botched up content and unadorned execution.  It's a well known fact that most of Indians are passionate about two things ; Cricket and Bollywood. And, celebrities from both these fields are idolized by many. So, when news of match fixing scandal broke out in 2000 involving Azhar's name, most of the cricket fans were shell shocked. The CBI reports clearly stated that Azhar had confessed of his involvement in the same. Mohammad Azharuddin's life story has all the quintessential elements to make for a engrossing Bollywood drama as he has been one of India's most successful cricket captain whose second marriage was with a Bollywood actress and most importantly was accused of match fixing in lieu of money. So, when a Biopic on Azhar was announced audience was looking forward to know what all happened behind the scenes especially as far as match fixing is concerned. What kind of trauma and pain Azhar went through when those allegations were leveled against him. But, disappointingly the film begins with a long disclaimer clarifying that the film is not a biopic and is just inspired by the life events of Azhar with several cinematic liberties been taken while making the movie. And, this is where the film misses its marquee. What could have turned out to be an engrossing sports drama, gets reduced to the personal life story of Azhar. And, on top of it you get a feeling that the film has been made with an intention to turn all the grey shades of Azhar's character into white. While we were hoping to get an insight on the grey dealings that occur in the name of match fixing, what we get to see is personal story of Mohammad Azharuddin unspool on-screen replete with cinematic cliches and melodrama. Though, there are references to other cricketers but they are too few and far. Also, the film looks like a P.R. exercise of Azhar as it paints him in good light while casting aspersions on characters of his fellow cricketers. Manoj Prabhakar has been shown as a cricketer who was not only jealous of Azhar but played for his own vested interests rather than country. To corroborate this the film cites an example of India-West Indies match where Manoj made a century but his slower batting rate cost India that match. It shows Ravi Shastri as a womanizer. The film shows how some senior cricketers were unhappy when Azhar was made captain of Indian cricket team. It also shows that some fellow cricketers like Navjot Sidhu and Kapil Dev refused to come in support of Azhar when match fixing allegations were leveled against him. The film also in a way justifies the fact that he cheated on his first wife, Naureen portrayed by Prachi Desai as he fell in love with a popular film actress,Sangeeta Bijlani portrayed by Nargis Fakhri. Though, when Sangeeta meets Azhar in the film she clearly states that she follows two rules ; never date a cricketer or a married man. And, two scenes later she is seen romancing a man who is both cricketer as well as married. Right from the courtroom scenes to the matches, everything lacks excitement. The film could have managed to create a curiosity with respect to the courtroom scenes especially the judgement in match fixing case but the way writers etch out the character of Azhar as a man with good traits, you can always guess what is going to be the outcome. In short, what could have turned out to be a exciting, controversial entertainer turns out to be a ordinary flick revolving around the goodness of its protagonist. 

The story, screenplay and dialogues of the movie have been penned down by Rajat Arora. Rajat has mostly concentrated on sketching out the personal details of the film's protagonist and not focused much on the controversies. When the film opens up with Manoj Prabhakar doing a sting operation on the cricketers, you get a feel that something exciting is going to follow and skeletons will start tumbling out of the closet but alias! it never happens. He has painted the protagonist of the movie as pristine as white.  In a cricket movie, you have a urge to see what all goes inside the players room and what other fellow players of Azhar were like but they are merely reduced as sidekicks. The film in a way justifies whatever Azhar does and portrays him as so righteous that he could never be involved in match fixing. In the process, film fails to etch out the characters of others around him. On top of it, the film follows a non linear pattern of storytelling which keeps shifting from 1980s to early 2000s which leaves you a tad confused at times.  The film begins with Azhar (Emraan Hashmi) completing his 99th Test match. Meanwhile, a jealous fellow cricketer Manoj carries out a sting operation involving Azhar in a match fixing scandal. We start hearing names like Hansie Cronje, M K Sharma (Rajesh Sharma) and others who are involved in the scandal. Azhar's life is tormented as overnight he is branded as a traitor instead of Hero. B.C.C.I. imposes a ban on him from playing cricket. He decides to fight his case in court and hires his childhood friend, Reddy (Kunaal Roy Kapur) as his lawyer. He starts narrating his life's journey to Reddy and a flashback ensues. Right from his childhood, Azhar was a introvert and his maternal grandfather (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) instills confidence in him to play cricket and nurtures a dream to see Azhar play 100 test matches for India. Azhar gets selected in Indian cricket team and scores three successive centuries on his debut in International cricket. He goes for an arranged marriage with Naureen (Prachi Desai). He is appointed captain of cricket team much to dislike of some senior players. His paths cross with gorgeous actress Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri) and they fall in love. The introvert Azhar undergoes a transformation and becomes more suave wearing expensive watches. Azhar even dedicates one of his awards to Sangeeta making his love for her come out in open domain. The court case begins where the prosecution lawyer is Meera (Lara Dutta) who was once an ardent Azhar fan. 

Emraan Hashmi has delivered an earnest performance as Mohammad Azharuddin in the movie. Though, his looks are not that familiar to that of Azhar but he has certainly caught up with some of his mannerisms. His body language, walking style are reminiscent to that of Azhar. It is definitely quite different from what we have seen of Emraan Hashmi, lately. He is at his usual best while romancing both Prachi as well as Nargis including his famous trademark lip-lock scenes. 

Prachi Desai has done an outstanding job while portraying the character of Naureen, Azhar's first wife. Prachi has put her heart and soul into the character of this simpleton woman. She is a treat to watch in the scene where she confronts Azhar and reminds him that it was she who stood by him during his struggling days and not Sangeeta. 

Nargis Fakhri does an average job as Sangeeta in the movie. She is good as far as glamor quotient of the movie is concerned but when it comes to acting, she has a long way to go. 

Kunaal Roy Kapur has come up with effective performance as Azhar's buddy as well as Lawyer, Reddy. So has Lara Dutta as the prosecution lawyer who wants to get Azhar convicted. Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Gautam Gulati, Rajesh Sharma, Manjot Singh have played their parts well. 

The musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by Pritam, Amaal Mallik & DJ Chetas is good. The cinematographer of the movie is Rakesh Singh who has done a swell job at capturing visuals. He has captured the outdoor locales of London as well as Hyderabad with aplomb. The movie has been edited by Dev Jadhav who has kept the run-time of movie to 131 minutes. As a director, Tony D'Souza has failed to capitalize on the story of Mohammad Azharuddin. Tony has helmed the movie in a simplistic straight forward way so as make to make his protagonist sound like having no grey areas. Had it been a regular Bollywood movie, it might have worked. But for a biopic and that too on a controversial cricket star embroiled in match fixing, this treatment seems far fetched and fickle. I am writing this because while watching the movie you get a feel that Azhar was the perfect, righteous player in the team while his fellow players had their own respective grey areas. And, when you are watching any sports film you obviously expect to watch some well executed on-field scenes which are missing from the movie.  Moreover, elements of passion, surprise, tension are missing from the film. 

Azhar had the potential to be a gripping controversial sports drama but its botched up content coupled with regular treatment spoils the fun and it ends up being a lame, timid film.         

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