Archive for August, 2013


Satyagraha_Poster Satyagraha
Release date: August 30, 2013
Directed by: Prakash Jha
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Indraneil Sengupta, Ajay Devgn, Amrita Rao, Kareena Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal, Vipin Sharma, Vinay Apte

Satyagraha, Prakash Jha’s take on corruption and its deep roots in our administration, has a lot to offer. Star power, acting prowess and a country background to evoke sympathy for a topic that is consistently in the headlines are the things already working in its favor.

Manav Raghavendra (Ajay Devgn) is an ambitious youngster with a capitalistic mindset, who is ironically best friends with a socially benevolent bureaucrat in the making Akhilesh Anand (Indraneil Sengupta) whose father is an upright system-bashing retired school teacher Dwarka Anand (Amitabh Bachchan) Quoting cliches and going out on a limb against Manav’s existence, Dwarka drives him out of their home and poor Manav can’t even attend Akhilesh and Sumitra’s (Amrita Rao) wedding. Flash forward a few years down the line and both Akhilesh and Manav are in their desired positions.

Tragedy soon strikes and the Anand family faces the ignominy of paying up bribes for their deserved rights and payments. This is where the premise of an impending revolution is laid, as the promises made by the partisan leader Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) turn out to be void. In the absence of a second-in-command for the awakening, a small time baahubali Arjun (Arjun Rampal) and the returning tycoon Manav offer support. Incorporating the Satyendra Dubey case and the inception and the eventual falling out of the Jan Lokpal committee,

Satyagraha has less to offer on the shock factor, but the focus at how the decisions and the internal conflicts of the members of the committee develops an interesting story. The individual characters’ dilemmas show how possibly the actual Jan Lokpal could have possibly disintegrated. As much as all other of Jha’s recent films are laced with an antagonist with an underlying dumb sense of humor, Balram and his lackeys possess the same traits.

The screenplay is testing at times, the drama starts gripping you around the halfway mark. The best part about Satyagraha though is that all the characters have shades of gray, they commit mistakes and they realize (of course it’s the good guys I’m talking about) there is character growth and a graph which is clearly visible. And as for the actors, they put in great effort to play their parts right. But there’s a certain level of phony air surrounding the film which simply doesn’t let go till the end. Like Bachchan is emaciated right until the climax, but suddenly cuts a different figure at the end. The sound quality of the dialogue is suddenly very low. The extras appear clueless.

Consequently, Satyagraha is a good drama with some usual staple typecasting and unimaginative lines. Not the best film about the concerned topic, surely competitive.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Madras Cafe


Madras Cafe
Release date: August 23, 2013
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: John Abraham, Rashi Khanna, Nargis Fakhri, Siddharth Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Piyush Pandey, Dibang, Ajay Rathnam, Agnello Dias, Leena Maria Paul

First off, on a personal note, I managed to watch Chennai Express (August 8) and Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara (August 16) but owing to connectivity/system issues I couldn’t post complete reviews here. None of it was intentional, trust me I’d have so loved to bash OUATIMD.

The review for Madras Cafe starts here.

Shoojit Sircar’s ambitious docudrama on India’s efforts in Sri Lanka to maintain peace and the strong reactions of the Sri Lankan rebel forces borders more on factual detailing in a slightly fictitious background. Yes, it does takes guts to make a film on real-life incidents in our highly volatile country, but guts don’t necessarily guarantee a good product.

Major Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is an Indian intelligence officer dispatched to Sri Lanka to head Research And Analysis Wing’s covert operations. With the issues that a serviceman has to face in his marital affairs owing to long periods of separation, he arrives in the conflict-hit area of Jaffna. In a cliched laced encounter with Jaya (Nargis Fakhri), Vikram establishes a clunky relationship with her. She is an international journalist out to cover the civil war.

RD (Siddharth Basu) is Singh’s supportive superior operating from India and Bala (Prakash Belawadi) is the shady head of intelligence in Sri Lanka who likes to have his way. Confronted by tricky political decisions and life-endangering predicaments, Vikram is forced to change his approach towards resolving matters. As India’s interference grows in the rebellion army’s actions, an assassination conspiracy is hatched and the impending fate is inevitable.

it is the same path that the makers opt for in the film’s third act which makes for great viewing. A dark end in a culturally and politically neutral narrative is rare to come across, it’s the hesitation in going all the way with using authentic names for historical figures’ that left this viewer with a sour aftertaste. I know this India, where people are increasingly getting offended at the slightest of display of opinions even though they are increasingly getting offensive in public discourse. Yes, this calls for another blog post at another time but I just feel shortchanged a bit. And yes, it was somewhat compensated by the inclusion of Tagore’s “Where the mind is without fear” at the end.

The period setups may not be exactly realistic, yet the performances of the actors are extremely sharp and nuanced. Siddharth Basu in his first outing as an actor keeps you engaged with his confidence and poise, Prakash Belwadi is perhaps the star here. He delves into the aggressive body language and delivers very well. Abraham underplays and Rashi Khanna as his wife Ruby is competent. A gaffe that could potentially lead to disbelief arising in believable situations is that everyone talks in Hindi, even the Sri Lankan biggies, but Nargis Fakhri’s character doesn’t. Intentional or forced, hard to comprehend.

At the crux of it all, Madras Cafe is particularly good for a cautious espionage-thriller. The finale is purely brilliant and simply boosts the film’s flaws convincingly.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

B.A. Pass

B.A. Pass
Release date: August 2, 2013
Directed by: Ajay Bahl
Cast: Shadab Kamal, Shilpa Shukla, Geeta Aggarwal Sharma, Vijay Kaushik, Anula Navlekar, Raveena Singh, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Rajesh Sharma, Happy Ranjit, Deepti Naval

In the setting of urban Delhi, a much known topic of repressed women sexuality and its coming to the fore is cultivated with a haunting feel in the bylanes of a railway colony. B.A. Pass presents the story of a boy who feels cheated by the world around him.

Inspired by Mohan Sikka’s “The Railway Aunty”, director and cinematographer Ajay Bahl’s film has young Mukesh (Shadab Kamal) as the grieving orphan who has two younger siblings to look after. He finds himself relocated to Delhi, fighting poverty, jostling to sustain himself and eventually gets his sisters to live with him. Through a midsummer’s ladies soiree, he’s introduced to Sarika (Shilpa Shukla) the desirable wife of highly placed Railway official, Khanna (Rajesh Sharma)

Mukesh tries to stand on his own feet by getting pamphlets printed endorsing himself as a home-to-home private tutor. Sarika gives him his rites of passage to a sense of authority and financial independence. Hesitatingly, he finds himself in a huddle of middle-aged customers asking for his services to be fine tuned and customized as per their whims and fancies. Life in the shadiest strata isn’t smooth and soon starts getting difficult for our protagonist too.

Heavily lit by hues of neon and lavishly laid out middle-class spaces, Bahl constantly maintains a compelling frame throughout the film. As Dibyendu Bhattacharya’s character describes the city of Delhi as deceptive and heartless, this holds true right till the end. Armed with powerful performers like him and Sharma, the focus doesn’t entirely lie on Shukla and Kamal.  The support cast has individual characters with their own depth and makes it easier to move away from the sex scenes.

The dialogue is restrictive and the few light moments are awkwardly phased out, making them appear forced for viewer gratification. Kamal and Shukla are particularly restrained, perhaps especially instructed to do so in order to refrain from appearing as raunchy or sleazy. Nonetheless, Shukla’s sensuality oozes right from the start only for her character to remain insidious.

The subtle undertones leave you searching for some heavy drama, and the second half serves exactly that with Mukesh’s breakdown and sparring confrontations. The climax may be predictable, but leaves you with a gloomy sense of how the outcasted sections of our society cannot even find solace in law and order amenities and how the moral compromises of the more accepted sections bear life-altering consequences on the less privileged.

B.A. Pass will make you gulp down a lump of vacuum, even if in an underwhelming manner, it makes a lot of right moves in untouched territories.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Chor Chor Super Chor

Chor Chor  Super Chor
Release date: August 2, 2013
Directed by: K. Rajesh
Cast: Deepak Dobriyal, Anshul Kataria, Priya Bathija, Alok Chaturvedi, Brahma Mishra, Jagat Rawat, Anurag Arora, Chandrahas Tiwari, Paru Uma

Chor Chor Super Chor  is a light-hearted comic caper with a few novel ideas thrown in the mix to make the matters more interesting. A bunch of smalltime thieves (self proclaimed ‘artists’) who want to make it big, are now pushed into a different direction altogether.

Ronnie (Anshul Kataria) and Paru (Paru Uma) are counting notes as Munna (Alok Chaturvedi) and Vava (Brahma Mishra) are practicing their skills on mannequins. With ordinary looking characters in ordinary locations, the film  tells a quirky story of a crook-gone-good (if adjective-gone-bad is a thing, then why adjective-gone-good isn’t?) Satbir played by Deepak Dobriyal. He’s a former member of the gang, headed by a sullen Shuklaji (Avtar Sahni)

Looking for jobs, Satbir changes jobs often, no reasons given for that. Neena (Priya Bathija) catches his eye and he is smitten. After a prolonged buildup, the protagonist faces the major conflict. His former accomplices-cum-family members could possibly face public arrest. The point of intermission could perhaps be one of the biggest shockers in recent history, but partly because of the overall lack of the ‘it factor’.

The small gang of thieves manages to pull the entire case into another direction which is something you would have never seen before. The cover-up plan is as innovative as it gets and it’s pulled off quite smartly. Every irrelevant portion is not focused upon and the director decides to pick the slickest of them all and emphasizes on it, notwithstanding a fatal flaw in detailing here you will be charmed. Even though the songs are limited in number, but 2 and a half out of the 3 present seem out of place. Especially the stereotypical ‘get-the-girl-back-with-a-Dev Anand-cap’ is grating and tests your patience.

Chor Chor Super Chor has a fun ending too, yet it under-utilizes the potential of the basic idea and the subplots. The length is pleasing with its 99 minutes duration, making you to expect a more taut attempt at keeping you hooked constantly. Instead the makers choose to go overboard on loading the commercial appeal. Deepak Dobriyal as the guy who’s stuck in between is earnest in his portrayal of Satbir, Jagat Rawat as the struggling don, and Chandrahas Tiwari as the kidnapped businessman heighten the humor with their performances. Kataria is tremendously bad in his role, or perhaps was it the bad dubbing or both of them meshed into a major snowball making the film fall down the hill. We will never know.

The film cannot be categorized as niche, but it is completely entertaining in most parts and surprisingly ingenious with its intermittent plot devices. Also, I’m being generous with the rating for the screenplay’s originality.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

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