Posts Tagged ‘ Alia Bhatt ’

Dear Zindagi

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Dear Zindagi
Release date: November 25, 2016
Directed by: Gauri Shinde
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Yashaswini Dayama, Ira Dubey, Shah Rukh Khan, Angad Bedi, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar

In one of the myriad marketing campaigns before its release, the film’s protagonist Kaira’s character was pushed as a ‘verified’ profile on a dating mobile application. All with a descriptive bio about her profession, likes and pet peeves, and pretty stills of Alia Bhatt from Dear Zindagi. Perhaps, in a bid to humanize her on-screen persona, unlike the “heroines” of the past, where a constant effort was made to sanitize and idolize the woman, as an object of desire and worship.

Gauri Shinde’s Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is a cinematographer with fluttering romantic interests, and a remarkable ability to disconnect from these men when they tend to get “serious”. After one of her another shocking departures from a dishy manbun sporting Raghavendra (Kunal Kapoor), Jackie (a charming Yashaswini Dayama) lectures her in an inebriated stupor on how he was the ideal ‘match’ for her. Creating a verbal checklist of qualities that she saw in him, only 2% of the world’s population is good-looking, why would Kaira want to give up on someone who’s in that precious creamy layer.

Of course, Kaira doesn’t have definite answers for her actions, her reasons still unfounded. After being on a momentary career high, things come crashing down for her, thus forcing her to get back to her parents in Goa. Her friends call her the world’s only person who’s averse to the idea of a trip to this Indian beach-haven. Once there, she is faced with exaggerated shaming and cornered into submitting into a wedlock, she continues to act out like a rebelling teenager and a part disgusted young, rich adult. Texts filled with hate, multiple exclamation marks, she types and backspaces before hitting the send button; bottling all her angst for an ex, a landlord, and another ex.

Faced with sleepless nights, she chances upon a gig for a family acquaintance’s hotel, that’s coincidentally hosting a mental health awareness summit. As she waits for the summit to end, she makes light of the serious medicinal jargon being spewn inside. Enters Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) in his torn jeans and a scoop-neck t-shirt under his hoodie. Fascinated by his ‘different’ approach towards the business of secrecy and whispers around Rorschach tests, Kaira decides to start seeing him for therapy.

After an elaborate build-up, commences the most fulfilling and, simultaneously, cliche sequence of therapy where Khan repeats lines that we may have come across in TV shows, novels, and even agony-aunt columns in newspapers/magazines. But then, it hasn’t ever been Shah Rukh Khan telling us why we need to date people, opting out of very complex situations, and not letting our past blackmail our present into ruining our future, the pulp of Indian Uncle Whatsapp forwards. His character’s wit still subdued from that of his personal and public high-standards, yet as mature as a wise and accomplished fifty one year old.

Kaira’s development from flagging off her sessions by the classic “I’m asking this for a friend.” and evolving into letting off details of her anxieties and insecurities, slowly, is the fruit of Khan’s casual approach to his job. Not sure how many real shrinks would take their patients on long walks on the beaches of Goa; though, a comfortably-dressed Khan playing Kabaddi with the waves is endearing. The grandeur of a superstar doesn’t take away sheen from what is Alia Bhatt’s virtual diary. After Udta Punjab, she is back to playing a rich-kid, albeit with an underlying professional ambition, to reduce the shine from her character’s economical affluence, only slightly.

She settles into the skin of Kaira, a frustratingly confused millennial, haunted by a fear of abandonment from deep-rooted emotional upheavals. Her character’s journey is complete with a graph of metamorphosis, a little too good to be true, and a song-and-dance flourish to top off the film with a traditional cherry, when it consistently takes the path of being “off-beat”, where even the cliffhanging point of an intermission is also punctuated by a lack of any real conflict.

A trade-off between commercial filmmaking and a settled indie approach is thus achieved. The chopping of the loose flab of commercial celluloid cellulite could have easily rendered a tauter, and an equally relevant film about mental health issues, and the stigma attached to it, in a Hindi film universe, where we still continue to portray mental asylums as either pits of hell filled with delinquents possessed by spirits, or just sparingly exploited for comic relief.

In a society that continuously awards a person who shuts the lid on their vulnerabilities, Dear Zindagi asks us to be accepting of our life’s miseries as openly as we put ourselves out there in a dating pool with billions of other people, hoping to be that one snowflake who captures the imagination of the most right-swipes.

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

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Release date: October 28, 2016
Directed by: Karan Johar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Lisa Haydon, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Imran Abbas, Fawad Khan

When he’s not making films, in recent years, Karan Johar maintains a certain visibility all around you throughout the year. Be it a dance reality show, a pan-India talent hunt, his own talk show, promoting others’ films on more reality shows and on social media. Even now, as I type this, there’s a marathon of reruns of his talk show’s last season to build up hype for the upcoming new season. The man is literally omnipresent, just like your Gods.

He’s gone on to point out the flaws in his earlier films, and in his last directorial outing as well. He’s also confessed to yanking out the last tear drop out of his viewers’ eyes with his films. In his first film, he fiddled with love and friendship, he placed them together when Rahul says, “Pyaar dosti hai” (Love is friendship) and ironically, casually goes on to dismiss his good friend’s advances for another girl he’s hardly as good of a friend with. In his second, the comparatively smaller set of main and ensemble cast and scale grew in multiples of tens and hundreds, and yet here, another Rahul dismisses a Naina who loves him. Going on to, ugh, ‘friend-zone’ her.

His cast grew even bigger in numbers with his high school musical, and he played around with similar themes. This time around, he has a very small set of characters. Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) lay their eyes on each other in a nightclub in London, and proceed to make out, but it doesn’t quite work out and they end up spending the night traversing through different bars around the city and indulging in conversation about anything and everything in between. In an indie film-ish fashion, the film centers heavily around the two of them. They become a part of a complete song-and-dance number in a pub, and yet, go on to poke fun at how actors can dance on mountain tops in sub-zero temperatures. Mind, these are some of the film’s most enjoyable minutes.

Ayan develops feelings of love out of a rapidly growing friendship with Alizeh, but she insists that she values the friendship more than the ephemeral nature of a relationship based on physical attraction to him. She has a tattoo of an ex-boyfriend’s name on her wrist, and points to him as a weakness. She continues to associate a sense of vulnerability to the whole business of love. Things don’t work out how Ayan wants them to, and ends up blocking her on his phone for three months post her wedding.

All through the courtship, the conversations are laced with colloquialisms, informal, and refreshing, sometimes falling back on some cliched moments, but infused with character by their portrayals. The excessive Karan Johar self-referencing seems little too forced even when the protagonists claim to be big fans of Hindi films. Also, the little bit of background music created especially for Lisa Haydon’s character, reminds you of the whole “Miss Braganza” jingle from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. This isn’t pleasant nostalgia.

Soon, enters Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), an Urdu poetess who obviously mouths some heavy lines in the language. Her dynamic with Ayan is entirely different. She insists that they let the silences and their eyes do the talking. Alizeh wished on being her lover’s zaroorat (need) and not aadat (habit), Saba is quite the opposite, traditional relationships are passe for her. Both of these women are categorically different, and explore different sides of the same man. Alizeh recounts how she was dealt a child out of a troller, while Saba faced a different man. Their first, and only, interaction with each other, is subtle and dramatic at the same time.

The unending conflict of the film is unrequited love, and the complexities around it. A subject which may involve stalking, physical assault and maybe even an acid attack if the “lover” is too jilted (read as: stupid and destructive). Johar does away with the ugliness of it all, and rather focuses the gaze of the camera on the glossy details. The principal characters are also noticeably self-aware, and even self-deprecating. When Alizeh asks Ayan what kind of rich he is, Johar makes him say that he’s outrageously rich. Saba is nonchalantly accepting of the criticism that her literary works are handed out. Alizeh dismissively shuts off Ayan every time he goes over the top, very cute!

The ladies are interestingly written, even though I can’t recall what Anushka Sharma’s profession is in the film. Right from her arrival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan holds you by the collar, and playfully fidgets with your shirt buttons, until you sweat bullets and run out of tissues. On the other hand, Ranbir Kapoor is doing the whole man-child shtick for the fourth time in as many years. He acts well, and is probably even the best at being the overgrown version of an irritating teenager. The film is unapologetically glamorous; reflecting Johar’s self-confessed affection for showing good looking people dressed in designer clothes, and still makes them appear empathetic.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil doesn’t yank out your soul. At the best, it warrants not more than three cries, and that count doesn’t include the climax of the film, at all. AT ALL. With only one proper choreographed dance routine for the stellar soundtrack, the run time of the film remains well-paced for two thirds of the film.

After 155 minutes in the cinema hall, Karan Johar doesn’t leave you with a moral commentary on Indian familial values, or a grim tale of unrequited love. Instead, he’s delivered an enjoyable film with an underbaked final act that leaves you entertained, even though slightly shorthanded. It’s official, KJo is drifting away from his usual style and it’s gonna take him and us both some time to deal with this. ADHM still has the magical mix of his trademark storytelling with conviction combined with magical music going for it.

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

Udta Punjab

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Udta Punjab
Release date: June 17, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Manav Vij, Suhail Nayyar

On the Pakistani side of the Punjab-Pakistan border, a discus throw athlete is brought along to catapult a package of “brown powder” into a farm field in Punjab. On the Indian end, another athlete of her own merit chances upon this thrown contraband while she works as a farmer. The state of non-cricket playing athletes bares stark similarities on both sides of the Line of Control.

A heavily-tattooed pop star glorifies the use of substances, like his western and other global counterparts have done for decades now. He doesn’t have a damaged past that forced him into drug abuse, heck, he had a glorious past. But the life expectancy of all that early glory makes him obsessed with his own cock, figuratively and literally.

A young kid, from a presumably healthy household, starts using just because the drug is too accessible and all his friends are doing it. Another addict is turned into one by brute force and sheer fatality.

A junior police inspector questions his senior if they are also going to turn into powerless bystanders to the Mexican drug mafia like contagion of the Punjabi drug nexus, to which the latter throws open a public display of authority by faking to seize a large consignment of the popular poison, and let’s the carrier of the said consignment get away after grabbing more money and lashing out a few slaps.

These are the central characters of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Kareena Kapoor’s public helping Dr. Preet Sahni is a collateral to the thoroughly set-in system. There is hardly any glorification, or a positive sentiment attached to the depiction of drug consumption here, and that should give away the intent of the makers. The film keeps bouncing between a dark comedy and grim introspections of the central characters.

The protagonists lead their separate lives, constantly a part of the narcotic environment, where the number of enablers is shockingly high. A political under current runs along the narrative of the film, which isn’t set as the central plot of the film, and it isn’t even treated so. The film doesn’t even finish with a grand exposé to unmask the bad guys disguised as ghosts at the hands of Scooby Doo, or Jackie Chan.

In one slightly contrived romantic moment, Dr Sahni says to Sub Inspector Sartaj (Diljit Dosanjh), there are two wars against drugs going on. The first one is the obvious one, and the second one is the one that people around us are constantly fighting. The urge to have that another hit of their choice of drug. She helps young kids and adults get out of the circle at her rehab center.

Udta Punjab, the film concentrates more on its characters to tell a story of a larger problem. Therefore it focuses more on their individual journeys and how they fall in and out of cocaine/heroin. Amit Trivedi’s powerful music is always mixed with story progression, thereby cutting off some of the most memorable work that he’s done in recent times. Da Da Dasse, Chitta Ve, Has Nach Le and Ikk Kudi are given some footage, whereas Ud Da Punjab and Vadeeya hardly get to be heard.

Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have woven Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry masterfully with a track in the film. Shahid Kapoor as the erratic, and eccentric Tommy Singh, the Gabru MAN, is an eclectic mix of lunacy, and joy. He is the comic relief, and the emotional conditioner, with his one sequence with his uncle just before the halfway mark. The limp in his walk, the slow motion mic throw at one of his audience members, the trembling of his fingers with a gun in his hand, Kapoor owns his character completely.

While Kapoor is supported by Satish Kaushik and Suhail Nayyar in his performance, Diljit shows an earnest spirit with his Sartaj. Even he is supported by a pleasantly vanilla real world snow-white princess like Kareena Kapoor and Manav Vij as the vindictive senior police officer. Alia Bhatt on the other hand, has a deglamorized appearance as compared to the rest of the cast, and perhaps the most complex part of them all. Entrusted with the most heartbreaking character arc, and a particularly very disturbing sequence, Alia pulls off the Bihari accent with a twang and grounds Tommy’s hedonistic ego in the only scene that they share.

Sure, there are kinks with the slightly overlong political angle, but Udta Punjab is so relentless that there are moments where you would want to laugh like a hyena, and yet can’t get yourself to do it because the said moment is very painful at the same time. To inspire humor and sadness, and empathy in the same breath is the greatest achievement of this film.

Screw the censor board.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 & 1/2 out of 5)

Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)

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Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)
Release date: March 18, 2016
Directed by: Shakun Batra
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt

In the myriad of films that revolve around familial relationships, drops another flick about dysfunctional dynamics and the chaos that they can bring along. Last year, it was Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Dowhich was all about loving your family, albeit on a heavily fashionable cruise somewhere in Europe; Shakun Batra’s Kapoors are tucked in cozily in their mounded house in Coonoor. The Kapoors share plenty of similarities with other filmy clans, they’re good looking, charming, probably even good at sport! That’s where the similarities seem to end.

The family patriarch is a dirty grandpa (Rishi Kapoor) who practises falling dead at a dining table. He still harbors fantasies of skinny dipping into the ocean with attractive women beside him. An aggravated heart condition puts him in a hospital bed and the news is communicated to his two grandsons, Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), both of whom have relocated to different parts of the world with a common underlying ambition. With prosthetic makeup on, Rishi Kapoor’s Daadu is the center of action and attention, as he expresses few of his “dying wishes”. One of those wishes is to capture all of his family in a happy picture.

There’s pent up tension manifesting in fights and confrontations between every possible pair of characters, be it Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah) and her husband Harsh (Rajat Kapoor), or just the brothers, or Sunita and either of her sons. As frequent as the throwing of objects and abuses is, equally frequent are the apologies and ironing out of differences. Above all, there’s an overbearing theme of acceptance. Arjun strives to gain the acceptance of his parents as he’s always been the lesser of the two sons. Rahul seeks a nod of approval for settling down with the person that he loves. Suneeta struggles to acknowledge her sons’ decisions and her husband’s indifference.

All of this emotional heavy lifting and drama is eased in after creating a universe where the characters grow on you through hilarious exchanges between the main cast and light fringe characters, and amongst themselves. The humor borders on adult content, surprisingly, yet rarely coming across as too desperate. A lot of this humor is sucked out of the narrative in the post-intermission half. Alia Bhatt’s Tia isn’t always kept as a major player, and as the screenplay goes, it’s refreshing to see the “love interest” angle be sidelined. She’s smart, funny, and never too stuck up. Rahul and Tia’s cool make up for Arjun and Suneeta’s sentimental hotheadedness.

Fawad Khan has a slightly bulging waistline and suddenly I am no longer ashamed about mine. His character is the refined, vanilla good boy and gosh, he’s adeptly well-equipped at that. Shah and Kapoor, work well off each other, with their constant bickering and brief moments of affection. Rishi Kapoor holds it all together with his part-poised-part-boisterous Daadu. He is offensive, and an ardent Mandakini with a big mouth on him.

Unlike earlier filmy families of the past, where you’d be just amazed at the scale of the personal choppers, handbags, car sizes, Shakun Batra’s family drama is a blessing. They don’t even immediately fix the big dent on the rundown car after a minor accident! Nothing is sugarcoated, no silly aashirwaads and a hundred aartis; just some fists thrown at each other, a few smokes shared in dark nights and a healthy dose of realistic issues and a moving depiction of entertaining events.

Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921), as one of the characters mouth in the film, is all about giving an ending to the viewers that we all can’t seem to achieve, but an end that we all want.

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

Not Exactly a Highway Review

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Highway
Release date: February 21, 2014
Directed by: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Randeep Hooda

This isn’t an outright review of Highway. Then why have I started this post just like a review? Because that’s how I wanted it to be. In this absurd sabbatical of sorts, I’ve seen Hasee Toh Phasee and Gunday. HTP was an incredibly enjoyable film and Parineeti Chopra surely showed off all her talents. Then Gunday had so much promise even for a slambang masala entertainer, but it didn’t live up to it.

Why am I writing about other films in a post about Highway? Just to let my all-so-important opinions stay etched here, if either of those two films gets featured on the Best100 or Worst100.

Imtiaz Ali’s films, except for Jab We Met, have left me disappointed. I always witness a graph, a potential for greatness, but the eventual mishmash of umpteen ingredients has left me slighted every time. Entering the cinema hall for Highway had me on the fringe already, I wasn’t expecting a completely perfect film at all.

So Highway starts off with footage from a personal wedding videotape, Veera (Alia Bhatt) is about to get married. From one influential family to the other, that’s how she feels about her marriage. She asks her fiance to take her out for a secret drive. She wants to breathe in the country. During their ride back home, at a petrol pump, she ends up getting tagged along with [kidnapped by] Mahabeer Bhati (Randeep Hooda) and his gang.

Mahabeer has unknowingly picked her up. Like a true Jat (or more like an internetphile defending all his self-righteous views), he defends his mistake. His first mark is that of a hardened criminal who is remorseless and unflinching in even firing a bullet just to make a point. Mahabeer and Veera are different like chalk and cheese. But even chalk and cheese are connected by a thin lineage of calcium and its compounds. Calcium here is a central theme of trauma.

Highway uses the Stockholm Syndrome gimmick only to an extent. There is a reciprocation of those feelings by the captor here. Alia’s character is given the Manic Pixie Dream Girl treatment initially, but thankfully her character shows some purpose and a sense of importance eventually. I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of any song-dance numbers in the first half of the film. Running just about an hour, the before-interval is extremely taut.

Veera’s confession of her demons and fears didn’t evoke the expected emotions from me, as she keeps doing shocking 180 degree turns, coming off as unstable and unsettled. Which was then resolved by the scene where she says to him, “Jahaan se tum mujhe laaye ho main wahaan vaapas nahin jaanaa chaahti. Jahaan bhi le jaa rahe ho wahaan pahunchna nahi chaahti. Par ye raasta, ye bahut achcha hai, main chaahti hun ki ye raasta kabhi khatam na ho.” –this was the point where she emits clarity. From this point onward, it was all Alia for me.

A common complaint that I have with almost 90 per cent of love stories in cinema, to which Silver Linings Playbook is a rare exception, is that the said love between the characters isn’t allowed to flourish, nurture or grow. And I noticed this complaint being raised against Highway as well, to which I strongly disagree. The latent attraction here between the protagonists isn’t physical, it doesn’t harbor on sex slavery, it’s just simple. Simply human. Veera talks to Mahabeer like no one else ever has. No matter how disturbing it may be for him, it captivates him nonetheless.

The use of montages to create a backstory or sympathy at times comes off jarring at first, but the final one, with Veera and Mahabeer’s pasts striding down the hills together is purely moving. The visual imagery of the Himalayas, the barren deserts, and the infinite roads is awe-inspiring, Anil Mehta finely captures them along with Randeep’s scruffy appearance and Alia’s complexity.

For me, what matters more in a film is its ability to make you weep/wail or even just feel a lump in your throat than its ability to make you smile. Unquestionably, making viewers laugh is a Herculean task in itself, and making them cry might even be easier owing to their lowered inhibitions in the darkness of a cinema hall. Highway did both the things for me. Even in a moment where you’re supposed to cry, you won’t help smiling (re: final shot of the film). Again, this wasn’t purely a review. Don’t piss on me if I’ve divulged any vital plot points inadvertently.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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