Posts Tagged ‘ Dharma Productions ’

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)

Baar Baar Dekho

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Baar Baar Dekho
Release date: September 9, 2016
Directed by: Nitya Mehra
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif, Sarika, Ram Kapoor, Sayani Gupta, Rohan Joshi, Taaha Shah, Rajit Kapur

Katrina Kaif’s character keeps asserting that there are two kinds of people in the world, drivers and passengers. She says this to infuse into her husband’s confused demeanor, hoping him to finally take the initiative about something in their marital lives. Similarly, there are two kinds of films, ones that tell a story that we all know, and the others that focus on making something relatively new and light on cliches.

Nitya Mehra, self admittedly is fond of cliches. “I did not go out there thinking, “Oh I need to break away from the mould”. That’s what my upbringing has been and I am very inspired by world cinema. I don’t think there is anything wrong in clichés. Clichés exist because they connect with people. So I actually enjoy the clichés. Certain things like love and family, these are all universal and they are not going to be dated with time.” She says all of this here.

I agree with all of it. She takes old moral lessons and a few contemporary themes and weaves them into an ambitious story that bounces back and forth between the now and the very technologically advanced future. The film starts off with the opening credits along with a small montage of how Jay (Sidharth Malhotra) and Diya (Katrina Kaif) grew up together and fell in love. This footage is so well-made that it could have easily been passed off as a Taylor Swift number from late 2000s and early 2010s. Jay grows into a dork who has a thing for math, or “Vedic Maths” and he thinks that a family is expendable. A career isn’t.

Diya wants to make a marriage out of their decades-long romance. And just like in every other modern work of fiction, where a marriage is involved, we get a person questioning their choice of getting locked down with this another person for the rest of their lives. This has become so common, that every TV show, film, web-series, or a goddamned listicle can’t go without it. I’ll be surprised if someone suddenly shows me two very confident people sticking to their decisions.

Here starts the display of angst-ridden, commitment phobia and plain dickery by Jay who badgers the priest (Rajit Kapur) with questions about the “logic” behind all of the ceremonies in a Hindu wedding. I call it dickery, because he chose to be involved in this. He said yes to the proposal of a wedding from his girlfriend, and this isn’t a Christopher Hitchens invitational. His character could have set his foot down on the do’s and the don’ts of the whole affair, but he didn’t. Instead, he despises every part of the long drawn-out matrimonial procession.

There’s a breaking point for this already broken and feeble protagonist where he makes clear that marriage is a big, bad, ugly mistake. Okay, those may not be his exact words and could be mine, but he says something to that effect. Watching Rajit Kapur play that priest also felt like a big, bad, ugly mistake on the casting director’s part. Jay falls into a time spiral where he keeps taking exponential leaps in the future, and he sees how his life could be if he made different choices or stays unbent in his ways. He seeks the priest’s advice and every time Rajit Kapur spews his redundant verbiage about life and morality and blah blah blah, I couldn’t help grimace.

Minor factual inaccuracies pop up, like making people call the sport “soccer” and not “football” in England, and ordering a butter chicken and butter naan and extra butter and not showing it at all!? Where is all that glorious fat and diabetic goodness of butter and chicken gravy and naan, man?

The film needs to be lauded for its depiction of the future, be it 2018, 2023, or 2047. Technological advancements are omnipresent, reminding you of that large, sentient talking screen in Black Mirror. The scale of visuals is commendable, and the constant effort of burdening Sidharth Malhotra with emoting a lot is a bold decision. I opine that he isn’t a poor actor, but then his character is a confused customer. He only sees clarity in mathematical mumbojumbo, which in a way, contributes largely to him having a range of befuddled expressions throughout the emotional parts of the film.

The writing is potent at times, and even ends up developing a story for the supporting cast as well. The lines, not as much. Katrina Kaif, to her credit, in a role where she has to perform a bunch of feelings over and over again, in a recursive fashion, does mighty well. Though, she is incomprehensible in the scenes where she’s asked to cry and recite lines at the same time.

Baar Baar Dekho, with a cheesy name and a somewhat cheesy plot, isn’t particularly grating to watch. Rather, it’s an interesting film for the huge leap it attempts to make in futuristic storytelling. Then again, the protagonist’s resolution and transformation comes in a little too late and isn’t even fulfilling either. A heavier metamorphosis wouldn’t have necessarily helped the cause either, but the agents or harbingers of change are not very credible here.

A little bit more fun, and a little less labored contemplating would have probably made the film crisper.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 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)

Brothers

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Brothers
Release date: August 14, 2015
Directed by: Karan Malhotra
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Jackie Shroff, Sidharth Malhotra, Jacqueline Fernandez, Shefali Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Ashutosh Rana, Kiran Kumar

Amongst the innumerable remakes that spring up in Hindi cinema every year, I can’t hold the remake against the original as a huge chunk of these films are unknown entities for me. I happen to be acquainted well with the film that Brothers is adapted from, i.e. Warriors. The 2011 original was supremely grim, slightly contrived and largely dramatic and ruthless in its handling of  severed bonds and their consequences.

Karan Malhotra willingly waters down every ingredient of the film, to accommodate two excruciatingly grating and intolerably long flashbacks and one of them is, to put it politely, quite useless. David (Akshay Kumar) and Monty (Sidharth Malhotra) are, you guessed it right, brothers. According to the film’s technicalities, foster-brothers, but yeah. The wedge driven between them is drawn by their alcoholic father Gary (Jackie Shroff) who is a former “underground fighter”.

The sons take off individually in their father’s flight and grow up to be… “underground fighters”! David has a family and is therefore forced to lead a more secure lifestyle. His daughter has an ailment which is mentioned verbally thrice in the span of thirty minutes and is almost forgotten thereafter. The film overloads itself with stereotypes and works up a formula for the order of proceedings, and that is how it plays out; emotions before the interval, and all the fighting humdrum after.

To be fair, the original film didn’t boast of being very innovative in the first place, but Brothers just goes on to kill any blemish of innovation or experimentation which could have possibly existed. It bludgeons your intelligence with mediocre storytelling, awful commentating and it thrashes your ears with its jarring background score and the painfully unimaginative soundtrack. The extensive length of the flashbacks rule out adequate screen-time and thus any scope for showing any range for the actors.

Jackie Shroff gets to be around as the bumbling, incoherent drunk and he’s a perfect 8 (8 because the film has obviously lowered its own set of expectations). Jacqueline looks good and talks her own limited Hindi. Who could have thought this would have been an achievement for an actor in a Hindi film! Kumar and Malhotra look their parts and immerse themselves in the often technically unsound action sequences. Kareena Kapoor does a faux striptease.

The film’s climax, which was very emotionally touching to see in Warrior, stands overwrought here as there is no empathy for the two pieces of beef grappling on the screen. You’re asked to feel an ocean of grief and a few more things when they fail to earn any of it.

My rating: *1/2 (1.5 out of 5)

The Lunchbox

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The Lunchbox
Release date: September 20, 2013
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nimrat Kaur, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharati Achrekar, Denzil Smith, Nakul Vaid, Lillete Dubey, Yashvi Puneet Nagar

Delectably assorted tiers of steel boxes, make their way from the homely kitchens to the hustling offices and other workplaces, with the dabbawalas playing the role of the messenger–a regular urban activity, is picked up by Ritesh Batra and he gives vivid roles to all the three parties involved. Where the dabbawala is the inadvertent cupid (in denial) between an unlikely couple.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a modern housewife, in need of validation from her husband Rajiv (Nakul Vaid) She gets the wanted and unwanted advice from the Deshpande Aunty (Bharati Achrekar’s voice) be it cooking or listening to endless cassettes from the 80s and 90s, they do it all together. In a bid to win Rajiv all over again, Ila cooks the most scrumptious meal she has ever cooked yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, rather the receiving end, is Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) a bank employee working for the claims department for the past 35 years, and is about to retire in a month. He’s a widower, who smokes and watches TV while he’s at home in the evening. He doesn’t dole out free smiles either. Two common emotions between these disconnected characters is the longing for a loved one, in the absence or even the presence of that person.

The tiffin packed with the spices and an effervescent letter becomes the ritual and what they bode on are the general changes in Bombay, their personal habits, their fancies. All of it, without seeing each other through the entire film. The actors deliver perfect emotions that resemble intimate moments, even in isolation. Siddiqui plays the enigmatic yet annoying newbie at the bank, Aslam. He keeps pushing Fernandes to the limit only to catch him off guard enjoying his tiffin.

However, as perfect this film appears, I was baffled at the subsided treatment given to the fringe characters, like the co-employees at the bank, thus adding to inconsistencies with Fernandes’s character (with respect to what Aslam says he’s heard from the other guys at the bank). There’s a certain feeling of holding back, the cards seem just a bit too close to the chest. Perhaps more of these flaws get masked by Khan’s crowning realistic acting, Kaur’s timed insecure expression and the sheer delight of receiving yet another letter. If there’s a film about Bombay’s current face and its constant battle with overcoming nostalgia, it cannot be better than The Lunchbox.

Ritesh Batra’s transitions are simplistically captivating. He takes the usual and turns it into fitting devices for the screenplay to forward. Shot on real locations with camerawork that resembles the same innocuous stolen glances which the characters share with the letters exchanged through the lunchbox, Michael Simmonds is impish as he delves into the character’s camaraderie with the same fringe characters, thus making them inclusive again.

I don’t know about Oscar selections or National Awards, but The Lunchbox is as close as a film can get to your heart, even if no one uses a mobile phone in the entire film. It’s just food, Bombay and the memories here.

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

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu Review

ImageEk Main Aur Ekk Tu
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Directed by: Shakun Batra
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Imran Khan, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Ram Kapoor, Manasi Scott.

Las Vegas, one of the most renowned cities for getting laid, broke and married is the place where our protagonists live, with their dreary jobs. Rahul Kapoor (Imran Khan) is an architect brought up to excel in everything that he does, may it be vanity or swimming or both of them simultaneously. His parents are quite a pair of two different humans as well, played by Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah. Rahul is expected to get a gold medal that his dad has been yearning for. The beasts of burden have always haunted Rahul, he stays to be a bland and dull guy who often fumbles with his words.

Rianna Braganza (Kareena Kapoor), a hair stylist by profession is the ubiquitous opposite of Rahul. They both seek psychological help, albeit for different reasons. That is where their paths cross & you start to think it is gonna be another What Happens in Vegas. Yes, they do get married, but they are on terms for its prompt annulment. The journey that ensues is a lot of fun, since they get married on Christmas.

The film creates a bunch of refreshing situations: one where Rahul’s dad’s friend (Ram Kapoor) tries to help Rahul to get a bit ‘loose’, the date with Rahul’s ex-girlfriend. The story passes by at a steady pace in the form of days. Each day has a certain name attached to it. This rom com doesn’t make you cry, and still provides credibility. Peppered with not too imposing music by Amit Trived, the tracks remain hummable and easy to go on.

I wish not to be killed for saying this, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu has a new feel to it. It isn’t mushy nor intolerable. Director Shakun Batra attempts at a safe approach for a debut film, but doesn’t go down the tried and tested path all the time. He serves a dessert, that has a few different ingredients with the usual ones, making it scrumptious to eat while it lasts. Watch it for a delighting experience.

My Rating: ***  (3 out of 5)

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