Posts Tagged ‘ Sushant Singh Rajput ’

M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story

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M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story
Release date: September 30, 2016
Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anupam Kher, Bhumika Chawla, Rajesh Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani

Growing up, I was quite the anti-establishment/contrarian kid. I opined that the world’s greatest batsman isn’t that. Triple H wasn’t boring in the early 2000s. Shah Rukh Khan isn’t the demigod that he is. One among a long list of such views was that Mahendra Singh Dhoni isn’t all that heroic. Especially, after assuming the captaincy of the Indian team. Sure, he was winning it all, but then he wouldn’t often put himself in the line of fire when the situations demanded. Rather, he would only promote himself up the batting order when things are safer; then came along April 2, 2011, the night of the World Cup Final, and all of my doubts were vanquished by him.

I grew up to realize that Tendulkar definitely is the greatest batsman, Triple H was indeed boring then, and Khan is a demigod. Dhoni played up the order, struck his helicopter shots and won us the cricket world cup, and along the way earned my prized lifelong fandom. M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story builds up to this lovely crescendo, thereby avoiding all mention of the few clouds of controversy that came to surround the franchise he plays for, and is “coincidentally” the vice-president of the team’s holding company, India Cements.

There isn’t much to his initial cricketing abilities, as he’s picked up for wicketkeeping due to his goalkeeping skills in the school’s football team. Post that, there isn’t much either, as he’s shown saying that he likes batting better, and one day, he wows the people around him with his genetically gifted (?) batting display. Without rhyme or reason, Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput) is soon, the best batsman that pre-Jharkhand Bihar has to offer. What’s missing in the technicalities, is made up for by in the way of shifting the focus to the people around him. Be it his hesitatingly supportive parents, the local sport merchandise seller’s belief in getting him sponsorship for a kit, or his friends who pool their savings and take turns to drive all night to help him reach a particular destination.

Dhoni finds supporters in his employers too, reminding one of an era gone by, where people actually cared for others’ aspirations, or even acting as just a gentle source of inspiration. The origins of the Captain Cool monicker attached to the man aren’t established, it’s just the way he is. Sushant Singh Rajput, though, pulls it off excellently, only as he can. His struggles are easy to empathize with, earnest in will, and purely inspiring. Much like Dhoni himself, the state and national hero.

The post intermission half depicts the ascension of the man, and changes in haircut and him filming endorsements at usual intervals. Then, the part of the “The Untold Story” comes in to play, where Priyanka (Disha Patni) comes across a fairly new, yet popular, to the scene MS Dhoni on a certain flight and asks him to get her an autograph from another player. He falls for the whole, “Oh, she doesn’t know me. This is so fresh.” profile, and then there is another romance in quick succession, when he again, to no one’s surprise, falls for another girl who doesn’t recognize him. Women come in only as romantic interests, and their relationships aren’t even different from each other. The other women besides them, Dhoni’s sister (Bhumika Chawla) and a coach’s wife exist only to serve tea, and act as cheer leaders respectively.

With only a single mention of the IPL, and the names of senior players muted in a team meeting, the film hardly scratches below the surface of the news reports that we may have come to read in the past. Some of the real Dhoni’s personal traits, like his wit, his curt replies to media queries, are very well reflected in the reel Dhoni. The film humanizes the most successful Indian cricket captain to a fair extent, when he introspects the state of his life and his railway job, disappointment at missing out a crucial flight, and the loss of a loved one. What the film fails to shed light on, and disappointingly, are his leadership qualities, his instinctive decisions that he has gone to make on the field, and even his dynamics with any of the other cricket team members.

Every time he is in the dressing room, or the hotel, he is always alone. It’s difficult to comprehend if it’s a deliberate attempt to show him as a lone wolf, or just plain cinematic liberties being exercised.

A heavily talented ensemble cast lends much credence to even small parts, right from a school coach, to his co-employees in the railways. Dhoni, the man, epitomizes a lower to middle class family’s character, a small town youth’s growth to a national hero, and a temperament that perfectly spells out a vanilla good boy, with an undying resolve; and these are the only parts Neeraj Pandey seems to concern himself with.

Hardly bold or risque, unlike M.S. Dhoni’s cricketing persona, the film is a good compilation of the greatest hits of the man’s life, until it comes undone towards the end of the second act of the film. Sushant Singh Rajput and the rest of the cast, rise above the decisions of the makers, quite similar to how Mahi, and his teams did, over the years, in spite of the political mess the cricket control boards found themselves in.

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

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

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Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
Release date: April 3, 2015
Directed by: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Neeraj Kabi, Meiyang Chang, Swastika Mukherjee, Pradipto Kumar Chakraborty, Takanori Kikuchi, Mark Bennington, Divya Menon, Arindol Bagchi

Formerly recreated as Rajit Kapoor’s middle aged adaptation is a satyanweshi (seeker of truth), and now brought back as a just-out-of-college youngster Byomkesh, Sushant Singh Rajput perhaps plays a younger personification of the character, who’s probably still to become a truth seeker. This same undercurrent is the constant throughout the film.

The young Byomkesh is approached by Ajit (Anand Tiwari) to solve the case of his missing father. He displays the socially inept mannerisms of the BBC’s Sherlock, and ends up coming across as a complete tool. Byomkesh’s charm isn’t as beguiling as that of a classic noir’s private detective. He isn’t even super-smart at picking up clues, yet he figures out there’s more foulplay to the disappearance than what appears on the surface.

Bakshy begins the search for Ajit’s father and ends up at a boarding house run by Dr. Guha (Neeraj Kabi) where an eclectic assortment of young and old Bengali men are put up. Ajit’s missing father had lived here for a healthy span of time and everyone, right from his paan-addict roommate Ashwinibabu (Arindol Bagchi) to Kanai Dao (Meiyang Chang), is a potential suspect. And similarly, every one of them is quite a quirky character. Puntiraam (Pradipto Kumar Chakraborty) is a domestic help whose hands tremble right until the gory end. Thus showing Dibakar Banerjee’s undying affinity towards detailing.

The same eye for detail, along with Nikos Anditsakis’s masterful cinematography, creates a picturesque composition of scenes and shots in the meticulously recreated Calcutta of the 1940s. The second world war is still on, and the Japanese and Chinese forces are eyeing infiltration on the eastern end of India. The foreigners don’t speak chaste Hindi, they interact in their own languages, unlike the ridiculous expatriates of the older Hindi films who were freakishly good at Hindi. Authenticity of the war period is never compromised even in this fictional universe.

The film is richly textured as almost a Hollywood film with the color palettes in use. There are hardly any real locations and thus there is an abundance of wide shots, often tracked through very long and short distances as well. The film’s dialogue is reminiscent of a bygone era, yet it doesn’t go overboard.

The pace of the film isn’t breakneck, and it is only fit for a story where the makers are going from creating a sense of mystery to making the viewers care to be seated in their chairs to patiently wait for what happened and who’s pulling the strings of a complex mob that’s probably in cahoots with Japanese forces. The mystery seems to be solving at the halfway mark, but our Bakshy, with a unibrow, isn’t the brightest detective in the world currently. There are a bazillion flashbacks to ease the putting-together of the clues for the protagonist and us, but this pattern becomes increasingly intolerable and plodding to watch.

Every suspect gets a special flashback of the clues, and the protagonist is trapped by the antagonists quite a lot more times to make the plot seem like a convoluted mess. The performances of Anand Tiwari and Neeraj Kabi shoulder the film tremendously well. Both of them put up a glowing display of their acting chops. My favorite music composer, Sneha Khanwalkar, collaborates with indie acts and renders a fresh new-age background score and theme to the film, which isn’t necessarily optimized to its complete potential.

The action sequences are limited and slickly choreographed, yet the antagonist never physically grapples with Bakshy. Hence, summing up the general apathy towards the climax of the film. The only silver lining in the survival of the villains and the constant silly pitfalls of the young detective is that this film is probably like a prequel for another film. Banerjee seems to be laying a foundation for a series of adventures and cases to be solved by Byomkesh in the future.

DBB, the film, is just like Sushant’s woefully flawed Byomkesh. Even if it doesn’t grow into another future installment, this film warrants a patient watch for its brave effort.

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

PK

pk-posterPK
Release date: December 19, 2014
Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Aamir Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Saurabh Shukla, Boman Irani, Parikshit Sahni

In the December of 2009, 3 Idiots, the “highest grossing entertainer” of all times released with the same protagonist and the same director at its helm. I would reserve my observations about that film, but the similarities keep soaring in my mind. Of course, the glaring disconnect between the two is the lack of any attention to the supporting characters in PK.

Hirani along with Abhijat Joshi creates his title character as an outsider (Aamir Khan) to India’s belief systems. The outsider doesn’t know how the societies work, what’s acceptable and what’s not. He loses his way out of here and relies on the innumerable human gods for hope and answers because he has no friends and no relatives. Jagat Janani (Anushka Sharma) chances upon PK and decides to help him through her news channel.

The news channel head (Boman Irani) indulges PK with his questions about birth control, and is thoroughly impressed by his “amazing questions”. Groan. Once the film goes down the path of using a TV show as a confrontation between its only self-admitted antagonist–Tapasvi Maharaj (Saurabh Shukla) and the ever inquisitive PK, it all goes downhill.

The dichotomies and differences between the religions present hearty laughs and play out as a continuous gag; turning potentially sensitive situations into perfectly innocuous moments of lovable relativity. The writers go to originality in spurts and come up with a few new devices that turn conventional scenarios around. Unfortunately, these spurts of originality cease at being used to rake up humor and nothing beyond that.

The post-interval part is reluctant at going for an emotional depth and eventually turns out to be manipulative and shallow; where a bomb goes off and there’s no gravitas attached to the scene. It’s just something that you’re supposed to care about, but the characters on the screen underplay it and thus the film chickens out of attaching any strong subtext.

The prolonged climax of the film is insufferable to say the least. It descends into a full blown TV debate between the two aforementioned characters and the interviewees completely hijack the show and the anchor and the producer have absolutely no control over it. Yes, it’s a film and they get cinematic liberties. But I wouldn’t be pointing this out if it was the only thing that was far-fetched. What follows that and ends in a telephonic conversation with Sarfaraz (Sushant Singh Rajput) in Pakistan is outrageously ludicrous.

It’s an all Aamir Khan show here. He shoulders the entire film, not because the other actors are doing a bad job, rather they don’t get to do much. Everyone’s made out to be a sidekick to this Bhojpuri-mouthing great ashternaut (sic) His chaste Bhojpuri makes him endearing and affable, instead of thriving on the usual poor representation of the language in self-righteous Hindi films.

PK is just about a kindhearted blockbuster in its approach, which makes it ironically un-kindhearted and seem more like an insincere crossover between Hrithik Roshan’s Koi Mil Gaya and Paresh Rawal starrer OMG-Oh My God!

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

Shuddh Desi Romance

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Shuddh Desi Romance
Release date: September 6, 2013
Directed by: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Parineeti Chopra, Vaani Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Tarun Vyas

Romantic liaisons are as much a part of the Indian youth’s ordinary lives as much as the internet or mobile phones. Or the lack of public bathrooms all over India. Hey mom & dad, no, I’m not a part of that youth. Also, this same public denial of being in a relationship with someone, is rooted to a conscious mentality which makes us look down upon couples just holding hands or even sitting next to each other.

And there are few, who aren’t shy of the stares and glares, they are just scared of being restricted to just one person for the rest of their lives; or the ones who don’t deem the wedlock to be the be all and end all. You could fit into in any of the above categories, I know I do. To go slightly overboard, the same Indian women who dote on Barney Stinson/Charlie Harper’s flirtatious television persona, have very contradicting double standards in actuality.

Shuddh Desi Romance puts some of the above apprehensions in a tier-2 city (Jaipur) setting with its characters desperately trying to break out of their cultural and traditional limits. Raghuram (Sushant Singh Rajput) is running away from a lot of things: his name, his relationship status, and a fixed job. Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) is independent, speaks out her mind and has trust issues. Tara (Vaani Kapoor) has compromised on her ambitions to get “settled” into a familial discourse.

The three protagonists here depict common dilemmas faced by a major chunk of youngsters all over. It is the same emphasis on the title characters more than the plot that creates interesting dynamics in the otherwise overused love triangle format. Both Raghuram and Gayatri work with Goyal (Rishi Kapoor) and pose as guests at lavish weddings. Thus focusing on the inherent hollowness of grand Indian weddings.

As the emotional conflicts are takeoffs from our ordinary circumstances and so are the lines, Gayatri’s simple “Kya hai?”, Raghuram’s flirtatious “I don’t mind.” and Tara’s relieving “Ek thanda dena” prove to be gems in a situational context. The three have their own defense mechanisms, their own comfort zones and their own vulnerabilities.

SDR doesn’t thrive on being preachy in its conclusion, unlike its promotional posters. Perhaps the film lags in the second half in comparison to the first, but the charm and wit never runs out. Even when an incident of unfaithfulness is encountered, they simply talk it out in a closed room.

There aren’t much stock roles, and that works to the strength of the film. Chopra stands out amongst the lot in her performance, her composure, her grit are both captivating. Rajput is disarming and yet naive at the right moments. The two Kapoors (Not biologically or lawfully related to each other. Yet.) are good foils to the dominating presence of Rajput and Chopra.

More importantly, will Shuddh Desi Romance, with all its favoritism towards live-in relationships, cast a spell on your commitment-obsessed girlfriend or your parents who are insisting you to get married? It may. Or it may not. And that is the whole point here, the makers gradually shift the spotlight from the characters to a basic storyline at the end. It becomes about how two like-minded commitment phobics can mutually coexist.

For me, SDR is an extremely likeable film with a balance of realism and introspection. Extra points for the fresh music score.

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

Kai Po Che!

kai-po-che-posterKai Po Che!
Release date: February 22, 2012
Directed by: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Amit Sadh, Raj Kumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput, Amrita Puri, Muni Jha, Dijvijay Deshmukh

Kai Po Che! is the adaption of Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of My Life. The original book had a lot of real life circumstances involved in it, and Abhishek Kapoor picks and plays with the more entertaining parts.

The plot picks up at a faster speed with the three friends, Omi (Amit Sadh), Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) watching a cricket match and Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) haggling with Ishaan’s father (Muni Jha) for a cheque to sponsor the opening of their own sports good outlet. Ishaan is a talented, yet unaccomplished cricketer who harbours the dream of establishing a sports academy. Govind is the careful, hardworking, money manager who’s pleased to let others take the front seat. The third wheel, Omi, is grounded yet adventurous.

They’re later financed by Omi’s Hindu-extremist uncle and soon the cricket training starts. Ishaan spots a boy wonder and goes out of his way to convince his Muslim sympathetic father. The story then makes use of the 2001 Republic Day earthquake, 2001 Calcutta test between India and Australia, and the Godhra riots. Depicting the individual and collective struggles of the principal parts, Kai Po Che! flies along very well.

Anay Goswamy’s cinematography takes the hustling camaraderie a few notches higher with all the different colour tints. Though the writing gets vague at a few points, the dialogue remains catchy and interesting. The acting prowess of all three leads is tested and witty through the storm. Also, Muni Jha’s character just has only one dimension, which is compensated by Amrita Puri’s bubblepop  yet charming character.

Amit Trivedi’s music employs the local flavor and works it up in his ever-refreshing style, though limited but effective. I guess I’ve actually lost count of the number of times he’s decked up the soundtrack with the relevant state folk. The amount of things working in favour of Kai Po Che! obviously outnumbers the things that don’t.

Only if it had a tinge of more emotion in the narrative, Kai Po Che! would have made for a more touching tale. Nevertheless, it is aesthetically and endearingly brilliant.

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

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