Archive for category Hindi – Bollywood Movie Reviews

Bajirao Mastani – Movie Review

Scattered among pomp and circumstance, palaces and palkhins, jewels and rose petals, is a romantic tale of love and loss, religious disharmony and scenes of gruesome military battles, excellent dialogs and typical Bollywood songs. But lest you are expecting a historical saga, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film does not deliver much of history.  In fact, Shiv Sena took a huge objection to “distorting of facts” including of Bajirao dancing to the Bollywood song “Vaat Lavli” and they appealed to hold the release until some scenes were cut from the movie, to no avail.

 Jumping off of the historical character, the film focuses on Peshwa Bajirao Ballad (Ranveer Singh), a brave warrior of the 18th century Maratha regime, and his relationship with the warrior princess Mastani, (Deepika Padukone).  History attests to the fact that Bajirao’s second wife Mastani never found acceptance in her new home because she had a Muslim mother, and her chief opponent was Bajirao’s widowed mother (played by Tanvi Azmi).  

Lest we are too quick to judge that despite his rock solid relationship with his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra), Bajirao not only fell in love but exchanged oath of marriage with Mastani, marriages with several women were not uncommon among the 18th century royals.  (Also as per historical facts, Mastani did not just come on her own seeking the love of a man who had touched her heart, but instead was promised in marriage, by her father to Bajirao, as his appreciation for the help Bajirao gave in saving his kingdom).  Mastani was a brave and courageous woman in her own right and her dialogues “मस्तानी ने अपनी तक़दीर खुद लिखी है”, “इश्क़ की इबादत के लिए इजाजत की जरुरत नहीं है” and tongue in cheek response to her mother-in-law sending her Ghunghroo to establish her reputation as a courtesan “हमें तो आपकी हर चीज़ अज़ीज़ है, चाहे घुंघरू हो या आपका बेटा” do great justice to her character.   

Religious tolerance and acceptance had also existed and relationships existed between Hindu and Muslim families.  Emperor Akbar’s marriage to Jodhabai and also Mastani’s own Musalman mother’s marriage to her Rajput father (and the mother’s willingness to become sati on the funeral pyre with other women of her husband’s janana, if he would be killed in a battle), are examples of such relationships.  However, as Moghal kingdom’s differential treatment of Hindu subjects and their ambitions were on the rise, Hindu kings also aspired to unite and consolidate a Hindu India.  It is unfortunate that women not only bear the brunt of communal divisions, religious discord, and prejudices but often do so at the hands of other women, a fact that still rings true today..

Overall, I give an A+ for the dialogues “हमने मस्तानीसे महोबत की है, अईयाशी नहीं”, जो महबूब को देखे और खुदा को भूल जाये वोह है इश्क़”, “पराये से क्या शिकायल करनी, घाव तो अपने के चुभते है “, “अगर हमने उन्हें जाते हुए देख लिया तो हमारी जान भी चली जाएगी उनके साथ “, “हम देखना चाहते है दिल्ली के तख़्त पर मराठा का लहराता ध्वज”.  Kudos to script and dialog writers, Nagnath S. Inamdar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and Prakash Kapadia.  But in the end, Bajirao is not a phenomenal historical story as it could have been, but yet another Bollywood film in the mold of  lovers being kept away by villains.  I rate the movie as 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.  This is a movie that you will enjoy, if you go in with the right expectations.      


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“Dum Laga Ke Haisha” – Bollywood Movie Review

Dum Laga Ke Haisha is a beautiful romantic comedy that offers the laughs amid touching, tender moments, as a young couple, forced into a marriage by the family elders, tries to find what is in their own heart, and in the process finds a way to each other’s heart.  Brilliantly written and directed by Sharat Katariya, the scenes flow seamlessly, without appearing excessive or contrived.

Insecure young man, Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) has nurtured his own version of a perfect life partner, a beautiful slim girl.  His family, led by his overbearing father (Sanjay Mishra), chooses a girl for him, based on reasons that are purely practical.  An educated girl from a good family would help uplift the family economically by bringing in an extra source of income.  After all, Prem is deemed a failure by his father.  Their attention is drawn to Sandhya Tiwari (Bhumi Pednekar), who is educated and aspires to be a teacher.  Sandhya is also plump but then looks are often relegated to the least useful category, when arranging a marriage.  

Tiwaris and Vermas get together, through an intermediary, and arrange a marriage between their children, Prem and Sandhya.  Prem throws a fit and refuses to marry a girl who is plump.  His father scorns his lack of educational success and admonishes him that he is no better, “dasvi to nikal na paya, juhi chawla ke sapne dekh raha hai”.   In the end, the unwilling groom is compelled to acquiesce to the marriage.  Thus begins an awkward relationship, between a reluctant husband who despises being forced into the marriage and the girl who dreamed of love.  Prem laments to his friends “mere ghodu baap ne zindagi barbad kar di meri” and later resolves, “mein kuch karunga aur apna astitv banaunga”.

Sandhya is educated and has plenty of spunk.  When she found her husband mocking her in public, she leaves Prem and his family, and files for divorce.  The clever girl, appropriately defines the problem for the judge, “ji prem ka vivah tha sandhya ke saath, lekin prem to tha hi nahin”.  As the bitterness between the couple has reached the breaking point, much to the chagrin of the families, the couple is forced to look for deeper, more lasting meaning of love.  After all beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and sometimes, in the well groomed muscles, as you will find out :).  

It is a fun, light-hearted comedy.  Khuraana and Pednekar are fantastic, in their roles.  Their life appears to evolve naturally, without feeling contrived.  I rate the movie 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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“Bahubali: The Beginning”- Bollywood Movie Review

Director S. S. Rajamouli’s “Bahubali: The Beginning” is first part of two part series.   Shot simultaneously in Tamil and Telugu, and released in a dubbed Hindi version, overseen by producer/director Karan Johar, it is a Bollywood version of Hercules/ Superman movie.  South Indian actor, Prabhas, as Bahubali, with his sheer muscular physicality, can single handedly fight armies, while defending the helpless, whereas the gentler side in him is moved to lift a two ton Shiva lingam out of the earth and bring and position it under the waterfall, so his mother can fulfill her oath of pouring water over it 116 times.

In the history of Indian cinema, Bahubali, with a budget of reported $40 million, is the most expensive production, to date.  Post release marketing has also been extensive.  Bahubali boasts the largest film poster in the world (a 50,000 square-foot billboard in Kochi).  Now Bahubali is expected to break box office records in India and around the world.  

Believed to be orphaned as an infant, Bahubali miraculously survives a murder plot, and is found by a local village woman, who raises him, as her son.  Growing up, Bahubali is pulled by the lure of the mountains that surround the village.  Despite his mother’s admonitions, he keeps attempting to scale the high mountains ,and finally succeeds.  High up, near the clouds, he meets the love of his life, Avanthika (Tamannaah) who belongs to a rebel group, seeking to overthrow a kingdom that is wrongfully usurped by its current king, and rescue the queen, who is held prisoner.  Bahubali proclaims his love for Avanthika and promises to take on her cause.  Bahubali is then called to fulfill more duties, than he might have bargained for, and the adventure will continue in part 2.

I rate this movie as 3.8 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being excellent.  It has action galore.


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Bajrangi Bhaijaan – Bollywood Movie Review

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – Bollywood Movie Review

Director Kabir Khan’s “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” is a feel-good movie, a fairytale of sorts, where the audience is moved to overlook its many flaws, in pursuit of its worthy goal, overcoming prejudices and stereotypes about religion, nationality, food and more, and in favor of doing the right thing, in favor of peace between nations, and between people divided by political hateful propaganda and misinformation.  

Despite the usual flawless acting by Salman Khan and gorgeous Kareena Kapoor in supporting role, in this movie, it is Harshaali Malhotra who steals hearts.  Malhotra plays the role of a little deaf girl, accidently left behind in India, by her Pakistani mother.  Bajrangi (Khan), a truth loving, Hanumaan devotee, puts his entire life on hold and his future well-being at stake, to undertake the arduous journey to Pakistan, to bring the girl back to her homeland, to her parents.  Aided by the Pakistani folks, Bajrangi makes the journey where stereotypes fall by the wayside, and individual human relationships transcend national hate.  

I rate the movie as 3.9 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.  Even though I don’t rate it higher than 4, I would say that this is a must-watch movie, just to see Harshaali Malhotra.  Her gorgeous winning smile, beautiful eyes, and playful gestures will steal your heart; whether she is pampering little goats or following Bajrangi until he accepts her responsibility or silently pleading him to lie to the authorities (which he principally will not), or making sweet innocent gestures of “OoofOOO here he goes again” when Bajrangi will stick to the truth and incur the wrath from the border patrol.  I would watch it again, just to see this cute little girl.

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Expectations – Hindi Poem

मानते थे प्यारमे पराये भी अपने होते है
ये सोचकर कुछ बीज हमने भी बोते है

थोड़े से हम नादान थे, थोड़ा गुमान भी था
कहते है प्यारमे जनाब, सब सोते है

दिल गवांकर पाने की ख्वाइश रखते है
बेकारसे ख्वाब लेकर दुनियामे लोग रोते है

ज़िन्दगी अब आखरी साँस तक ले आई
पराये को अपनाना क्या, अपना भी हम खोते है

यह काफी नहीं की पराये भी चंद क्षण साथ देते है?
अरे पगले, वरना पराये भी कभी अपने होते है ?


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Mardaani – Hindi Movie Review

Rani Mukerji as Senior Inspector of Crime Branch, Shivani Shivaji Roy, is fierce, fantastic, and fearless in “Mardaani”, social problem focused, action packed film, directed by Pradeep Sarkar and produced by Aditya Chopra of Yash Raj Films.

Shivani is in hot pursuit of a teenage girl whom she has rescued once and has come to love her as her own daughter.  Clever in picking up clues, Shivani carefully seeks out her sources from the underworld.  She treats one of her sources to a lavish meal and he offers crucial information, in turn.  She thanks him saying, “mutton aur kolhapuri ke badle me achhi information dee re tune” and he responds, “bacchi ke liye dee hai, khane ke lliye nahi”.  Now it is up to Shivani to follow the trail and unmask the moneyed kingpins spearheading the brisk business of human sex trafficking.

Shivani’s fearless ferocity to catch these nasty warlords of the worst kind of trade, is accompanied with some sleek dialogues.  Walt, a grand mafia of sex trafficking tries to get Shivani to get off her pursuit of him.  She tells him “mein gaanv me peda hui thi.  mere ghar ke paas ek jungle tha aur usme bahot janvar rahte the, isliye janvar ki muje achhi pahechan hai.”  When she catches Walt, he says nonchalantly that he can bribe people and get out of jail.  She beats him and he asks if she will do encounter (a word used when a criminal is killed in police encounter, in India).  She is equally nonchalant and responds “jab koi ek marta hai to use encounter bolte hai, aur jab pachas log marte hai to use public outrage bolte hai”, cleverly setting the stage for what is to come next.

English: Savlon Sabsey Favourite Kaun Awards

English: Savlon Sabsey Favourite Kaun Awards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rani’s performance  is superb, alternating with emotional intensity, as she sees her family getting caught in the cross-fire, and fierce determination to catch the dons of the underworld and save the girls kidnapped by them.  The film is dealing with an issue of great societal significance.   India is the world’s largest hub for sex trafficking, with over 40,000 children abducted to ply the trade.  Every 8 minutes a girl child goes missing.  This film has action, mystery, and stays focused on its goal and does not get sidetracked with romantic interludes or glitzy songs.  Acting by everyone is perfect including Tahir Bhasin, Sanjay Taneja, and Jisshu Sengupta.  But it is Rani Mukerjie who carries the film, plunging straight into business.  On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate it as 4.9.

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“Mary Kom” – Movie Review

Based on the life of the Indian boxer “Mary Kom”, the film produced by famed Sanjay Leela Bhansali and directed by Omung Kumar, is a typical underdog success story that leaves you feeling uplifted.

This is a story about dogged determination that enabled Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, Indian boxing champion to deliver killer punches to life’s obstacles that came between her and her love for the sport, including the insensitivity and bureaucracy of the Sports Federation.  It is also a story of quite but solid love.  Often when one spouse commits to a certain lofty goal, the other spouse picks up the slack.  Here the supporting spouse is the husband (Darshana Kumaar), who takes care of the household chores and babies, to allow Mary Kom the time and space to pursue her passion.  Mary Kom wins medals and championships all across the world, even as she struggles to strike a good work life balance.

English: LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (Feb. ...

English: LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (Feb. 15, 2011) Master-at-Arms Seaman Rhonda McGee, left, spars with Patricia Cuevas during an exhibition match in the preliminary rounds of the 2011 Armed Forces Boxing Championship. Competitors from each branch of service square off Feb. 15 through 18 and the action will be televised on the Pentagon Channel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elliott Fabrizio/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Priyanka Chopra in the lead role is superb and plays her role persuesively.  Acting by Darshan Kumaar, Shishir Sharma and Zachry Coffin is also excellent.  It is a heart-warming story of passion that is fully pursued.  It enabled an unknown girl from a rural area of Manipur, to become a five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each of the six world championships.  Nicknamed “Magnificent Mary”, she continues to pursue her passion while balancing her role as a mother, wife, and daughter.  On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie 4.7.


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“Lunchbox” – Movie Review

The Lunchbox is a romantic film, set in India, written and directed by Ritesh Batra, and produced by Guneet Monga, Anurag Kashyap, and Arun Rangachari.  The film was jointly produced by several studios that include DAR motion pictures, UTV Motion Pictures, Dharma Productions, Sikhya Entertainment, NFDC (India), ROH Films (Germany), ASAP Films (France), and the Cine Mosaic (United States).

Saajan and Ila (brilliantly played by Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur) are both prisoners in their unfair, boring, routine lives.  Saajan’s wife has passed away; he is lonely and is stuck in a boring, laborious accountant job, with little prospects.  Ila is young and is stuck in a loveless marriage.  Thanks to her neighbor aunty, Ila tries to spice up her marriage; both literally and figuratively, adding spice to her husband’s favorite foods and beautifying her looks to make herself more attractive to her husband.

A collecting Dabbawala on a bicycle

A collecting Dabbawala on a bicycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ila and Saajan’s paths would never cross, but for a rare mixup by Mumbai’s Dabbawala.  Dabbawalas are part of a lunch delivery system in Mumbai, India, where they collect hundreds of thousands of dabbas (lunchboxes) with hot food prepared at homes or in restaurants, and deliver them to the employees at the workplace, precisely at lunch times.  As famously studied by Harvard Business School, Mumbai’s Dabbawalas are famous for their ontime delivery, every time, and they do not mix up.  But one rare mix up creates this conundrum where Ila’s spiced up food reaches Saajan and Saajan’s humdrum boring dabba from the restaurant gets delivered to Ila’s husband.

As Saajan gets a taste for spice and Ila gets compliments and gets hooked on Saajan’s little notes, and as the mix up continues, the old adage “ignorance is bliss” no more serves either Ila or Saajan.  They both now yearn for more spice and desire to break free from their prison cells of loneliness and despair.  How will it end for Saajan and Ila?  Well, that is hardly the point.  There are rarely neat little, perfectly pictured, resolutions to many of life’s conundrums.  On the other hand, sometimes a door opens, or you may come to a point where you face two paths and need to choose one.  One may not walk out the open door; Ila may or may not walk out of her marriage, into Saajan’s arms; or Saajan may not choose the path of getting involved with a younger woman in distress.  And yet, it is the opening of the door or knowing that you are making a choice of a path, that makes all the difference.  As Saajan later repeats the brilliant piece of advice he heard from his young and perky colleague at work (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), “sometimes the wrong train can take you to the right station”.  While to do nothing, to remain stagnant, is a certain death, sometimes it is simply the process of conscious movement that may create opportunities.  And both Saajan and Ila are getting restless; to do nothing, is not an option for them anymore.

The film was screened at International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or.  It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  This is a beautiful film; heart warming, realistic and tender.  I rate it a 4.5 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

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Queen – Bollywood Movie Review

Bollywood movie “Queen” is about breaking the mold, veering away from traditions, finding freedom, embracing differences, finding forgiveness, and experiencing true happiness.  It is about self expression, about love, friendship, about first kiss, which is as zesty as the first taste of a golgappa.  But the true beauty of the film is not in what the film is about.  In fact, the awesomeness of this film lies in what it is “not” about.  It is not about the scum who jilts his simple minded, long time girlfriend on the day before the wedding, it is not about replacing lost love mysteriously in one short foreign trip, it is not about revenge, it is not about a “good unspoiled girl” remaining a “good unspoiled girl”, it is not about some obscure moral lesson that is imparted because every movie must end in a moral lesson.  Director, Vikas Bahl has created magic by focusing on simple truths about humanity, love, friendship, and family 

With her impeccable performance, Rani (Kangana Ranaut) soon becomes the queen of the hearts of the movie watchers.  After being jilted, she stubbornly goes alone for her honeymoon and takes her grief-stricken heart with her.  The friends she makes on her journey, help her break out of the restraints.  And it is not just Kanaga Ranaut with her flawless performance that wins the hearts of the audience.  Vijaya Laxmi (Lisa Haydon) as half Indian, half Parisian hotel maid and single mom, is sexy, suave, funny, and fun.  The trio and the Italian chef that Rani meets in Amsterdam create a nice international tanginess, without appearing contrived.  Taka, a Japanese tourist (Jeffrey Chee Eng Ho), is working through his own grief.  And he is all fun and naughty and wrestles his roommate to the one WC they share, while he hides his grief.  You just want to leap and give a big bear hug to Tim (Guithob Joseph), the African Frenchie, who scared the heebee jeebees out of Rani, when she was suddenly awoken, to be staring in the face of this big, bulky, black man.  Oleksander (Mish Boyko), may seem indifferent at first, but he is anything but.  Sickened by plundering of the environment, he releases his anger in his drawings.  Marcello (Canadea Lopez Marco) is the handsome Italian who takes pride in his cooking.  What a fantastic cast!  Even Raj Kumar Yadav, as Rani’s jilting and later jilted boy friend has played his role well.

I loved this movie.  On a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I give it a 4.8.  The only thing that seemed to be lacking were some memorable dialogs.  This is a beautiful movie, inspirational and heart warming, with a great cast and memorable characters.  Go Bollywood – you have arrived!!

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Hola Venky – Movie Review

“Hola Venky” is a low budget film, a budget so low that many Bolywood films use that amount of money to shoot just one song.  Hola Venky was shot with a small budget of Rs. 10 lakhs, and was shot by a small 3 member crew.  It is an irreverent, romantic, quirky comedy with a great deal of Mariachi music thrown in.  How cool is that?  Written by Sandeep Mohan, the film portrays a software techie in India; in Matunga, Mumbai, of all places!  Loved to see the familiar scenes of where I grew up, the dreams that my friends and I nurtured of coming to the US, walking the streets of Maunga!  But India is different now.  India is on a cusp of major transformation. And change is never painless.

Roger Narayan is excellent in the role of Venky, doing the things that society expected of him.  And what does Indian society expect of a young man, with a reasonable education?  To get a job doing software coding (hopefully in a multi-national corporation, get a chance to go to the US and do the same thing), get married, and have children, all in that order.  But priorities are shifting in India and there is change in the order of things as well as change in the value system of young people.  Narayan got a job and married his college sweetheart and then got divorced.   His wife began to believe that sex was not good for a man’s long term health.  As Venky tells his story a video plays in the background with a woman explaining “Ejaculation is often called coming but it should be called going – because everything — erection, vital energy, millions of life’ sperms and even a little of man’s personality goes away with ejaculation.”  Venky on the other hand (in a classic Hindu tradition where everything and everyone is a manifestation of God) performs Groin pooja, with flowers on his penis.

Venky is engaged to be married again, to Damini, a divorcee.  Damini is jaded from the whole drama that goes with love; she feels her clock ticking, and she has transformed into Ms. Pragmatism.  Albeit there are many contradictions in what she seeks in her life and from her marriage.  When asked by Venky if she was marrying him for his sperm, she clarifies, “after marriage it is nothing like your sperm and my sperm, it is our family sperm”.

Venky is caught in a rut doing his job, and he lacks passion in life, job, or for his upcoming marriage.  His boss recommends him to go to the US for leadership training.  Journey to the US is not just a physical journey for Venky, to a land where everyone is not a software engineer.  It is Venky’s “upward” journey from the groin to the heart, from tequila to mariachi music, from cultural and professional imprisonment to cultural expansion, from following a life based on predetermined rules, to finding a life of joy.  Following a series of comedic turn of events, Venky meets Inez, a senorita who never has a bad hair day and has a fine nose for solving mysteries and getting people out of trouble.  A budding Mexican American actress, Sonia Balcazar, is stunning in her role as Inez.

Director Sandeep Mohan has done a fabulous job with this micro-budget movie after his work with Love, and Wrinkle-free, for which he got Adult Certificates from  the Bolywood Censor Board, that resulted in their Satellite rights getting stuck.  So he contacted producer Giju John and got him on board for a lot budget film; finding their audience through innovative channels and social media marketing, they are redefining the distribution model, in the internet era.   The crew did not include an assistant director or makeup or costume people and it was shot without a track or trolley.  Editor, Shreyas Beltangdy, Sound Designer Ravidev Singh, Grading/VFX artist Vijesh Rajan, and Music Supervisor Vivek Philip have done a fabulous job of working within the resource constraints and bring this film to completion.  Bay area artists starring in the movie include the local celebrity, Papiha Nandy and real estate professional, Tony Kazi among other professionals.  Hola Venky has couple more shows in the bay area and for a short time, the producer is available to bring the film for private screenings, for small groups, at their preferred location.

Hola Venky! (2014) Poster

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