Archive for category Hindi – Bollywood Movie Reviews

“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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“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” – Bolywood Movie Review


“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (run Milkha run), shouted Milkha’s father, as he lay dying, at the hands of the militants, and Milkha kept running, all the way across the Indian border, from his village in Pakistan.  The devastation and carnage that resulted when the British left a deeply divided and broken county, displaced an estimated 12 to 15 million people, and over 1.5 million people are estimated to have lost their lives, in the mass violence.  It probably left wounds so deep, trauma so inexplicable that one cannot imagine how people put their lives back together.  Here is one story of Milkha Singh.  The movie unfolds, against the backdrop of tragic massacre of Milkha Singh’s family, who chose to stay in their homeland and fight the enemy, rather than run.  The movie is based on a true story and you can google the details of how young Milkha (Jabtej Singh) and his sister (Divya Dutta) with her family, manage to escape, how Milkha got into trouble with the law, but then found inspiration in love, which propelled him to a career in the Indian army, where he took up running, eventually winning scores of medals on behalf of the country.  (A little side note, both Jabtej Singh and Divya Dutta have done an awesome job in the side roles of junior Milkha and his sister, respectively).

Eventually, Milkha Singh, superbly played by Farhan Akhtar, faced a dilemma that would bring him face to face with his past.  India’s most inconic athlete who ran away from Pakistan and had been running ever since, was summoned by the President himself, Mr. Nehru, to return back to Pakistan, to lead his team in running.  Indian officials implored, cajoled, and pleaded Milkha Singh to represent India, in Pakistan, during the friendly games, to mark the occasion of coming together of both countries.

Based on a script written by Prasoon Joshi, the film is produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.  It is albeit a bit long and I would have liked to see it a little short.  However, the cast is superb, the songs are beautiful and the true story of Milkha Singh, known as the “Flying Singh”, a moniker given by Pakistan’s General Ayub Khan, is tragic and inspiring.  The devastation of India Pakistan breakup, the roads littered with broken limbs and broken dreams, left such deep wounds, that countries and people sought to burry the tragedy and forget about it, rather than talk about it and learn from it.  It is only now that this subject is getting attention.  Recently, San Francisco Bay Area’s local NAATAK company (www.naatak.org) produced an incredible play “Jisne Lahore Dekhya Nahin Vo Janmya Hi Nahin”  http://bit.ly/11PhK5q and 1947 Partition Archives http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/, a non profit group, is building an archive of true life stories impacted by the partition.

Always buried in the tragedy, there is a story of inspiration, love that was transforming, a character that was built, achievement that was remarkable, past that was revisited and reconciled with.  Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is one such story and Milkha is said to have publicly opined that the movie is a fairly accurate depiction of his life up to 1962, where the movie ends.  Don’t miss it.  I give it a 4.8 on a 5 point scale, with 5 being excellent.

English: Flag of Indian Army

English: Flag of Indian Army (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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“Jolly LLB” – Movie Review


Jolly LLB, written and directed by Subhash Kapoor was released in India on March 15, 2013.  Arshad Warsi and Boman Irani give riveting performance in this court room docudrama, inspired by 1999 Sanjeev Nanda hit-and-run case.  The film is a satire on the callousness and inefficiency of Indian judicial system.  Saurabh Shukla in the role of the judge gives a masterful performance.

In a reckless act of drunken driving, a rich Delhi teenager mows down several members of a family sleeping on a footpath (sidewalk), with his speeding car.  How likely is it for a super rich kid in India, to go to jail?  Apparently, not very.  The story that follows is a story of greed and excess, Indian society’s callousness towards the poor, and a powerful story about how laws and justice can be twisted, manipulated, bought, sold, suppressed, and justice denied to anyone without wealth and connections, “जहाँ गरीब की जान आमिर की जान से सस्ती है”.  When a high profile, greedy, sleazy lawyer (played by Irani), gets the teenager off, due to lack of evidence, a small-time lawyer from Meerut (Arshad Warsi) who has recently relocated to Delhi, gets the case reopened.  Though initially tempted to take the money, concede his case, and back out, prodded by his girl friend (played by Amrita Rao), he challenges Irani, taunting him, आप से हारकर वकीलों की करियर बन जाती है तो आपको हराकर तो लाइफ बन जाएगी”.

I did not care for couple of songs that really did not seem to belong in the film and I couldn’t wait for them to end so we can get on with the story in the film.  They seemed to be thrown in there, only because it is a standard masala for a Bolywood film.  But overall, this is an excellent film, with a fast moving storyline.  Manipulation of the rule of law, by people with means, is nothing new, in India.  But while watching this action packed film, one does not feel that it is harping on the oft repeated real life saga of Indian society.  The humor and satire that come through from the excellent performance of Saurabh Shukla (playing the judge) gives just the right touch of levity, as the underlying tragic saga is unfolding.  While he seems to be going through the motions of hearing case after case and rendering verdicts that perhaps mock the process, Shukla is in fact, quite aware of how wealth makes mockery of law.  “कानून अँधा हो सकता है, लेकिन जज नहीं“, he says.  He explains, even when he is often keenly aware as to who is the perpetrator of the crime, he does not see the evidence to convict them because it is often suppressed and deals are made before the case comes to him.  He plays the game where money makes the rules, money can buy witnesses, police, and even the victim’s attorneys.  But when he sees the rules change, he is intrigued and determined to do his part, revealing the complexity of his character.

This is an excellent movie with the right mix of humor, drama, action, tragedy and comedy.   I rate it a 4 on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

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Special Chabbis (Special 26) – Bolywood Movie Review


Bolywood film “Special Chabbis” or “Special 26” is loosely based on a true event, a high profile heist carried out at the Opera House branch of Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri Jewelers, in Mumbai, in 1987.  Written and directed by Neeraj Pandey, in the lead role, in the movie, Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher, are excellent, and Kishore Kadam and Rajesh Sharma playing their two sidekicks are equally good.  Manoj Bajpayee in the role of the CBI officer is also awesome, in the lead role.

If you want to enjoy the movie, do not read many reviews.  Most of the reviews are spoilers.  This is a story of con-men and jaw dropping mystery that lasts till the very end.  Plenty of available easy targets with stacks of hidden wealth, is in itself an interesting commentary upon India’s corrupt politicians and businessmen and plenty of circulating black money.  Manoj Bajpayee in the role of the honest CBI sleuth asking his boss whether he should start taking bribes since he has not received his promised increment in pay, provides another window into the corruption, and in the movie, serves as a sort of an early warning about who is winning the war.  And one more little drama that can be seen to remark upon the availability of opportunities to those walking the straight and narrow path, is the way in which hundreds of candidates prepare for a dream job interview, only to have their dreams dashed, in the most cruel manner.

This movie will hold your interest and keep you guessing till the last slide.  The relevance of the name will also be revealed in the last quarter of the movie.  I rate it 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

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Talaash – Hindi Movie Review


Talaash – Hindi Movie Review

Talaash, directed by Reema Kagti, based on a book co-written by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar, is a brilliantly made suspense thriller, with a talented cast that includes Nawazuddin Siddiqui, playing Temur, a pimp’s right hand man. Inspector Shekhawat, played by Aamir Khan is investigating a high profile murder of a prominent actor, that leads him to Rosie (gorgeous Kareena Kapur), linked to the pimp and his cronies, residing in the red light district of the murky underworld of Mumbai. At the same time, Shekhawat is also distressed by emptiness, due to tragic death of his little son, in an accident, and has distanced himself from his wife, Roshni, played by Rani Mukharjee. After therapy sessions and anti-depressant drugs, Roshni finally finds solace in secret conversations with her dead son, through a psychic. While Shekhawat refuses to accept that dead can communicate, he has immersed himself in the murder case, which through many twists and turns, continues to bring him in close contact with Rosie. At the same time, helplessness of all the things he could have done to avert his son’s accident, keeps eating away at him.

The anti-climatic conclusion was somewhat disappointing and may not please many of us in the science obsessed society of the West. However, this seems to be a somewhat familiar theme in India, and the film netted Rs. 12.50 crore (US $2.28 M) on its opening day, making it the 6th highest opening for a movie in 2012. The film netted Rs. 64.31 crore (US $ 11.7 M) in its first week, in the domestic market. Clearly, there is a section of the population that identifies with the storyline. Movie takes many twists and turns and acting is brilliant. Aamir Khan, in the role of police inspector, at once in control and yet helpless in case of his own personal tragedy, Rani Mukharjee, in her grief-stricken, de-glam role, and Kareena Kapoor, as seductress, looking for customers, in the red light district, give praiseworthy performance. Regardless of the view one holds of certain things inexplicable, the blackmails, murders, and sub-plots connecting the underworld to the rich and famous, keep the viewers riveted, till the very end. I give it a rating of 3.8 on 1-5 scale, with 5 being excellent.

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OMG Oh My God – Hindi Movie Review


This movie is an adaptation of a very successful Gujarati play, which later also became a hit in Hindi and Marathi. The original template is an Australian film called The Man Who Sued God.

Paresh Rawal, plays the central character of a businessman who is an avowed atheist. His outstanding performance, as usual, rises above the material and is the primary draw. Kanji Lalji Mehta, played by Paresh Rawal, runs an antiques shop.  That is destroyed one day, in an earthquake.   The insurance company refuses to pay, saying it was an act of God. So Kanji, defiant, furious and abandoned by his family, goes to court and sues God. The notice is served to temples and aashrams where he claims he has donated money and given charity. The head honchos of some religious establishments are running a scam and are compelled to come to the court and defend this claim against them. Meanwhile, God (played by Akshay Kumar) sees the valid questions that Kanji is raising and sees that if properly guided, this atheist can be the most powerful conduit against religious scams and comes down to guide Kanji. Kanji’s arguments with religious leaders in the court and his discussion with the media and the public are some of the best and much needed dialogs, for Indian society where idols are claimed to be drinking milk provided by their followers, trees and rocks acquire divine properties miraculously, and money that is given to religious establishments can clothe and feed every citizen.

Despite the preachy subject matter, Rawal’s acting and good dialogs keep the movie from being overly preachy and keeps it in the realm of light hearted comedy. I give it rating of 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent.

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English Vinglish – Hindi Movie Review


Judgmental is the word that sticks in mind after watching Sridevi’s flawless performance as Shashi, dressed in gorgeous Sabyasachi sarees, struggling with snide remarks and judgments of others, on her lack of knowledge of English language.

Shashi, a devoted mother, wife, and daughter-in-law is also an expert cook and earns her own money, selling her sumptuous ladoos to her loyal customers. Shashi feels frequently “judged” and demeaned by her teenage daughter who is embarrassed by her mother’s lack of knowledge of English language and her husband who sees her role as that of a housewife who would be unable to understand the world outside the home. Sometimes, society also treats her as being dumb. For instance, when she tries to place an order in a deli, while visiting her sister in New York, she fumbles on account of the newness of the language, culture, and the menu, and the irate woman behind the counter yells and repeats her words, instead of explaining them to her. (Having traveled in many places, I can relate to how dumb you could be made to feel, even when you know the language). Circumstances afford Shashi an opportunity to learn the language and master her insecurities and develop her own friends and identity. Her character comes to life as she wins the hearts of her friends and gives her the confidence to address inappropriate behaviors from her family members and convey the message, albeit simply and light-heartedly, regarding the importance of equality and non-judgmental love and support from one’s family members. Director Gauri Shinde has done a fabulous job of treating the delicate subject with just the right mix of humor and sentimentality, without exaggerating, becoming preachy, or going overboard. The child actor, Shivansh Kotia stole my heart, though I was disappointed to see so little of him. I will look for him in other movies and other roles.

English Vinglish is a beautiful, amusing, and heartwarming movie with several great messages conveyed without being preachy. I loved the movie and highly recommend it and on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 as excellent), I rate it a 4 – simply because it was a little slow during the first half.

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