Arjun Reddy Review

Arjun-Reddy-Review

I was recently bashed on social media by some Telugu film fanatics for being unfamiliar with this movie. They considered this ignorance of apparently “one of the most controversial films in Telugu cinema history” nothing short of blasphemy. Though not overtly spoken, I could sense that these young lads were in awe with this film and even saw it as a matter of taking pride in their regional cinema… a some kind of “gem” that demonstrates the progressiveness of Telugu cinema and it’s ability to compete with other regional cinemas.

Placing too much meaning on a single film? I think so too. I will attempt an unbiased and objective view of the film. Lots of spoilers, so you may want to avoid if you plan to see the film. First things first, the film is way too long. It could easily been made into two-and-a-half hours and nothing of importance would have been left out. I felt exhausted and drained in the last half hour and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.

The entire film centers around the story of the male lead, Arjun Reddy, as you easily guessed from the title. Arjun Reddy is an intelligent and successful medical student. He tops his college in grades, is more knowledgeable on subjects than any of his peers, and therefore is regarded in high esteem by teachers and administrators. Arjun Reddy is also an aggressive, selfish, slightly psychotic bully who terrorizes the entire student base, and even the dean of the college. He has a small loyal group of measly weak friends whom he can easily manipulate. He constantly threatens people into doing things and everyone is so frightened of him and his anger, that they never try to oppose him in anything.

The entire premise starts when Arjun, who was prepared to leave the college and end his entire educational and professional career because he is too vain and stubborn to do anything logical, changes his mind after seeing a sweet, naive-looking chubby girl start at his college. It’s only natural for dominant aggressive men to prey on sweet looking, easily impressionable girls.

While we are given more than an ample portrayal of Arjun Reddy’s character in the film, as usual in Telugu films, we are given very little on the character of the girl who triggers the entire change in the lead, Preeti. She is little more than a puppet– without emotion or thought. As though she doesn’t have a character or a spirit at all, just a body with a pretty face walking around, prepared to take any shape or form that is demanded of her. I mean get this, Arjun completely dominates and controls every single aspect of her life from the moment she enters the college. As soon as he decides he likes her, she becomes branded as a sort of property, and everyone is informed of it so that no one else can claim a right on her. No one even thinks of asking Preeti what she thinks about all of this, whether she is okay with it, whether she even likes this guy, or is interested in being branded this way. Her consent is automatically presumed.

In Telugu films, women have always been displayed this way. As naive, simple creatures who don’t really have many thoughts or feelings of their own. They’re always pure and beautiful, and in need of guardianship, in need of being owned by someone else. In many of the earlier films, the beautiful, educated, naive girl would fall in love with an uneducated, good-for-nothing loafer or a criminal and would reshape her life to be with him. Women in Telugu films are not too different than set props, objects to be utilized for the advancement of the hero’s story. Just like friends, family, comedians. It is this obsession with the hero, a type of hero worship in Telugu film industry that I dislike. The entire film is made by the hero, for the hero, and everything else, purely inconsequential. Before you get up in arms about this, I know this happens in other film industries too, but it ALWAYS happens in Telugu cinema. The heroine is also inconsequential in this one. She’s again, naive, sweet, beautiful. The only difference in Arjun Reddy is that she is a naive, sweet, beautiful girl who likes pre-marital sex.

When this puppet of a heroine is easily convinced into an arranged marriage by her family, is it really surprising? For she had little to say when Arjun Reddy randomly decided to own her. She is completely acting in line with her “non-existing” character.

Of course the next part of the film, or what happens after the heart-break, is what made this film so “controversial” — the forlorn lover falls into depths of alcohol and drug abuse. I didn’t really understand why this has been considered so revolutionary as a film premise? Has no one seen Devdas, or its contemporary version– Dev D? Surely, Udta Punjab would come to mind? Or that Tamil film, Surya Son of Krishnan. I admit, it’s not a topic that is usually portrayed in Telugu cinema. But was it portrayed in the right way?

Arjun Reddy ought to be controversial because for the most part of the movie, it glorifies drug abuse by portraying the character as still being successful, good at his profession, attracting loads of woman, and looking like some kind of sexy, cool beast. At one point, it dawns on the filmmaker that he shouldn’t do that, and the hero selflessly gives up his medical practice permit while confessing he performed all of his surgeries inebriated. But despite the fact that this is the most despicable thing anyone can do, we’re expected to feel respect for the character for “choosing” to reveal this rather than letting his wealthy and influential family cover it up with false witnesses and testimonies. And our alcoholic, drug-addict friend miraculously and instantaneously recovers from his nine month long addiction without any struggle or assistance from anyone, except that of a barber to shave off his beard. To demonstrate substance abuse as something being so easy to get rid of is surely the greatest fault of this film. And for that, it should be held accountable.

As the story progressed, the hero became ever more confusing, contradictory, and outright cheap and disgusting. He criticizes a prospective groom of his friend’s sister for “objectifying women” as though he wasn’t just the one seeing women as simply sources of physical pleasure and begging his friends to give him phone numbers of women who will come to his apartment. At one point in the film, the filmmaker again feels guilty about this (he has a lot of guilt trips throughout to film), and there is a scene where Arjun’s friend tells us how he doesn’t actually sleep with women, they just come over and he chats with them. Yea right. Perhaps you forgot to edit the scenes where he was, and not entirely in a nature of consent, was forcing himself between the legs of women.

The contradictions, and insensible story line becomes unbearable in the conclusion, where we suddenly realize that all of this turmoil, the heart-break, the grievance, the anger, the fear and loss, were all for nothing. There was actually NOTHING preventing the characters from getting together, than their own pride and stupidity. I think this is the first time in a movie where I’ve regretted a happy ending. The ending neutralized and completely destroyed the entire story line. And again what’s interesting is that the female lead experienced some kind of character transformation, and not only ran away from her marriage, but went through her pregnancy alone. There is a sweet ending where the father-in-law sees them kissing (as he had done before) and acts exactly as Arjun predicted. I admit the ending was sweet, and the tremendous ridiculousness of the story line did not prevent me from getting emotional at the end. But I can’t oversee the numerous faults in the movie because of that.

Arjun Reddy is not progressive. It’s not unique and it is not a step-up for Telugu cinema. It is predictable, full of the same old cliches found in every other Telugu film, with just a few shocking elements like sex and drug abuse thrown in. Those elements do not necessary feel natural, nor do they have any particular point. This film does not necessarily demonstrate modern society and its woes because these elements have been placed in it. The filmmaker was not able or willing to go all the way and really make a film entirely on these subjects. He wanted to make sure that the film was still in line with the Telugu film tradition, he didn’t wish to be rejected. But as a result, he’s made one confusing, pointless movie, that is neither really about love, or heartbreak, or sex, or drugs, or friends, or family.

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A Death in the Gunj Review

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You have no idea how much I had been looking forward to A Death in the Gunj, written and directed by Konkona Sensharma and starring some great actors like Kalki Koechlin. I saw some wonderful reviews of the film online before it even released in mainstream cinemas, as some people had the chance to see the film in screenings at film festivals early on. This further increased my anticipation of what I expected to be an impactful film at the least. If you are just as excited about the film, haven’t seen it yet and would like to form your own opinion of it, I suggest you stop reading the remaining part of the review.

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The matter of fact is, A Death in the Gunj was disappointing. It was shockingly underwhelming and predictable, and not the least thrilling if you ask me. There is only one point of mystery in the film, which I admit was delivered effectively and connected the very first scene with the very last one. But the middle of that story, was nothing special.

A Death in the Gunj is about a young man struggling with life after the death of his father, and how his depression and emotional struggle reaches a sad climax amidst indifferent and selfish relatives with whom he is spending the holidays.

While I enjoy slow-paced  but meaningful films that create a sense of comfort and ease, like Piku for example, I believe it only works when we are able to establish a genuine and positive connection with the characters early on in the story. I was unfortunately not able to connect with any of the characters in this film. In fact, I felt the film did an excellent job of making the characters repugnant, not just to the lead character Shyamal, but to me, the audience. Maybe that was the point. But the issue is that, I also did not feel any connection to Shyamal.

I think the struggle of Shyamal remained as much of a mystery to the audience as it did to his relatives. Shyamal as a character is such an unbearing personality, that it is easy to dismiss him although he is the eyes through which we experience the story. He is much like an object in the film, represented by his father’s old sweater, his notebook, a moth… but the meanings and emotions that he attaches to those objects were never quite explained to us. So as I watched his turmoil intensify and grow on screen, I did not understand him and his reasons, and after a while, it was just watching a man who has lost his mental stability and getting ever yet closer to the edge without anyone else noticing.

When I read my own words describing the film, I wonder if this was Konkona’s intention all along? –Making the Shyamal character so unimpressive that even we would nearly forget his presence… Could it be that the film  has been implemented so utterly realistically that I’ve failed to get the point? Perhaps… I’m not sure.

I AM sure that knowing the excellence of Konkona’s art may have increased expectations a little too far for this film, but it doesn’t change the fact that the above mentioned drawbacks disappointed me. When the film ended, I just felt so underwhelmed.

Blast from the Past: Raja Hindustani (1996)

Today, we are going to have an in-depth look at the highest grossing film of 1996: Raja Hindustani, starring Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan.

Aarti Sehgal (Karishma) is a wealthy, sentimental, and good-hearted girl with a doting father and a step-mother because her mother passed away when giving birth to her. For holidays, Aarti decides to go to a hill station “Palankhet” because that’s where her parents had met for the first time. Accompanying her are her two servant cum companions “Gulab Singh” and “Kamal Singh.” Aptly named as both appear to suffer from gender dysphoria, a mis-match of gender identity. Gulab Singh is a feminine male and Kamal Singh is a masculine female.  It is delightful that this elite household gives priority to minorities for employment.

 

Gulab Singh forgot to make arrangements for their transportation from the airport, as well as the hotel, so they take the help of a taxi driver, Raja Hindustani (Aamir) to get settled in the home of a sweet elderly couple. Pay attention to the first place Raja looks when he sees Aarti for the first time.

 

Aarti continues to call Raja when she needs a ride, to spend time in town and go shopping, etc. Even though Raja doesn’t let go of any opportunity to stare at Aarti, as all sex-starved men are wont to do, he does not forget his social standing and shows respect to his wealthy employer by referring to Aarti as “Memsaab” in every sentence. But then the beautiful Memsaab commits a most grave mistake….. by offering her taxi driver a tip!

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“Oh the height of belittlement and insult by the wealthy upper class!”

Then Gulab Singh and Kamal Singh have fun at the expense of Raja by convincing Raja that Memsaab praises him all the time, finds him handsome, likes his singing, etc. Since all men naturally believe that they are God’s gift to humanity and that no one can resist their charms, even if they are a taxi driver, he dresses up and dances to show it all off to Aarti. You know, like what male birds do when they need to convince a female bird to mate with them during mating season. Then, naturally, this happens…

 

But despite being wealthy (because all wealthy people have no choice but to be depreciating to the poor), Aarti is a sweet girl, so she comforts Raja by saying that he is priceless.

Then Aarti decides to wear a pretty red dress in town and asks Raja’s opinion on the dress because it’s very important to get your driver’s views on your outfit. Raja doesn’t like it because she is showing skin. Poor Aarti doesn’t know that showing skin is a big no-no, especially when your driver likes you and has started to feel possessiveness over you. So she disregards Raja’s warning and walks around town in her red dress. Lo and behold, just a few moments later, some loafers start verbally harassing Aarti because of her dress. Yeh to hona hi tha, how can a young, independent woman be so silly to think that she can wear what she wants without being harassed and abused?!

 

Raja cannot tolerate this and he beats the loafers black and blue. Aarti becomes angry that Raja got involved and used violence. After returning home, the two argue, Raja says “this is our Palankhet!” and reinforces his domination over her by telling Aarti that he doesn’t like her wearing such clothes. The driver tells his employer that he doesn’t like her wearing such clothes! So Aarti is like “Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?! I’ll do what I like and wear what I like!” Like duh! Raja becomes even more angry and runs off.

Aarti is suddenly full of remorse. Dread fills her face when she realizes that she upset her driver by refusing to dress as he wants. What blasphemy! So immediately, she changes into respectable clothing and goes looking for him.

 

Aarti finds Raja, calls him a sweetheart and asks him to show her all of Palankhet. While sight-seeing, the two continue to praise each other and the first romantic duet comes where Aarti wooes Raja with the lyrics “Tu hai pagal, tu hai joker!”

 

Next, comes the first defining point of the film– the kiss! The kiss in Raja Hindustani is not just important because a real on-screen kiss was practically non-existent in the 90s, but also because it is the primary motivation for the characters and the driving force of the script!

Raja is the more decent of the two. When the flame starts sizzling between them in the pouring rain, it’s Raja who backs off and tries to distance himself! But Aarti calls him to herself with her feminine charms and gets even closer!

 

 

 

 

And the inevitable…

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But then, this happens…

 

 

The sudden realization of the major sin of  kissing outside of one’s social class, Aarti and Raja have a premonition of the evils they may have to endure for this grave mistake. It’s the end of the world.

Storms rage and Aarti battles a herd of sheep to find refuge in her room from the reality of the sin that she just committed.

 

But it’s not so simple. Desire and passion overtakes her body and she cannot get the kiss out of her mind. Hormones are raging and fevers are rising when…

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daddy arrives…

Poor  innocent daddy, oblivious to the gross transgression committed by his daughter, thinks she ran in the rain in order to meet him as soon as possible. And she’s like, “uh-huh.” Her father tells her that he has come directly from his trip to meet her, and that they will return home together. Aarti is literally crying when she hears about returning. Soon the news reaches Raja and he has to drive Aarti and her father to the airport.

Aarti, despite being shaken up from her recent kissing experience, is back in decent mode. A little embarrassed and emotional, but prepared to return home with her father, raat mein kala chashma pehan kar.

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On the way to the airport, Aarti is trying to hide hear tears while her father makes small talk with a much irritated Raja. Look at Kamal Singh’s expression when Aarti’s father offers Raja a job as a driver in their home!

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Of course, Raja refuses and they make more stupid small talk (and Raja tries to make Aarti feel bad with his remarks) until they suddenly come across a traffic jam. Raja’s friend Balvant Singh (Johnny Lever) comes and Aarti gives this brilliant introduction: “Papa, yeh hai Balvant Singh. Balvant Singh, yeh hamare papa hai.” Balvant Singh convinces them to spend time at a nearby dhaba while the jam clears up. They readily agree for some pass time and entertainment, although they were in a rush to reach the airport just minutes earlier.

Next comes the second defining point of the film. And the craziest dhaba dancer you’ll ever meet. The lyrics of the iconic song are “Pardesi, pardesi, jaana nahin…mujhe chor ke, mujhe chor ke” X50. Soon, Raja joins in on the song. While the young lass is showing off her dancing skills and flirting with Raja, the more mature dancer is downing bottles of neat alcohol. Aarti remains in gangster mode. 😎

Clearly the song has rubbed salt on a deep unresolved wound in the mature dancer, and she experiences powerful emotions as Raja sings, her expressions moving between pain and murderous plans.

 

Just when Aarti was relieved that the song got over, the mature dancer delivers her philosophy on the zalim duniya that fails to appreciate love. She asks for the song again, to dance her way to revenge. They should have cast this woman for the role of Chandramukhi. And those lyrics X50 start ALL OVER AGAIN.

Aarti is like “Nah, I ain’t taking this shit anymore” and decides to put an end to the torturous song by breaking all social boundaries to hug Raja in public, and in front of her father. Because no social repercussion can be worse than listening to that song all over again.

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Of course, then, all hell breaks lose…

 

Or we thought it would until Aarti’s father surprisingly decides to agree to the alliance, with very reasonable conditions that Raja should enter and assimilate into their life (like obviously). But the proud chauvinist that Raja is, he will never take any step to meet a woman half-way for a mutual life. And of course Aarti chooses Raja over her father, because it’s the fate of all woman to do exactly as their husbands or to-be-husbands want, no matter how unreasonable, illogical or insensitive the demand may be. Aarti’s heart-broken father curses the couple with unhappiness and drives off. Then Aarti is like “daddy did not even bless us!” But what to do, when it’s hormones vs. parents, hormones are bound to win. Meanwhile, Kamal Singh, with gender dysphoria (or is she a butch lesbian, it’s really confusing) married Balvant Singh after losing a wrestling match with him, and began to dress as a woman. It only took Johnny Lever to resolve a lifelong struggle about gender identity and sexual orientation!

Aarti and Raja have a modest and intimate marriage ceremony with the support of the sweet elderly couple.

 

And the long awaited night… it was all for this…

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And the following few blissful days of Aarti and Raja, finally content and satisfied, like children who finally received a long awaited sweet treat…

 

But all good things must come to an end, and destiny has its way of taking revenge from lusty youth who seek intimacy with those outside of their social class.

So, post-marriage domestic fight #1

Aarti’s father, out of shock and anger, initially considered disinheriting Aarti, but being the teddy bear daddy he is, he soon changed his mind and visited Aarti, in fact gifting the newlyweds a home. Pretty nice thought if you ask me, he gifted them a home where they wanted to live, without demanding any change in their lifestyle or occupation. But I think you can imagine what happened next. Our Raja, who has far too much vanity for a garib, refuses the gift and lashes at Aarti for even considering a gift from her father. Doesn’t she know that all gifts from rich father-in-laws to poor son-in-laws are not gifts, but rather a slap to the son-in-law’s manhood. Because a man who cannot afford to treat his wife like a queen financially is not a man at all.

This fight nearly leads to their separation, and Aarti finally comes out with the true reality of her situation. Now that she’s married Raja, she doesn’t have any choice but to live with him forever. Because by marrying outside of her social class, she has closed all other doors for herself and will literally have no place to go if Raja leaves her. Other than him and death, she has no choice, she tells him. Interestingly this dawns on our coy bride AFTER marriage and nuptials, because as we all know, raging hormones = death of logic.

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No sex + temptation = blockage of all nerve function in the segment of the brain that performs logical analysis. And the only cure is sex as drano to clear out the pipes. So logic returns, but unfortunately, cleaning the pipes causes damage which is beyond repair at this point.

By the way, after marriage, there is complete role reversal between Raja and Aarti. Before marriage, Raja followed Aarti around like a puppy “Memsaab, Memsaab.” After marriage, he is back to his normal rude self, while Raja for Aarti before marriage, becomes Rajaji after marriage. After all, pati purush nahi mahanpurush hota hai.

After that brief dose of harsh reality, we finally get another song, where Aarti sings in premonition of woes yet to come from this marriage “tumse dil laga ne ki saza hai…”

The differences between their worldviews become clearer after a visit to Aarti’s home in Mumbai, exacerbated by the interventions of Aarti’s step-mother causing misgivings between the couple. Raja starts to believe that Aarti is embarrassed of him, and Raja’s stubbornness reaches a new height.

Aarti’s step mother is unnecessarily influenced by her brother who fears that she will not get any share in her husband’s inheritance and that it will all be left to Aarti and her garib husband. It’s all so silly because the wife always gets a share of the inheritance. Putting this aside, Aarti’s step-mother is actually the only sane and reasonable person in this film. Even though she is presented as the bad guy, she seems to be the only one who understands that the distances between Aarti and Raj caused by their social and economic status can never be abridged.

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From whatever angle you look at it, the relationship has simply emerged from the hormonal fluctuations of two 20-year-olds. The sooner they understand this, end the relationship and move on, the easier it will be for them. But since no step-mother can wish for the well-being of a step-daughter, the correct assessments of the step-mother are ignored and thought to be her expected evil ways.

Dum dum duba duba duba

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The much expected breaking point arrives over a stupid suit and who bought it. Raja is obnoxious, rude and narcissistic as usual. He makes a huge tamasha in the middle of the birthday party. Aarti finally realizes that the marriage is a complete mistake, and that Raja is not right for her. But Aarti suffers from low self-confidence. That is why, whenever she is upset with Raja for completely rightful reasons, the stubborn anger of Raja and fear of being rejected, causes her to forget her accurate assessment of the situation, and run after him like a fool (remember the red dress wala incident). Thankfully, the only smart member of the family, the step-mother, is there to stop her this time. And realizing the weakness in her step-daughter, decides to take the matter into her own hands, to make sure that Aarti continues to lead her life in the right direction. Suddenly the word TALAQ TALAQ TALAQ resonates in our ears. (It’s a boo-boo word).

After this point, Aarti goes completely berserk, believing that Raja is punishing her and that all of it is due to her father’s curse earlier.  Aarti decides to be the faithful and ideal wife and lead her life selflessly waiting for a shockingly arrogant and stubborn husband. Despite being from a wealthy and elite family, Aarti is unbelievably meek, timid and submissive. To top it off, the saza she referred to in the earlier song “tumse dil laga ne ki saza hai…” has come to age in the form of a baby. And Raja turns into wolf-man. Are they seriously expecting me to believe that a man of such arrogance is capable of feeling remorse and sadness?!

 

Aarti continues to be an example wife, by continuing her wifely duties, wearing sindoor and mangalsutra and keeping karva chauth and all… because however bad marrying a rude and mean man may be,  divorcing him and being a widow is far worse!

Meanwhile wolf-man comes to know that there is a baby wolf and goes and steals the baby, walking all over Aarti (quite literally). After all, the child belongs to the man, who cares about the woman who gave birth to the baby? By the way, the baby has taken after the grandfather.

Aarti and everyone comes to know about her step-mother’s scheming and all rush to meet him in Palankhet. But the early entry of Aarti into the scene makes wolf-man run galloping away with a poor infant in his arms, and gunned men firing behind him. Suddenly it’s a chase and fight in the forest, with the baby tied to his back!!!

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As it often happens in intense fights with babies tied to the back, the baby comes flying off during a blow, falls thankfully safely into the arms of Aarti. Crazy brother of the step-mother gets hold of the baby, reveals all his plans, and threatens to harm the baby if he doesn’t receive all of the inheritance. Then a child and gang of gender confused people rush to the aid of the baby and defeat the evil man with a gun.

Wolf-man bonds with baby wolf. Aarti delivers a touching final dialogue of how they are fault for not trusting each other. But no one has changed. Wolf-man is again stubborn, Aarti is again submissive. Now she says that she will only love him. What can she do, now baby wolf has also come. Too late. Must tolerate this rude and arrogant man forever. They sing that dreadful song, hoping for another embrace. You know it has worked when wolf-man starts singing too. And happy ending.

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Or is it?

I mean that was only their first year! Phew! All is well only until the next domestic fight, next separation, and this time, real divorce!

Kids, please do us a favor, don’t kiss outside of your social class. Thank you.

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Phillauri Review

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Phillauri is the second film produced by Anushka Sharma after the violently assertive NH10. This time, Clean Slate Films has come to us with a film in the genre of Fantastic Drama, starring none other than Anushka and Diljit Dosanjh, and co-leads Suraj Sharma and Mehreen Pirzada.

The film opens up in the marriage related nightmares of Suraj’s character, Kanan and proceeds to take us through the marriage events of the Canada-returned Kanan and his long-term girlfriend Anu. Kanan is not really interested in marriage and makes that obvious in every way possible, while still pushing himself through to the marriage day. His girlfriend Anu is a sweet girl who realizes Kanan’s feelings about marriage and struggles between her love for him and his clear unwillingness.

However, the relationship between Kanan and Anu and the impending marriage is only one thread in the movie, and really not the most important although we are made to believe it is in the beginning. The film weaves back and forth between two different stories and two different time frames while incorporating several other notions and events.

The antiquated ritual of freeing a “manglik” from their impending doom by getting them married to a tree and cutting the tree down later is boldly shot down in the film. And it introduces us to the real hero and heroine, Shashi and Phillauri, played by Anushka and Diljit Dosanjh. By the way, the introductory scene of Diljit’s character was just fantastic. His performance was outstanding.

Important spoilers next…do not read if you have not seen the movie yet.

If you watched the trailers, you must have already noticed that Anushka is a ghost in the film. I was quite confused what this film would be about when I noticed this. A story about a ghost can either go really well or really bad, partly depending on how realistic or unrealistic the creators choose to portray the character. I was okay with the way Anusha’s character was displayed in this film. There was, naturally, use of post-production technology, but it was still believable and exciting.

The scenes of Shashi and Phillauri were definitely the best of the entire movie. The story and chemistry between the characters were really moving. I found myself completely invested in their interaction and connection. There is always something powerful in love that is embedded with honor and principle. A love that causes a positive and permanent change in the identity of the person who experiences it. And having such high regard for someone that a single criticism made by them can cause a change in your entire perspective and your priorities in life. These are the aspects that make the love story in Phillauri so beautiful.

And the most important part of the film is most definitely the reference that was made to the Amritsar Massacre and the people who were killed there. At the end of the film, I felt that this truly was what the film was about and I appreciate the way that the writer, Anvita Dutt, was able to expertly weave so many different concepts and notions together to conclude them in this way.

An additional plus of the film was the music, beautiful songs and a beautiful background score.

There were also some downsides to the film, for example the sometimes very sloppy and irritating dialogue delivery of Suraj which drained some of the scenes. Another is the discrepancy in the character of Shashi. I did not really understand how someone of such high principles and standards in things like content of songs and poetry, did not display these principles when she chose to have intimacy before marriage. I am not judging her, I just did not feel that it was consistent behavior for the character. The cliched opposition and later acceptance of the lovers by Shahsi’s brother was unrealistic. The conclusion for the characters of Kanan and Anu was also unrealistic for me, although I can see how witnessing a mesmerizing reunion of two such lovers could do that to people.

Overall, I felt that Phillauri was a delightful watch. I watched Badrinath Ki Dulhania on the same day and although I have great partiality for Alia and really enjoyed that film as well, Phillauri was on another level for me and really left a lasting positive feeling.

Raman Raghav 2.0 Review

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I do my research. So when I saw Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, inspired from a 1960s serial killer in Mumbai, I felt that the filmmaker took too many creative liberties in the script. The film is of course not a biopic and not intended to be. But the story, inspired from real life events, has been distorted and taken in a whole new path. So that at the end of the film, I felt that it was quite something else. Spoilers next…

To dramatize the story and use irony with the creation of a police character who is just as much of a criminal and psychopath as the serial killer is one thing. But to turn a serial killer’s homophobia into love and acceptance is quite another. It was not unbelievable to learn that the policeman investigating the murders of a serial killer indulges in some crime of his own, and ironically using the same method as the man he is pursuing. But it was quite unbelievable that a character, inspired from one who is claimed to have expressed strong homophobic fears in real life, announces homosexual love uninhibitedly. I think Anurag went a bit too far in the galaxy there. What is stranger is that he gave the character such a self-righteous monologue at the end of the film that we understood, and almost even accepted, a ruthless murderer. That’s probably the last thing you want to do when you make a film about a serial killer. Unless one wants to hit home a deeply sub-conscious message that the evil we search for is actually in ourselves? Well, this film would surely be a poor platform to deliver that message. Not even the Cannes jury will get that, let alone the regular cine-goer who is used to being spoon-fed life-altering lessons in the cinema hall. I think Raman Raghav 2.0 is too ambitious, strange and complex for most.

Although the film was made on a limited budget and gave the disclaimer that “this film is not about him,” I think that it does not excuse such a colossal offense by the filmmaker. But all is not bad with the film. The music is out of this world (too far in the galaxy indeed). The contrast of the soothing voice of the singer and the adrenaline rich beat in Qatl-e-Aam, coupled with all too perfect picturization, will put you in a trance. An on repeat one.

Piku: Watch It Again

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When I first saw Piku, I enjoyed it but recently I’ve had a new-found love for it. The more I watch the film, the more things I realize in it that bring forth the exquisite story telling capability of the filmmaker. What’s valuable in this film, is what happens between the lines, the small nuances, the deep messages found in grouchy daily remarks of a Bengali father and daughter household.

I’m sure you’ve seen Piku already, it’s grabbed most of the awards and even won Deepika the best actress award. But I’m urging you to see the film again, calmly, slowly, paying attention to the words and expressions. You will discover far more than you saw at the first instance.

Take the moment when Piku makes a sour face and a sound of disgust at the dinner table while her father is describing how Elvis Presley died of constipation. Watch that moment again and see that she didn’t make the sour face to her father’s comment but rather because of the sour yogurt she had tasted in that moment. I love how the characters in this film are not sorry for who they are and how they live. So they discuss bowel movements every day, at home, at the office, even at dinner. Although Piku is always complaining about her father’s non-stop tantrums about bowel movements, or more precisely, lack thereof, one also sees the immensely strong bond between them. Piku and Bhaskor da– Deepika and Amitabh Bachchan have truly identified with one another as father and daughter in these characters.

I love how family is portrayed in this film. The meaning of family is not that everyone will always get along and everything will always be perfect. The meaning of family is that the fights and disagreements will happen, but family members will not give up on each other and will continue to support one another. Piku gets tired of her father’s tantrums but she is not willing to live a life separate from her father. And Piku’s aunt and father, despite being clearly cross with one another, they are always together and always discussing different issues. She even follows them to Calcutta, much to Bhoskar da’s disappointment! And we also get to see Bengali culture in the film, a Bengali word here or there, foods and some sights of Calcutta.

One other message in this film is how family members hurt one another unintentionally. Like how Piku was hurt when her father talked about virginity with a potential prospect at aunt’s wedding anniversary. Or when Piku makes fun of her father’s bum cleaning practices in front of other family members in Calcutta. They were both hurt by one another’s words in these circumstances, but neither said anything.

Perhaps more than anything else, this film is about roots– about holding on to our roots and cherishing them, as Piku learned to do at the end of the film, symbolized by her sudden change of mind about selling their ancestral home. We all need our roots, and our families. They are our identity and what keeps us firmly rooted and stable through life.

And what about the amazingly frank and direct statements of Bhaskor da throughout the movie, who is by the way, quite the feminist in support of women’s financial and sexual independence . “We are critical people” he says and goes on to say things like:

Piku: I’m not saying I want to take a long holiday but maybe just for a day or two I can go somewhere..
Mosi: Piku’s right. Every normal person needs a break, relaxation is needed in life.
Bhoskar da: Nonesense.. in their own homes, on their own bed, with their own family, they won’t be relaxed… spending on a train, on a plane, will go to a hotel and sleep on other people’s used bed, that is relaxation. These travel companies are at fault, it’s all in the mind.


Piku: Aap log ice cream khayenge?
Bhaskor da: Obviously.. laye kis liye tha? Khane ke liye na?


Marriage without purpose is low IQ. Man wants the wife to serve food in the day and sex in the night. Is that all a woman was made for? No!


See Piku again and re-discover all these little valuable things that were hidden in the film and may have gone unnoticed during a first viewing.

Tamasha Review

The backdrop on the upper part of the poster are paintings of historical romance based fictional duos as well as it has Ravana with his ten heads, a face that resembles Hanuman, and another one of Lord Shiva. A jinn, two lovers and a woman in Yogi attire also appear in the art. The digital image shows a man and a woman who are laughing and walking with intertwined arms on an art-wall street. Film title, the names of director, producer, film score composer and the release date appears at the bottom.

I can’t deny that for the first half hour of Tamasha, I wasn’t quite sure what I was watching. There is a lot of overacting in the first half hour and that’s precisely the point. I just wasn’t sure why the characters decided to do what they did– they will act, only tell lies and will never meet again. But soon, Imtiaz Ali does what he does best, give us an interesting facet of love. People say that Imtiaz tells the same story over and over again. There is no doubt that there are two elements in every Imtiaz Ali film, a search for one’s true self, and love. And love generally guides the former, love becomes the tool through which his main character finds himself. And this is true also for Tamasha. You get to see two separate stories in this film. First is the story of Tara, how she falls in love, how she waits and searches. Second is the story of Ved and his search for his true self. Tara is the igniter of this change, the one who confronts Ved about himself and his life.

Do not be disheartened to know that this film has these elements. Trust me when I say that Imtiaz has made this film in such a way that it is unique and touching. First, I was touched by Tara and how much she was affected by her encounter with Ved. I was touched by Ved’s struggle to understand who he really is. My, has Ranbir acted in this film. He hasn’t released many films recently and the ones that released didn’t do too well. Tamasha comes as a nice reminder to us of what a great actor Ranbir is. It is also important to mention that Deepika has not only matched Ranbir in his performance but even took the limelight in a few scenes (especially the scene where she tries to patch up with him at the cafe).

What I love and will always love about Imtiaz Ali’s films is that the love he portrays is always so pure and with goodwill. The characters in his films love in a spiritual way. Love is never a physical phenomenon for his characters. It’s a type of love that reaches their spirit and that stays with them regardless of the changes in their lives. Tara tells Ved that after she returned from Corsica, Ved stayed with her. She didn’t know who he was, where he was and she didn’t have hope that they would meet again but he stayed with her. Of course, this is a naive love that is common in films and rare in real life. But I like the notion, I’d like to think that this exists and we have to thank Imtiaz for renewing this hope with us with every film.

Something else I enjoyed in Tamasha is that even though things could have become over-dramatic very easily with this script, Imtiaz maintained a level of lightheartedness and even comedy throughout the film. I found myself laughing quite a lot in the second half with Ranbir’s antics which in fact was a very serious and difficult phase for the character.

Aside from the story and the acting, what was evident (and more so in the second half of the film) is the unbelievably good chemistry between the lead actors. The selection for the cast was excellent and even though I’d like to think beyond actors’ personal lives when it comes to their work, there is no doubt that the comfort level between the actors reflected in the performance of this film.

I was very touched by the very last scene, the final interaction between Tara and Ved when he’s still on the stage. How can so much be said with one scene and without dialogue? Ranbir portrayed a variety of emotions of gratitude, happiness and love in those few moments, it was excellent.

There is little need to speak about the music, some of which was made by A.R. Rahman. The album is great, my favorites being Chali Kahani, Matargashti and Wat Wat Wat.

There is no doubt that you’ve already seen Tamasha. If not, please see it. I can confidently say that this film has different flavor to it. I certainly did not feel that I was watching something repetitive. I’m not sure how the film did at the box office, I think that’s a whole separate issue. I personally enjoyed this film and recommend it.