2017’s Best and Worst Patriotic Films

I have been on a patriotic film spree lately. From re-watching classics like Rang De Basanti, watching ones that I missed at release, like Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, and catching up with patriotic films of 2017, I have the tri-color running in my veins. So what are the best and worst patriotic films of 2017?

ghazi-attack-review-1Best: The Ghazi Attack

This is by far the best film I have seen this year. With seasoned actors like Kay Kay Menon and Atul Kulkarni, and a great performance by Rana Daggubati, the story of Indian submarine S21’s efforts to destroy a Pakistani submarine before it destroys them and launches an attack on the Indian mainland, is impressive. There is not a dull moment in this edge-of-the-seat film and you will find yourself clenching your teeth and praying for their success. You must watch The Ghazi Attack.

RangoonBest: Rangoon

I don’t understand why Rangoon didn’t perform well at the box office. I found the Vishal Bhardwaj film portraying the Indian independence movement through the perspective of the entertainment industry very impressive. Based on the real-life stuntwoman and actress “Fearless Nadia,” referred to as Miss Julia in Rangoon, played by Kangana, the film displays how the entertainment industry became part of British military propaganda and how Miss Julia found herself in the middle of it all. The original scenes, the perfect fusion of art and war, and wonderful chemistry between Kangana and Shahid, I enjoyed every minute of the film. I admit the ending was a bit far-fetched, but I can easily ignore this for the many other pluses. See it.

begumjaanposterWorst: Begum Jaan

A 2017 film that was supposed to have a patriotic message was Begum Jaan. Yes, the film notes the violence against civilians during the Indian partition. But more so than send a message about the dark side of history,  it is a fairly meaningless film that spends much of its time romanticizing brothel characters and boasting violence. Skip this one.

Blast From The Past: Ek Hasina Thi

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Introducing my new series, Blast From The Past, where we will remember some older films.

I have had a list titled “Films I Should See At Some Point” for some years now. These are films that I heard people talk about and recommend at some point. And I have the intention of seeing them but it takes me a while to get around to them. The list has included films like Omkara, Socha Na Tha, Ek Hasina Thi, Rangeela, Sholay. Thankfully, I have crossed a few off the list, one of them being Ek Hasina Thi.

Ek Hasina Thi is a 2004 Ram Gopal Varma thriller starring Saif Ali Khan and Urmila Matondkar.

Sarika (Urmila) is a beautiful woman who works at a travel agency in Mumbai and lives alone. She is wooed by Karan (Saif), a businessman, who seems to be coming to her aid in difficult times. Although Sarika is careful and distant at first, she soon falls in love with Karan and starts dating him. One day, Karan asks Sarika to expect a guest, a friend of his who is arriving to Mumbai to catch a flight. The strange man arrives and leaves his suitcase at Sarika’s place in order to run an errand. Sarika is shocked to discover on the news that the man was a criminal and was killed by police. A phone call arrives from Karan in which he tells her to get rid of his suitcase and make sure not to mention Karan’s name to the police. Things quickly get out of hand when police catch Sarika red-handed with the suitcase and arrest her. What follows is Sarika’s realization of Karan’s betrayal, her efforts to get out of jail and how she will revenge him.

This film has Urmila Matondkar written all over it. What an actress! She is just superb. I am not too familiar with Urmila’s films. I’ve only seen her in a few other ones before Ek Hasina Thi. But she completely bowled me over with her performance in this film. Not only is her appearance so perfect for this role, but her dialogue delivery and reactions are also very natural. She was completely in character, living it, rather than acting it.

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Urmila was angelic-like throughout the film with beautiful innocent looks. She left no doubt in the mind of the audience just how naive and good hearted this character is. As impressive as Urmila was as the naive beauty, as impressive she was when she transforms into a strong willed woman who is living for revenge. Saif Ali Khan also suited his role very well and was convincing as the cunning player who doesn’t mind destroying an innocent woman’s life. The director Sriram Raghavan also did a fine job.

I enjoyed the film thoroughly. It was definitely very exciting. The only point I am confused about is why Karan wanted to get Sarika involved in the first place? Was it so essential for his “friend” to leave his stuff at her house? Did Karan woo her just for that single benefit? It certainly seemed like Karan had planned and tricked Sarika from the very beginning. It was obvious that he was never into her. Did he go after her because he realized very quickly how easy it would be to deceive her? I guess so. After Sarika went to jail, everything Karan did from that point on made sense. It was just the parts before that didn’t really make sense to me in an afterthought.

If you have never seen this film, I highly recommend it. Aside from the fact that the story is very good, Urmila is reason enough to see this film. I actually feel sad now that she isn’t really doing films anymore. She is an excellent actress. We don’t come across many powerful female performers these days. And seeing Urmila’s performance in this film makes me wonder if we have overrated today’s actresses like Vidya and Kangana. They are not necessarily better performers than Urmila.

Law Point Review

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Law Point is a Malayalam drama thriller starring Kunchacko Boban and Namitha Pramod.

The film’s opening scene is of a girl who commits suicide by slitting her wrist. We see her being treated and being returned to life after her heart had stopped.

Sathya (Kunchacko) is a lawyer who defends clients like rapists and murderers. He is just a money minded lawyer who doesn’t care whether his client is honest or not. He just does his job and finds a way to save them from a case. The case of the girl who had committed suicide is brought to Sathya. The girl is revealed to us as Maya (Namitha). Maya apparently committed suicide because of a tiff with her boyfriend. So Maya and her father have filed a case against the boyfriend. And it’s the boyfriend’s father who has hired Sathya to bring a closure to the case if possible. So Sathya, who wants to convince Maya to take some money and withdraw the case, visits her at her house. He immediately understands that she is a very intelligent and adamant girl but does not give up. With the permission of Maya’s father, Sathya takes her on a long drive to talk with her and find a way to convince her to withdraw the case.

 

I don’t think that Law Point is much of a drama or a thriller. It does have suspense elements. Or to clarify, it leaves us vague and wondering about a few points. The film also convinces us of things and later reveals that they were false. But the story and the way the film was made doesn’t have the qualities we are used to seeing in a thriller. There is no action, no extravagance. It’s a very simple story and it’s more about getting to know the characters than anything else. Even the music is very easy going. There is really nothing dramatic or intensely shocking about this film. I’m not sure which other categories would suit it, but thriller and drama are certainly not it.

That being said, I did enjoy the movie. I loved the performance of Namitha. She has a very star like quality to her. She suits the big screen wonderfully and it was a joy to watch her. Her facial mimicry is very good and she speaks with her eyes. I liked Kunchacko’s performance as well. I just didn’t like the character he was playing. In one early scene of the film, Sathya’s friend tells him that there is another court, the court of God, where he will have to answer for defending rapists. He says that Sathya’s skills as a lawyer are only admired in this world, they won’t be admired in the next. I completely agree with this. But as an actor, Kunchacko did satisfy what the role required of him.

There is a scene when Sathya walks in Maya’s room to meet her for the first time. Right before that, there is a shot of Maya where we see hear smiling and loosening her hair. At that moment, I sat there wondering, “does this look like a girl who just committed suicide? She is not depressed at all.” There were a few other moments in the film when I felt this way about Maya — how she wasn’t really acting in character. But it turns out that it’s all a pre-planned part of the scenario. And you’ll have to watch the last scene of the film to understand why.

I think that Law Point is a very well made film because the realities of the situation are kept under covers until the very end. I can’t say that I experienced a rush when I finally understood what had happened. But I was certainly not bored. I also enjoyed the homely ambiance of the film. That long drive, the short visit of Maya and  Sathya at an old couple’s home that they met on the way. Maya’s lie to them that Maya and Sathya are married and her hint that Sathya has erectile dysfunction. It was so funny.

This is the type of film that’s fun to watch when one wants an easy-going film without a lot of action. It’s a film that doesn’t tire the viewer. The scenery is pleasant and it’s also interesting. I recommend it. Just don’t expect it to be a usual thriller.

Ek Villain Review

 

Ek Villain is a Hindi romantic thriller starring Sidharth Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh.

The film is about the love of a gangster Guru (Sidharth) and a girl who has a short time left to live, Aisha (Shraddha). And then there is Rakesh (Riteish), a frustrated telephone company employee who finds a horrific way to vent his frustration. The film is about revenge, but more so about forgiveness and kindness.

Ek Villain turned out much better than I had expected. The promotions of the film didn’t interest me much and knowing that Sidharth and Shradda aren’t the best actors on the planet, I didn’t think this film had much to offer. But I was wrong.

Ek Villain is actually a very good film with a very interesting story. The film starts off with a rather moving and dramatic scene and throughout the film, we are taken to different segments in the story. So we put pieces of the puzzle together slowly and learn how the hero and heroine came together and why this dramatic event has taken place. I don’t want to tell you what they are because I want you to enjoy the film while watching.

Aside from the great storyline, the other surprise in this film is Riteish. Who knew Riteish could be such a good villain? He was completely convincing in his role and blew me over with his performance. I’d much rather see him in these roles than silly comedies. I saw a comment by one critic that Riteish is the hero of Ek Villain, and performance wise, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that.

There is a scene in Ek Villain where a group are shown watching an Amitabh Bachchan film. In the scene in that film where Bachchan kicks open a door and emerges from the cloud of dust, the real door of the room is kicked open and a tall figure walks into the room through a cloud of dust. The group starts clapping and whistling thinking it to be Amitabh Bachchan. The one walking in is Sidharth. Just a few scenes before this precise scene as I was watching Sidharth walking, I felt that his walk and demeanor is much like Amitabh Bachchan’s. So I really enjoyed the scene where he was likened to Amitabhji. Some people in the industry have been resembling Sidharth to him and feel that he may be the next Amitabh Bachchan.

This is the second film of both Sidharth and Shraddha I have seen. I saw Sidharth in SOTY and Shraddha in Aashique 2. In this film, I saw some improvement in Shraddha’s acting. She was more comfortable and performed with less effort than before. But with Sidharth, I did not see much of an improvement. He is a very good looking guy, he is tall and attractive. His dialogue delivery is good too. Sidharth’s problem is his facial expressions, the lack of them. Throughout Ek Villain, Sidhart has only one facial expression: the “angry young man” look. I understand that he is playing a serious character who has experienced many traumas in his life. But until he learns to show more facial expressions as an actor, I don’t think he can think of being a future Amitabh Bachchan. Aside from this, Sidharth did a good job in the film and I did like the Sidharth-Shraddha on screen couple.

Like I said, Shraddha has improved a little. She is very energetic, and happy-go-lucky in this film which suited her. Since Sidharth’s character was so depressed and angry, Shraddha’s character provided a nice contradiction and positive mood to the film. She performed her role convincingly and was particularly good in the opening scenes. There were a few moments in the Banjara song where I felt that she was not very elegant and could have done better.

As for Riteish, he was fantastic. He totally creeped me out and that’s exactly what that role demanded. I did not like the contacts he used in the film, but I guess it increased the creepiness level a little bit. Fans of Riteish must not miss this film because it’s by far one of his best performances. I’m so glad that after a film like Humshakals, he came to his viewers with a role and project like this.

The dialogues of the film are very good. The dialogues that stood out were: “Andhere ko andhera nahi, sirf roshni mita sakti hai, nafrat ko nafrat nahi, sirf pyar mita sakta hai.” And “Jab tak hum kisi ke humdard nahi bante na, tab tak hum dard se aur dard hum se juda nahi hota.”

The other aspect of the film that requires recognition is the music. It’s impressive. Half way through the film, one is already hooked on the music. There are not many films nowadays where half way through one says ” I have got to get the music of this film” and Ek Villain is one of them. My favorite songs are Zaroorat and Galliyan. I like the second version of Galliyan sung by Shraddha Kapoor. Yes, she sang a song and she is great at it. She has a lovely, soothing voice and worked great for this song.

In conclusion, I highly recommend Ek Villain. The story is good, the performances are good, the music is good. What else do you want? Go and watch it.

The Xposé Review

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The Xposé is a period crime mystery thriller starring Himesh Reshammiya.

The film takes place in the 60s and is about the murder of a film actress. Ravi Kumar (Himesh) is a police officer turned actor, a South superstar who stars in his first Hindi film. The heroine of the film is the actress who is murdered. Not many people like this actress and so when she is murdered, there are many suspects. The rest of the film is about how Ravi Kumar solves the mystery. Some bits of the film are said to be inspired from the death of Meena Kumari whose 1972 film Pakeezah became a hit only after her death.

The Xposé is an interesting film. I’m not sure how to label it. It’s definitely not a typical film for Hindi cinema. It’s strangely, kind of artistic. It’s like a drunk crime thriller novel, with characters from 1960s Hindi films. The story is interesting and I like the unexpected twists when Ravi Kumar is solving the crime. I just wish that more time was spent on that part. It seems a little rushed. They could have shortened the first half and expanded the events in the second half. I guess being a crime thriller, I was expecting a long set of events much like in detective novels where it turns out that the butler is the murderer. Despite this, the film got me to wonder who really killed the actress and I couldn’t guess it, so I think it was done successfully.

The Ravi Kumar character is much more interesting than the story. Himesh is such a guy that one either hates him or loves him. He has a fan following, and then there is a group who criticizes him to death about his songs, his voice and his films. I have never belonged to either category. I think he has his strengths and weaknesses but he is certainly not the worst thing to happen to Hindi cinema as some would like us to believe. I even enjoy his music. I liked his film Radio and even though acting hasn’t been his biggest strength, he has done an interesting role in this film.

In The Xposé, Himesh plays an intelligent, well dressed actor who is really full of himself. He tells the actress working with him: “tumhari takdeer ko dekh kar jalan ho rahi hai ki Ravi Kumar tumhari liye larrayi kar raha hai.*” He has a violent streak and can shoot and beat people without blinking. He gave up smoking, but never gave up the cigarette. Throughout the film, there is an unlit cigarette in Ravi Kumar’s hand but he never smokes. I couldn’t help but giggle when the “smoking is injurious to health” warning came up on the corner of the screen every time the Ravi character was sitting there with an unlit cigarette between his fingers. As uncompassionate he is to his foes, Ravi Kumar is just as compassionate towards the one he loves, another film actress. He never reveals his love but quietly supports and protects her without her knowledge.

Ravi Kumar has a lot of pride, but this pride and his unexpected reserved attitude about love, makes him attractive. Yes, I used the word “attractive” when talking about Himesh! He lost a ton of weight for this film, and his complete look, with a nicely chiseled face, mustache and well ironed suits outlining his thin structure make Himesh quite good looking. I just hope that he is not starving because even his cheeks have disaappeared due to the weight loss and I think that’s not good health wise. I think he can put on a few pounds and he will still have a nice physique because he is very, very thin now. I must say that I respect the dedication that he has, to change his looks so drastically for this film.

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Himesh and his new look is not the only different thing going for this film. They also got the singer Yo Yo Honey Singh to play a full role in The Xposé. And Irrfan Khan is the storyteller.

The dialogues of the film are also very amusing. My favorite is when the film director tells the actress who asked him what she has to do for this role: “Na dance, na expression, na pose. Sirf expose.*” Bunty Rathore wrote the dialogues and he has done a great job.

I found the disclaimer in the beginning of the film funny. It says: “This story is inspired by true incidents and characters. However no inference should be drawn with any person living or dead. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.” That’s funny considering that makers of the film gave interviews to Indian newspapers before the release of the film where they said that an incident of the film is inspired from Meena Kumari’s death. They also said that they are exposing Bollywood secrets of the 60s and 70s in this film.

The music of the film is good. I like the background score and the second version of the song Dard Dilo Ke sung by Mohammad Irfan. Himesh, surprisingly, does not sing all of the songs in this film. Some think that this is because he has become conscious of the criticisms some make about his voice. Regardless of why Himesh was willing to have another singer sing in his place, I think he made a good decision. I also think that he is sending the message that he is dedicated to his acting career and does not want to be thought of as only a music composer and singer any longer. I say, we start taking Himesh seriously as an actor. I think he’s very hard working and The Xposé shows that he can in fact make decent films. I personally think he needs to follow the Ravi character and go for different types of films and characters like this. I think he can create a nice niche for himself in cinema.

I should also mention that The Xposé was watched by a record number of people online. So if people say that they don’t like Himesh and that the film sucks, they’re lying. Whether people like it or not, they became interested enough in this film to see it. And as far as the film industry is concerned, that’s all that matters. Success doesn’t equal excellent film reviews, it equals money. A film makes it, at the box office. And it looks like The Xposé made it.

*”I’m getting jealous seeing your fate, that Ravi Kumar is fighting for you.”

* “Neither dance, nor expression, nor pose. Just expose.”

Geethanjali Review

Geethanjali is a Malayalam horror thriller starring Mohanlal, Keerthi Suresh and Nishan in lead roles. It is a spin-off of the famous Malayalam film Manichitrathazhu. A spin-off is a film derived from another. In the case of Geethanjali, all that is adopted from Manichitrathazhu are the characters– Dr. Sunny Joseph (Mohanlal) and Nakulan (Suresh Gopi). Suresh Gopi only has a special appearance of under one minute. Innocent and Ganesh Kumar from the cast of Manichitrathazhu also have roles in this film but they are playing different characters. The fim is directed by Priyadarshan who was an assistant director of Manichitrathazhu. The story was written by Abilash Nair. The film is apparently a remake of a Thai film called Alone.

The film is about Anjali (Keerthi Suresh) who returns to her parental home in Arackal with her fiance Anoop (Nishan) upon hearing about her mother falling off of the terrace of the home and getting hospitalized. Anjali and her mother recently experienced the shock of the untimely death of Anjali’s twin sister, Geetha. Anjali’s mother was not able to recover from this shock. Moreover, there are rumors among the servants that the house is haunted by Geetha’s ghost.

Anjali and Anoop were planning on getting married at their native place, so they stay back at the Arackal home. But immediately after they arrive, Anjali is bothered by Geetha’s ghost which she sees repeatedly around the house.

Meanwhile, Vasu uncle (Ganesh Kumar) wants to purchase the home but distant relatives, Thankappan (Innocent) and his daughter, show up at the place saying that they have a claim in the property. Anoop and others in the house notice that Anjali is becoming increasingly disturbed. So Anoop calls Nakulan (Suresh Gopi) and asks him about the psychiatrist who had helped them many years ago. Nakulan gets in touch with Dr. Sunny who soon arrives at the Arackal home to find out what is wrong. The rest of the story is about how Dr. Sunny solves the riddle behind Geetha’s ghost.

The first forty-five minutes of the film are rather slow, but the story picks up and becomes more interesting after Dr. Sunny makes an entry. After finishing the film and understanding the truth behind Geetha’s ghost, you will actually want to go back and take a look at the early scenes and think about them. So I suggest hanging in there even though you might feel bored at first.

Although I was excited about seeing this film for the sole reason of Mohanlal playing Dr. Sunny once again, I was intent on reviewing the film without comparing it with Manichitrathazhu. But as I watched the film, I realized that some comparison with Manichitrathazhu is inevitable because Priyadarshan intentionally put nuances in the film that reminds one of certain Manichitrathazhu scenes.

I think it is because of the inevitable comparison of two films that Geethanjali received low ratings from viewers. The film only has 4.5 out of 10 stars on IMDB, which I personally feel is underrated. I think that the audience’s expectations from the film were so high that the film naturally fell short. But in reality, Geethanjali is a decent film that lovers of the horror genre will enjoy. I urge viewers to try to watch the film without thinking about Manichitrathazhu.

The film is no doubt very different from Manichitrathazhu and it is meant to be so. As for the subtle similarities, I think that they ought to be considered a gesture by Priyadarshan and Abilash Nair for Manichitrathazhu fans.

*if you have not seen the film but want to, stop reading here, spoilers ahead, please jump to the last paragraph of the review

Here are some of those nuances that I picked up while watching Geethanjali:

  •  Just like the ghost of Nagavalli at the Madampally palace, there is a ghost at the Arackal home, the ghost of Geetha. Geetha’s room was locked to keep her spirit there by a Christian priest. But Anjali opened the door after arriving home, thereby letting the ghost free. Now the priest must return to Arackal and keep the spirit back in the room. In Manichitrathazhu, Ganga had opened the door of Nagavalli’s room and allowed the spirit to roam. Priests had to come to lock the room again.
  • Around the 50th minute of Geethanjali, Innocent is afraid of a series of things that are actually normal, just as his character had feared random yet normal things in Manichitrathazhu. This also marks the entry of Dr. Sunny in the film, which I think was an impressive entry.
  • In this film again there is a silly priest claiming that he will cast off the spirit through rituals
  • There are also a few funny scenes where the intention of Dr. Sunny is misunderstood just as it was in Manichitrathazhu
  • There is a scene where Dr. Sunny again speaks the same phrases over and over again in different ways and quickly, and no one understands what he is trying to say
  • To find out the truth, Dr. Sunny is shown to be visiting different places and asking people questions, just as he had done for Ganga’s case
  • Just like the scene where Dr. Sunny had explained everything to Nakulan in Manichitrathazhu, there is a scene where Dr. Sunny explains everything to Anoop in Geethanjali. I really like this scene because the whole conversation takes place in the cemetery at night under heavy rain
  • As Ganga had transformed into Nagavalli while speaking to her husband, Anjali/Geetha transforms while speaking to Anoop, after Anoop finds out the truth. Her looks and way of speaking change and show all the signs of a mentally imbalanced person

Aside from these nuisances, the film is very different from Manichitrathazhu. First of all, as you can see from the stills, Geethanjali is a dark and gloomy film. It does not have bright visuals like Manichitrathazhu, nor does it have a happy ending. Manichitrathazhu was a psychological thriller, but Geethanjali is a horror film. There is a psychological aspect to the story but it is weak. The suspense elements are also weak. Unfortunately, despite being a horror film, the film is not frightening. Moreover music and dance have no importance in this film.

Ganesh Kumar, Innocent and Suresh Gopi who were also part of the cast of Manichitrathazhu

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Mohanlal is in top shape in his performance as Dr. Sunny. Dr. Sunny is just as playful, funny, witty and lovable in Geethanjali as he was in Manichitrathazhu. After seeing Mohanlal’s performance, one remembers what natural acting looks like. We don’t see much of it these days. And Mohanlal’s face is such that when one looks at him, it feels like he’s a friend, someone that is close and dear. There is a sweetness and simplicity in his looks, attitude and speech that makes the audience warm up to him immediately. Mohanlal is the best, and perhaps the only reason to see the film for some.

Keerthi Suresh was very good in her two roles. This was her debut film and she is not like a newcomer at all, she is completely in grasp of her performance. She has done everything from editing, directing, producing and costume designing for short films previously. She obviously knows about film-making and needs to continue her career as anactress.

I think the story of the film was good but the one aspect I did not understand was how Anoop does not recognize his fiance or how one sister can pose for the other so successfully.

The music of the film is okay. I do like Doore Doore, which reminds me of the song Varuvaanillarumee from Manichitrathazhu. Both melodies are soft and sad, with lyrics about separation and longing.

I think that the editing and post-production teams deserve a mention because in the fight scenes and the scenes where the sisters appeared together, the editing and post-production was done perfectly without any glitches. However the visuals for Geetha’s ghost were poor and failed to frighten or thrill.

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In conclusion, I recommend this film for those who enjoy horror films. However, if you see the film expecting another Manichitrathazhu, you will be disappointed. Keep your expectations low and keep in mind that this is not a remake or sequel. If you enjoyed Mohanlal’s Dr. Sunny performance in Manichitrathazhu, then you might want to see this film for Mohanlal.

I really would like to see the Thai original film and compare it with Geethanjali to get an idea of how much the writer added to/changed the story.

Also take a look at my post: The Differences Between Manichitrathazhu and Bhool Bhulaiyya.

Special 26

Special 26 (Special Chabbis) is a good movie. I don’t want to tell you the details in case you decide to watch it because it will ruin it for you. All I can say that it’s a good script about Indian CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) with good acting and a balance of everything. I never felt bored during the movie, it demanded attention and was exciting. And if nothing else, you can watch the film for Akshay who is looking so handsome and smart in his mustache and CBI getup.

I did feel that the romantic track was unnecessary but it was probably demanded to make the film lengthier and to pull the crowd who likes romance. The actress is Kajal Aggarwal, who I’m not much of a fan of, but she did fine in the film. Her voice is naturally dubbed to hide her South accent.

Anupam Kher was great as usual, the supporting cast also did well, although the script doesn’t tell us much about them, aside from that they are regular people with regular lives. Akshay Kumar and Anupam Kher are the stars of this show. This is not a film that you want to buy a DVD for, but do watch it online or otherwise when you get a chance. What I liked most about the film is that the story is based on real life events. There were some technical shortcomings like the models of planes and cars were not right (the film takes place in the 80s). But these details can easily be ignored for the story.