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Oh My Friend

Actors: Siddharth, Shruti Hassan, Navdeep, Hansika Motwani, Tanikella Bharani
Genre: Romance/ Drama
Rating: 2.5/5

Oscar Wilde once said “Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion, enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.” This is widely considered true, but the
plot of this film, penned by Venu Sriram is based completely against this tenet. Chandu and Siri are childhood friends who go on to find partners Ritu and Uday respectively. But Ritu and Uday are flabbergasted by  Siri and Chandu’s friendship, their transparency and that they are priority to each other. The story is overall about misunderstandings and reconciliations.


Siddharth hasn’t aged at all in the last decade and this helps him look and play Chandu with a lot of ease. Youthful charisma intact, his mannerisms and language (as a 25 year old may be) are very today, and given his flair for reel emotional outbursts and romance, matches expectations. Siddharth may not have had to do any homework for this role, but learning to hold and play the guitar better would have helped (a la Rockstar’s Ranbir Kapoor) push his dominance. Shruti Hassan plays Siri, and has shown considerable improvement from AOD in emoting and using body language to accentuate her importance in a scene. Her plusses would be her non-native charm, her unconventional looks (remindful of her mom Sarika), her dancing ability, and her singing (yes she was the female voice in the Sri Chaitanya song). All her negatives must bow down to her intermittent hamming in the Telangana accent and the occassional ‘samputha bidda’ which just don’t connect with the audiences.

Hansika Motwani plays Ritu, and Chandu’s romantic interest. Hansika has grown horizontally considerably and any GreatAndhra-ish adjectives don’t hold true. Ritu is a sidelined character in Chandu’s life, playing second fiddle to a more important character Siri. Hansika is given considerably less screen time and is expected to show her frustration over Chandu prioritizing Siri, and Haniska does not pass the litmus test, with various reasons to blame including direction. If it worsens the case anymore Hansika does not look eye candy either. Navdeep has a stronger screen presence than Siddharth. There. I said it. Expected to play second fiddle to Chandu, Navdeep as Uday does a good job of convincingly raising questions, displaying possessiveness, and playing well the guy you almost want to hate. Tanikella Bharani plays Chandu’s abrasive dad (who is but nice to others), runs a middle-class family, and is broad minded towards relationships. This character unfolds gradually to show one shade after another, and nothing negative. The character is very relatable and Tanikella is a perfect fit.

Nothing about the film spells it is the brainchild of a debutante, that of Director Venu Sriram. This type of plot is not novel, but the treatment of detail along with the screenplay, also by Venu, is what sets this film apart. The progression of the plot is very predictable. Venu is able to extract decent performances overall and use ordinary story elements and almost no props to weave a story replete with many nuances, not all of them boring. If there could be any improvement, it would be depth in character/role development within the plot, without which the screenplay also could take a beating, and it does. Friendships and relationships established, there is not much to extrapolate. So to the common viewer, the screenplay would seem circuitous, slow and unnecessarily dragging. The abrupt pre-climax helps to raise viewer curiosity but the climax is not poignant enough to impress. 

 by Vijay Ckakravarthy, coupled with production values of Dil Raju’s enterprise is meritorious. Close ups are definitely better shot and much better in quality in comparison to scenes with all four characters. Shots of the city roads are not very convincing and easily identifiable as being from a film set. The art direction is nothing ornate but Vijay has made use of locations like a middle class home, a school, a bookstore, Hyderabad flyovers, parks, and especially the resort in Kerala. If anything, Vijay could be better at shooting Chandu’s on stage performances, where he could also capture the crowds better. Too much focus on Chandu when it’s actually a band competition spoils the purpose of the scene.

Why 2.5/5

If you can ignore flaws like Chandu’s random split-second decision leading to a preclimax when Uday refuses to marry Siri, or Chandu being asked to join a band as a lead guitarist but he quickly also becomes the lead singer(?!), or Chandu playing an acoustic guitar when the music is that from an electric guitar, etc.; you may not question other issues with the plot or its progression either. The plusses in the movie are performances of the actors and Venu’s ability to build a house of cards, but then again. The negatives are not really so, as much it is about lack of experience in direction, screenplay and cinematography. Venu Sriram, Dil Raju and team deserve credit for keeping OMF real, and short of God. The movie mainly underscores man-woman friendship, and leaves you with thoughts worth pondering on.


Actors: Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Kumud Mishra, Piyush Mishra
Rating: 3.5/5

Sheher mein hoon main tere, aake mujhe mil toh le; Dena na tu kuch magar, aake mera dil toh tu lele jaana”, sings Ranbir somewhere in the movie. These lines explain the protagonist’s mood, his want and also the soul of this film. The plot of this film, written by Imtiaz Ali is about a Jatt lad Janardhan aka JJ aka Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor) hailing from Delhi, who makes it big as a Rockstar. The story is not so much about Jordan’s rise to fame as much it is about a Rockstar’s mental turmoil, the ebbs and tides in his life that come with his longing for Heer Kaul (Nargis Fakhri), his friend from college, who he eventually develops feelings towards, and after she enters into wedlock. This kind of work is innate to Imtiaz Ali, where characters meet, and realizations about their feelings happen at a later time; but the script is fresh in that it uses the backdrop of a public figure’s life and is outside the mundane. 

Jordan’s role had two main facets – agony and felicity, both emotions pretty much sourced off his relationship with Heer. Ranbir Kapoor has been able to pull both emotions off with ease, and also convincingly brings out an artiste's whimsical nature that comes with the flip of a switch. Theoretically speaking, he could not have done this role any better. If there could be anymore justice, it would require Imtiaz to go off on a tangent to develop Jordan’s role further but it was not necessary. Ranbir’s Hindi accent as a Jatt boy, his initial friendship with Heer, and more importantly as a Rockstar performing on stage are exemplary attributes of his character. Specifics like holding the guitar right, simple basics like knowing when to play tablature versus chords (as and how music transitions progress), and holding chords correctly are some noticeable plusses, that other B-town actors regularly fail to improvise on. Romance comes very easily to Ranbir and he scores big on being able to charm his lady love on screen, and by also being witty. Nargis Fakhri has debuted opposite an actor who has tried out a variety of roles, and it must have been a challenge to grab eyeballs in any shot. Minimal makeup saves her, but her anglicized Hindi, her inability to cry when required most, and more importantly expressing sadness are clearly her shortcomings. What Nargis did best was to lie down on a bed to play a patient suffering from Born Marrow Applasia. While Ranbir leaves an indelible impression, Nargis is not irreplaceable, but surely will win some male fans. 

Piyush Mishra as Dhingra, an executive at a record-label company plays a stereotyped character- grouchy, miserly and demanding. His accent is his asset and he uses it convincingly to support his short role. Piyush Mishra as Khatana Bhai provides slight comical detours with his quips. He also plays JJ's mentor, and to the effect that Jordan really comes to be because of Khatana Bhai’s “Jab tak taqleef nao ho na life mein, tab tak koi bada nai banta!”. Khatana is interjected in the storyline at various junctures to transition Jordan from lover to Rockstar (and thus the screenplay), who would transition back after the act. Piyush is probably remindful of some real life characters (read well-wishers) we may know. 

Although Imtiaz has written scripts earlier in which the lovers separate, gloom descends, and only for them to meet again, this story has some twists. Director Imtiaz has treaded on a practical path, and nowhere does the direction of the story seem flimsy. The first part of the movie sets a good pace with scenes from the who of Jordan, the present, to the how, leading to his past. Imtiaz has done a great balancing act of strongly etching the private life of a public figure. The second half is considerably slow, with most of the content on the storyboard by intermission. It drags mainly because of the repetitive nature of the screenplay by Imtiaz. More depth in storyline could have possibly helped, but it seemed like Imtiaz wanted the emotional connect between the two characters shoulder the second half altogether and of course, it falls short. If you can ingore that the title is a mashup of 2 logos, AC DC's and video game Rockband's, the police chase in Prague that is unresolved, and presence of some native Bollywood love story elements, it’s a brave effort by Imtiaz for stitching together a wonderful range of musical elements and emotions together. 

Cinematography by Anil Mehta is mostly documentary-ish for scenes shot in India, and very rich with scenes shot abroad (Prague, etc). But the visual appeal of snow capped mountains of Kashmir take the cake. Anil has shown great skill in sensitively capturing the intimacy between Jordan and Heer. The stage show scenes, the crowds are adequately captured to prove on celluloid the magnitude of popularity of an artiste called Jordan, which was critical to the storyline. Editing by Aarti Bajaj is greatly in sync with Director Imtiaz’s vision. From a viewer’s standpoint, every single minute of the experience is entertaining. If anything, the slow screenplay in the second half could be shaken up a bit, but this would not be Aarti’s role. So from a content-parsing standpoint, Aarti has ensured that every reel made sense, and it sure does. 

This is the heart of the film. Music by A.R.Rahman helps propel the story too. The music is a lot of fusion, with quite a bit of European flavour – primarily German and Russian. Then there’s some amazing guitar solos, and great percussions to certify Jordan as a Rock artiste. Mohit Chauhan has lent his voice for Jordan, and boy, is it a silk route! Lyrics by Irshad Kamil are key too because that’s where Jordan’s emotions really are, and he does a fantastic job of matching mood of the tune to the lyrics (unlike some songs where Eg. the mood of the tune is high-spirited but the singer is crying out). The lyrics could even be a monologue, but Rahman's tunes add the magical touch. Without a question, his tunes complement the direction of the film, and Jordan’s emotional state. If it has not grown on you, give it more time.

WHY 3.5/5:
The good: Ranbir Kapoor’s performance; the music; screenplay in first half; the editing; the cinematography 
The bad: A could-have-been better Nargis Fakhri; a slow second half


Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Master Armaan Verma
Rating: 2/5                               
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action 

The lead pair, the mega bucks, the first trailer, record number of showings, the 3D format, the SFX, Akon, Thalaivar’s guest appearance, and SRK’s marketing blitz must all add to the hype and curiosity. But the same potpourri is a recipe for failure when not cooked right. The
 plot written by Anubhav Sinha is about victory of good over evil.  Nerdy Shekhar Subramaniam (SRK) is a video game designer based in London with wife Sonia (Kareena Kapoor) and son Prateek (Master Armaan), who does not think highly of his father. So Shekhar’s idea to impress his son is to develop a new video game (a la Kinect). The bad character from the game Ra.One wants to avenge losing (in the game) to Prateek playing G.One aka Good One, in the game. Things turn topsy-turvy when both characters jump out of the video game with Ra.One (Arjun Rampal) hounding Prateek, and G.One (SRK) playing protector.

As Shekhar, SRK is not commendable. South Indian accent and mannerisms is not SRK’s cup of tea and must strongly be advised against repeating it. The wig doesn’t help either. Although Shekhar’s chemistry with Sonia is dry, his relationship with Prateek is very well portrayed. As G.One, SRK is classier, younger, muscular and actually looks like a superhero. G.One emoting, being an automaton and especially after an ‘emotion mere syntax mein nahi hai’, is implausible and is clearly a scripting error. The best part about G.One is his athletic vibe, and it is refreshing to watch SRK perform stunts. VFX is just a tool, but the ropes are tied to a real person and G.One does so much more than just punch the bad guy. Kareena as Sonia is eye candy chammak challo and looked too young to play soccer mom. Kareena shares great chemistry with G.One. Eh?! OK so I have to fizzle it out for you to let some logic in. Shekhar dies, and so. 

Arjun Rampal as Ra.One has limited appeal. His chiseled look, his suit, his stunts are greatly in tune with sci-fi villains of today. Although Shekhar’s villain is intended to be stronger than the hero, Arjun’s screentime is low, and as Ra.One does not induce fear and/or excitement. If anything, Arjun’s action is commendable in the climax. Master Armaan (yep it’s not a girl) plays tween Prateek, who is geeky enough to read video game program code(!). Prateek starts to respect his father only after his untimely death, and by hanging out with G.One. His role was etched to highlight the relationship between a father and son, and Prateek does a decent job.

Being able to handle a bunch of weighty elements called out in the beginning of the review takes a lot of spunk. Moreso for the film producer to hand over the reins to a Director whose filmography comprised 2 semi sci-fi flicks that were duds. A bold decision to cast Anubhav Sinha as Director backfires in all aspects, who has crumbled unable to use brand SRK and other valuable resources to narrate what could have otherwise been a superb story. The story is flawed, its not stressed enough how characters come out of and go back into the video game; how Ra.One is interested in fighting the player and not G.One; how Kareena is able to easily cope with Shekhar’s death and is able to move on and develops feelings for G.One; how G.One is able to emote; the list is virtually endless. Yes it’s a superhero flick with nearly no holds barred, but logic and flow helps enhance viewing experience. G.One shows up right before the intermission and he’s only there to protect Prateek and Sonia. VFX is used in controlled proportions and there are very specific instances where it is commendable. Sequences that could be awe inspiring are dampened due to westerlies like T2, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.

Apart from the loose plot, the screenplay by Anubhav Sinha, Kanika Dhillon, Mushtaq Sheikh, and David Benullo is a complete let down. Once the expectation is established that one solid fight between G.One and Ra.One is mandatory, scenes in the interim are jumbled up without any definitive meaning and probably with a sole focus to showcase VFX expertise where possible. It would have really worked in the film's favour should G.One do more superhero than just talk. The action in general is limited and the train scene is stretched beyond need. During the initial squabble between G.One and Ra.One, there is no reason why they would both throw cars up in the air, which don’t hurt either. There's some unwanted comedy like G.One catching a bullet fired at him, up his nostril beating Dharamji's act, but still! Cinematography by Nicola Pecorini and V. Manikandan is commendable and all characters look their best. Used in coordination with VFX, this film is definitely a breakthrough in homebred Indian sci-fi cinema. Specially in the action sequences, the bike crashing, the bus accident, the train sequence, the collapse of the terminus etc are good examples. Editing by Sanjay Sharma and Martin Walsh is what’s the word, ah yes, shitty. There is a lot of chaff that was included purely to thrill certain audience pockets (read children), but the content is simply outweighed by poor chaperoning.

It’s a commonly observed relation in Hindi cinema that good movies tend to have good music. Vishal – Shekhar’s music hasn’t caught on, except a couple of songs – Chammak Challo and Dildara. Of course the music wasn’t intended to propel the story, but it doesn’t work as a great departure from the bad screenplay either. Background score by the same duo with contribution from the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is catchy and does add excitement to those few scenes where G.One does spring into action action.

WHY 2/5:
The good: A futuristic concept although not stitched together correctly. SRK and Kareena Kapoor. The VFX. The background score. Potential for part 2. Red Chillies’ production values.
The bad: Direction. Screenplay. Editing. Much hard work in the wrong areas.


Actors: Amitabh BachchanSaif Ali KhanManoj BajpaiDeepika PadukonePrateik
Genre: Drama
Rating: 3.5/5

“Bhool gaye ki jab mauka mila tha to hum jaise ne is desh ka samvidhaan likh dala”said Deepak referring to Dr. B R Ambedkar, Principal Architect of the Constitution of India. Talk about B R Ambedkar and there be no reference to reservation system in India? Nahi ho sakta. Aarakshan in Hindi means just that. The story by Prakash Jha and Anjum Rajabali starts off on this hot topic, but the meat really is commercialization of education in India. The plot set in 2008, talks about the changes that are brought about in a Professor’s life on challenging his peer on their sin of ‘selling education’ outside of the institution they teach at. Jobs lost, media fed and egos hurt, rest of the story is about the victory of ideals (like equality, free knowledge) over flaky and the incongruous.

Amitabh Bachchan as Prof Prabhakar Anand is sometimes remindful of Narayan Shankar of Mohabbatein. His authoritative baritone, articulate enunciation, command over Hindi, and gait of a strict administrator at the helm of affairs of an educational organization is picture perfect. The patient teacher in action (teaching) strengthen Bachchan's impression on the viewer as the perfect choice for the role. The character's histrionics are minimal, but his personality is heightened in every scene through others' performances and other cinematic elements that share screen-time with him. Saif Ali Khan as junior lecturer Deepak Kumar, Prof. Anand’s protégé and more relevantly a Dalit individual, has undertaken a new challenge as an individual belonging to the lower middle class. Saif as Deepak is not a romantic, and has fire in his belly for the cause of education and more importantly for upliftment of the downtrodden. Clearly, Saif has underplayed his charm and what comes to the fore is an able individual who likes to be in the shadow of his master to give preference to greater good over personal empowerment. 

A scaled down version of Mr. Potter, empowered by prejudice against Prof. Anand, Manoj Bajpai as Mithilesh Singh does enough for the viewer to loathe him by the end of the film. As a self-controlled personality with political influence, how Mithilesh uses his guile to satiate his greed for money and power is core to this role. If anything, what’s not forgettable about Manoj’s act are his  facial expressions and his Hindi diction (and the local dialect), second only to Bachchan’s. Deepika Padukone as Poorbi is central to many relationships – a college student and friend, a lover, a daughter, etc but her position does little to move the story forward. Deepika’s abilities have been circumvented by the plot’s focus on Prof. Anand and  Mithilesh Singh. Prateik as Sushant, a wealthy student has very average screen presence. In terms of impact, Munna of Dhobi Ghat totally pwns Sushant.

The direction of a film depends on a lot of things – the title, to begin with. Director Prakash Jha could have set better expectations for the viewer by not calling the film ‘Aarakshan’, which it is evidently not about. Coming straight to Prakash’s real craft, the film aims at some unreal solutions to some of India’s real problems owing to commercialization of education system. Clearly establishing goals to be achieved by Prof Anand by end of the movie - to reclaim their property usurped by Mithilesh’s ‘tutorial empire’ and his position in the society, there is enough material justifying evolution of Prof Anand’s character, and the time is also used to bring out the vile Mithilesh Singh in parallel. The performances, the storyline, the visuals, the audio, the screen time  have blended correctly to keep the viewer engaged. What’s not convincing is the turn of events in the climax, which doesn’t draw specific boundaries. Barring the tactical goals that are achieved, the ending really does not highlight if college (STM) benefited, or if the society did (outside of STM). Fate of KK tutorials belonging to Mithilesh Singh is not clear either. 

The film had potential to take off in many tangents given the strong character impressions right at the beginning, but Prakash has ensured the film focuses on events that arise from a showdown of the saintly and the culpable. Screenplay  by Jha and Rajabali does not spawn many offshoots to the storyline. The story has right cast-size, with one event leading into another. It is evident that concerted effort had been put keep the goal in sight always. In light of the larger problem (haves vs have nots), the entire issue of reservation could have been done away with, and so the initial few scenes that focus on the OBC reservation increase to 27% etc don’t help the story at all. Cinematography by Sachin Krishn is remindful of his other work with the same team, in Rajeenti, but comparatively of lower caliber this time. Shot in Madhya Pradesh, the tabelas, the green fields, the attires, have been majorly used to bring about the Bhopal in the story, while, it is a bigger city than what has been showcased. Deepak Kumar’s basti was clearly a film set and the make-believe gapes at the viewer. Although, what Sachin has managed to do well is capture emotions and gestures of the two main characters, Prof Anand and Mithilesh Singh, that add to the excitement of what’s next. 

Like most Prakash Jha films, the album music is meant to be enjoyed outside of the theater, but I am not sure I will. Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is average with Accha Lagta Hai being the big number. If album music was not propelling the story, background music by Wayne Sharpe was. To an extent. Too western for a film with rustic appeal, there are sonatas with violins and piano when Prof. Anand is walking dejected in the rain. Too heavy for the scene and given its extrinsic nature, the composition takes away the feel of the scene. Background music changes our perception and how! Although certain other portions like crowds amassing to support the protagonists have been complemented well by the background sound. 

Why 3.5/5:
The good: Performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai. The storyline and screenplay. No  distracters like full songs or item numbers. The message conveyed in a cryptic way albeit, that education has to be available to everyone without discrimination. The not-so-good: The title. Unwanted storyline on caste reservation. Average production values leading to average cinematography. Average background music. Average performance by Prateik. A climax that potentially discredits a 2 hour plot development. Aarakshan is an interesting take on lives of a few strong characters. Wantedly or unwantedly, it seeks to preach and does leave the viewer thinking about some relevant issues that do need to be addressed in India.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Genre: Dramedy
Rating: 3.5/5

"Hawa ke jhokon ke jaise azad hain hum; Tum ek dariya ke jaise lehron mein behna seekho
Har ek lamhe se tum milo kholey apni baahein; Har ek pal ek naya samaa dekhi yeh nigaahein. 
Jo apni aankhon mein hairaniyaan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum 
Dilon mein tum apni betaabiyan leke chal rahe ho, toh zinda ho tum"

Live it up, the poem said; and as the title suggests Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a message oriented film in the garb of what seems like a desi Hangover. So there, it definitely is not a laugh riot. The story by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti is about three bachelors heading to Spain on a bachelor party-trip, being boys and but mainly, getting in touch with their inner souls to realize their needs. Abhay Deol is the groom-to-be, and Kalki plays his would-be. Hrithik plays a corporate slave based in London who lives money. Farhan is an Advertising Copywriter who has just learnt of his real biological father based in Spain. Beginning their road trip in Spain amidst old issues, mundane lives, but primarily under the stress of unanswered questions and fear of the unknown – to each their own, the troika knows to have fun (under the watchful eyes of the censor board) whilst catering to their ridiculous pact – each individual to choose an adventure sport that the other two will take part in. What comes of it is a sense of being and inner peace, and an attitude that helps let yourself go.

PERFORMANCES: The lead characters are very well-etched and as how one would be perceived in real life based on their profession, their social standing. Hrithik Roshan as Arjun, a London based Financial Broker is an emotional person on the inside, with an exterior toughened by the past. He is determined to remain committed to his passion – get rich. Hrithik’s not-so-often-seen cocky, presumptuous and patronizing avatar is new and very convincing. Of course, there are other tones to Arjun’s character – a romantic, a dancer, a connoisseur, a party boy, and most importantly, a caring friend – but all this, Hrithik does with ease. What stands out is Arjun few minutes in, after the road trip begins, the rude guy. Farhan Akhtar does something new this time as Imraan, and is somewhat reminiscent of the Karthik Calling Karthik dude. This Advertising Copywriter based in Delhi is the happy-go-lucky guy among the three, and probably the most emotional of all three. Farhan’s body language is modest, probably owing to Imraan’s character. Imraan is not a hero, he is definitely not the story’s anchor, but Farhan must be credited for keeping it real, for playing protagonist in brief silent lapses.

Abhay Deol as the groom-to-be and as a rich Mumbai based Architect is perfect for how Kabir conducts himself. Well-mannered, soft and generally concerned about others’ well-being (most visible trait), Kabir the fiancé is a stronger impression than Kabir the friend. Abhay is popularly known for his performances as a carefree character, but Kabir is somewhat new, if not remindful of his character in Manorama. Kabir is the only other from-your-life type of character. Not the last and not the least, enter Laila whose motto in life is Carpe Diem. Katrina plays this London-based fashion student and part-time diving instructor. Even with minimal make up, Katrina looks stunning and manages to grab eyeballs among a bevy of male stars who are pretty good at acting/emoting. Zesty is Laila’s middle-name, and in a certain way, she helps the story progress and for the characters to show their other shades. Kalki as Natasha probably has one of the more clearly defined characters. Natasha is Kabir’s would-be, an interior designer by profession with a taste for mostly finer things. Kalki, with her unconventional looks suits the character well. As the hypersensitive and possessive fiancée, Natasha is a character most guys would love to hate and Kalki does just that by playing the character to the hilt. Suffice it to say the three male stars have equal screen-time and similar presence.

Director Zoya Akhtar has already proved her mettle in directing a multi-starrer, but ZNMD takes her a notch higher for stitching together an emotional tale, while keeping the script lite. This film primarily has a class appeal, and charms the youth. Not idealistic at all, the story does not make any overtures to grow every single character through echelons of time. Zoya ensures ZNMD comes across as a slice-in-a-life type of a film, and nothing more. Ascertaining characters must have been the primary challenge and establishing their professions helped. Zoya’s research and attention to detail is very impressive, be it Spanish culture specifics like the language, La Tomatina, San Fermin, or even Farhan’s Google search page being the local site. References to jokes that youth of today may crack like pronunciation mistakes of their teachers/lecturers, recollecting the old Doordarshan TV channel theme. But there are areas that Zoya does not convince us. For example, Imraan going after his new-found father bit is the most unwanted portion of this film, without any good coming of it. On a broader scope although it is a big personal issue for any normal being, it doesn’t fit into the story very well. Second, it’s a little confusing why all three take up their own individual adventure challenges in the same trip – must have been reserved for each of their bachelor trips. But overall, Zoya helps the story progress continually without any script errors.

Screenplay by writers Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. Some of the heavier moments are not enacted, but are corroborated by poetry (in Farhan’s voice), and by song sequences. The screenplay is also heavily supported by the performances. Although, it feels if the characters were happier, there would be better and sprightly screenplay, but guess the characters had to be one specific way only to transform eventually. Dialogue is very contemporary, easy to understand and relate with. The scenes flow in a logical sequence; with the only goal to help the characters find happiness within them. Cinematography by Zoya camp member Carlos Catalan (also DOP of Luck by Chance) is very refreshing. Visuals not seen before in Hindi cinema are one reason. And yes, there are the hyped up lip-locks. Even if Kalki-Abhay had not confessed, theirs is absolutely ignoreable. Hrithik-Katrina’s happens in a jiffy and is nothing murderous. Sorry if I fizzled it out for you, but I’d expect the result to match the hype. Carlos does make the scene appear natural and in good taste. The colors- the blue roadster, the Spanish countryside, the snorkeling/diving session, the skydiving, the waters, La Tomatina, Running of the bulls, horses galloping on ranches along the highway, the cobblestone streets, liquor bars and the road trip iself are adequately captured to give a sneak peak into the Spanish pedestrian. 

MUSIC: Shankar Ehsaan Loy have provided musical score. The songs don’t themselves propel the story but are a decent diversion. There are many Spanish sounds (accoustic guitar, most prominently), a flamenco song ‘Senorita’ which has been sung by the trio, pretty well actually. The mood of all songs is focused on the positive; seem to convey the same message – ZNMD. Music does not hog any limelight in the film, but the background music by the same folks (SEL) is probably the better product in comparison with songs, with some acoustic guitars and especially because the script feel is light although the underscoring theme is philosophy. 

Why 3.5/5: 

ZNMD focuses on the message and does not get lost in what could have been a mish-mash of love stories, weddings, bachelor party humour, and lot more. The message is underlined progressively through screenplay - appreciating relationships, and doing what you like. There is good amount of humour, the classy feel, the bachelor holiday in Spain, enjoying the local culture, the moments, the intermittent poetry during brief silences, the jealous would-be, the lively new woman in your life, a loving Spanish girl with you can’t converse with, a country’s natural landscapes and the coastline, the natural progression of the relationships, and the performances help add up to 3.5. The negatives are – an unwanted detour like the newly discovered biological father, the average music and possibly the crabby lives of the three main characters, when they set out. But overall, it is a film that is not preachy yet does just that, helps you know that never again is there going to be another you!

Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries)

Actors: Aamir Khan, Prateik Babbar, Monica Dogre, Kriti Malhotra
Genre: Drama
Rating: 4/5

They say the dhobi knows everyone’s secrets because he’s the one washing all dirty linen! In this film, a dhobi forms the nexus between two main characters in the story, why “Dhobi Ghat”. Sorta. How about a Dhobi Ghat where clothes from all over the city congregate, like a city where many lives meet, affect a change, and get affected as well – all four characters? Sounds like the right metaphor. Also presenting the fifth character, Mumbai! In new and non-Bollywood light. The four main characters: Munna (Prateik Babbar), a dhobi, Arun (Aamir Khan), a painter, a loner, Shai (Monica Dogra), a semi-pro photographer on a vacation in Mumbai, Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a recently-married girl, new to Mumbai. 

How Munna connects the dots, how the four characters evolve and sporadically intersect, infatuations and revelations developed, is the pith. Dhobi Ghat is unconventional, non-dramatic, and runs heavily on feelings - subtle and not an emotional dump. If emotions form the meat of the story, progression of the plot is the soul. I would rather hold my horses by not divulging the plot details penned by Kiran Rao, and let you affirm after watching.

Prateik Babbar as Munna is the ‘hero’ of DG. No feats really, except radiating talent, nice and bright, while a parallel story was being chaperoned by a luminary like none other than Aamir Khan. Prateik has played the role of a slum-dweller to the hilt. Be it lifestyle, Mumbai slang, embarrassments while confronting the urbane, low-brow humour, and most importantly his relationship with the chic Shai (Monica), all relatable. Modestly built as a shy character, how he slowly gains a friend in Shai, develops a crush, evokes emotion in her by just being around is exemplary. Moving on, Aamir Khan is a rare actor who can hold his own strongly in a bevy of strong characterizations (Eg. Andaz Apna Apna, Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, etc). Arun is not the cynosure of the film, yet Aamir intelligently uses his screen-time tantamount to others’, to limn out intensity, hollowness, guilt, curiosity, voyeur, disquiet, embarrassment, pedestrian emotions, yet making them appear fresh and bewitching. Much unto himself, Arun does not indulge in soliloquies but Aamir manages to use his expressions and screen-presence well coupled with a dynamic screenplay to help out. In just two adjectives, Aamir as Arun is indispensable and storybook-like.

Monica Dogra as Shai is a type of character the younger Indian audiences may be familiar with. Super-convincing as a US-based ‘NRI’ with a *thing* for all things Indian (mostly the downtrodden), speaking Hindi peppered with an Americanized accent, Monica as Shai is commendable. Shai’s character had two main attributes - pursue photography as a serious hobby, build camaraderie with Munna, and Monica is remindful of a character some of us may probably know in our own lives. A character much defined by Munna’s world, Monica could have done a better job of alluring attention, but that’s just my interpretation of Shai. Next, Kriti Malhotra plays Yasmin, a shy, newly-married girl who is excited about sharing the ongoings with her folks back home. Yasmin is perhaps a peripheral element of DG, but how Yasmin and Arun form a bond in the movie is not everyone’s guess, and is one of the most beautifully thought-out portions. Largely though, Yasmin’s character helps change the mood of the movie eventually.

That debutante Director Kiran Rao may be under the tutelage of a film institution like Aamir Khan may have had something to do with the final product, is fast-food opinion. Agreed Aamir Khan is a perfectionist but his body of work up until now, treatment of plot in any of his movies, photography and screenplay have been significantly mainstream. With DG, Kiran has clearly brought about a new flavour for each of aforementioned talent. Beyond doubt. Taking an ‘artsy’ plot, a slice of life concept (in Kiran’s own words), orthodox and the mundane, to tell a story by conjoining lives loosely by a thread of emotions, thus making the latter the star of the movie – this itself is Kiran’s greatest contribution to DG. While, something of a taboo yet the very common human attribute of voyeurism is given limelight, is also common to the four characters. The direction of the story was largely dependent on how each character peels each layer off of them, to analogize unwarrantedly, like an onion – building four characters all in 100 minutes of runtime! Kiran has made sure that when one story was turning a new page, the other did too parallelly, maintaining the overall feel. Nothing about DG is over the top, Kiran makes your imagination run wild, letting you draw conclusions at times. In this context of letting you make your own interpretation, there are no loopholes one can really look for.

Screenplay by Kiran seems slightly under-paced, because seen from a cinematic POV, the film is documentary-ish and does not lollop headily towards a definitive climax. But there is a turn of events, and characters change course. Using the facial expressions, locations, and background music to generate a mood for a frame to delicately reveal a character’s many colours, could have been Kiran’s prerogative, why the screenplay was probably downplayed. Visuals like Arun’s silent and old lady neighbor, Shai’s maid brining chai for Munna in a steel tumbler and for Shai in a porcelain cup, a shy Marathi middle-class lady being videoed Yasmin, etc are some tenuous examples to keep it real yet corroborative. Cinematography by Tushar Kanti Ray is insightful, profound, and to me, game-changing. This, by simply using commonplace visuals that most of us are familiar with, to set the mood for a scene or to re-assure that everything’s within bounds of the everyday. Examples mentioned few sentences ago may give you a better idea. Most of the shots are rich with detail; add great conviction to the film’s rustic feel. All in all, the cinematography gleams bright at you, waiting to be interpreted.

Gustavo Santaolalla provides the musical retreat. The background tunes are intense, range from Oscar Lopez-like Spanish guitar solos to Hindustani Classical music to Jazz and such other contemporary forms. The background music forms an integral part of DG, adding to the narration (substituting at times!), taking the viewer through highs and lows of emotion. Overall, it has urban feel, is very worldspace-like and is much different from regular Bollywood.

Why 4/5:
This film will most certainly polarize the audience – you will either like it or you won’t, no middle ground. Simply because of its innate non-commercial yet global feel, Dhobi Ghat will be approved much more easily by cerebral and the reasoning than the paisa-vasool enthusiasts. While everything else gets a positive rating – Direction, Performances, Cinematography, Background Music and Screenplay; factors like documentary style of filming with quite a focus on the ordinary, nothing over the top, no cliché, and no definitive milestone to achieve through the story and its esoteric nature may seem to go against (certain) viewers. There are no logical loopholes, except would have personally loved to see some more facets added to Shai and Yasmin. Go watch if you like soft films, or purely to check out Mumbai that hasn’t been showcased so far.

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