Friday, January 29, 2016

Saala Khadoos

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 29th January, 2016
Time : 109 minutes
Director, Writer: Sudha Kongara; Music : Santhosh Narayanan
Starring : Madhavan, Ritika Singh, Nasser, Zakir Hussain, Mumtaz Sorcar
(simultaneously made and released in Tamil as Irudhi Suttru)

Sports movies usually suffer from a serious predictability issue. This one doubly so, somehow things happen too easily. The characters drawn are also pretty uni-dimensional – the good guys are always good and the baddies remain consistently bad, with no redeeming features. What keeps it going are some very good performances (Madhavan, Ritika, Zakir, Nasser) and the fact that the heart is in the right place – after all, as Madhavan points out early in the film, if the Sports Federations are removed from the equation, India will probably find champions in every galli-mohalla.

Madhavan is a disgruntled, ex-boxer, betrayed by his coach, Zakir Hussain, but the latter now calls the shots as National Head Coach for women boxing, with the former sullenly reporting to him. After yet another tiff, Madhavan is shunted out to Chennai, the worst ranking state for women boxers and there he meets the angry, fiery, spit-fire Ritika. She sells fish, is the younger sister of another boxer (Mumtaz) but Madhavan spots the talent in her and persuades her to train. First by giving her money, then other means. With both being permanently on simmer, the rest of the movie is mostly about either one boiling over on trivial matters – with Nasser, junior coach, trying to smooth things over. And then, when all finally seems to be going smoothly, others step in to spoil the fun, including but not the only one, Zakir Hussain…

If you’ve seen any sport film before, you’ll know how things are going to pan out – nothing really surprises. There are some fun moments in the first half, especially with the unorthodox style and celebrations of the gauche Ritika. The stars act well, doing the job assigned to them, making their characters believable. The songs are good but have an unmistakable southern feel to them. Things just fall in place for our underdogs too easily (too much is made of the lowly roots too often), too smoothly – in typical Hindi / Tamil film style.

To overcome the predictability, sports films usually need to have another, strong, parallel storyline to keep the viewers engaged – showing the Sports Federation as the bad guys though, is hardly novel, given our abysmal success rate in most sports. On a separate note, wouldn’t it be great if the Lodha Committee recommendations (to know more, click here) could be applied to all sporting bodies in the country ?


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 29th January, 2016
Time : 107 minutes
Director, Writer: Milap Zaveri; Co-Writer : Mushtaq Sheikh; Music : Various
Starring : Sunny Leone, Vir Das, Tusshar Kapoor, Suresh Menon, Shaad Randhawa

All of us receive jokes via WhatsApp, thanks to the various groups we are part of. Take the 50 cheapest, crassest, crudest ones, string them together with the loosest possible storyline, ensure you show almost every square cm of Sunny Leone, take good actors and put them in ridiculous roles (Vir Das, Viveck Vaswani) and as cherry on the icing, you give Tusshar a prominent role

They say a picture speaks a thousand words… the following five pics leave you under no illusions as to what the makers had in mind when they hired their lead actress and gave her a double role

And these five pics give a compelling reason why you shouldn’t watch it - especially the first one and you can follow the same actor's expressions throughout the remaining photos

This film is a huge mistake and in bad taste – humour around sex doesn’t have to be sleazy (read my book Eighteen Plus, for a taste of something different) – fun is also poked at gays, disabled, animals, fruits – no one & nothing is spared, including the audience

Friday, January 22, 2016


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 22nd January, 2016
Time : 124 minutes
Director, Writer: Raja Krishna Menon; Co-writers : Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia, Ritesh Shah; Music : Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Nimrat Kaur, Kumud Mishra, Prakash Belawadi, Purab Kohli, Feryna Wazheir, Inaam Ul Haq

In the opening scenes, Akshay and Nimrat, have some interesting, well-written conversational exchanges, the kind of sniping that most married couples would relate to and easily identify with, is very real. And then there is a belly dance item number. Most of the movie is like that – some great moments but then something filmy intrudes…but a tight script, great performances and an uplifting ending rescue the film from mediocrity

Akshay is a successful businessman based out of Kuwait, who’s not too fond of his Indian roots, has almost disowned the country of his birth. But the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi’s in 1990, changes all of that. The Kuwaiti ruling class take flight at the first opportunity, abandoning their citizens. And Akshay’s driver sacrifices himself to save his employers’ life. A shaken Akshay has the opportunity to leave, escape with his wife (Nimrat) and daughter but seeing the crowd of Indian refugees outside his office, he decides to try and help…

I like the way they kept things tight, didn’t let the narrative stray too far from the main plot. And they got a fantastic ensemble cast - Kumud Mishra is brilliant as the face of the Indian bureaucracy in the Ministry of External Affairs(sadly, despite several searches, including on the Facebook page of the film, couldn’t find any photo of him in this significant role), Purab Kohli has a nice cameo as an employee, Feryna touches the right hapless note as a Kuwaiti trying to hide, Prakash Belawadi is perfect as the irritable refugee, always questioning / criticizing but never doing anything and finally, Inaam Ul Haq is outstanding as the Iraqi major, trying to do business with Akshay.

While Akshay is very good in his role, very believable, what doesn’t work is his transition – from elitist, Kuwaiti, hard-nosed, money obsessed man to caring, Indian, quiet, do-gooder – this happens too rapidly. Nimrat’s transition (she’s excellent as the questioning wife) is much better shown – critical of the new Akshay at first, she slowly begins to understand and aggressively defends him when he is criticized. The songs don’t work either – some distract / are too loud and most, even in the background, dissipate the air of tension being created.

There are several nice touches – Kumud’s meeting with the Air India pilots, his conversation with the Jordan embassy official, a small chat with his father and even his meeting with his own Minister. Akshay’s meeting with his friends, drinking scotch in the early days of the invasion, the way Nimrat questions his actions – all work, are sensitively shown. Some over the top, filmy sequences are there too but the former stay in the memory more than the latter

It wasn’t an easy film to watch, especially in the first half. I guess most of us (especially those who’ve worked abroad) find the story to be the stuff our worst nightmares are made of – and most of us knew someone who went through this or something like this. The fact that this is loosely based around someone real makes it more interesting – how many of us would’ve done the same after all – given up an opportunity to escape and stayed back to help others less fortunate ? Perhaps this one is worth watching just for that reason…

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Hateful Eight

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 15th January, 2016
Time : 167 minutes (in India); 187 minutes (in other countries that don’t believe in silly censorship)
Director, Writer: Quentin Tarantino; Music : Ennio Morricone
Starring : Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, James Parks, Demian Bichir, Channing Tatum

For large stretches of the movie, it seems the characters are going to talk you to death. They go on, and on, and on – covering almost every topic under the sun, including the recently ended civil war, race relations etc. And then, finally, just before the interval, the first gunshot fires loudly, blood spatters…and the film enters familiar Tarantino territory and the violence doesn’t stop for most of the second half

In snowy conditions, with a blizzard fast approaching, Kurt Russell, a bounty hunter, is taking his latest catch, a dangerous outlaw, Jennifer, to the nearest town to be hanged. Samuel Jackson, another bounty hunter, is taking three culprits too, only difference being his are dead. Walton, a former renegade, is trying to make it to the town as well, to take up a new position there. Their paths converge, and with the blizzard almost upon them, Kurt, despite being deeply suspicious, almost paranoid, about his prisoner escaping / getting help from outside, is forced to take refuge, along with Samuel and Walton, in a well known haberdashery. Where a few other nefarious characters are present, also escaping from the blizzard. A retired Southern General, Bruce Dern. A cowboy on his way home, Michael Madsen. A Mexican, Demian Bichir. And an Englishman, who has an unusual vocation, Tim Roth.

Racial tensions lead to battle lines being drawn pretty swiftly, in an atmosphere already charged up with suspicion, distrust thanks to Kurt’s paranoia and with all the simmering anger, resentment, this situational powder keg is primed for explosion…

There are too many flaws in the story, though. There were surely easier ways for objectives to be achieved versus the complicated path chosen ? And did the build-up have to be so slow ?

Fans looking for a classic Tarantino gore fest will not be disappointed in the second half, despite our censors best efforts. But for those looking for something deeper to takeaway, even if it’s a memorable character, will leave feeling shortchanged. This one felt a bit lazy, a little loose around the edges, despite the deliciousness of its premise and a cameo by Channing Tatum.

Friday, January 08, 2016


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 8th January, 2016
Time : 103 minutes
Director: Bejoy Nambiar; Writer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Abhijat Joshi; Music : Various
Starring : Farhan Akhtar, Amitabh Bachchan, Manav Kaul, Aditi Rao Hydari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anjum Sharma

You can see the end of the film coming a mile off (some critical flaws too) and I also disagree with some of the editing choices – they didn’t need to reveal some things midway – but, thanks to a really great performance by Farhan Akhtar and a slightly over the top but engaging one by Amitabh Bachchan, it makes for a good, gripping enough viewing.

Farhan, an anti-terrorist squad officer, has just lost his daughter while chasing some baddies. His wife, Aditi, in a state of semi-shock has distanced herself from him. He’s suspended from work and probably at the lowest ebb of his life. Enter Amitabh Bachchan. Wheelchair bound, no legs, no wife (lost in a driving accident) and no daughter. She died couple of years ago in an accident, falling down the stairs at politician / Minister Manav Kaul’s place. Grief unites the two men, particularly Amitabh’s way of dealing with it, by teaching youngsters dance. And chess. Farhan is roped in as well… and then secrets come tumbling out…

There is no denying serious flaws in the story. And also some errors while narrating. But it’s the serious, underplayed, strong, upright performance by Farhan which keeps you hooked. Amitabh, to provide the contrast, is deliberately loud, exaggerated – but has particularly pithy, moving lines when required – especially when trying to bring about a rapprochement between the estranged couple. Manav Kaul didn’t particularly impress while Neil, John and Aditi in their brief roles did. A good soundtrack helps too.

There is a little bit to ponder on how quickly we, the media fall into the trap of making people heroes. Almost as if the need to put someone on a pedestal is ingrained in us, our culture. Also, strangely, for a film named after a chess piece, there is very little about the intricacies of the game itself. It’s a welcome change from the usual run of the mill stuff, though – the mindless entertainers and the topsy-turvy cars. Even the action here is a tad bit more real, more believable but only a bit. In the end, it’s a Hindi film…

Daddy's Home

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 8th January, 2016
Time : 96 minutes
Director: Sean Anders; Writers: Brian Burns, Sean Anders, John Morris; Music : Michael Andrews
Starring : Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Scarlett Estevez, Owen Vaccaro, Bobby Cannavale, Hannibal Buress

Imagine Anees Bazmee (of Welcome, Singh is Kinng fame) got together with Rohit Shetty (of Golmaal, Chennai Express and I can blow up cars better than anyone fame), both master craftsmen of the ‘senseless entertainment’ genre, and decided to make a film on parenting, a dad vs a stepdad plot. What they would come up with would probably be better than what is served up here.

Nothing makes sense. Will Ferrell, all around good guy, is trying to win over his step kids, Scarlett and Owen, while mom, Linda is quite supportive. However, when alpha male, biker, secret agent type Mark Wahlberg, the biological dad, lands up they enter into a kind of ‘competition’ on who can be a better father – with cringe-worthy results. The entire sub-plot involving Hannibal Buress beggars belief as does some of the things the two dads do.

Suffice to say that there are very few redeeming features in this one – some of the conversations with Thomas Haden are funny but some are overdone. The whole thing about going to a fertility clinic (Bobby Cannavale) also seems to suggest you cant be a real man, truly satisfied until you can procreate. The movie lasts too long with the impulse to leave in the middle has to be fought several times during it’s 96 minutes running time.