Highway- A remarkable film which leaves you spellbound!


Let me put my biases on the table before I start this review. Imtiaz Ali is my favorite director. His body of work is incredible and the fresh perspective he gives to all his love stories has left me SOLD each time. Add to that the leitmotif of travel which is such an important of all his films is also one of the reasons why I am such a big fan. And this film is all about TRAVEL. So ever since the trailer was unveiled, my curiosity was piqued.  The star cast was the only thing which was bothering me. After all, casting Alia Bhatt as a lead actress after her school girl act in Student of the Year came across as hara-kiri to me. How wrong I was. It turned out to be an Alia show at the end of it, with Randeep Hooda brilliantly underplaying his part and bringing a simmering intensity to his character which is sure to add gravitas to his glittering career.

Highway is not about the plot. It is about the experience. The plot is relatively simple. A rich girl is kidnapped by a gang of thugs and in the course of the journey, she develops feelings for her kidnapper. What differentiates the film from the rest is the transformation Alia’s character goes through. Add to that, the picture postcard locales right from the dusty roads of Gurgaon to the salt pans of Sambhar and the snow clad mountains of Himachal, the locations play a very important part in the film. In fact, if I may so, the locations are the 3rd lead of the film. Combine that with a phenomenal score by A.R Rahman and you have just watched another gem from a man who can do no wrong.

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The dialogues which appear rather sketchy have their own charm. Unrehearsed and written on the spot, they seem to fit the film like a glove fits a hand. But what wins you over are moments of silence punctuated by raw ambient sounds. Rahman keeps his background score very minimal and that works just fine.

Coming to the performances, Alia Bhatt in only her second film delivers a knockout performance. While its too early to say its her best ever, it will surely be a task for her to supersede this one. Randeep Hooda is as usual brilliant and his overall look is terrific. Weather beaten and spouting Haryanvi like a pro, he plays the goon to perfection. The cinematography by Anil Mehta is top-class. Its not just the visuals, but his decision to pause and let you admire the flow of a stream, the snow clad mountains, the beautiful Kashmir valley is what works best.The sound design by Resul Pookutty is an ace and is the heart of the film.

About the story, all I can say is that this is not one of Imtiaz’s best works as a writer but then the director in him takes care of the rest and leaves you with a satisfied movie experience.

Highway is one of the most important films of recent times and probably one of the most defining ones. This ride is recommended pronto.

Rating-4/5

Fandry- Almost a Classic!!


This is the first time I am reviewing a regional film, not because I did not find any other recent film review worthy, but because I truly believe every viewer who has watched Fandry should let others know of their opinion, so that important films like these are encouraged. Nagraj Popatrao Manjule, a national award winner for his charming short film ‘Pistulya’ falls into a new breed of directors. Directors who dare you to watch films which speak and exhibit truth. Nagraj happened to win a best film award for his film ‘Pistulya’ 3 years back at a film festival in Pune, where incidentally even I was among the winners for my short film. Little did I know then that this man would be solely responsible for giving Marathi cinema, one of its most powerful and thoughtful films. And in a fitting way, he cast Jyoti Subhash (the legendary Marathi actress who awarded us both on that fateful night) in a 1 scene cameo, wherein she scolds the boy for climbing up and orders him to come down.

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Fandry which means a Pig in Kaikadi is a film which sets it all up for a grand 20 minute finale which ends with a poignant shot. It is a film which speaks of one sided love breaking the caste barriers and where in a black sparrow is a reference to an opportunity which gets away every time. But where the film falters is the director’s delay in getting to the point. The film meanders a bit in trying to showcase the extent of the love which the teenager protagonist jabya feels for the upper caste girl Shalu, it also shows a scene too many where in the boy’s father is looking for odd jobs and faces humiliation. But as I said, all’s forgiven at the end of its climax which unfolds like an IPL match what with a spectator comparing the pig catching sequence to an actual match. And this sequence also includes a master-stroke where in the elusive pig which is finally in the family’s grasp gets away when the national anthem forces everyone to stand up straight in respect and the pig uses that moment to saunter away happily.

Fandry is an intensely honest film which uses the backdrop of Akolner, a village in the Nagar district of Maharastra to showcase the glaring caste divide which exists even today. It may pretty well be the director’s own story and his triumph over the society. The film deserves brownie points for giving adolscense films a new identity and as I mentioned before, jabya’s story needed to be told.

The acting is superb all round with special mention for Kishore Kadam who practically owns the part of Kachra. The young leads deliver a commendable performance and Nagraj himself shines in a part which I believe reflects his inner self. The cinematography is spellbinding and Vikram Amladi deserves all the praise which he has been getting recently. And lastly, it is the background music which gives the film its voice and Aloknanda Dasgupta tunes it perfectly.

Fandry is an important film and not watching it would be a cinematic crime. Because, there is a Jabya in everyone of us. This one is just a bit different.

Rating-4/5

Gunday- A Disaster in the guise of a Blockbuster……


Yashraj’s Gunday is everything a good film is not…..It is unbearably long, it abuses slo-mo to the extent of frustration (just like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) and it tries to pelt us with one claptrap dialogue after another not realising that none of the dialogues have wit or charm of any kind. But what it does right is get its cast bang on and whips up an action drama which pays homage to the Bollywood of yore when friendship ruled and when love wasn’t just sex and dhokha but was a bone of contention between two best friends.

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Welcome to the world of Gunday where even the Calcutta police is as intelligent as RAW (all my Kolkata friends would definitely get the pun), and where if you go hide in Dhanbad, then the Calcutta police cannot catch you. A world where a man’s hair is always ironed and his chest well oiled. All this and more define Gunday, a typical commercial pot-boiler which had so much going for it but prefers to squander it away all in the name of commercial cinema. But it is Priyanka Chopra’s cabaret dancer act which shines in the film much like Banglar alo. Her drool worthy performance and the couple of chartbusters is what i took back home from a film which insists that the attention is sorely on the leading men-Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor a.k.a Gunday.

The film is the second effort of Ali Abbas Zafar who made the forgettable Mere Brother Ki Dulhan few years back. And like his previous effort, this film also is a rehash of films which we have seen umpteen number of times. Add to the mix Irrfan Khan (credited as special appearance although he appears throughout the film) and you have a film bursting at its seams. The story is based out of Calcutta, so every cliche like a Durga Puja, the Metro theatre, Howrah bridge and all such prominent landmarks have an integral part to play in the story. But then the story is of the coal Mafia and how two young men go from dishwashers to He-Men and ultimately lover boys. The film also has Priyanka Chopra returning to form after a long long time where she plays the seductress with élan.

Performance wise, Ranveer and Arjun give this film their all and you cant expect anything more from them. But then again, they are not Khans that anything done by them would be accepted blindly. Aseem Mishra has a blast shooting the film and the myriad colours lend the film its own charm. Sohail Sen delivers a kickass soundtrack, which makes me wonder why isn’t the man composing more frequently?

Gunday is all heart, but alas what it lacks is an exciting story and its predictability is its biggest bane. But I am guessing, it will do well and for that the makers have to thank Sohail Sen’s insanely catchy ditty, Tune Maari Entriyaan…..Man, I just cant stop humming this song….Bappi Da, are you listening?

Rating- 2/5

Hasee Toh Phasee – A Spectacular Yin and Yang take on Romance!


When two completely opposite schools of film making come together, the one thing you can be assured of is that you will be served a delicious film. So, when Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap shook hands on a film project, it got me thinking on the template of the film. Thankfully, the film takes the Dharma approach and gives it the Phantom touch to create a film which takes the done to death Bollywood romance and gives it a fresh new coat of paint.

Siddharth Malhotra and Parineeti Chopra play the perfect Yin and Yang to each other in this Rom com which keeps you smiling all throughout. No slapstick here, nno over the top comedy as well. Just a warm story garnished with dollops of romance and a bucketful of smiles is what we get. And as a bonus we get a fabulous performance from not only the lead actors but also the supporting actors.

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Hasee Toh Phasee is about Siddharth and his love story which begins right at the onset. His love for Adah Sharma is defined by some rules. He needs to continuously prove himself to be worthy of her love and yet he wont let her go as he realizes how difficult it is to get into another relationship. In walks Parineeti Chopra, who plays Adah’s loony sister and sparks fly. Over the course of a week, Sid realizes his love for Pari and decides to take the plunge.

The story isn’t anything new, but its the treatment which wins you over. There are characters whom you simply fall in love with. Like Manoj Joshi who plays Parineeti’s father. His endearing love for his daughter really touches your heart or a Accapella singer from Kanpur whose bunch of funny antics easily win over you.

Throw in some soulful songs, some amazing cinematography and the good ole Bombay seen through a new perspective and you have a film which you have to like. Director Vinil Matthews makes a confident debut and narrates a story which is real as well as endearing. Coming to the actors, Parineeti Chopra is a scene steal-er that we have realized by now. This is her 4th film and she already looks a 50 film veteran by the way she acts. Siddharth Malhotra is a revelation and he plays the cool, silent lover boy with aplomb. A word here for Kashyap’s dialogues- they ROCK!!!

If you have been waiting for a love story which you can relate to, then this it! Go watch Hasee Toh Phasee and the smile you will have plastered on your face at the end of the film would tell you why the film was named so!!

Rating-4/5