Aamir Khan — the name is synonymous with dedication, perfection and qualitative cinema… His films have set new benchmarks at the ticket windows: GHAJINI was the first Hindi film to gross Rs 100 cr… 3 IDIOTS created a sensation when it crossed Rs 200 cr mark [it was the first Hindi film to cross the magical figure]… PK, the highest grosser to date in the domestic market [Hindi films], was also the first film to cruise past Rs 300 cr…
Obviously, DANGAL carries colossal expectations on its shoulders. The last biggie of the year 2016 is also expected to bail out the industry, since 2016 hasn’t been kind to Hindi cinema. The biz is at an all-time low, with most films sinking faster than Titanic.
What happens when the object of dedication fails to respond to the demands of an obsessed fan? What happens when fanatical devotion of the fan turns into abhorrence and vengeance? And what happens when the fan — who has revered his idol all along — grows to be a stalker, becoming a nightmare for his idol?
Airlift is based on the the 1990 evacuation of 170000 Indians from Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait. Ranjit Katiyal, who considers himself to be more Kuwaiti than a Indian has a sudden awakening of conscience when his driver is shot right in front of him. He starts to take care of not only his employees but also all the Indians living there. The rest of the movie is about his heroic mission to see that everyone is evacuated safely.
The movie’s end credits state that the fictional character of Ranjit Katyal is based on Mr. Mathunny Mathews and Mr. Vedi. There is not much information about Mr. Vedi. Mathunny Mathews’s daughter made a facebook post and shared the following picture.
You probably remember the moment you first heard of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, of Saddam Hussein, and of the incident that sparked off the Gulf War. Airlift, written and directed by Raja Menon, takes us back to that time in history, but we see it through the eyes of a wealthy Indian businessman living in Kuwait. Based on the largely forgotten real-life incident that involved the evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians stuck in Kuwait, Airlift is the inspiring story of an ordinary man who turns into a hero when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari, Manav Kaul, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh
Director: Bejoy Nambiar
Wazir, starring Farhan Akhtar and Amitabh Bachchan, is a consistently watchable but frankly far-fetched thriller that just isn’t as smart as it ought to have been. There’s a lot to appreciate in the film, particularly the performances of its leading men, and the brisk unraveling of its plot. Too bad it’s weighed down by a sloppy script.
Akhtar and Bachchan play two men united in grief and loss. Akhtar is ATS officer Danish Ali who lost his daughter in a shootout, and was suspended from duty for carrying out an unauthorized hit on the terrorist responsible for his little girl’s death. Bachchan is chess grandmaster Omkarnath Dhar (fondly referred to as Panditji), who lost his wife and his legs in an accident, then his young daughter a few years later.
The pre-Christmas week has finally arrived. The best is always reserved for the last and it has been a tradition to have at least one biggie unfurl in the Christmas week, before the curtains fall on the on-going year. 2015 has been an erratic and inconsistent year vis-a-vis box-office returns, with less highs and substantial lows puncturing the spirit of the film fraternity. Nonetheless, there’s no harm in hoping that the year would terminate with a big bang. The Hindi film industry is on tenterhooks, craving for a Blockbuster and the extended holiday period [Christmas and New Year celebrations] promises to usher in the much-needed respite, thus ending the dry spell at the ticket counters.
After delivering the monstrous hit CHENNAI EXPRESS, Shah Rukh Khan teams up with the Hit machine — director Rohit Shetty — yet again. Also, Kajol, SRK’s co-star of several unforgettable films, adds incredible weight to this keenly anticipated project. In addition, several enviable names, on and off screen, lend muscle to the enterprise. The canvas is gigantic as well. It can’t get bigger than DILWALE, honestly.
Rohit Shetty is synonymous with audience-friendly movies. Most critics may deplore his work, but the paying public — the ones who matter ultimately — reveres his cinema. He promises dollops of entertainment and encompasses just about every ingredient available on the shelf, which the hoi polloi laps up with glee. His movies may not offer ground-breaking stuff, nor do they pick up meritorious awards, but he whips up a storm at the box-office every time he attempts a high-on-entertainment fare. Naturally, one expects DILWALE to surpass SRK-Rohit’s previous endeavor by a wide margin.
Come to think of it, DILWALE is similar to CHENNAI EXPRESS in several ways. Rohit Shetty focuses on the love story yet again, while the light moments, high-octane drama and aimed-at-masses dialogue — the staple ingredients or fodder that contribute to a masalathon — adorn the goings-on wonderfully. At heart, and true to its title, DILWALE remains a love story, not an assemblage of sequences to win and woo the spectators.
Last word? DILWALE delivers what it promises: Entertainment in enormous doses. Rohit Shetty’s latest creation speaks the language that the masses comprehend. It’s one formula that can never go out of fashion, if handled smartly. And, don’t we know by now, how proficient Rohit Shetty is when it comes to delivering a full-on entertainer in his unmistakable style.
The gist of the story: Raj aka Kaali [Shah Rukh Khan], a don, now leads a changed life in Goa. His world revolves around his brother Veer [Varun Dhawan]. Veer falls in love with Ishita [Kriti Sanon], who happens to be Meera’s [Kajol] sister. Raj and Meera’s paths had collided in the past and that becomes an obstacle for Veer and Ishita.
First things first! Speculation is rife that DILWALE is an updated/modified version of HUM , but that’s not true at all. Most love stories navigate identical paths and DILWALE is no different. Rohit Shetty stresses on vintage stuff [love triumphs against all odds], but he along with screenplay writer Yunus Sajawal narrates it smartly, peppering and garnishing the proceedings with sub-plots that keep you completed captivated, while the dialogue [Farhad-Sajid] act as the icing on the cake. The twists and turns involving SRK and Kajol is clearly the USP of the enterprise. In fact, the two turning points in the love story, both in the first half, will catch the viewer completely unaware.
Sure, DILWALE has its share of blemishes that cannot be overlooked either. The writing stagnates at regular intervals… The villain’s track could’ve been more persuasive… The pre-climax, when things are sorted out between SRK and Kajol, seems convenient… However, these are minor aberrations. For, the plusses easily outweigh and outnumber the minuses here.
The soundtrack [Pritam] gels wonderfully with the genre of the film. ‘Gerua’, filmed most exquisitely, is a rage already and definitely the pick of the lot. ‘Manma Emotion Jaage Re’ is another groovy track that has caught on in a big way [the social media is flooded with its Dubsmash versions and that clearly indicates its popularity]. ‘Janam Janam’ is another soulful composition, while ‘Tukur Tukur’, which comes at the end credits, is a vintage track that’s mandatory in a biggie. The best part is, the songs are appropriately interspersed in the scheme of things. The background score [Amar Mohile] is creditable and in sync with the on-screen situations.
Rohit Shetty’s movies are embroidered with some implausible, but incredible stunts. DILWALE has a few action pieces, but the ones featuring SRK are vibrant. Cinematography is top-quality and the DoP [Dudley] makes every frame appear larger-than-life. The panoramic locales of Bulgaria appear truly spectacular.
The principal cast provides the much-needed sheen to Rohit Shetty’s vision. For the incalculable fans of SRK and Kajol, it’s a treat to watch the celebrated couple after a hiatus [after MY NAME IS KHAN; 2010]. It goes without saying that the duo dominates the proceedings with their effervescent acts. SRK is at his charismatic best in the young avtaar and carries off the angry, middle-aged guy with aplomb. Kajol looks gorgeous and steals your heart with a performance that stays in your memory. Actually, her character is one of the high points of the film and the terrific portrayal takes it notches higher. Besides, the on-screen chemistry is one of the pillars on which DILWALE rests.
Varun Dhawan, the teen heart-throb, is excellent, despite being pitted with some of the best names in the business. The young actor, barely five films old, is credible in light moments and compelling in poignant sequences. Kriti Sanon is camera-friendly and confident to the T.
DILWALE boasts of a commanding supporting cast, but the ones who sparkle include Sanjay Mishra [exceptional], Johny Lever [super], Mukesh Tiwari [first-rate] and Pankaj Tripathi [competent]. Boman Irani does exceedingly well. Vinod Khannna and Kabir Bedi, the two veterans, are just right. Varun Sharma contributes amply to the comic situations. Nawwab Shah is adequate.
On the whole, DILWALE is akin to a mouthwatering meal that satiates the craving of those who relish masalathons, besides being an absolute treat for SRK-Kajol fans. An unadulterated crowd-pleaser, DILWALE delivers what you expect from a Rohit Shetty film: King-sized entertainment. Go for it!
Sanjay Leela Bhansali was determined to make a film on the lives of Peshwa Bajirao, Kashibai and Mastani for quite some time now. The supremely talented raconteur kept vacillating between numerous actors, before he chose on the present star cast of BAJIRAO MASTANI. Although historicals were well-liked — and commercially feasible, if I may add — at a point of time, the swelling budgets and comprehensive study and research that went into making a historical compelled quite a few present-day film-makers to abandon their dream projects and opt for contemporary themes. Bhansali stood his ground and waited for the opportune time to commence the project in question.
Check out Prem Ratan Dhan Payo Movie Review by Taran Adarsh starring Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor and directed by Sooraj Barjatya.
As a movie enthusiast, one awaits successful actor/director combinations to affiliate for yet another film project. Almost three decades ago, MAINE PYAR KIYA  gave ‘birth’ to one such union — director Sooraj R. Barjatya and actor Salman Khan. Their subsequent films raised the bar, with moviegoers certain that the duo would live up to the lofty expectations. The film fraternity was equally enthusiastic as well, since the duo struck gold at the ticket counters. Naturally, the hype surrounding PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is tremendous, more so because Sooraj and Salman team up after more than a decade [HUM SAATH-SAATH HAIN; 1999] for their fourth outing together.
Rajshri, the banner founded by the late Tarachand Barjatya [Sooraj’s illustrious grandfather], is synonymous with family sagas mainly. Sooraj has kept the tradition alive, making films that are seeped in Indian ethos and traditions, except that the canvas only got larger with every film he attempted. PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO has opulence in every single frame and one presumes, it’s Rajshri/Sooraj’s most expensive film to date. What remains consistent, however, is the intent of providing unadulterated entertainment, seamlessly merging romance, conflict, action and dollops of emotions. The supremely talented storyteller, who knows the pulse of Indian moviegoers, promises to offer a complete package in this almost 3-hour magnum opus too.
A few questions cross your mind as you saunter into a cineplex to watch this combo’s fourth film together… Does PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO work in its entirety? Is it a worthy successor to the films helmed by Sooraj, with Salman in the lead? With Salman being considered an invincible force after a string of blockbusters, will PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO emerge a monstrous hit as well?
A few naysayers may opine that in this era of plexes, atypical family sagas seem archaic and may stand dim chances at the box-office. The acceptance levels are minimal by those who look Westwards for inspiration. However, you cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that if a film involves you, keeps you glued to the screen for most parts and you eventually root for the on-screen characters, it’s bound to win hearts and also walk away with the pot of gold at the box-office. PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is *that* film. A film that wins you over with its simplistic charm. A film that has all it takes to emerge a money spinner at the turnstiles!
Let’s keep the plot line succinct. A conspiracy is hatched to eliminate the prince, Vijay [Salman Khan], days before his coronation is to take place, by his younger brother [Neil Nitin Mukesh] who eyes the throne, riches and power. A lookalike of the prince, Prem, steps in at this point, who loses his heart to the prince’s beloved, Maithili [Sonam Kapoor]. What happens next?
Does the plot ring a bell? Well, there’s speculation that PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is inspired by L.V. Prasad’s Sanjeev Kumar starrer RAJA AUR RUNK , an Indian adaptation of Mark Twain’s novel ‘The Prince And The Pauper’. However, the story of PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO bears a striking resemblance to Anthony Hope’s novel ‘The Prisoner Of Zenda’ , which has been adapted innumerable times on film, stage, television and radio. Having said that, the serpentine twists and turns in the screenplay of PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO makes it dissimilar from the above named films.
Sooraj’s hold on the script is evident from the commencement of the film itself as he moves from one episode to another swiftly. Like always, the hallmark of his films is the undercurrent of emotions and PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO depicts the familial bonding and the conflict amongst family members skilfully. Additionally, he uses vibrant colours [costumes, sets] and opulence to make it a visually arresting experience. In short, the drama is captivating, the emotional moments are punctuated wonderfully in the narrative [more so towards the second and third acts] and the finale, when the key questions are answered, enhances the seamless narrative.
Blemishes? A couple of them, frankly. The film could’ve done with a lilting score [more on that later]. Also, too many songs, in quick succession, could’ve been avoided. The villains’ track is half-baked and so is their culmination. The run time could’ve been shorter too… Thankfully, the plusses easily outnumber the minuses here.
Like Sooraj’s earlier films, PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is embellished with too many songs, but the soundtrack [Himesh Reshammiya] this time ranges from excellent [title track] to hummable [‘Jalte Diye’, ‘Aaj Unse Milna Hai’ and ‘Prem Leela’] to plain mediocre. The silver lining is, one doesn’t mind the mediocre tracks that crop up since the strong narrative more than compensates for everything else. Besides, the title track is a chartbuster and its choreography is the icing on the cake.
Every frame is crafted wonderfully, with the DoP capturing the grandiose sets with splendour. The background score is effectual at most times. Action scenes are limited to the finale. Dialogue are in sync with the mood of the film. A couple of lines do stay with you for sure.
It’s sacrilegious to envision any other actor enacting the part of Prem in a Sooraj R. Barjatya movie. When the reels unfold, you don’t see Salman, you see Prem and that is one of the biggest strengths of the film. This time around, Salman is cast in a dual role — while he takes to Prem, the simpleton, like a fish takes to water, he’s equally competent as Vijay, the prince. What’s interesting is, the two characters are as diverse as chalk and cheese, but it is Prem that’s winsome and endearing and Salman makes sure he interprets it brilliantly. This is a Salman show from Scene A to Z.
Sonam Kapoor is earnest. She looks stunning, but more importantly, she carries her part effortlessly. Initially, her pairing opposite Salman did raise eyebrows, but when you watch the goings-on, you realise that Salman and Sonam do make a lovely on-screen couple.
The supporting cast is equally proficient. Anupam Kher is superb, his performance doesn’t miss a beat. Cast in a negative role, Neil Nitin Mukesh underplays his part very well. Armaan Kohli, who appears in a biggie after a really long break, does a fine job. Swara Bhaskar is another talent who impresses with a power-packed portrayal. Deepak Dobriyal is fantastic and contributes to the laugh-out-loud moments. Deepraj Rana is first-rate. Manoj Joshi impresses in his part. Suhasini Mulay, Sameer Dharmadhikari, Aashika Bhatia and Sanjay Mishra are decent.
On the whole, PREM RATAN DHAN PAYO is the perfect Diwali entertainer for the entire family. The film will win abundant love [prem], while its investors will reap a harvest [dhan], making it a memorable Diwali for all concerned. This one’s a record-smasher — scoring from East to West and from North to South, scoring at plexes as well as single screens, scoring at metros as well as non-metros, scoring in the domestic market as well as in the international arena. B-L-O-C-K-B-U-S-T-E-R!
Cast: R Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Deepak Dobriyal, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Swara Bhaskar, Rajesh Sharma
Director: Anand L Rai
Every once in a while comes a film so disarming, you can’t help but look beyond the contrivances and submit yourself to its infectious charm. Tanu Weds Manu Returns, directed by Anand L Rai, is a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the term. It’s funnier, better acted, and far superior to 2011’s Tanu Weds Manu, which chronicled the unlikely union of its mismatched protagonists.
Hardly surprising then that when the new film opens, we learn that the marriage between high-strung Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and “boring” doctor Manu (R Madhavan) has gone sour in the four years that they’ve lived together in England. Deserting Manu in a mental healthcare facility, Tanu returns home to Kanpur only to live up to her enfant terrible reputation, even while fanning the flames within the hearts of both her ex-boyfriend Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill), and Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a tenant in her parent’s home. A livid Manu, meanwhile, returns to Delhi, where he meets and instantly falls for Kusum aka Datto (also played by Kangana Ranaut), a strong-willed Haryanvi athlete who bears a striking resemblance to Tanu.
Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma serve up a first hour that’s light and breezy. Much humor is mined from the exchanges between Manu and Datto, particularly a scene in which she offers a detailed introduction of herself in chaste Haryanvi – down to her address, but naturally leaving out her telephone number. To be fair, the film is peppered with hilarious one-liners, and Rai delivers an authentic portrait of small-town India, complete with characters that are rooted in the milieu. My favorite among these was Manu’s devoted best friend Pappi, played by a terrific Deepak Dobriyal who gets some of the best moments on screen.
Although there’s a lot going on in the film – a love triangle at the centre, a kidnapping, supporting players with their own crises – admittedly the plot weakens post-intermission. This being the story of Tanu and Manu, you know how things will turn out in the end, yet Sharma’s script takes a predictable route to get there. If the climax works, despite being a rip-off of every love-triangle finale from Saajan to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, it’s because Kangana Ranaut brings genuine, heartfelt emotion to those scenes.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns is no doubt a showcase for the immense talent of Ranaut, who sinks her teeth into this ‘double-role’ challenge, and creates two strikingly different characters. In Tanu she gives us a wild-child defined by her reckless spirit; a girl hiding her pain behind sheer obnoxiousness. No-nonsense Datto, meanwhile, of the pixie cut, buck teeth, and often indecipherable accent, is instantly endearing. The actress makes you care for both women.
R Madhavan nicely underplays once again as Manu, and the feisty Swara Bhaskar returns as Tanu’s best friend, who’s hiding a secret. Even bit players get a moment or two to shine, and despite the occasionally preachy diversions that the script takes, I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed the film. This is that rare movie that doesn’t derail despite its speed-bumps because you’re invested in its characters and happy to make the journey with them.
I’m going with four out of five for the flat-out delightful Tanu Weds Manu Returns. I haven’t laughed this hard during any film recently. Watch it for Kangana Ranaut, who’s at the top of her game.
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar, Satyadeep Misra, Kay Kay Menon, Manish Chaudhary, Siddhartha Basu, Vivaan Shah
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Against the flickering light of a black and white movie playing in a theatre, you see the rapt face of petty thief Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) as he watches the climax of the 1939 gangster classic The Roaring Twenties. James Cagney, shot dead, lies in the arms of Priscilla Lane; she tells a cop, visibly heartbroken, “He used to be a big shot.” Balraj is moved, his eyes are moist, and you have a sinking suspicion that you know where director Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet is headed.
While the opening credits reveal that the script is inspired by historian Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables, the film itself is primarily about the fictional love story between Ranbir’s Johnny Balraj, now a bonafide gangster, and nightclub singer Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma). Their relationship plays out against the backdrop of 1960s Bombay, a city on the threshold of becoming a metropolis. All the action is centered in and around jazz-club Bombay Velvet, owned by conniving newspaper baron and bootlegger Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar), who makes Johnny his flunkey, but gradually becomes obsessed with him.
On the surface, Johnny is the manager of Bombay Velvet, but he actually makes Khambatta’s problems go away – by kidnapping, blackmailing or killing people who stand in the way of Khambatta’s ambition to transform Nariman Point into Bombay’s Manhattan. Other key players include Johnny’s childhood friend and sidekick Chiman (a nicely understated Satyadeep Misra), rival newspaper owner Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary), and an investigating officer who won’t give up (Kay Kay Menon in great form).
Subterfuge, blackmail, thwarted love, and at least two unconvincing plot twists – the first involving a coveted negative, the second being the sudden appearance of a twin sibling – all add to this dense script. Yet, despite its overcrowded plot, the film is let down because the love story at its centre feels hackneyed.
That’s a shame, because Bombay Velvet has all the trimmings – solid performances, a terrific jazz-soaked soundtrack by Amit Trivedi, and excellent production design that takes you by the hand into the city of the late sixties. But how you wish the script had lingered more on the greedy government-mill-owner-media nexus that took over mill lands to create the urban landscape of Nariman Point. Unfortunately, the film is too often waylaid by Johnny and Rosie’s predictable drama. It’s perplexing – more than once you catch yourself wondering, “What happened to the story of Bombay?”
It seems as if multiple threads in this narrative were left incomplete, possibly chopped away at the editing table. Coherence, or the lack of it, is a big issue in this film. Characters like Mistry and Mayor Romi Mehta (Siddhartha Basu) aren’t entirely convincing, and the Fight Club-inspired underground-boxing subplot is contrived. To be fair, however, the film has some enduring moments: a sweet exchange between Rosie and Johnny in a bathtub, a tense wordless phone call between Johnny and Khambatta, and that mad drum solo that matches the sheer intensity with which Johnny takes on Khambatta, all guns blazing Scarface-style. These are some of the bits that stay with you.
Of the cast, Karan Johar is surprisingly effective in his debut as the snarky, manipulative Khambatta. A scene in which he leaves a room to hide an uncontrollable laughing fit over Johnny’s naivete is one of the best in the film. Anushka Sharma as Rosie never feels like an adequately written character. Despite being one half of the film’s central love story, it’s a part that doesn’t come together and is seldom compelling. The actress does much better expressing Rosie’s pent-up pain in the marvelously realized Dhadam Dhadam number.
Ultimately, it’s Ranbir Kapoor, soldiering on as Johnny Balraj, who infects his part with considerable charm, capturing his hotheaded nature, his bottled fury remarkably. You’re riveted by his display of rage against a slimy photographer who threatens Rosie, and likely moved by his grief when he bids goodbye to a close friend. It’s Ranbir’s performance that glosses over many of the film’s problems.
Bombay Velvet doesn’t have the raw energy or the unforgettable characters of Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. It’s never as involving a story as Black Friday. And yet what you cannot deny is the sheer craft that Kashyap brings to the enterprise. This is an ambitious saga; skillfully mounted. You’re fascinated by the resemblance to real-life figures, the unwavering attention to detail, and little touches that are vintage Kashyap – like a stand-up comic making political barbs back in the day. The missing piece of the puzzle, sadly, is the inconsistent script…one that never lets us truly care for the characters, one that leaves too many questions unanswered.
I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Bombay Velvet. Much of the film dazzles, but I found myself longing for some soul.
One hardly expects to be rewarded with warmth and genuine sweetness from a film about a cantankerous old man and his exasperated grown-up daughter who spend most of their time arguing about his bowel movements. But Piku, directed by Shoojit Sircar, is a charming, unpredictable comedy that – like Sircar’s Vicky Donor – mines humor from the unlikeliest of places.
Deepika Padukone is Piku, a successful architect struggling to manage both her career and the responsibility of her 70-year-old father Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), who can be quite the handful. The cranky Bengali senior is a hypochondriac, and also happens to be perpetually constipated. His motions, or lack thereof, are the subject of virtually every conversation in their Chittaranjan Park home. He’s obsessed with details of the color, the texture, the size, and the consistency of his poop, which he insists on sharing with his daughter even when she’s at work or out on a date.
Emraan Hashmi is a young man who can turn invisible at will. Just think of all the cheeky possibilities that premise could throw up. Alas, it’s not the route director Vikram Bhatt goes down in Mr X, a singularly humorless film that’s sorely lacking in thrills, a coherent plot, and even basic common sense
Hashmi’s character, Raghu, an officer in the Mumbai anti-terrorism squad, survives a deadly attack on his life in a chemical factory by his corrupt boss (Arunoday Singh). Severely disfigured, Raghu is ‘saved’ by a helpful scientist who offers him an anti-radiation drug still in the testing stage that instantly results in complete cell regeneration, but also turns him invisible except in direct sunlight and in blue lighting.
It’s the kind of bunkum that’s impossible to logically explain. Even Bhatt knows that; he gets the scientist to quickly declare it a miracle of god: “The more science knows, the more it realizes it knows nothing.”
Raghu, who now rechristens himself Mr X, decides to use these new ‘powers’ to seek revenge on his offenders. Meanwhile his fiancée (Amyra Dastur), a fellow officer in the ATS, literally “sniffs” out the fact that Raghu is Mr X, and convinced that he has gone rogue, becomes obsessed with stopping him in his bloodthirsty mission.
Borrowing ideas liberally from films like Mr India, Ghost and Hollow Man, Bhatt gives us a bargain-basement sci-fi film with special effects so tacky it makes his own last film Creature seem like Jurassic Park in comparison. The acting seesaws between bored (Emraan Hashmi) and hammy (Arunoday Singh), while leading lady Amyra Dastur, playing a character so stupid you have to wonder how she was hired in the police force, is screechy and grating for the most part.
Delivering none of that sense of fun and discovery that you’d expect from a scenario in which someone suddenly found out they were invisible, Mr X is lazily scripted and often not true to its own logic. Naturally there are multiple instances of Hashmi locking lips with his leading lady while he’s invisible, including once while they’re underwater in a swimming pool. When even that feels too predictable to evoke a giggle, you know this film doesn’t have a chance.
I’m going with a generous one out of five for Mr X. They were optimistic enough to leave the film open for a possible sequel. That one-star rating then is for courage alone.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, directed by Dibakar Banerjee, is a moody thriller set in 1943 Calcutta that unravels at an unhurried pace. Loosely adapted from Bengali crime fiction writer Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s enduring literary series, the film is intended as the origin story of the famous fictional sleuth.
Banerjee’s Calcutta is a city of secrets and shadows lurking at every corner. A terrific opening scene – in which mysterious sinister elements show up and thwart an opium deal in the dead of the night – sets the mood for the film’s noir-ish leanings. With World War II currently at its peak, the threat of oncoming Japanese bomber-jets looms large. It is against this landscape that Byomkesh (Sushant Singh Rajput), a recent graduate on the verge of taking up a teaching job, lands his first investigating assignment.
A young writer named Ajit (Anand Tiwari) is concerned about the whereabouts of his father, a reputed chemist, who has been missing for two months. The police think he’s run away, but Byomkesh is convinced that the old man has been killed. As he sets about prying into the mysterious disappearance of Ajit’s father from a local lodge, our private eye protagonist stumbles into a much bigger conspiracy involving Chinese drug dealers, a Japanese dentist, a femme fatale from Rangoon, and a slew of assorted characters who may or may not hold clues to the case.
Far from the sure-footed, razor-sharp sleuth of Bandopadhyay’s stories, Byomkesh, in Banerjee’s film, is an amateur investigator slowly coming into his own. ‘Slowly’ is the operative word here, as Banerjee and co-writer Urmi Juvekar spend more or less the entire first hour setting up the plot. Sushant Singh Rajput nicely slinks into the part of the unibrowed detective who’s clearly learning on the job. He has a fragile ego, he gets queasy at the sight of blood, and oftentimes he misses clues that are staring him in the face. Rajput has a boyish quality that serves the character well; he gets the Bangla mannerisms right, the body language down pat, and gives us a hero we grow to care for.
It’s the snail-paced plotting, and the surprising lack of urgency and imminent danger that cripples the film. Story strands and characters are abandoned arbitrarily, only to be revisited later. The big reveal isn’t too hard to guess – stick with your gut, don’t let the red herrings distract you, and lo, you’ve figured it out. The climax too is a mess of hammy acting.
But despite these problems, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is a far more accomplished film than your average Bollywood offering. Every frame is crafted lovingly; the cinematography is stylish and evocative, Sneha Khanwalkar’s mostly heavy-metal soundtrack terrific, and the film’s production design simply first-rate. Aside from the odd clunky performance, by Swastika Mukherjee as the unintentionally hilarious seductress, the acting too is solid, particularly by Anand Tiwari, the Dr Watson to Byomkesh’s Holmes, who brings stray moments of much needed lightness to a largely humorless film. Ship of Theseus’ Neeraj Kabi also makes a big impression as a wise homeopath and the owner of the lodge where much of the action unfolds.
In the end the film has a lot going for it, even if it isn’t as fully satisfying as Banerjee’s previous works. This is a sprawling, ambitious effort with remarkable attention to detail; a film that deserves to be watched, especially for its masterful filmmaking.
I’m going with three out of five for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy. Give it a chance, prepare to be patient, and chances are that it’ll stay with you.