Movie Review: Rough Book – A Small Question To A BIG Problem!

There have been very few movies in the past that dealt with the education-related issues. I can count two in the last 10 years viz. Paathshaala and 3 Idiots. Anant Mahadevan in his new release questions the prevailing education system that gives more emphasis on rote learning than experiential knowledge.

Coming to the story, Santoshi’s (Tannishtha Chatterjee), life takes a U-turn when her husband Pradeep (Vinay Jain) gets embroiled in a money laundering scam. After filing for divorce from her husband, Santoshi leaves the city and goes to stay with her mother (Suhasini Mulay). In due course, being a physics professor Santoshi gets a job in a school to teach Physics. The principal (Kaizaad Kotwal) assigns her a group of students who are least interested in studies. Santoshi strikes an instant chord with the students and soon molds them and helps them to enjoy their studies. As time goes by these students start performing well in their exams too. Their lives change when a commercial coaching centre opens up in the school premises and Santoshi is asked to leave the school. Was Santoshi a victim of teacher poaching?

The story by Mahadevan and Sanjay Chauhan is quite interesting not only on paper but also on screen. One of the dialogues that actually hit me was, “If I am successful in getting the desired marks, will I be successful in life too?” Today when I look around I see most of my classmates who were backbenchers are the ones who are actually successful in their careers donning some of the biggest roles in an organization. Mahadevan is one of the most versatile and underrated directors in India. At one hand he easily churns out a masala potboiler like an Aksar or a Xpose and on the other hand he gives us some cinematic gems like Mee Sindhutai Sapkal or Gour Hari Dastaan and now Rough Book. Mahadevan yet again proves that he is a master story teller and with some wonderful story ideas and writing he can give you some wonderful cinematic creations.

Performances are top notch whether it is Tannishtha Chatterjee or Kaizaad Kotwal, Suhasini Mulay, Joy Sengupta, Amaan Khan and Vinay Jain who are in the supporting roles. The cinematography (Maneesh Chandra Bhatt) is awesome – case in point look at the frames used to convey the rural confines of Suhasini Mulay’s school.

Overall it is a wonderful gem of a movie worth a dekko!

My Verdict: ****

Movie Review: Udta Punjab – All Faff, No Steam!

Last few weeks one saw the high-octane drama between the Censor Board Cheif Pahlaj Nihalani and the producers of Udta Punjab. The board objected to most of the scenes and suggested 89 cuts which were revoked by the Mumbai High Court who passed the movie with one cut and 3 disclaimers. The entire drama upped the ante of the movie and built up curiosity among the viewers. Did the entire controversy live up to the hype, let’s find out!

Disclaimer: If you are a fan of candy floss movies made by Karan Johars and Yash Chopras of the world (where you find the sweet natured and honey coated Punjabis who only speak the sweetest of the sweetest language) then this movie is not for you as Udta Punjab will make you sit in disbelief and cover your face. Every character in the movie uses choicest of the choicest expletives whether it is an old man or a small kid. Every dialogue, every word a character speaks is backed by gaalis. If you feel that you will find some romantic couples romancing in the fields then this movie is not for you, as you will be shocked to find syringes scattered and packets of heroin flying into the fields from the other side of the border. If you feel people are lively and jovial in Punjab then this movie is not for you, as you will be shocked to see that almost everyone in the movie are under the influence of drugs. )

The movie showcases the story of four characters played by Shahid (a rockstar – Tommy), Diljit Dosanjh (a policeman – Sartej), Kareena ( a doctor – Preet) and Alia (a Bihari-migrant – Pinky). Tommy is into heavy drugs and one day he gets fired by his producers for delaying their recordings. If that wasn’t enough, Tommy Singh also gets arrested by the Punjab police amidst his birthday party, on grounds of drug abuse. When he gets released from jail, despite the jitters, he somehow manages to gear up to perform before an eagerly awaiting audience. Just before the performance, he acts strange and pisses on the audience in the front row, who, then, run after him for his blood. Sartej is oblivious and ignorant of the drug problem in the State until he finds his brother hospitalized after ‘OD’ing and joins hands with Preet in her crusade against drugs and exposing the drug mafias. Pinky Kumari finds a 3 kg drug packet in the fields and to make a quick buck she goes finding users and in turn becomes a prey to the drug peddlers after she dumps the entire packet into a well. The peddlers hold her captive and rape her repeatedly after drugging her. Repeated attempts to escape bear no fruits. What happens to these four characters in the end forms the crux of the story.

The story is interesting on the paper and to one extent the director Abhishek Chaubey tries to justify, however, a weak screenplay and bad climax act as the deterrent. The first half is quite repetitive with every character doping and ODing. The second half is faster, however, the climax is quite filmy and does not go with the tone set by the movie in totality.

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have delivered their career best performances. Shahid Kapoor as the druggie Rockstar lives his part while Alia is a sheer pleasure to watch. She is one of the most promising actresses in Bollywood today among the younger brigade. In comparison to Alia, Kareena is wasted in the part of Preet. The role and character are not meaty enough to justify the acting prowess of this versatile actor. Diljit Dosanjh passes the muster for a debut role in Bollywood.

The film does have decent music by Amit Trivedi but not an extraordinary one. There are a couple of hummable tracks like ‘Chitta Ve‘ and ‘Ik Kudi‘. However, the film’s background score (Benedict Taylor, Naren Chandavarkar) is quite impressive and helps the film’s narrative.

Dialogues by Sudip Sharma are mainly in Punjabi and they should have had English subtitles for audiences who don’t speak the language to find a connect. Cinematography (Rajeev Ravi) is passable however, the film’s editing (Meghna Sen) could have been tighter like I pointed out earlier the first half is totally dragging.

On the whole, UDTA PUNJAB is not a traditional potboiler but a dark and serious film however, does not justify the ‘Faff’ it generated through it’s recent publicity stunt.

My Verdict: **1/2

Movie Review: Te3N – A must see thriller!

This week sees the release of one of the most exciting movies of the year – Te3n directed by Ribhu Dasgupta, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Vidya Balan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. After last year’s award-winning performance in Piku, Amitabh Bachchan returns with this Sujoy Ghosh produced whodunit  based on a Korean movie Montage, with Kolkata being the setting once again. Does the desi version of the Korean movie make a mark? Let’s find that out.

The film starts off with a flashback event featuring Inspector Martin (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and John Roy (Amitabh Bachchan). This is then followed by the religious daily visit of John Roy to the police station to meet Inspector Sarita Sarkar (Vidya Balan), regarding the kidnapping and killing of his granddaughter Angela Roy. The story then swing back and forth between the past and the present. Amidst all this, there also exists the story of the guilt filled Inspector-turned-Priest Martin Das, the very man who was in charge of Angela Roy’s case. While the police department including Inspector Martin Das gives up totally on the Angela Roy’s case, John Roy simply refuses to do so and vows to his wheelchair ridden wife that he will not take rest until he nails the innocent Angela Roy’s dreaded kidnapper and murderer. Around 8 years later, there occurs a kidnapping of a school going kid Ronny. The mysterious part about this kidnapping is that, it is totally similar to that of Angela Roy. That’s when the trio of Father Martin, Inspector Sarita Sarkar and John Roy set out to search the masterminded smart criminal. While Father Martin and Inspector Sarita Sarkar go the legal way, John Roy, despite his old age sets out on his own to nab the criminal. What happens after that are a series of twists and turns, which ultimately leads to a shocking revelation in the end. Does John Roy fulfil the promise that he had made to his wife, do Father Martin and Inspector Sarita Sarkar become successful in nabbing the culprit and what is the shocking revelation in the end is what forms the rest of the story.

Ribhu Dasgupta has done a brilliant job in handling the tight script and the veteran actors at the same breath. He stays true to the tone and genre of the movie and therefore one might find the proceedings going a bit slower in few scenes. Performances are top-notch whether it is Amitabh Bachchan or Nawazuddin or Vidya who try to get into the skin of their respective characters.

Music is average and considering the genre one might have very less expectations. The cinematography by Tushar Kanti Ray is wonderful. He captures the essence of Kolkata through his camera. Editing by Gairik Sarkar could have been tighter at certain portions (but no complaints considering the mood and tone of the movie).

On the whole, Te3N is a movie that will appeal to hardcore whodunit fans!

My Verdict: ***1/2

Movie Review: HouseFull 3 – A Slapstick Entertainer, Strictly For Masses!

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After two blockbuster predecessors in the form of Housefull and Housefull 2, this week’s release Housefull 3 produced by Sajid Nadiadwala and directed by Sajid-Farhad starring Akshay Kumar, Abhishek Bachchan, Ritesh Deshmukh, Jacqueline Fernandez, Lisa Haydon and Nargis Fakhri comes with a lot of expectations. However, with a different set of directors (the previous two were directed by Sajid Khan) does Housefull 3 do justice to the hit franchise is something we can analyze below.

The movie tells the story of Batuk Patel (Boman Irani) who has three daughters with awful Hindi speaking skills, Ganga (Jacqueline Fernandez), Jamuna (Lisa Haydon) and Saraswati (Nargis Fakhri). In front of their father they are the ideal daughters who are cultured and quite dutiful however, to the outside world they are the ultra glamorous Gracy, Jenny and Sarah. The trio is dating Sandy (Akshay Kumar) who has a split personality disorder, Teddy (Riteish Deshmukh) a car racer and Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) a rapper.

Batuk does not wish to get the three married due to some unknown reason and to discourage them he tells them of an astrologer’s prediction of him dying if they get married. Tempted by the girl’s strong financial background, when Sandy, Bunty and Teddy convince the trio to marry them, all the three girls reject their proposals citing the astrologer’s prediction. Amidst all this, enters the dreaded Mumbai don Urja Nagre (Jackie Shroff), who has a secret agenda of his own. What is the secret of Urja Nagre, how is it connected to Batuk not getting his girls married? What happens to Sandy, Bunty and Teddy in the end, and will the girls finally get a happy ending is what lies ahead.

Being a slapstick comedy do not expect logic here and you should not compare the movie with a Waiting or a Lunchbox or a Bajrangi Bhaijaan as the genres are totally different and Housefull 3 stays true to it’s genre of being a ‘Mass Entertainer’. Coming to the writing part – the writers have borrowed a lot of one liners and jokes from social media memes and whatsapp but does a good job with them. The movie starts strong but loses its steam in the second half however, it finally ends up in a fine way. Coming to direction Sajid-Farhad does an average job. Maybe the humongous expectation from the franchise would have weighed them down apart from handling a multi-starcast.

As it is a multi-starcast movie therefore it does not belong to any one actor. Akshay Kumar and Ritesh Deshmukh being pioneers in slapstick comedies handles their characters very well. Akshay’s split personality scenes are hilarious. Abhishek Bachchan although does a good job, fails to impress as a rapper. Among the girls Jacqueline Fernandez does a good job while Lisa Haydon and Nargis Fakhri are plain okay. Boman Irani, Jackie Shroff and Chunkey Pandey ably support in taking the movie ahead.

Even with multiple music directors – Sohail Sen, Mika Singh-Milind Gaba, Sharib-Toshi and Tanishk Bagchi, music is a sore point in this movie unlike it’s predecessors. Tang Uthake and Pyar Ki is average while the other two tracks are forgettable. The cinematography by Vikas Sivaraman is good. He has captured the locales in London beautifully while the editing by Steven H. Bernard could have been crisper in the second half.

Overall even with its flaws Housefull 3 is a one time watchable movie and it will definitely appeal to the masses.

My Verdict: **1/2