‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar… The Untold Truth’ Movie Review: An honest portrayal of caste discrimination in India

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Director Jabbar excels at the realistic portrayal of hatred and discrimination.

(Thanks to India Habitat Centre for screening this amazing film)

An implacable hatred builds up inside you against all those who have made a fellow man walk around with an earthen pot around his neck and a broom around his waist. The former was to avoid even his spit falling on the ground and keep the earth ‘pure’. The latter was to sweep away his own shadow. This is the ‘caste’ atrocity we are talking about. Director Jabbar Patel decides to display all of this through pencil sketches right in the beginning and states clear his motive of portraying disturbing pictures to set the right mood for the film. (It’s a brilliant idea to highlight that through pencil sketches as they produce an eerie feeling). ‘Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar… The Untold Truth’, English-language National Award-winning Indian film, documents the oppression faced by the so-called low caste Hindu citizens of India in the hands of high-caste ones. It was Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, belonging to low-caste himself, who emerged as a beacon of hope for all those who endured years of suffering (and still do). He took up the responsibility of bringing about a massive social reform across the country and imagined a “caste-less” and “class-less” Hindu societies in India.

Ambedkar is one of the greatest heroes in the history of India. So, he deserves a special introduction scene. And Jabbar makes sure of that. You see the camera focussing on eyeglasses placed over an open book and a pen beside it. Slowly it moves closer to it and comes to a stop. Then comes Mammooty, who plays Ambedkar, into the picture. He sits in front of that book and wears his glasses. (Mammooty’s remarkable acting skills brings Ambedkar back to life).

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Director Jabbar excels at the realistic portrayal of hatred and discrimination. The film exposes the ill-treatment the low-caste Hindus are subjected to. No matter what heights he reaches in his life, he will always be called ‘untouchable’ and will be oppressed. (In spite of being the senior person in his office and highly educated, Ambedkar had to bear the brunt of caste system as he was forbidden from drinking water from ‘common’ jug). Some remain silent and accept the boundaries set up for them. Others, like the social reformer Ambedkar, defy the orders and jokingly tell them to “purify” the things after touching or using them. Purification mechanisms do exist, as the film highlights, that are also written in ancient Hindu texts. Even the non-Hindus are aware of this caste system as they resort to discriminatory remarks. (Not surprisingly, Ambedkar even goes on to say that caste system in India is worse than what the African slaves had to go through).

The film shows that it was never easy for Ambedkar to do good for ‘his’ people. There was abuse, financial problems, and discrimination all the way. His wife Ramabai (Sonali Kulkarni) had to confront “loneliness” and “hardships”. There was even a tussle between Ambedkar and Gandhi (Mohan Gokhale) as more than the need for “stability of government”, Ambedkar stated, it is important to abolish the discrimination based on caste and creed. The film raises an important question – Is embracing a different religion the answer to escape the oppression? (Ambedkar went on to embrace Buddhism and encouraged others to choose this path).

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You do need the acquaintance of good people to deal with the problems of life. Ambedkar had them too. That is why Ambedkar was able to get financial support for his studies. He also had a friend in college who stood by him and encouraged him. In India, such atrocious cases, as the film presents, where a low caste Hindu is not even touched or not allowed to enter the temple or adjudged a sweeper or manhole worker by birth, are still prevalent. Ambedkar’s vision of a casteless society is possible only if we, as a good human being, join hands and show compassion to a fellow person without ever resorting to discriminatory acts on any grounds.

‘Crawl’ Movie Review: A nail-biting duel between two apex predators

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Source: Paramount Pictures | YouTube

Crawl is a jaw-dropping thriller that holds our attention and keeps us frozen with horror throughout.

A Category 5 hurricane has hit the city hard. The roads are inundated. Houses are quickly getting submerged. The policemen are busy out there trying to persuade people not to drive their cars to the areas that are heavily impacted. But the stubborn Haley Keller (Played by Kaya Scodelario who perfectly kept the seriousness in her countenance) decides to take another road and find her father who might be stuck in the house due to the flood. Her situation metamorphoses from ‘worse’ to ‘threatening’ as she not only finds her father, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), in the basement of the house but also the huge and dangerous alligators. One has to trumpet forth the praises on Director Alexandre Aja who, then, goes on to create an environment of such tremendous fear, creepiness and anxiousness that the feeling of terror grows on us. Crawl is a jaw-dropping thriller that holds our attention and keeps us frozen with horror throughout. Alexandre makes sure that we don’t sit back and relax. It’s not just the characters in the film who are struggling against the alligators. It’s also us feeling uneasy whenever a gruesome moment comes.

Whether the alligators are present in a scene or not, the sense of disquietude is intact. A falling tree crashing through the window of the house is horrifying. When the injured leg of both Haley and Dave are shown, there’s a feeling of discomfort. But we can easily foretell when the alligator would make an appearance in certain instances. That didn’t take the sheen away completely. As, when the alligators do come into the picture, the scenes are highly frightening. (They tear apart a human body into pieces).

Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen, the film, even though, is engrossing and terrifying, is also irksome at few instances. The film resorts to showing the divorce angle in the midst of a life-threatening situation that neither invokes emotion nor seem appropriate to be told at that juncture. The film also considers its audience incapable of construing Haley as a talented swimmer and that it can help her tackle alligators. It keeps harking back to the times when Haley impressed everyone in the swimming competitions. But it’s the fraught-with-danger feel, that the film produces, which makes you let go of these erratic instances. And Alexandre makes sure there’s plenty of fearsome moments.

‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ Movie Review: A riveting film on consensual sex with a bit of heroism

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Source: Zee Music South | YouTube

Nerkonda Paarvai is a perfect remake of Pink that is intense, sorrowful and thrilling

Nerkonda Paarvai (Direct gaze) will naturally make us reminisce Pink of which it is an official remake. It is, of course, focussed and strongly presents its case like Pink. But, it is also more detailed than the original. And it works big time. Director H. Vinoth has chosen to stay true to the actual storyline and doesn’t deviate from its core message. The film does emphasise the issue of consensual sex. It superbly exhibits the fact that a mere “no” suffices to convey a woman’s objection to sex no matter if she is a girlfriend or a wife or even a sex-worker. There’s one character that Vinoth has chosen to alter a bit to give the film a whole new outlook – the lawyer named Bharath Subramaniam (Ajith Kumar). A terrific actor like Amitabh Bachchan pulled off a stunner while playing a lawyer in Pink. The personal life of the lawyer was not explored in detail in Pink. Nerkonda Paarvai excels on that front.

We are not just concerned about the fate of the three women – Meera (Shraddha Srinath), Famitha (Abirami Venkatachalam), and Andrea (herself) – who have been wrongly charged for soliciting young men and causing fatal injury to one of them. There’s also a good-old-days of Bharath. We are strongly attached to this character. We wear a smile on our faces looking at his happier days and also feel for his loss. (Vidya Balan is impressive as the wife of Bharath in her brief stint).

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Source: Zee Music South | YouTube

This is Tamil Cinema and ‘star’ factor matters a lot. Once again, Ajith and his love for cars and bikes can be seen that would delight a lot of his fans. Some stylishly shot scenes where Ajith rides a bike on high speed or removes the dust-covered cloth from his four-wheeler to take it out for a drive look wonderful. We also see him mentioning Formula-1 racing. Ajith also brilliantly brings out two sides of Bharath character – Subdued and Intense. There is a fight sequence as well and Ajith looks heroic (This sequence may feel unnecessary and may also seem a bit too much. For instance, a Doctor warns a goon on phone that he has to be careful with Bharath’s indignation).

You can’t ask for a better casting than this. Ajith is fantastic and makes the Bharath character look fierce, powerful, concerned, helpful, loving and anguished. Shraddha Srinath and Abirami Venkatachalam, in particular, deliver impactful performances. The surprise package to me was Rangaraj Pandey in the role of a lawyer named Sathyamoorthy who goes up against Bharath.

Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music has its magic felt as well (Kaalam, sung by Alisha Thomas and Yunohoo, is the one to look out for).

The humiliation, stress, sorrow, sexual assault, harassment and molestation that the women in this story encounter shouldn’t happen to anyone. The film raises a voice in support of women who are subjected to cruelty. It highlights male dominance and the beliefs of considering women as the weaker sex. Most importantly, it addresses the misconceptions that many men have in regards to women, their mannerisms and their lifestyle. Nerkonda Paarvai is a perfect remake of Pink that is intense, sorrowful and thrilling.

‘Pink’ Movie Review: A gripping drama on consensual sex

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending.

You know how it is” says a male office boss with a sorry look. “Yes, I do know how it is” replies a crestfallen and shocked Falak (Such a brilliant performance by Kirti Kulhari in this role). A fake, indecent photo of hers has been doing the rounds in the whole office. She has felt greatly humiliated by this as she never did any of this sort in the first place. The scene showed how painful it is for a woman when she is wrongly accused. Pink is Director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s answer to misconceptions that a lot of men have vis-à-vis women. The film is a masterpiece which shows what a woman goes through when she is harassed, molested, sexually assaulted, and is forced to accept the cruel world without raising questions. 

Pink is one of the greatest courtroom dramas that you will ever see. It is focussed and heartrending. It sarcastically explains women’s safety manual that has instructions on the Dos and Don’ts for the women so that men don’t get the false idea of their consent for sex. It’s Deepak Sehgal (A spellbinding performance from Amitabh Bachchan for this character), a lawyer, through which the film presents its case and that too with such perfection (Not to forget the arresting act by Piyush Mishra who plays a lawyer as well in this film). The film shows you how Deepak defends the case for three women – Minal (Taapsee Pannu’s fantastic act for this character makes you really feel the agony), Andrea (herself), and Falak – on whom the complaint has been filed stating that they solicited some men and ended up causing grave injury to one of them (The soliciting part is so tremendously portrayed that it hurts you to see these women being shown in a wrong light).

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

The film highlights a male chauvinist society where women are made the scapegoat in a lot of problems. (Falak’s unsympathetic boyfriend presumes that Minal is a girl of questionable character. In response, Falak, with utter sadness, says that she hoped to receive some warmth from him and not advice.) The film shows that there are men who still consider women as weaker sex (A guy, in a cafeteria, says to Falak, “Tum vaise bhi ladki ho” (You are anyway a woman)). It also hurts you when Pink makes you realise that even a “natural human behaviour” of women is perceived wrongly by some men. Or, even her choice of living with her friends and not with family is put under the scanner.

But again it goes without saying that this world is also replete with good people. There are male characters in the film who stand as a pillar of support to these women in times of distress. Andrea’s boyfriend comforts her and applauds her for being “brave”. The landlord Kasturilal (Vinod Nagpal) remains supportive to these women and never doubts them.

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Source: Times Music | YouTube

With so many different layers in the film, you never actually get to see the sexual assault incident happening until the closing credits. But the incident is talked about with such intensity that just imagining it makes you feel pity for the girls who suffered. The music does its trick too to match the mood of the film (Kaari Kaari song, in the composition of Shantanu Moitra, sung by Qurat-ul-Ain Balouch, comes twice in the movie and blends beautifully well with the emotional scenes).

When I first watched the film back in 2016, I felt that the importance of the film and its relevance to the real-world situation was sky-high. I watched it again recently as a Tamil remake of this movie – Nerkonda Paarvai – thronged the theatres last week. Pink still felt so fresh and riveting. This story demands such a remake. It needs to be told in different languages. Pink is not just a great story on consensual sex where a simple “no” from your girlfriend, wife or even a sex-worker forbids you from having sex with them. But it is also told in a way that it engrosses you, thrills you and astonishes you all at the same time.

‘Mission Mangal’ Movie Review: A fantastic tribute to India’s first-ever Mars mission where dreams became a reality

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Source: Fox Star Hindi | YouTube

Mission Mangal does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.

Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) and Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan), the lead scientists supervising India’s historic Mars mission, have taken inspiration from home science, managed to get the necessary approvals and the resources, and incorporated everything in the rocket science that they know so well. Mission Mangal (Mission Mars) is Director Jagan Shakti’s ambitious and meticulously written project that not just feels sweet but also tastes bitter. Jagan knows that we are apprehensive of the fact that the success of Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) drawn accolades from the entire globe and we may have doubts whether the film will resort to more of glorification than the struggles. Jagan makes sure that Mission Mangal is not that sort of a film. He lends it an equal share of both the moments where we don’t just feel dejected by the failures, embarrassments and difficulties but also feel proud and rejoice over the triumphs.

There is ‘hope’ in the background music (composed by Amit Trivedi) as it perfectly enhances the spirit of being alive in the mission. You feel astonished by the intelligence of the scientists in whom, amidst every other obstacle, sparks innovative ideas while cooking Puri or looking at people protesting against plastic dumps in the ocean or even while staring at a picture of sailing craft on a throw pillow. When you think about India and its space programs, the very first name that may come to your mind is Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. The film does honour him. And when it does, it may give you goosebumps. Even the close shots of the rocket when it is being set up on the launch site or smoke engulfing a part of it or the hopeful faces of scientists were so brilliantly shown (All credits to the cinematographer Ravi Varman).

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Source: Fox Star Hindi | YouTube

Akshay gives the mixture of seriousness, staying-calm-under-pressure and mirthfulness to Rakesh’s character. But it’s the hilarity that works so well. In a humorous scene, he calmly enters inside a poorly maintained building, calls it Mars, finds the availability of little water and even claims the presence of life. He even asks a guy to place a television over his head. And when a guy asks Rakesh if this is Mars department, he says, “Hum bhi yahi soch ke khade hain” (We are also standing here thinking the same). Also watch out for Akshay’s Tamil-language speaking skills in the film.

The women in this movie always take the centre stage and are as much an important part of the film as the real women scientists were for the success of this Mars mission (You also have to appreciate the wonderful ensemble cast with each of them raising the bar higher when it comes to performance). You are also not alien to the personal lives of these characters. You do care about them. Outside of this mission, they have their own problems to take care of. You root for Eka Gandhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and her colleague Parmeshwar (Sharman Joshi) to be together. Tara’s amazing calmness while managing her husband, son and daughter speak volumes of Vidya Balan’s stupendous act. The sadness and disappointment in Varsha (Nithya Menen) are noticeable when her mother-in-law angrily scolds her for not getting pregnant. The driving lessons taken by Kritika (Taapsee Pannu) are chucklesome. You feel the agony of Neha (Kirti Kulhari) when she is denied a house for rent as she is a Muslim (While there is a work going on to find habitable planets in the space, some of us belonging to the ‘most intelligent’ species on Earth still follow a divisive design).

Of course, there is always someone who tries to close all the doors and be pessimistic about everything. There is Rupert (Dalip Tahil) in this film to do that. Dalip fantastically lends that villainous feel to this Rupert character. But the determination of Tara and a ‘change’ in the attitude of the scientists (one of the loveliest sequence where scientists realise why they chose to be in the field of science in the first place) ultimately spell the victory. Well, the film could have done without a weird fight sequence inside a train or a scientists-jovially-dancing-to-the-tune-of-a-song (Probably, the only two things that didn’t work for me). But, other than that, the film does justice to one of the most influential and eye-opening achievements in the history of space research.

‘Mehsampur’ Movie Review: A film that feels like abstract art

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Source: Film Tribe | YouTube

This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.

(Thanks to Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this gem of a film)

In this film, death is imminent. And it doesn’t befall characters because of natural causes. It’s because the actions of the characters do not get approval by the masses. They do keep going for a while with little support. But, eventually, they succumb to a tragic end. Director Kabir Singh Chowdhry’s Mehsampur intends to explore the life of a Punjabi singer named Amar Singh Chamkila through Devrath (Devrath Joshi) and trace the events that resulted in the assassination of Chamkila.

Chamkila had more haters than supporters for the controversies he gave rise to. It was in Mehsampur where he breathed last. It is the enigma surrounding his death that propels Devrath, who is a filmmaker, to traverse difficult terrain and find everything about Chamkila at all costs to make a film on him. As Devrath goes about his business, you keep your options open and keep pondering over if the film is a documentary or a docu-fiction as it never settles on to one. This transition which Kabir lends to this drama is something that you really have to experience yourself. This is an unprecedented style of filmmaking in the Indian Cinema and, definitely, a work brimming with brilliance.

The film gives you a psychedelic experience. You randomly get to see flashes of old, blurred, muted videos of Chamkila performing on a stage. Sometimes, it looks like the camera was being vigorously shaken while a few of the scenes were being shot. There are noisy, eerie visuals of a combine harvester moving through a field of crops (When this combine harvester appears again towards the end, it’s astonishing to realise the significance of this seemingly-irrelevant-noisy-shot-at-first). There’s a guy singing at a bar and, weirdly enough, as he tries to express his emotions through the song, you can’t help but think if he’s drugged.

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Source: Film Tribe | YouTube

The interviews that Devrath conducts with people who knew Chamkila were not short of sidesplitting comedy instances. You see Devrath asking a guy to repetitively act like a drunkard throwing a stone in a busy street. You see him getting annoyed by a singer as she, instead of telling him anything about Chamkila, starts singing a song instead. Devrath, also, doesn’t stop from recording everything when he has got an opportunity to interview someone. So, when he interviews Lal Chand (a guy who survived and escaped from Chamkila’s assassination scene), he can’t help but take a close-shot of Lal Chand’s inner thigh on his camcorder from the ground level.

Only thing that didn’t work for me was the character arc of Manpreet (Navjot Randhawa) with whom Devrath has had a sexual relationship. But the praise must be given to the scene where intercourse happens between the two which was so realistically and perfectly shot arousing the sexual feelings inside you.

Even though this Manpreet’s character plays a bit of a spoilsport at the later stages of the movie, Director Kabir’s extraordinary filmmaking skills come to the fore and mostly overpower the dampness created by that character. Mehsampur is a change that you need amidst the swarm of poorly executed, mundane big-budget films. It’s the never-before-seen thingy. Kabir makes sure that you have one more example at hand to show the world why movies are one of the greatest forms of art.

Chalne Do Movie Review: An intelligent film infused with seductions, love-affair and betrayal

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Source: Anticlock Films | Youtube

It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.

(Thanks to 10th Jagran Film Festival Delhi 2019 for the screening of this remarkable film)

The power of the longest dissertation is in its in-depth coverage. Sometimes even a small piece of writing can be more meaningful and insightful than a longer counterpart. Director Nikunj Rathod’s Chalne Do (Keep Going) is a 42-minute feature film that, considering its short running time, comes bundled with plenty on offer. Nikunj’s brilliance comes to the fore when we start realising that the number ‘two’ is deeply ingrained in the film in different forms and makes it all the more impressive.

To begin with, the entire movie is in black and white colours. The title of the film has two words- ‘Chalne’ and ‘Do’. And these two words don’t appear on the screen together. ‘Chalne’ appears first and after a few scenes, ‘Do’ comes on to the screen (When ‘Do’ does make an appearance, you marvel at its timing and the relevance it accompanies with the film’s story). The use of Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment that shows two different possibilities, amazes you when you understand its relevance with the film’s narrative. There are two titular characters in the film – Saathya (Ruchita Tahiliani arrests you with her exemplary performance in this character) and Roop (Rahaao lends an engrossing act in this role).

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Source: Anticlock Films | Youtube

As the film tries to establish a relationship between Saathya and Roop, their two different sides get uncloaked. Saathya is trying to create a balance between her reel life aspirations and real life. She, in a scene, says that there’s a good person as well as a bad person dwelling inside everyone but people only see you as either a good or a bad person. As the film goes on to reveal two such different shades of Rahaao, you wonder at how marvellously Nikunj has shown Saathya, who’s in need of a companion, has failed to notice the negative side of Rahaao. When you think of it, the literal meaning of Saathya (which is, a companion or a friend) and Roop (which is, a form) aptly suit the respective characters (Hats off to Nikunj).

The romance between Saathya and Roop, as they go out for a walk on a rainy night and stick close to each other under an umbrella, is beautiful to watch. The tricks played by Saathya, in Roop’s presence, is seductive. The best moment, in this love angle, comes when Saathya is standing on the beach and Roop slowly walks towards her. The camera captures her from the ground level so that the full moon in the night sky is visible (Ah! What a sight that makes in this black and white setting).

It’s the Utsav Banerjee’s intelligent screenplay along with Nikunj’s vision that makes this one of the greatest films I have ever seen.