Gully Boy Movie Review: An intense drama with a musical feast that gives a sense of belief

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Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.

MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) says to Murad (Ranveer Singh), “Sab comfortable hote to rap kaun banata” (If everyone lived comfortably, rap would not have taken its birth). This thought reflects in the entire film. I watched the movie with such intensity that I started reminiscing instances from my own life and felt an astounding belief building up inside me as to “Yes, you can follow your passion and be great”. That’s the power of this film. No matter what field you are in and what destination you are heading to, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy has such incredulous effect on us that we start believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As this film claims, it surely is a perfect “Shout-out” to the “real gully boys DIVINE and Naezy”. It is an intense story of a rap artist who fights his way out of his father’s supposed notion of them being a “naukar” (servant) and triumphs against all odds by following what he earnestly wanted in his life.

The very first thing you notice is the music, contributed by several musicians, which is ingrained in this film with such significance. The music plays a crucial role to exemplify the feelings of high-spiritedness, agony and despondency. For me, the best portrayal of music-exemplified emotions is a scene where Murad, while working as a driver, drives a woman home, who is in tears, and the Doori poem plays out in the background – Kehne ko hum paas hain par kitni doori hai, ye bhi kaisi majboori hai…Main ye behte aansu ponchu utni meri aukaat nahi (We are so close to each other yet so far…My status is not high enough to wipe off your tears).

Gully, in hindi, refers to the alley. Here, Gully Boy refers to Murad who lives in the ‘gullies’ of a slum in Mumbai. Early in the movie, some tourists from London visit this slum and are, apparently, excited as they exclaim “wow!” and click pictures. The tourist guide takes them, incidentally, to Murad’s house to show them the kind of toilet that they have in these houses (Funnily, Murad’s grandmother charges 500 for this). One of the tourist guys is wearing a t-shirt with a printed image of a hip-hop artist. Murad praises his t-shirt and to the utter surprise of that guy, Murad starts singing an English rap song sung by that artist. This scene assured that the film is in no way going the familiar poor-guy-becoming-rich way. Gully Boy is not at all clichéd. In fact, this scene is the first of many instances that show Murad’s inclination towards the hip-hop genre. Influenced by MC Sher (What a rip-roaring rendition by Siddhant Chaturvedi for this role), Murad joins him and starts writing verses and presents them to MC Sher. There is no heroic display of him suddenly doing so well. He, even, loses in the most embarrassing manner imaginable in a rap battle (It is so moving to see Murad when his opponent uses Murad’s poverty as the baseline for his defence as Murad keeps his head down and is mortified by what he just heard). It is this unhurried nature of Gully Boy that is so impressive. We are happy for it to be taking its time. As MC Sher insists Murad to bring out the “jwala” (lava or fire) inside him and face the world with intrepidity, we get energised as the film slowly depicts the rise of Murad or the Gully Boy (his stage name).

I am sure the film is going to strike the right chord when it comes to representing the lives of billions of people who are unable to pursue a career that they want. Murad, under the circumstances of his life, winds up working as a car driver and the growing pain inside him comes out in the form of a rap verse “Apna time aayega” (My time will come). Succumbing to the pressure of his parents, he starts working in an organisation through the influence of his uncle. He, even, indulged himself in stealing cars with his friend Moeen (Vijay Varma). While commuting in a train, he looks at the gloomy faces of fellow passengers going back to home after a drudging day of work. In another scene, Murad’s uncle praises him for choosing the right career and the next moment Murad looks at the clock and leaves for a rap battle audition. Zoya Akhtar has meticulously orchestrated the turn of events that illuminates how Murad gets on the right path eventually after a series of struggles.

Murad boards a bus and so does Safeena (Alia Bhatt has done an amazing job. Oh! What a performer!). They stare at each other every now and then. As soon as the person sitting next to Murad stands up and deboards the bus, Safeena occupies that seat. Just when we are about to think if this is an age-old trick of a boy-meeting-girl in a bus, Safeena and Murad hold each other’s hands. They are already in love for 9 years. So, the focus of the film remains intact as the narrative wastes no time in illustrating Murad’s love-life. Even though Alia Bhatt’s presence is transient, it is so lovely to see the portions that involved them courting. When their relationship comes to a standstill for a period of time due to Murad’s brief stint with Sky (Kalki Koechlin), he says, in a scene, that life without Safeena is like having spent a life without a childhood. This brief spell of romance portion has been moulded in such a beautiful way that their separation makes you feel sad.

It is not just the external forces that come in the way of Murad. He has to confront difficulties at home too. His conservative father (Vijay Raaz is stupendous in this character) remains mad at him. He has also married another lady and has brought her home which leads Murad’s mother (Amruta Subhash) into an enormous amount of desolation. It broke my heart to see Murad’s mother crying madly as he hugs her. Even Safeena explains to her parents that she lies to them because they won’t allow her to put on lipstick, go out with boys and have fun. Safeena’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha) shows some photographs of men and tells to Safeena, in a scene, that she is at least getting to choose a man to get married unlike her. These are the sort of hindrances that, not only Murad and Safeena, but a lot of us have to deal with to be able to attain something.

I had to endure a lot of those mandatory commercials that were played before the start of the movie. But as the movie ended and I left the cinema hall, I completely forgot about those tiring advertisements. Thanks to this stunning film! Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.


Roma Movie Review: A film that will linger long upon the retina of memory

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Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.

The movie opens with a close-up shot of the floor as the background sound indicates that floor-cleaning is being done. To confirm that, dirty water splashes onto the floor. There is apparently an opening on the ceiling which can be seen through the reflection on the wet floor. It brings the outer sky in view. A plane flies above in the sky. Slowly camera changes its direction from the floor and moves upwards to show Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) busily cleaning the floor. By this time, I was already engrossed in the movie and enthralled by the scrupulous attention to detail in the camera work. Cleo is the central character who works as a maid for Sofia (Marina de Tavira). Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a film that will linger long upon the retina of memory as it takes us through the lives of Cleo and Sofia and beautifully exhibits the pain they go through.

Cleo and Sofia express their anguish in different circumstances and for different reasons but their loss has a congruence. Sofia, whose husband has left her for another woman, tells Cleo that women are always alone no matter what people say. Cleo, whose boyfriend has betrayed her after impregnating her, delivers a stillborn baby. Later, Cleo weeps and reveals that she never wanted that baby to be born. We understand where’s that coming from and are moved by their loss.

Roma is a perfect example of majestic camera work. It is like a tutorial to the filmmakers. In many instances, the camera remains stationary at a point and swivels around as the characters do their job. It almost feels like you are standing right there keenly observing each of the characters. Cleo just goes about doing her household chores while the camera is fixed at a point and rotates around to follow her (It feels placid, hushed and lonely). While Sofia, her husband (Fernando Grediaga) and the kids are watching a programme on television, we see everyone of them sitting on a sofa with a smile on their face (camera slowly rotates from left to right) as Cleo is moving behind them showing a keen interest herself (You feel the attachment towards her while she sits down beside their sofa to watch the programme and the next moment Sofia asks her to bring tea). A beautiful bed-time song can be heard as we see a lot of toys kept in a room (again, the magnificent camera work is on display as it moves leisurely from left to right) and the visuals reveal Cleo singing for Sofia’s daughter. A 360-degree view from the centre of the house can be experienced when Cleo goes about switching off all the lights in the house (Thanks to Alfonso for presenting merely a switching-off-lights scene so remarkably!). To top it all off, it is a black and white film that made it visually even more appealing.

The brilliant piece of camera work further accentuated the feel of specific scenes. Cleo joins Sofia’s son and lies on a concrete slab at the terrace, with hands spread and eyes closed, playing what the boy calls as being “dead”. She responds by saying that she likes being dead. There was a feeling of tranquillity in the whole scene as it leaves us in a train of thoughts. The camera moves up, slowly rotates towards the right and we get the view of other terraces with clothes hung out to dry (There is nothing great about this view but it comes after a thoughtful scene that makes it more serene-looking). In another scene, Cleo reveals to her boyfriend that she is pregnant inside a cinema hall and he goes away saying that he will be back. But the movie ends and he is nowhere to be seen. While the movie ends on a happier note, we see her slightly worried and turning back to see if he is coming back. All the while camera is placed behind her with the full view of cinema hall and the screen to illuminate the contrasting emotions. As she comes outside the cinema hall, we do not see her crying or showing some strong emotions, instead we feel her forlorn state as she is engulfed by the noise of roadside sellers.

We get so attached to Cleo’s character that we rejoice when she is in a jollier mood and feel sad for her sufferings. She correlates, in a scene, a relaxing environment of the countryside with her own village and it soothes us. When Sofia scolds her to clean the dog shit on the house corridor, it hurts us. At road traffic, two children, wearing a frightened face, are glued to their car window to see Cleo crying in pain who is being taken to hospital as we feel her affliction. Cleo is about to have a glass of alcohol in a party but a couple dancing nearby hit her accidentally as she drops her glass (Her innocent face is enough to make you feel for her). Even Sofia’s children are very attached to her (We are emotionally drawn towards her when she informs about her being pregnant to Sofia, cries and Sofia’s son suddenly appears and hugs her. In another scene, Sofia’s children hug her and persuade her to come out with them for an outing).

As the movie comes to a close, we see that Cleo is back to doing her household chores at Sofia’s place. She is walking up the stairs to the terrace and the sky comes into view. A plane passes by in the sky which reminds us of the opening scene. It leaves us with a plethora of thoughts. One can think that it’s the end of all her sorrows and a return to normalcy. Or, one may think, whatever happens, life goes on. Netflix’s Roma is a heartrending and picturesque film that will remain in our memories for ever so long.

Soni Movie Review: A silent protest

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Soni is a moving tale that subtly expresses its emotions.

A glum-looking Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) has come to buy grocery items from a shop and the shopkeeper’s assistant packs everything for her. He also greets her cheerfully, talks to her politely, hands over the package with a smile and sends her off merrily. All the while, Soni just gives him a smile in return hiding all the anger and sadness rankling her (The world will be a better place if all the men behave like that shopkeeper’s assistant with the women). Netflix’s Soni (the title of movie and the name of protagonist) is a poignant take on women and their indignation on various issues concerning men. The best part is that it subtly highlights everything that it is trying to depict and never really tells you, “this is the problem”. You realise that yourself.

Directed by Ivan Ayr, the film not only emphasises upon feminism and troubles of women but also shows how strong, fearless and brave they are or can be. Soni is a policewoman who is grappling with unjust behaviour of some of the men she meets (when she gets into fight with a man in the opening scene because of his misbehaviour and ends up hurting him badly or when she bravely confronts men who have occupied a ladies toilet for smoking pot and are teasing her). We see how she has to bear the brunt of their wrongdoings and have to be content with whatever the life presents to her. Kalpana (Saloni Batra), Soni’s superior in the police department, is the only person who understands Soni and her troubles.

There are instances in the film where we can sense a sort of silent protest being conducted albeit through a crafty approach. Naveen (Vikas Shukla), whose relationship with Soni has taken a backseat, visits her house. On getting to know that someone pelted stone at the window, he asserts that it would not have happened in his presence (This is to show that he thinks a man’s presence is necessary to safeguard women and woman can’t be safe alone). In another scene, a policeman mocks at a guy saying that it is such a shame to take money from a ‘lady’. When Kalpana’s niece locks herself in her room all day and later reveals to Kalpana that she got her periods in the school and was derided by someone, Kalpana encourages her to stay strong and fight back. Sometimes, Soni is just busy going about her household chores as the camera follows her and the silence in the whole sequence projects an eerie picture of her loneliness.

Geetika Vidya Ohlyan’s work is absolutely exemplary and the intrepidity she brings out in Soni’s character is commendable. Saloni Batra’s performance is equally great in the shoes of Kalpana. The brief exchange between Soni and Kalpana at a restaurant left a lasting impression where Soni says, ”Kabhi to lagta hai sab theek ho gaya hai, phir lagta hai vaisa hi hai, kuch theek ni ho sakta” (Sometimes it feels like everything will be alright, then it feels like nothing has changed, nothing can be improved). Soni is a moving tale that subtly expresses its emotions.

Pariyerum Perumal Movie Review: Subtle and yet so concrete in nature

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The engrossing narrative sort of sucks you in, disturbs you and makes you understand and realise the divide that exists in our society.

There are three instances in this movie which is and will always be reverberating in my mind all my life. First is when Pariyerum Perumal (Kathir) – or let’s just call him Perumal for this review – gets into a fight with his classmate Sankaralingam (Lijeesh) for sitting in the front seat of the classroom. While other guys step in and stop the fight, he keeps reiterating that he won’t stay behind and will stay ahead. Second is when he has drunk alcohol and has come to the classroom. The professor lashes out at him and asks him to get out of the classroom. He replies in anger asking if he shouldn’t come to the college at all. The third is when his father has accompanied Perumal to college to speak with College Principal (‘Poo’ Ram). His father asks him if he can speak freely to which Perumal tells him to be bold and courageous while talking. That’s the power of this film. It is not a spoon-feed material. You realise, you think deep, and you understand the emotions behind those dialogues and know where’s that coming from.

Let me put those three instances this way – “I WILL stay ahead”, “SHOULDN’T I come here?”, and “MUST speak with courage”. These were said in a different context in the movie. But you realise that it is coming out of him in such wrath because of the divide that is existing in the form of caste and religion. And the movie never really tells you that plainly but makes you feel the pain of Perumal. The opening line – Caste and religion are against humanity – that follows the acknowledgements, in the beginning, give you some idea of what to expect in the film. But the narrative of this film is so subtle and yet so concrete in nature. I could only see two instances where the movie referred to these terms directly – one of the professors accuses Perumal by pointing out that he used the reservation quota to get admitted into this college and the other where Anand (Yogi Babu), best friend of Perumal in college, clarifies that he does not befriend people by looking at their caste or religion.

Written and directed by Mari Selvaraj, Pariyerum Perumal is both the title of this film and the name of the titular character which means God on a horse as is explained by Perumal himself in the film. The story involves two different tracks – one that is of Perumal and another is of Thatha (Karate Venkatesan). The former is like the ocean of the whole narration and the latter is like the river which meets this ocean in the end. Perumal is studying in a law college and he has a love interest in Jothi Mahalakshmi aka Jo (Anandhi). On the other hand, we get to see glimpses of Thatha who we get to know as an expert in killing people without ever getting caught. So, when Thatha becomes an important part of the narration in the second half, we are not oblivious of this character and know what he is capable of.

Perumal is fighting against all the forces that are trying to put a barrier in his path as he is striving hard to earn a name for himself in the field of law. There is a lot going on in his life and with that, the movie brings out the emotions in us to the fullest. It touched me to witness the funeral of a pet dog being carried out by Perumal and all his neighbours in the village. Having Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, one of the greatest figure in Indian history, as your role model is something to be proud of. But when the admission officer notes down in the admission form that ‘Perumal wants to become Ambedkar’ so that he can point that out to him in future for any wrongdoings, we sense the sheer stupidity in his thought. And when Perumal is beaten, warned and even literally pissed on by the family members of Jo, we see him shivering with pain on the floor and I almost shuddered in shock myself. I jumped out of my skins when in a riveting scene Perumal is forcefully carried by 3-4 people into the fields, beaten and he somehow escapes from them. I was in a state of disbelief and utter shock when Perumal’s father is harassed by Sankaralingam. I could feel the embarrassment in the eyes of Perumal’s father when his lungi has been removed and he runs off out of shame.

There has been a countless number of films in which the story involves a romantic angle blossoming between the lead pair and the problem occurs due to their financial differences, religion issue or the caste difference as is apparent in this case. We see closeness developing between Perumal and Jo in the college. It is refreshing to see this pair on screen. Both Perumal and Jo have no problem of whatsoever being together. But when the parents of Jo warn Perumal to not see or talk to Jo any more, we do not see any caste difference being specifically pointed out. Jo’s father (G. Marimuthu) tells Perumal that he knows who he is, where he is from and what he belongs to. So, that gives us an indication of the divide and oppression that is being talked about here. Also, Jo is actually like a devathai (angel) as Perumal denotes her and she also behaves like one as we find her very innocuous in the film. She has absolutely no idea about all the warnings that Perumal got from her father and her family members. Although we do care about Perumal and Jo and we want them to be together, it is the misery of Perumal which we are more concerned about. Not only was I dumbstruck by the magnitude of troubles that he goes through. But it hit me hard enough to think how tough it can be to keep all his problems to himself.

As I was feeling the excruciating pain of Perumal, the movie did have its share of laughs as well. Yogi Babu as Anand was hilarious. I laughed out loud whenever he came on screen. He never stops mocking the professors and his timely responses were sidesplitting. Even the drama created by the fake dad of Perumal (Shanmugha Rajan) in front of College Principal was amusing. It was like going through a range of emotions from being very dejected to laughing my heads off. Also, the scenes in the movie do not stop abruptly thereby allowing the feel of every other scene to be absorbed by us. Like the scene where Jo extends an invitation to Perumal to come to her family wedding function, smiles at him and walks away. It shows their reactions for a while and we know that she has expressed her love towards him. Also, I really can’t pinpoint any particular character as the leading pair and the supporting casts performed very well and looked like they belonged there.

The analogy created in this film is spectacular. Perumal points out to Jo’s father that people like ‘him’ are being treated like dogs. This reminds us of his pet dog that got run over by train. Another analogy is when the camera focuses on two glasses of tea on the table with a flower in between and a mesmerising song called Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama composed by Santhosh Narayanan (his work is excellent in this film) explains it beautifully: Osaththi korachchal ennavo enakku athu puriyala, azhukka karuppa ennavo enakku athu theriyala. As a matter of fact, all the songs created the mood of particular situations in the movie very well. As the movie neared its end, two dialogues kept ringing in my ears – one by the College Principal when he says that let him fight and then die instead of hanging himself in the room; and another when Perumal tells that it’s him who has kept the pride and respect of Jo’s father intact.

Badhaai Ho Movie Review: A Heartwarming and soulful drama

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Badhaai Ho is a charming, emotional and lachrymose drama which makes us identify ourselves and realise the significance of family by breaking all barriers.

Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) turns the key and starts the car, it moves forward a bit and then stops. We hear the whirring sound once again and this time it keeps moving forward. He is driving his wife Priyamvada Kaushik (Neena Gupta) home from the hospital after getting to know that she is pregnant. Good news, right? In this case, not exactly! Jeetender and Priyamvada are an older couple and have two grown-up sons. Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) is working in a company and Gullar (Shardul Rana) is studying in his 12th grade. Nakul and Gullar are feeling antsy while waiting at home and wanting to know if their mother is alright. So, as the car stops momentarily, it is symbolic of how a single event would bring things to a halt and change their lives.

Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s directorial venture Badhaai Ho is such a gladdening and soulful movie. It delineates how the news of Priyamvada’s pregnancy affects everyone else in the family, how their lives change after that, and the realisation of family value and love that it eventually leads to. Director Amit captures the different phases of life and different emotions attached to it.

We see that Nakul and his brother are bemused and mortified when they hear the news. They never stop criticising their father and we sense a feeling of detestation building up between the father and the sons. Well, it is Nakul and Gullar who are showing their hatred towards their father and not the other way round. And there is another strong character in Nakul’s grandmother Naani (Surekha Sikri) who explodes with rage on hearing the news. Nakul, who used to hang out with his friends, is now avoiding them and we sense a feeling of desolation.

There is a brief romantic angle that we see between Nakul and Renee (Sanya Malhotra). Nakul and Renee are co-workers and are in love. It is rejuvenating to see this pair on screen. But Nakul’s mother being pregnant poses problems to his relationship with Renee. While they are about to have sex, the thought of their parents having a child at this age bothers him. He even indulges in a serious exchange of words with Renee’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha). Probably, the only phase which I felt to be moving at a languid pace was where Nakul and Renee are not on talking terms for a while and are longing for each other.

Best phase of this film was the romantic scenes between Jeetender and Priyamvada. It was even more entrancing than that of Nakul and Renee but, of course, that was exactly what the film required. While it rains outside at night, it is so beautiful to watch Jeetender reading out a poetry to his wife. And when they go to the marriage ceremony, the look in his eyes while seeing her was as if he saw her for the very first time and just fell in love with her. Someone even requests Jeetender to talk to his son, who is married but devoid of a child, to give him sexual advice which actually makes Jeetender joyous as he exultantly looks at his wife. Well, Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta stole the show with their impressive performance and all their elderly romance portions.

But as the film culminates, even we, as an audience, realise the power of family and how supportive we should be in the times of distress. We see a change of heart in Nakul as he goes back to his friends and handles things perfectly. He even goes with his brother Gullar to his school to teach a lesson to a boy who has mocked Gullar and beaten him before. It is an emotional moment as he hugs his mother and says “sorry” to his father. Watch out for the sentimental and lachrymose scene where Naani jumps to Priyamvada’s defence when the relatives try to teach her family ethics and values. To say the least, Surekha Sikri (as Naani) nailed it and was like the shining sun in the wintry weather. And it is so moving when Jeetender holds the new-born baby in his hands in the presence of a teary-eyed family.

Ever since Shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor brought Ayushmaan Khurrana into the film spectrum as an actor, his subsequent movies have had such off-beat subjects and some of which have worked tremendously. While his previous film Andhadhun was a rip-roaring masterpiece, Badhaai Ho is a charming, emotional and tearful journey which makes us identify ourselves and realise the significance of family by breaking all barriers.

First Man Movie Review: Effulgence of the Moon and Throes of Neil Armstrong

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First Man is an aptly titled movie which explores the afflicting journey of hardships and griefs in the life of Neil Armstrong… Spoilers ahead

When Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) was finally prepping up for the famous first-ever trip to the Moon, there were two contrasting scenes which brought out different emotions. His concerned wife Janet (Claire Foy) tells her son that his dad will be flying out of this world and all the way up to the Moon. Her son, being very young, is unaware of this historic event and asks his mom if he could just go ‘“outside”. And, in the other instance, when Neil and his other two partners (Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) had to answer questions in the customary press meet before the flight, Buzz (Corey Stoll) responds to the reporters saying that they are “excited”. These contrasting emotions resonate well with the audience as we travel through the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. From being oblivious of the sheer magnitude of the events leading up to the mission to getting excited and nervous at the same time by the prospect of gradationally getting to understand the sufferings and monumental efforts, First Man really does take you through an emotional journey.

Based on the book called First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, Director Damien Chazelle’s First Man is a biographical drama on the unseen aspects of one of the most significant space missions in the history.

For the most part, First Man throws light on perturbing and harrowing life of Neil

For the most part, it throws light on the perturbing and harrowing life of Neil. The hindrances that he had to face for this almost decade-long mission only made him hard-bitten and committed. When his daughter dies due to illness, we get to sense his mournfulness while he feels her hair strands in his hands for one last time. Some of his friends and teammates have even died in the process of rocket tests and we can feel his state of despondency and loneliness.

We come to a point where we do not know what is more disturbing than the horde of questions hurled at Neil and the team for the failing mission which is also facing huge criticism for the astronomical sum of money being spent on it. In spite of the failure during the tests, he sees the positive side emphasising upon the notion that failing here on earth would help them overcome adversities up there in space.

Director Damien does not allow the audience to feel at ease either and puts us in the spot to make it look extremely real.

While Neil has to undergo a lot of sufferings during this mission, Director Damien does not allow the audience to feel at ease either and puts us in the spot to make it look extremely real. One can see the brilliance behind those jerky and shaky camera shots which illuminate how tough it can be to control the spaceship. It made it look real so much so that we can feel like we are the ones on that spaceship trying hard to control it against all odds.

The three-pronged approach of portraying the mission to Moon was just marvellous to watch. Neil and his partners on the spaceship, the NASA team on the ground, and Janet at home were all equally involved in this gruelling task. Not only did the successful docking of two spacecraft was romanticised like a reunion of a couple with astounding background score by Justin Hurwitz. But it also brought a smile on the faces of Neil and his partners, the ground team, and Janet who was listening to everything on the radio while her son playfully keeps her busy with all his naughty tricks. And when something goes wrong, they all are in this together. And so are we feeling crestfallen and grievous in the difficult moments and rejoicing for the success.

The movie opens with Neil as a test pilot who steers the aircraft to the ground alive when something goes wrong. We see the intrepidity and never-give-up attitude in him. We see that characteristic nature again when he applies for the mission to Moon and has to go through weary tasks. We realise that it is this hardihood which made him overcome all the struggles over the years and become the first man to walk on the Moon. After all the challenging times, when Neil takes a sigh of relief on finally reaching up there, so do the jubilant people around the globe in the film, and so do we as the audience as we are so much immersed in the movie.

At 2 hours and 21 minutes, First Man feels a bit slow but you do not mind it due to the splendiferousness of the movie

Throughout the movie, we are shown the naked eye shots of Moon which we hark back to when Neil looks at the Earth from the Moon. This is also the time when we are reminded that there are nicer moments in the film as well when all those good memories flash in the eyes of Neil where he cheerfully plays with his children and wife.

At 2 hours and 21 minutes, First Man feels a bit slow but you do not mind it due to the splendiferousness of the movie, amazing performance by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy who were ably supported by the supporting casts, and brilliant screenplay by Josh Singer (writer of The Post and Spotlight). First Man is an aptly titled movie which explores the afflicting journey of hardships and griefs in the life of Neil Armstrong.

96 Movie Review : Nostalgic Rom-com Made To Be Cherished For A Long Time

It is an alluring, rejuvenating, rejoicing and romantic film which at the same time gives you the feeling of longing and separation…(Spoilers ahead)

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There is a scene in the movie where K. Ramachandran a.k.a Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) opens a suitcase in which he has kept everything that is dear to him especially that makes him reminisce about Janaki Devi a.k.a Jaanu (Trisha). Director C. Prem Kumar’s directorial debut with his romantic drama 96 is like a prized possession which can be safely kept in a suitcase and cherished for a long time to come.

A couple of things impressed me in the very beginning even before the movie got the wheels turning. Before the title of the movie came on the screen, one of the acknowledgements read ‘Thanks Iyarkai’ (Thanks Nature) which is so relaxing and suggestive of what was about to come. And when the names of Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha Krishnan came on the screen at the same time followed by the title, it became apparent how important they both are for each other in the film.

96 is like a prized possession which can be safely kept in a suitcase and cherished for a long time to come.

So we get to experience and relish different aspects of nature as the movie opens with Ram as the travel photographer. Unaccompanied, he is travelling to different places clicking pictures. But the amazing experience that he is having along the way gladdens our heart and makes us want to be in that moment. He is seen inside the sea among the fishes, he is literally feeding bread from his mouth to a deer, he is clicking photos of a rare plant in the desert, and he is even revelling in the rain opening his mouth to feel the drops of water from the sky. Nature is as much a significant character in the film as are the actors. There is no limit to how much nature can enthral us as Ram teaches his students the nuances of photography inside a picturesque temple.

This was all the photography that is shown in the film and as one of the students drives Ram home, the movie shifts its focus on this beauteous yet heartrending journey of Ram. En route to home, Ram sees a bridge and we get to sense the nostalgia inside him. He, then, meets an old watchman (Janagaraj) outside the school where he studied as a child and the past life of Ram starts taking shape.

This is just the beginning of a lot more nostalgic memories that the movie explores through the life of Ram thereby letting us relate with our own lives. We traverse through the 1990s and the present world of Ram and Jaanu parallelly.

We laugh, we feel the pain, we feel the longing and we yearn for them to be together.

A reunion of ‘96 school batch is planned (watch out for the hilarious online group chat between the nineties batch). Best part of this magical journey comes through the memories that flash in the eyes of Ram. We get transported into the 1990s and the young Ram (Adithya Bhaskar) and young Jaanu (Gouri Kishan) come to the fore. It is a magical phase where we get to feel his memories as we start remembering instances from our own life. As Ram, Jaanu and their friends meet up in school, jocosely converse and eat lunch together, we see Ram and Jaanu developing feelings for each other.

In the midst of the blossoming romance between the lead pair, the sequences that cover the whole school life involving Ram, Jaanu and their friends are so wondrous to watch. We laugh, we feel the pain, we feel the longing and we yearn for them to be together. Ram, who is strong and dominating when he is in the circle of his friends, becomes speechless in the presence of Jaanu.

After completing the school exams, meeting of Ram and Jaanu over the bridge happens to be last time they see each other. Such was the performances of Adithya and Gouri that we hanker for them to be together always. Anyone who has had the experience of the so-called first love (or even if they don’t) will definitely be touched by this heartening love story.

We swap back to the present world where Ram and Jaanu wind up meeting each other after 22 long years. It successfully establishes the sort of feeling it wants the audience to have. We realise nothing has altered since they last saw each other. There is a palpable feeling of strangeness, of course, meeting after all these years. As an audience, we can sense that peculiarity due to the marvellous performances of Vijay Sethupathi, Trisha Krishnan, and the supporting casts who did a perfect job as their grown-up friends.

It is shocking to us that they never got together and that is the success of this movie as well.

Gradually the strangeness in the air vanishes as Ram and Jaanu start from where they left off. Jaanu talks about the envisions that she had about him coming to see her while pursuing the graduation. She even had a childish hope of him appearing all of a sudden in her wedding ceremony and finally reunite with her which usually happens only in the movies. Well, thankfully that did not happen in this movie. Wait till you witness the element of surprise in this romantic tale as we get to know that Ram did come to see her in college and wedding. It is shocking to us that they never got together and that is the success of this movie as well.

So they walk, they talk, they cry and they laugh and so do we along with them on this magical journey. While Jaanu is peaceful with her current married life, Ram is happy to be living the bachelor’s life cherishing the memories he has with her. Amidst all these, the background score by Govind Menon (also credited as Govind Vasantha) is the backbone of giving more fuel to this charming and lovely narration. The album as a whole is not my personal favourite. But Kaadhale Kaadhale and Anthaathi songs were mesmerising and captivating as they gloriously blended with the whole drama.

While Vijay Sethupathi has given a different perspective to romanticism and has acted with flamboyance without trying to overdo anything, Trisha has stolen our hearts yet again which may remind one of Jessie character she did in Gautham Menon’s Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. C. Prem Kumar’s 96 portrays an emotional and deep sense of love which shows what love is, what can it do to you and the feeling that accompanies with it. It is an alluring, rejuvenating, rejoicing and romantic film which at the same time gives you the feeling of longing and separation. 96 is like the best photo that you have captured which has to be framed and kept in that suitcase safely to cherish it for years.