‘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.

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‘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.

‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ Movie Review: A fantastic action film that exhibits a sheer mastery over death

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Revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Inside a public library, at the beginning of the movie, John Wick (played exceedingly well by an intense and fierce Keanu Reeves, maybe even more than what he displayed in the first two chapters) is looking for a book in a shelf. He finds the one he was looking for and opens it. There is a photograph of his wife, some coins and a Jesus Christ cross locket inside this hardback book. He takes an emotional look at the photo and keeps it back at the same place. You can’t have an extended period of silence and calmness in a John Wick film series. So, a guy attacks John. The same book comes handy for John to kill that guy as it makes for an eye-popping fight sequence. But John can’t rely on things like a book to get the better of all those who are looking to attack him. He, in a scene, rightfully says that he needs “guns… lots of guns”. And he does use an awful lot of them in addition to daggers in this film. He, of course, shows some acrobatic fighting style as well.

Director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is much better than Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 for obvious reasons. There is no antagonist character he is after. He is fighting goons all alone with some help that he gets from a few people. The First Chapter had a weak villain in Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). I watched the First Chapter again and I was largely unimpressed by this character as it hardly had any impact. The Second Chapter had a promising start to the villain character as Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) sets John’s house on fire but this too faded away eventually. On the contrary, there is no dedicated antagonist character involved in Chapter 3 and no unnecessary and uninteresting hero-villain duel. There are men and women sent out with the task of killing John Wick. We get to see what John does best – “Hunt”.

We know what John Wick is capable of. We have already seen him inserting a pencil inside a man’s ear in the Second Chapter. So, seeing him using a book in this film to kill a guy was not surprising. He, also, just doesn’t shoot someone with his gun. He keeps his gun close to the attacker’s head and shoots him multiple times that sort of leads to ‘head explosion’. In fact, such scenes occur so much so that I, for a moment, forgot the persons getting killed are ‘humans’ as I loved the way John Wick goes about doing everything.

The First and Second Chapters of this film series established a unique style for itself. We get a fantastic bird’s eye view of skyscrapers and roads below at night time. The character of John Wick is registered in our minds as being someone with an immense amount of “audacity”. He is also said to be “a man of focus, commitment and sheer will”. As a matter of fact, there is always a style quotient about him. He drives a stylish-looking Ford Mustang car. A room full of cash in church gets engulfed in flames behind him as he walks casually. In Chapter 3, the style and the brutality get combined and multiplied.

While the First Chapter had a story, a grudge and a motive behind all the killings, the Second Chapter seemed to be ‘story-deficient’. What worked in both films were the action sequences involving John Wick. Therefore, Director Chad Stahelski strikes the right chord in the Third Chapter by infusing plenty of truculent action sequences. It’s difficult to know which one’s real and which one’s done through VFX as you get so absorbed by amazingly filmed scenes. A special mention must be given to three particular realistic sequences involving – the room full of daggers, the motorcycle chase, and the fight against the assassin, Zero (Mark Dacascos). The fun element associated with the fight against Zero and his men is something to watch out for.

Marcus (Willem Dafoe) shoots from a distance to save John Wick in the First Chapter (An interesting plot twist that surprised many of us). There is Winston (Ian McShane), in Chapter 3, who pulls the trigger of his gun to leave us in shock. Sofia (Halle Berry) and her two ferocious dogs, fighting alongside John Wick, is a mind-boggling addition. Even Charon (Lance Reddick), who keeps a serious expression and gives an intelligent perception about him in his brief appearances, comes in support of John Wick and shoots down foes.

As it all started with the killing of his dog, which gave him a “semblance of hope” and was not just a puppy to him, John Wick’s affection towards dogs kept on going in the Second Chapter as he adopted another very obedient dog that also features in this film.

The film has ended on the promise of yet another outing. Until then, it’s time to revel in the gruesomeness, strength, guts, and the sheer mastery over death that the film exhibits. Keanu Reeves is a master at work.

Someone Great Movie Review: A dull take on love, relationship and break-ups

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The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets.

Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) is sitting alongside a stranger and is emotionally revealing to her that her 9-year-long love relationship with Nate (LaKeith Stanfield) just ended. The stranger, though listens to all of that, abruptly stands up and walks away leaving Jenny clueless. She reaches out to her best friends Blair (Brittany Snow) and Erin (DeWanda Wise). She is moving to a different city and wants to have a blast with her friends for one last time before they all move on with their lives. Netflix’s Someone Great has a clichéd story that even 90 minutes of run-time makes you feel like it is too long. It is so annoying that all you would be thinking is – “Come on, get it over with!”.

It sort of gives you an opportunity to take a peek into the lives of Jenny and Nate. You get to see how the bond between them grew stronger and eventually how the fallout happened. But these scenes are so short-lived that you hardly get attached to these characters and never actually get to feel Jenny’s affliction. But this is the only character whose life is shown a lot more than that of Blair and Erin. And Gina Rodriguez has acted tremendously well. So, after a prolonged depiction of her dejectedness of having broken up with her long-time boyfriend in combination with Gina’s great performance, you do understand her feelings of wanting to reunite with her boyfriend.

Then, there’s Erin neglecting her girlfriend before finally saying, “I love…” and her girlfriend responding back in an instant saying, “I love you too”. This is designed to be a touching scene. But, Erin’s love-life hasn’t been given any emphasis. So, you can’t expect anyone to be moved by this. Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend is full of pretence. Therefore, you would have already figured out that this would end too. And so it does! Moreover, Blair’s relationship with her boyfriend hasn’t been given any significance. You don’t really care whether they get along well or not. Brittany Snow’s weak performance doesn’t help either.

The jollier times that these girls enjoy together is perhaps the only phase which I felt was nice (Watch out for the singing and dancing that these girls do together). ‘Latina’ written on Jenny’s shirt or the ‘Feminist’ written on sofa cushion do their bit of magic as well.

The film tries to be too cool with everything that it is doing. But the more it does so, the more irksome it gets. Written and directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Someone Great is a rom-com that is a commonplace.

Us Movie Review: Creepy and horrific

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You feel the thrills. You get scared. But you are not terrified to an extent that would make your heart pound faster.

There’s a cloth with blue-coloured circles of the same size. The clock displays 11:11. There are similar looking bluish public toilets on a beach. A flock of white birds are taking off for a flight together. The reflection of a girl on the mirror or the presence of twin girls in a beach creates an eerie picture. Such is the brilliance of Director Jordon Peele that as he creates an air of strangeness and unknown factor in Us, the ‘similarity’ in different scenes seem haunting. And then the moment comes when the tunnel-dwelling döppelgangers, who look exactly like the ones living above the ground, are standing outside Wilson family’s home. On seeing the döppelgangers, one of the family members utter, “It’s us!”.

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o is terrific in this character) stays close to her son Jason (Evan Alex) and daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). Her phone call to the police is of no use as they never arrive. Her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), who acted as if he is unfazed by these döppelgangers, is now worried sick. The Wilson family now have four people inside their home who look like them but cannot talk except for the one who looks like Adelaide (When you get the reasoning behind this towards the end, it is shocking). From here on, the creepiness takes hold of the narrative. Jason’s lookalike has a burnt face underneath the mask. Zora runs away on to the streets as her lookalike goes after her wearing a smile. Gabe confronts his counterpart on a motorboat. There’s another family who does not even get a chance to face their counterparts as they get killed as soon as they open their door.

You feel the thrills. You get scared. Michael Abels’ music does the trick too. But you are not terrified to an extent that would make your heart pound faster. Jordon Peele’s debut film Get Out is an epitome of horror and can make you jump out of your skins. Call it a sophomore slump or something else, his second feature film Us isn’t as horrific as Get Out.

It looks like Jordan’s forte is in writing thriller or horror scenes. The interactions between the members of the Wilson family, before their encounter with döppelgangers takes off, are supposed to be funny. But they never seem so.

Even though there is a considerable slump felt as the movie nears its end, the feeling of fearsomeness is kept intact throughout.

Shazam! Movie Review: Rekindle the inner child

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Shazam! is all fun and frolics.

Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a 14 year old boy, runs upstairs, reaches the terrace, jumps from the edge of the terrace screaming a magic word Shazam!, transforms into an adult, muscular superhero Shazam (Zachary Levi) wearing red outfit with cape and flies away in the night sky (Such a visually appealing scene). He has been chosen as the new champion by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to confront the evil powers. But, being still a teenage boy, he deals with the “supervillain” Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) in his own childish ways that make for jovial and funnier scenes in the midst of serious pursuit.

Director David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!, which is based on a DC Comics’ character, has a familiar plot that is bolstered by a great concept. Instead of an adult, a kid gets to be a superhero. He finds the stick of the dying, old wizard, who transfers the power to Billy, as “gross”. When he says out loud a magical name, his physical appearance changes and he looks like an adult. But his mental state still remains the same i.e of a teenage boy. This turned out to be really interesting as the movie progressed. It was like a dream-come-true moment for a kid who experiences magical powers. He could only think of flying like Superman. He randomly charges the smartphones of people. He goes out in the streets brandishing his abilities and taking selfies with people. He takes away boxes of beer from a shop, takes a sip and finds it to be “gross” (anything Billy does not like, it is gross). He goes inside the shop again and replaces them with packets of chips. His foster brother Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) gets him to test all the different abilities of a superhuman he has ever come across and posts them on social media. Such scenes rekindle your inner child. I could remember Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse where the lead character is, again, a teenage boy and his experience with his new-found abilities look funny (Did I cross over to Marvel Cinematic Universe? That was unintentional).

Like Billy, other characters, who too are mostly kids, make up for hilarious instances. There’s Billy’s foster sister Darla (Faithe Herman) who gets “uncomfortable” by the “silence” and keeps talking all the time. There’s a foster brother who is a video game freak and yells all of a sudden while playing busily. There’s another foster brother who keeps a stern face and nods as a means of saying “hi” to Billy. Even Freddy, who gets to experience the superpowers himself, jokes around in front of an evil monster saying that it’s the first supervillain he is going to fight with.

Billy’s pursuit of finding his real mother is entertaining as he goes about making fake calls to police officers and tries to get the residential address where his mother might be living. But when he gets to know the reason why she left him, it does not come off as a big surprise or does not really cause a huge impact.

While talking about DC Comics, you can’t leave out Batman and Superman. Shazam! does pay a tribute to these iconic characters (Wow! moment when that happens) that have lived with us for many years.

A man dressed as Santa Claus, who is horrified by the sight of evil monsters and superheroes fighting them all off, snatches the mic from a television reporter on the street and shouts, “It was f***ing crazy man”. Yes, I went crazy too witnessing this super adventure. Shazam! is all fun and frolics.

Review of How To Train Your Dragon Movie Series: Peace and Unity

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How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is taking his dragon, Night Fury a.k.a Toothless, for a flight. The dragon dives straight to the ground before altering its direction just above the ground level and going upwards and soaring at a great height. This is so fantastically depicted that we get immersed in a phantasm and feel like we are the ones riding that dragon. This is also the first taste of successful flight for Hiccup as a dragon rider in the first instalment of How To Train Your Dragon series. The immersive experience remains intact in the subsequent follow-ups to this first part.

Based on Cressida Cowell’s series of books by the same name, this film franchise, set in a dreamy world, has a moving story that, with human-dragon friendship, illuminates how unity and togetherness can bring about a much-needed peace and happiness even in the real world. How To Train Your Dragon shows Hiccup, a small kid, often termed weak and incapable of fighting, leading the way to prove how love can prevail over hatred. In How To Train Your Dragon 2, it’s Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) living alone amongst the dragons and safeguarding them to ensure that one species do not get wiped out because of assault by the other (again, a much bigger picture represented where, in reality, we hear of a number of animals in danger of extinction due to man’s callous activities). While Hiccup has got this “dramatic flair” of protecting and loving the dragons from his mother, we can only learn from him and apply that in this world we love so dearly so as to protect endangered animals on our planet. Well, I am not sure if this is what it tried to depict but, in a way, it did seem to be sending out this strong message – This world is not only for humans.

Hiccup’s father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) leads from the front in killing the dragons for the security of people but the other side of his character, that is understanding and affectionate, takes over due to Hiccup’s influence. The father-son relationship was, especially, touching as Hiccup lovingly reminisces about the time spent with his father as a young kid in How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

The series is committed to showing a world where women are part of the decision-making process and are as strong as men. Hiccup’s father asks for the opinion of his wife on what she thinks is needed to be done as she opines and leads them along to save dragons. She, also, can be seen winning in an arm wrestling match against a muscular-looking man.

The series has its share of hilarious instances too. My favourite of all is the one where Night Fury takes the cue from his master Hiccup to impress a female dragon Light fury but winds up doing them all wrong and even weirdly enough.

John Powell’s exceptional music lent a great value to this film. It magnified the emotions attached to different scenes and aptly blended with the mood of the film.

The fairy tale endings of the first two parts did not work for me and seemed draggy. Even some of the revelations did not really come off as a surprise (Hiccup says that he did not kill Night Fury as it was frightened like him but the events leading up to this revelation was suggestive of the reason for his refrainment and it was a child’s play to figure this out).

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World made the most of the foundation laid down by the first two instalments. It was easily the best of this film franchise. Even though it has a proper ending, it still leaves a sign of continuity and one can only hope that it resumes from where it left with another remarkable outing. Nevertheless, How To Train Your Dragon is a film series comprising stupendous animated action fantasy that shows that there is strength in unity and with unity comes peace and mirthfulness.