‘War’ Movie Review: A mixture of classy, modish and brutal elements

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War is loud and brutal but is also stylish and stuffed with surprise packages that keep you afloat.

Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) and Khalid (Tiger Shroff) are the heroes as well as the anti-heroes. They fight together. But they also fight against each other. They are chasing a terrorist. But they are also chasing each other’s tail. Amidst all of this, War, which is centred around two Indian soldiers and their pursuit of finding the masterminds of terror groups, comes packed with an abundance of surprises to astonish you at various moments (sometimes even totally unexpected). Director Siddharth Anand knows he has a set of highly flamboyant actors and he uses them to great perfection. In this, Hrithik and Tiger are muscular, stylish, agile, fast, and dazzling. Most important of all, Hrithik is a proven performer. In spite of the film’s lack of substance, these two steer the film to its safety.

Unlike the masterfully shot action sequences, the film’s plot doesn’t seem well thought-out. The plot twists work wonders but the film is devoid of the depth, relevance and focus in the storyline. The film also suffers from its sheer incapability in evoking emotions. (Neither the romance portions bloomed between Kabir and Naina (Vaani Kapoor) nor do you feel the loss or separation when their brief relationship comes to an end.) But the movie doesn’t seem wearisome due to the realistic, classy and mind-bending stunt sequences. Whether it is a sharp object that’s been almost inserted into someone’s eyes or a magnet-powered device that’s being used to jump on a flying plane and enter inside it or a deluge of gunshots from which someone’s escaping unscathed, you get all of it in this heart-stopping film.

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Siddharth Anand also considers the possibility of one actor easily overpowering the other. He gives the right amount of space to each of them to express themselves. When Hrithik has to show his heroic side (or even villainous side) as Kabir, Tiger steps aside. And when it’s Tiger’s turn to portray his heroic and villainous side as Khalid, Hrithik moves aside. They both are extraordinary dancers as well. And the songs featured in the film makes great use of their remarkable skills. (There will be comparisons of who’s dancing better and you can’t help it.)

The film keeps you guessing about several things and makes you raise questions like – Is Colonel Luthra (Ashutosh Rana) involved in terror activities too? When the film presents ‘big shocker’ from time to time, those are the moments that impress you the most. War is loud and brutal but is also stylish and stuffed with surprise packages that keep you afloat.

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‘Ash Is Purest White’ Movie Review: Sacrifices and great strength of a woman

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Ash Is Purest White presents a bold and strong woman who comes out of trouble on her own

Bin (Fan Liao), the mob boss, and Qiao (Tao Zhao), his girlfriend, have come to a place from where they can have a clear view of a volcano. Qiao enquires Bin about the purity of volcanic ash. This brief scene, which is both serene and thoughtful, is so brilliantly placed by Director Jia Zhangke. It explains the metaphorical title of this movie. More than the explosive eruption of a volcano, it is the softness of ash that is felt in this movie. Ash Is Purest White (Jiang hu er nü), which tells the story of a relationship between a gangster and his mistress over a long period of time, does not have too much of violence per se. It has more of separation, loss, betrayal, sacrifice, and despondency.

The film creates a nexus between ‘travel’ and ‘change’. Whether it’s on a bus, a car, a motorcycle or even a ferry, the characters are always on the move. You feel the brilliance of Jia Zhangke as you sense the change in the life of characters each of those movements brings with them. For instance, Bin and Qiao are travelling by car and suddenly a brutal fight ensues. (Giong Lim’s background score, with just drum beats, stupendously increases the intensity attached to the scene). The incident spells the separation of Bin and Qiao. And, it’s a motorcycle ride that allows them to meet each other again. In another scene, Qiao’s father is standing on the roadside as she boards the bus. He looks perplexed and distressed (His sad countenance touches you). This is a brief scene. But, later, you realise that this is also the last time she saw her father before his death.

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You admire Qiao as a person. She is the embodiment of great mental strength. She is not only strongly committed to Bin but also ready to sacrifice her life for his well-being. In spite of that, it hurts you to see that she doesn’t get the same love in return. She is left all alone and confronts the hurdles all by herself. (In a scene, she expresses a great shock after finding out that her money has been stolen by a woman. When she goes out and enquires people about that woman, it moves you to see her dejection. Even a guy, considerable force, brushing his shoulders against hers, make you feel for her.). It’s the Tao Zhao’s terrific performance that makes the Qiao character even more powerful. Fan Liao isn’t far behind. He gives the Bin character the three shades – Style, meanness, and loneliness. He is the leader of the pack at first. He, later, avoids Qiao even after everything she did for him but does express compunction for doing so. He winds up in the wheelchair with no one to take care of him except for Qiao.

Qiao is a character dedicated to all those women who have showered all their love upon the man they love, left everything behind, and even sacrificed a lot to help him get out of trouble only to be deserted by him in the end. Jia Zhangke beautifully paints this character in Ash Is Purest White and presents a bold and strong woman who comes out of trouble on her own.

‘Dream Girl’ (2019) Movie Review: Ayushmann Khurrana’s brilliance doesn’t save this film

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There is always a feeling that the film might get better at any stage. But that’s never the case. It’s the other way round.

A man imitating a blind. A police chief heading investigations on rape cases and caste discrimination. A man, in his twenties, utterly surprised to know that his mother is pregnant. A guy becoming a father of many by donating his sperm. These are, and many more, the avatars donned by Ayushmann Khurrana in his films. The actor has made a name for himself as a guy who does all those off-beat roles and has, more often than not, come out on top. Ayushmann has this knack of making the characters that he plays look supremely engaging. He plays the role of most sought-after ‘girl’ by the men and women in Dream Girl (not to be confused with Dream Girl that released in 1977). As a character that juggles between being a man (Karam) and a woman (Puja), he looks convincing in this film. But that doesn’t save the film from going through these phases – Bad, Worse and Ugly.

We are so close and yet so far – which is basically what Director Raaj Shaandilyaa’s Dream Girl is addressing. It points out the problem of loneliness. It highlights the lessening distances as well as the widening gap between each one of us in this connected world. But to make you realise this scenario and talk more intensively about this, the film doesn’t have a great narrative at its disposal. It tries a lot of comedy. A very few dialogues do seem humorous. (In a scene, Karam, impersonating as Puja on a phone call, indignantly clarifies that he is not a Taj Mahal but a Qutub Minar). But almost every other scene, that tries to be hilarious, turns out to be annoying and frustrating. It, then, resorts to throwing in some romance where the love between Karam and Mahi (Nushrat Bharucha) never seem to be of any relevance and vanishes into thin air. There’s always a song featuring in several films in Bollywood, if not all, to keep its audience entertained and engrossed. Dream Girl has it too. Radhe Radhe, in the composition of Meet Bros, that comes towards the end, is captivating and energetic to listen but doesn’t help the movie’s cause.

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The film also has plenty of other characters who, apart from Vijay Raaz who plays a drunkard-talking-poetry, neither seem interesting nor funny even though they try to. It’s Ayushmann who holds you tight right until the end. There is always a feeling that the film might get better at any stage. But that’s never the case. It’s the other way round.

Kattumaram Movie Review: A beautifully-made film on LGBTQ+ that shows hope and belief amidst difficult times

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Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore.

(Screened at Regional Film Festival 2019, Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi)

Singaram (Mysskin) says that mother sea, who has taken away life, will give something in return when she has calmed down. He is a local fisherman and is referring to the Tsunami that once took away many lives in his village (including his loved ones). He is living with his niece, Anandhi (Preeti Karan), and a young nephew. He believes that one day he will be able to cross the sea. Singaram is hoping his current situation will get better. Being a strong patriarch, he’s earnestly trying to find the right match for his nephew. Kattumaram (Catamaran), directed by Swarnavel Eswaran, is a metaphorical title that is remarkable for its deeply ingrained meanings. In this, there is always a belief that good-heartedness and good times will prevail and difficult times will be long gone by. Like Singaram, the film empathises with the LGBTQ+ community.

Singaram has different shades of character. And Mysskin is so good to bring out all of them with perfect aplomb. Although Singaram is a patriarch, he is also benevolent, caring, loving, understanding and supportive. (He offers money to someone showing utmost care in his countenance or even scolds a man for abusing a woman and thinking her as someone of a questionable character). Anandhi is a school teacher. (Preeti Karan’s voice is so beautiful and you can’t get enough of Anandhi dictating a lesson to the students). As Kavita (Anusha Prabhu), a photographer, enters the frame, the story takes a different shape and acquaints you with the blossoming romance between her and Anandhi. Whether it’s a romantic moment or an emotional sequence, P. Bharani Dharan’s melodious and captivating background score accentuates the feelings associated with the scenes to a whole new level (Can remind one of the legendary composer Isaignani Ilaiyaraja).

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Easwaran is interested in intelligently bringing out the lesbian connection in the film. The school’s name, where Anandhi works, is Vaanavil (which means Rainbow in Tamil). You see the school board out on the street with its name and those seven colours. (Is it to signify the Rainbow Pride Flag?). Easwaran is not trying to show you the sexual relationship between lesbians. He wants to delineate that it’s deeper and meaningful. (Kavita emotionally talks about her past and her ex-lesbian partner’s ill fate). Moreover, the film is set in a village where one’s sexual orientation is strictly judged by certain prejudices. Being caught as a lesbian would draw furious reactions from every corner of the village.

Karthik Muthukumar, who is the Director of Photography, is a master at work. There are plenty of attention-grabbing shots at the seashore. The locked-down shots, for instance, are mesmerising. (While the stationary camera is gazing at the tides by the seashore, the film depicts a family in high spirits at one instant and in immense anger in another. In a different scene, a flickering light approaches towards the camera while the surrounding is engulfed by darkness. As the light comes closer to the camera, a transwoman is revealed.) A long shot shows a man’s dilemma and his empathy for a widow. There’s also a medium shot which shows peacefulness and merriment. (You see Anandhi sitting on a wooden plank by the seashore, a cool breeze touching her cheeks and the top layer of sand moving with the wind). In a closeup, the camera closely captures a crab moving through the sand while, in the distance, men are playing a Kabaddi match at the night time and a bright yellow light is streaming from a street bulb. Even a combination of a long shot and a closeup works big time. (You get a longshot where pretty looking Anandhi, who is all dressed up, is standing by the seashore. And then, in the closeup, Anandhi turns behind, with the hair falling all over her face due to the blowing wind.)

Several other instances invoke tranquillity. A long shot, with the camera placed near the field, shows Anandhi riding her bicycle in the distance. Or, you see the camera focussing at two coconut trees against the blue sky.

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Amidst the serious tone of the film, the film does have chucklesome instances. A family indignantly walking off and hurling abuses at Anandhi for rejecting their son seem funny. Singaram threatening a police officer for molesting Anandhi is both stylish and humorous.

The film does have no sexual activity related to a lesbian relationship. But it shows glimpses of different people deriving sexual pleasures in different ways. You see a transwoman involved in oral sex. You also see religious woman, alone at home, is seduced by a man for sex. In a way, the film resorts to represent a slice of life. A boy and a girl meeting each other, getting married, leading a happy life to get the approbation of the everyone else is considered to be a norm by many. But when someone doesn’t end up leading a similar life, is questioned, thrashed and even ostracised.

‘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.