Stark, Harsh, eminently watchworthy…Manto

Being a Literature aficionado, of course one knew of Manto. No recounting of  great short stories can be complete without the mention of Guy de Maupassant, O Henry, Hemingway, Jack London, Balzac, EM Forster, Chekov and our own Mulk Raj Anand, Munshi Premchand….and of course Manto. So since the time one first heard of the Nandita Das biopic on Manto, I eagerly awaited the September release. Felt doubly excited to hear Manto was premiered at Cannes Film Festival this year. It is a great introduction to Manto, the person.

One had read some stories of Manto and admired the man’s clinical control of his craft. Every story of Saadat Hasan Manto always leaves you gasping, shaken, stirred & exposed:  to the core of your being. Nandita Das’ second movie (after Firaq, on the aftermath of the Gujarat riots) Manto does the same.

The movie is set a few years before Partition and ends, just 7 years after 1948, with Manto’s death, when he was just 42 years. While talking of this small slice of Manto’s life, the movie manages to etch in your heart Manto’s love for Bombay, his difficulties with both the “Establishment” in the Bombay film world; his fierce independent stands, amongst the Progressive Writers of the pre Independence days; his dependence on alcohol which would eventually lead to his ruin; his monetary challenges and debts; his total disdain of the editors who sat in judgement of his writings; his friendship; his love for his children; his abrupt decision to shift to Pakistan. Alongwith all these, you see the Manto who exposed himself to the underbelly of dark side of the human condition. Manto explores what people (his fictional(?) characters) experience: prostitution and debauchery on one hand and the  harsh pangs of Partition on the other hand. Religious bigotry and one sided thinking is exposed and challenged. And in doing all this Manto suffers, as you do, bleeding while experiencing the movie!

Das has used a very clever trick of interleaving some of Manto’s stories like Thanda Ghosh, Khol Do, Boo, Toba Tek Singh into the recounting of Manto’s life. Indeed these two are inextricably intertwined! What the author Manto saw, the man Manto experienced!! Possibly, writing about all these pains, and that of Partition, was in no way cathartic for Manto.  Rather, he sinks deeper into brooding depression and deeper into drinking, progressively moving away from his family and descending into a personal hell. Das depicts this very realistically and logically. She has been aided in this task by an ensemble cast which  includes some really fabulous actors like Rishi Kapoor, Ranbir Sheorey, Divya Dutta, Gurdas Mann, Javed Akhtar and Paresh Rawal who recreate Manto’s life and experiences so starkly that it leaves the viewer gasping, and struggling for breath!!

Counterpoint to such a heavy dosage of clawing reality, are two positive side stories: of Manto’s friendship with Shyam (played by Tahir Raj Bhasin) an upcoming actor-star who makes it big; even as Manto’s star is descending on the horizon. Secundo is Rasika Duggal, playing the suffering wife Safia, a true soulmate who understands what Manto is going through, tries her best to build bridges between their daughters and Manto, even understands and condones (?) his excessive drinking binges. But both these positives cannot negate Manto’s self-curse… driving him deeper and deeper into a self-created inferno, which finally ends in his oblivion.

For me 2 sequences stood out and will haunt me for a long long time to come. One was Manto’s speech challenging religious bigotry by both Hindus and Muslims alike when he is invited to speak at a forum for authors. His impassioned arguments turn your own thinking upside down and force you to re-evaluate your own stance on religion and Partition. The second one, is his impassioned defence before the Pakistani court where he has been hauled for obscenity of content and language. His arguments make you revalue what is literary and what is obscenity; what is an author’s responsibility to reflect his experience and external “reality”; what is right;  and who can be a judge of what is right??? Some pithy questions raised there. It is interesting that Manto is more hurt by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ comment that Manto’s writings are not “literature” grade; least bothered that Faiz actually supports his case against obscenity.

Obviously this is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s place under the sun. His portrayal of the brooding Manto is heart-wrenchingly true to character. The artist’s descent into hell and beyond, is realistically enacted by Nawazuddin. Resultantly the viewer would end up with a better appreciation of Manto the man, Manto the author, Manto the father, Manto the friend, Manto the husband as Nawazuddin has really got under the skin of Manto the character.

As Manto noted: “आखिर में  अफसाने ही रह जाते हैं,  और उनके किरदार” In the end, all that remains are the stories, and their characters.

If you are a connoisseur of good & serious cinema, vote with your feet: go see Manto!

जिंदाबाद Manto जिंदाबाद!! जिओ  Nandita Das!! : in supplication, vikas

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Parmanu

“Sare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara” my heart sang as I left the theater after seeing Parmanu: the Story of Pokhran.

It is a very feel good movie which manages to engage and enthrall you. 2 hours 9 minutes: a story which has NO suspense: since the denouement is well known: the bomb blast did take place at 1545 on 11th May 1998 in Pokhran.  No new news , something which happened so long ago and was well documented and read about in the whole world. Despite these obvious challenges the director Abhishek Sharma and the scriptwriter duo of Saiwyn Quadras and Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh manage to keep you guessing and on your seat. The same script writers gave us Neerja and again they come up again with a balanced and sound script.

John Abraham obviously carries the whole film on his own shoulders. Though there is a motley team of 5 people ( from DRDO; ISA; Army; etc) who support the story and the principal character of Ashwath Raina, it is John Abraham who pervades nearly every shot in the movie. Boman Irani as the Chief Secretary in PM’s Office has a significant role; all other characters play a second fiddle and execute their supportive roles well: letting John carry the main narrative and drama fully on his own steam. Diana Pretty, oops!! sorry,  Diana Penty playing the role of the person in charge of Security Ops does precious little besides looking cute. Anuja Sathe playing John’s wife shows great promise; but her role finally starts interfering with the flow of the story and so you want her to move on and disappear from the screen so that you can watch the story of India’s entry into the Nuclear Club unfold in all its glory.

Very smartly, live-stock TV footage of  leaders of that  bygone era viz. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif; a visibly angry US President and our own rhetorical Atal Behari are blended in the movie, to embellish the narrative and give it a semi formal, slightly more authentic feel. But that does not draw away from a very tenuous argument the Director puts forward: 6 people battling all odds: a failed nuclear test 3 years ago;  an irritated neighbouring state; pressure from USA; PM’s tottering political fortunes; lack of time; US satellite surveillance; coordination required with multiple  governmental agencies in India manage to pull off successful nuclear test blasts of  3 fusion and fission type of nuclear devices. Our superhero Aswath singlehandedly completes the tasks which in reality were a masterful working together of many governmental agencies in complete secrecy. Similarly the glossing over of contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru, Homi Bhabha, Indira Gandhi, Vikram Sarabhai, Raja Ramanna and others from the roll of honour for India’s nuclear success looks churlish: we love Atal Behari; but we love others too, right?

The movie has some other gaps: The stupid inappropriate songs which slow down the pace. Or the first half of the movie which becomes maha relaxed after the initial PMO meeting where Ashwath Raina is introduced. The time taken to show Ashwath’s relationship with his wife after he is suspended. The over mature young son playing the balancing act.  The ISI agent who is caricaturistic;  as is the CIA counter intelligence operative.

But despite all this the movie works. The story keeps you guessing on the next events. Challenges and solutions flow seemlessly. Protagonists get the audiences’ love and sympathy all thru their difficulties; and you want them to succeed. Though we all know the conclusion (the successful nuclear test) already, the movie does pick up pace as it approaches the climax, and that whole sequencing is handled well whereby you actually move to the edge of your seat and feel your heart swell with pride when you see the smart computer graphics of the bomb blast and its effects.

As the koimoi.com review sums it up : Don’t watch the movie for anyone else; watch it for your country. America haters can see the movie to see the abject failure of the CIA intelligence gathering machine and the resultant angst. Whatever the reason: do watch the movie and feel good to be an Indian!!

Jai Shakti! Jai Pokhran II !! Jai Hind!!!                                                                                     Proud to be an Indian: vikas

 

2 Hollywood biopics

In the last week I saw 2 charmingly told stories from the Hollywood stables.

One was The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman enacting the lives and challenges of P T Barnum of the Barnum Circus. And the second was a tour de force performance of the hoary Christopher Plummer playing J P Getty, THE richest man in the world, the original oil billionaire. Both the stories are presented grippingly in the real Hollywood style and grandeur, transporting us into the magical world of the past and immersing us into the trials and tribulations,  and mindsets of the 2  great personalities who lived very very different lives. And yet they reach out from the past and hold us enthralled today with insights into what they went through in their lives!!!

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The Greatest Showman is an original musical and it traces the life story of Mr Barnum. When a poor tailor’s son falls in love with a rich man’s daughter Charity and she follows him despite objections from her father to lead their lives, tragedy strikes with Barnum losing his job as a shipping clerk. His sadness that his wife and daughters are at abject poverty level propels him to create a Museum of Curios. When that fails to attract audience in the 1820s his daughters inspire him to “put something live” in the midst of all the dead and old stuff. This innocent suggestion takes the shape of his searching and assembling an ensemble of “human living curious” to form the Barnum Circus and conduct song & dance and trapeze shows to galvanize ticket sales.

At a sublime level bringing out Tom Thumb, the Dog Boy, Tattoo Man and the singing Bearded Lady from their hiding and putting them on stage gives a truly fundamental message of celebrating humanity in all it’s glorious diversity. So what if Barnum is not above lying and presenting a 450-pound man as a padded 750-pound Irish Giant (when he is actually Russian)? The message is beautifully captured in the song ” Look at me/Here I come/ I’m not scared/To be seen/This is me” speaks beautifully to all of us who have tried to hide our foibles and stay away from the public eye: it is a celebration of oddity which is amongst all of us; and making this centrestage with spunk and elan!! The “freak show” becomes an aspirational display and  encourages all of us to confront our fears and things we hide as ” “you cant go back again/ to the world you were living in/cause you’re dreaming with your eyes open”.

The energy of Hugh Jackman; the songs and the lyrics; the impressario dances and trapeze plays; the backdrop of the charming love story of the rich girl Charity who lives under a leaking roof still consumed by love and avers “I have everything I need”; Zac Efron’s brilliantly underplayed spoilt, rich brat who finds his true calling and love in the eyes of a black trapeze artist and tries to tell his old-school father that “the world has changed”; the entire interlude with Barnum’s pursuit of fame and legitimacy by pursuing the Swedish Opera singer Jenny; the moment he realizes the truth of her song and message “Never enough”; and then his return to the “freak circus” and accepting their reality rather than running away from them: all of the messages are a true reflection of open acceptance of all as they are and not being judgmental about differences. The Greatest Showman leaves us with one basic learning: ” You do not become famous by being like everyone else” Viva la Difference!! Celebrate humaneness and celebrate diversity!!!

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The second movie All the Money in the World is sombre and even dark in comparison. It has Christopher Plummer playing an aging J P Getty, the original oil billionaire. He says it with arrogance in reply to a journo: if you can count your money; you are not a billionaire. The story revolves around the kidnapping of his grandson Paul by the Italian gangsters and the refusal of Getty to negotiate anything on the ransom. “I have 17 grandchildren and if I pay a ransom I will have 17 kidnapped grandchildren” A tough hardnosed money making machine, bereft of any emotions, save and except for his prized arts de object and his wild desire to be collector.

Christopher Plummer brilliantly plays the tough old man to a perfection. His zealous guarding of his privacy is known to us from folklore. All this is brought to life in the movie. But for us Indians, focused as we are on family, it does become a bit of a challenge to understand Getty’s refusal to part with any money for his most favorite grandson’s ransom and still put his Security head ( played by Mark Whalberg) on the job of helping the dispossessed daughter in law, during the hostage crisis. The tribulations and pain of the fiercely independent mother of Paul and daughter in law of Getty is enacted beautifully my Michelle Williams ( a role very different from the Charity she plays in The Greatest Showman).

The frustration of being the richest man in the world and still being at the mercy of fate is shown very well. Getty’s angst when he cannot control the happenings are captured in a manner which makes us feel happy that we all are far far away from all the money in the world. The transient nature of relationships and the impermanence of pecuniary power are contrasted well. The movie is held together by a brilliant Chistopher Plummer. Though so much is happening around Paul, the mother and the chase to rescue him at the end the movie is scathing comment on personal relations and how they get vitiated when you have too much: Too much ego, too much money, too much assumed control on other’s lives. The movie is long ( 2 hours 16 mins) but engaging. Ridley Scott as director and Mike Scampa as sript writer have come up with a tour de force. But see it only if you are ready to question your values : what is important: Material possessions? or the people in your life that you try to possess??

Love Hollywood for challenging you and me: vikas

 

Saif’s Chef

Once in 2014 there was a Jon Favreau Hollywood film called Chef. Come 2017, our desi director Raja Krishna Menon has attempted what he calls a “not so faithful remake” of the film starring Saif Ali Khan as the Chef. And since it is not so faithful to the original movie, our Bollywood version works quite well.

Many things work well in the film. The chief one being Saif himself. Last few movies of the Nawab have been poor outings to the box office. But Chef is something where you glimpse the old charm of Saif. His boyish charm of Dil Chahata Hai, his regal elan of Parineeta, the arrogance of Kya Kehna, the innocence of KHNH and his youthful exuberance of Salaam Namaste : all the varied avatars are in display, in bits and pieces in Chef. Saif carries the entire movie on his shoulders. And you want the movie to succeed, as you want to continue to see this multi-faceted actor, in his many more roles.

Another reason this movie works is as Indians we are always focused on and fascinated with food. Chef panders to that hubris. Whether it is Chandni Chowk’s Chhole Bhature or the Iddiappams of Kerala or the newly innovated Rotazza (Roti Pizza) :- food plays as important a role in the movie, as it does in every Indian’s life! The angst of a 3 Michelin star Chef when a customer dares to say the food is not as good as it used to be is as genuine as is the love with which Saif cooks and serves pasta for his friend in NY or his wife in Kerala. Our traditional love of food showcased so centrally, resonates well with the viewer, even as it drives the story forward.

Besides food, for us Indians, what matters is family and friends. And the family values and importance of relationships in our lives are subtly emphasized throughout the movie. The father and son relationship of 2 generations of Kalras: Saif with his father and Saif with his son are emotionally brought out. {Is it by chance that the rapprochements between both the generations of Kalras also happen due to food: when Armaan eats the Rotazza invented by his father Roshan after they have had a bitter argument;  and, the life long anger of the senior Kalra dissolves when he eats the Rotazza in Delhi and finally smiles and accepts the journey traveled by Roshan.} The beauty of relationships is also lovingly brought out by Ramkumar Chacha who teaches Roshan to cook or his Bangladeshi assistant who follows him from NY to Kerala. Other examples abound: Roshan’s lady colleague in the hotel in NY and her support of Roshan in his difficult times; Milind Soman’s support of Roshan’s ex wife, Radha; Radha’s own unrequited affection for Roshan being rekindled when he returns to India: all these sub plots underline the importance of relationships in the movie and lovingly reflect the importance of relationships in our Indian ethos.

Chef begins in NY and takes us to Kochi. From Kochi via the food truck we are taken into the lush green and watery backfields of Kerala.  After a brief sojourn in Goa we go right upto Delhi. The story unfolds on the lovely backdrop of changing scenery. The snow of Manhattan, the fishing nets of Kochi, the backwaters of Kerala, the winding roads of Goa, the Golden Temple : all leave a loving mark in your memory. The journey of Rohan Kalra is thus not only mental but a physically remarkable journey: pleasing to the eye as is pleasing to the heart.

Full kudos to the writers Ritesh Shah and Suresh Nair. Their script and characterization is totally real and believable. There is no melodrama. There is no pontification. Situations happen and are shown on an “as it happens” basis. The Kerala unions objecting to the domestic servants cleaning the bus;  entire Milind Soman’s character as the friend of Padmapriya the ex-wife; the drinking and brash driver of the food truck who leaves no opportunity to challenge  and question Saif; the Kerala food sampler who questions why he should accept/eat free food but then loves what he gets; the colleague in NY’s Galli restaurant who frankly tells Roshan she is sad for Roshan losing his job but happy that she got a chance to to take over or even the way Radha the ex-wife role is written: all totally matter of fact and practical: memorable but not over the top – all add to the charm of the movie.

Though the blurbs and publicity call Chef a “comedy” this is not your typical rib tickling fare. There are enough sparkling dialogues which make you chuckle. Yet the movie works because it is a series of normal day-to-day believable situations enacted out by simple and truthful characters. The movie works because the entire story hangs together well and entertains you without being preachy, at any time. The first half is a trifle slow. But you exit the movie hall with a smile: 2 and quarter hours well spent and enjoyed :  watching this delightful caper.

Safe to watch Saif playing Chef : you will not regret your decision : vikas

Bareilly ki Barfi

Effervescent, entertaining, engaging, enjoyable.

An absolutely MUST SEE movie.

It is an emergent spark of the coming of age of the Bollywood factory! Every week we see so many films being released. But Bareilly ki Barfi is the clarion call that Bollywood has come of age and is not afraid of showing totally human, totally believable characters. People like you and me. People who act absolutely human. And do not put on any “filmi” airs. They live very normal lives. Day to day humdrum things happen to them. And amidst it all: a lovely story flowers and entertains you.

No actions of any of the characters is “super human”, which has become the norm of all the Hindi potboilers. Here is a under the wraps writer Chirag (Ayushman) who publishes his trashy fictional book under someone else’s name and photograph. And when Bitti Sharma (Kirti Sanon)  reads the book and changes her life’s course and wants to meet the author Vidrohi ( Rajkumar Rao),  Chirag has to play role of getting Bitti to meet Vidrohi. The proverbial love triangle ensues with Chirag falling heads over heels for Bitti while Bitti only wants Vidrohi in her life. Vidrohi is engagingly played by Rajkumar. First aloof, then interested in Bitti, coming up against Chirag ;  who is now caught in a web of his own subterfuge, as he has projected Vidrohi rather than openly accepting he was the real author of the novel that Bitti actually seeks.

Rakjumar shows what a great actor performer he has become. He is a total scene stealer in his various avatars; Sari salesman, scared friend, local aggressive loudmouth, man in love, and finally challenger of Chirag. Each scene in which he is on screen just effortlessly belongs to him and his acting prowess. The movie is worth watching just to see the craft and skill of Rajkumar.

Kirti Sanon ( whom I saw first time on screen) has remarkable confidence and presence. She brings Bitti Sharma to life. Her interactions with her friend, her mother, her father, with Chirag, in her Electricity Dept Complaint Office, her first hating Vidrohi’s loudness and then falling in love with Vidrohi :  all are done with ease and elan. While the totally believable script characterization helps her, she deserves full credit of carrying it off well.  I saw Anushka Sharma’s confidence and star power (displayed in Rab ne Bana di Jodi and Band Baja Baraat) take birth all over again in Kirti, in the way she has played Bitti.

Ayushman as Chirag plays the first half very well. He is great as the small town publisher who falls head over heels for Bitti and woos his damsel. But he falters when Chirag brings in Vidrohi as a counterfoil in Bitti’s lovestory. Maybe the sheer acting prowess of Rajkumar finds it’s first victim in Ayushman’s Chirag. Ayushman is not able to hold his character or his acting together after Rajkumar as Vidrohi enters the story. His only solace is that he finally gets the girl.

On 2 other fronts Bareilly ki Barfi sparkles. All the support characters of Bitti’s parents, Chirag’s friend, Vidrohi’s mother are played to perfection and leave a lasting impression. Secondly the script writing by Nitish Tiwari (of Dangaal fame) is a class apart. The sheer repartee and clean riposte keeps you bubbling and cheery for the entire 2 hours 2 minutes of the movie. Nary a dull moment, it actually grows from strength to strength.

So Bareilly ki Barfi is sweet. Sweet from beginning to end. And leaves a lovely taste in your heart as you leave the theater.

Here is hoping the Imtiaz Alis and the Karan Johars and Anurag Kashyaps and Aditya Chopras gather some courage from the director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and writer Nitesh Tiwari and show us some truly believable characters like Bitti and Chirag and Vidrohi in their romcoms.

So next time you are in Bareilly ka bazaar don’t search for jhumkas.

Savor Bareilly ki barfi instead: vikas

Dear Maya and Baywatch

Saw 2 movies over the weekend. Very mixed experience. Here goes…

Dear Maya should never have been completed and if done, should never have been released. A more sad movie I have not seen in my 50+ years of movie going. The director (Sunaina Bhatnagar; apparently Imtiaz Ali’s asst and that too on Jab we Met my ALL TIME fav) begins with a theme replete with potential. 2 teen-aged school girls play a prank on the brooding and reclusive neighbor. They write her love letters pretending to revive a 20 year old meeting. And Manisha Koirala (Maya) takes off to Delhi in pursuit of her suitor; selling all her belongings including her house in Shimla. The basic thesis is flawed, nay cracked at this point. Someone who has not stirred from her window for years suddenly in hot pursuit all the way to Delhi? Come on, who will believe the withdrawn and scared Maya will gather so much courage? And then the second nadir point: one of the girls develops guilt on her doings; and though she has moved from Shimla to Delhi, spends her 6 years in college only searching for Maya!!! Another thesis which belies teenager behavior and the attractions of Delhi. Naturally Maya is found. She is well. Has a husband and a child. All is fine and ready for a Hindi-movie ending. Again, the reaction of the girl who has sacrificed 6 years and many relationships to this search is so limpid that it jars. Manisha Koirala disappoints thoroughly in her comeback movie. She looks a real ghost and you wish she had never ventured out of the ghostly mansion. Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra leaves a strong impression in a super thin appearance: he should really consider coming to the front of the camera.

The saving grace was the final message : “Say yes to life”. MK delivers that well. Take her advice: Say yes to life; and No to Dear Maya. Save your time and save your money.

See Baywatch. Baywatch is enjoyable for all the lovely locales, the lovelier bods, and a fast paced and still easy going story. The sunkissed beach has enough arm candy and hot bods for both male viewers and female cine goers. While the story is all predictable to the core, the way the movie is put together is a visual and emotional treat. Good guys win. Bad guys die; all is right with the world. Even the stupidest Lifegaurd gets the lifegaurd he drools over. End of movie.

If you are a prude, your ears may jar a little with all the “fuck”s and “shit” liberally interspersed in the dialogue. But I think in today’s times it is a routine phrase and really it does not stick out. The characters and their speech is all in sync. The one who curses and uses foul language the least is the svelte seductress Victoria Leeds, our own Pee Cee. She holds her own in the Hollywood drama and plays the evil drug dealer making a run on the real estate around the beach truly believable. Convincing, and killing if you don’t get see things her way comes easily to her. And after Dwyane johnson, it is our own Priyanka Chopra who impresses you.

Dear Maya, sorry, but I would rather Baywatch : vikas

Hindi Medium & Half Girlfriend

Today was baby’s day out. Wife had gone to meet her mother; daughter in her office; house guests from tomorrow, who themselves called in morning to say “your last day of freedom, we arrive tomorrow morning”. So the choice was to stay and home and listen to my daughter’s cat mewing and bawling through the day; or escape to the movies. Indeed a Hobson’s choice. Maybe some of you may think my seeing 3 movies in the day : Hindi Medium ( first time), Half Girlfriend ( second time) and Meri Pyari Bindu ( third time) was an overkill. But then you have not seen the cat at home!!!

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Half Girlfriend is a well made movie. Chetan Bhagat’s book lends itself well to being adapted into a movie and Chetan himself is associated with the production. That, and of course Balaji Films and Ekta Kapoor behind the project, means the production values are good. The story is a typical love story; rich girl meets the village bumpkin, the expected clash of values between a sophisticated socialite girl and a small town Bihari hickey. The usual hits and misses all boiling down to the last minute search of the lost lady love for which the hero covers most , if not all, bars which have live Bollywood singers in New York!!!

So as you will quickly realize: the story has nothing new to tell. While some of the songs (notably Tu Thodi Der Aur Theher Ja and Ye Baarish ka paani and Will you stay a little longer) are good, overall the movie’s music does not make a lasting impression. Same is the case with Mr Arjun Kapoor. He neither looks nor behaves like a basketball player. In fact, he has one constipated look throughout the movie that jars. The saving grace in the movie is clearly and by far Shraddha Kapoor. She absolutely sparkles. Whether it is on the basketball court or in a party at her father’s house, in a traditional sari or in the western ensembles, Shraddha carries herself extremely well.

Shraddha Kapoor has literally carried the entire movie on her shoulders, through her character in the movie. And she proves beyond doubt that that she has matured as an actress. Her performance is understated and still powerful. And totally, totally believable. You keep wishing that the director Mohit Suri had found a less dumb actor that Arjun Kapoor to play the Bihari Jha. Arjun Kapoor studiously maintains the SAME expression through 2 hours 15 mins of the movie; and gets really weary on your nerves. Seema Biswas as the mother plays her role well but has precious little to do.

So overall : watch the movie if you want to admire Shraddha Kapoor carrying off 25/30 different looks and styles. Arjun K., the story or rest of the cast add nothing to the movie. Even if you miss watching the movie, you would not miss much!

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Hindi Medium sets out to tackle a lofty subject: the mad race for admissions to “prestigious” schools and to what extent a well to do family is ready to go to secure admission for their daughter. The theme and the treatment is totally realistic and something that we see around us all the time.

After directing movies like Pyaar ke Side Effects and Shadi ke Side Effects, director Saket Chaudhary has taken a very different, socially relevant and topical theme. We all have personally experienced the stress every family goes through when it is admission time. And the younger the child, the more difficult it seems to get. The movie talks about the corruption and twisting of the RTE quota in the prestigious schools. The Principal played by Amrita Singh and the Hindi teacher are enacted very well.

Irrfan is outstanding to say the least. He pulls off 2 distinct roles : a brash Punjabi shopkeeper and then the same guy giving up all luxuries to stay in a low middle class “bharatnagar” tenement to justify his RTE application. Irrfan dominates the movie throughout: whether it is showing his shop assistant how to make a sale, or rejecting caviar in favour of pakodas in his house party, his spirited dance in the party which becomes the talk of the snobbish guests, his yearning to keep his Mitthu/Honey happy at all times, his adjustments in the Bharatnagar tenement even when rats abound: Irrfan just amazes with his breadth and variety of acting skills. You find it difficult to reconcile the sauve, well dressed Chandani Chowk fashion shop incharge with the archetypal red checked “gamcha” covering his head and sleeping on the floor in absolute comfort and still wanting to tease and love his wife in the deprived circumstances. His last performance when his conscience is awakened and he challenges the Principal and the system,and withdraws his daughter from the school to correct the injustice which he himself had perpetrated: the entire sequence is so well done, that it will stay with you long after you move out of the cinema hall.

You see some parallels to Dev Anand’s (Asli Naqli) and Raj Kapoor’s movies in the scenes which show the simplicity and giving nature of the poor in contrast to the rich who are always self centered and pretentious. While Irrfan makes the transition from Vasant Vihar bungalow to Bharatnagar tenement with elan and ease, his wife (played by Saba Qamar) sticks out like a sore thumb. Wonder where Director Saket C dug out this lady from? Because of her poor acting, Irrfan gains even more in your evaluation.

The surprise package is Deepak Dobriyal as the well-meaning friend. Again an amazing performance which is played perfectly.

Overall with all it’s faults (especially the length of the movie) Hindi Medium is a must watch for Irrfan’s acting prowess, Director Saket for attempting this bold subject, Deepak D for a most amazing performance.

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Finally I was happiest watching Meri Pyari Bindu for the third time.

Happy viewing :vikas