Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hindi Medium : Movie Review

Hindi Medium vs. English Medium!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

The film ‘Hindi Medium’ is hilarious and is a satirical take on the Indian Psyche of feeling elitist and progressive when one spouts English as a medium to converse irrespective of the people, situation and need around them. Colonization under the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries spread the language around the world. This led to the use of English as a lingua franca, where people with different languages and dialects started communicating with each other in English. Researchers also say that there is a close link between language and power. The USA with its huge dominance in almost all fields is the driving force behind English in the world today.

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Though, the film doesn’t venture into what I wrote above but it still raises many pertinent questions to analyze the reasons behind our penchant to speak English. While watching Director Saket Chaudhary’s ‘Hindi Medium’ it reminded me of the funny dialogue of Amitabh Bachchan from ‘Namak Halaal’ – “E lo kar lo baat. Arey aisi angrezi ave hain ke I can leave angrezi behind. I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English because English is a funny language. Bhairon becomes barren and barren becomes Bhairon because their minds are very narrow …” Here, in Hindi Medium Irrfan Khan brings ample amount of humour through his dialogue delivery and acting skills. He is well complemented by the actress Saba Qamar as his wife who is a bit more qualified than her husband, a successful garment business man who sells in Chandni Chowk the original copies of garments designed by leading fashion designers in the country. 

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‘Hindi Medium’ written by Zeenat Lakhani and directed by Saket Chaudhary is a remake of the Malayalam film ‘Salt Mango Tree’ released in 2015 which is also a remake of 2014 Bengali Movie Ramdhanu. I haven’t seen the original one but I have watched the Malayalam film ‘Salt mango Tree’ where in Biju Menon has also essayed a fantastic role as the lead protagonist which was well appreciated. Those who have seen the Malayalam film may agree with me that there are scenes where you cannot stop comparing Biju Menon and Irrfan as actors not in terms of style but in terms of the effortlessness they bring on screen in essaying such a role.
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Though, Hindi Medium as a film is successful in keeping you engaged throughout the film with its funny situation and socially relevant message about how our education system has succumbed to commercialization but what needs to be noted is that when the film ventures into portraying unrealistic situations to convey its message the tempo dips. The couple shifting from Chandni Chowk to South Delhi’s posh residential area and from there to a slum area all in the name of getting an admission in one of the elitist schools in Delhi ‘Delhi Grammar School’ where Amrita Singh is the principal becomes too difficult to fathom. Zeenat and Saket could have made some more creative efforts to make certain scenes and dialogues more realistic and relatable.Deepak Dobriyal as Shyam Prakash a daily wage worker plays his role excellently. He evokes pain and empathy through his act. Tillotama Shome as an Educational Consultant is very good.

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In short, Hindi Medium highlights the plight of the education system in our country and the impacts of Lord Macaulay’s sinister plans to destabilize India and Indianness. Though it ends being preachy and over dramatic yet it is worth watching. But before that, go through what Lord Macaulay said about India in 1835 in British Parliament – “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”.

.Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 3.5 /5

Cast: Irrfan Khan (Raj Batra), Saba Qamar (Mita), Deepak Dobriyal (Shyam Prakash), Tillotama Shome, Swati Das (Tulsi), Dishita Sehgal (Piya), Hiwale ( young Raj Batra), Amrita Singh (School Principal), Sanjay Suri, Neha Dhupia

Genre: Comedy Family Drama

Director: Saket Chaudhary

Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Dinesh Vijan

Written by: Zeenat Lakhani

Music by: Sachin-Jigar; Background Score by Amar Mohile

Edited by: A. Sreekar Prasad

Production Company: T-Series, Madddock Films

Distributor: T-Series

Release Date: 19th May, 2017

Language: Hindi

Friday, May 5, 2017

CIA: Comrade in America (Movie Review)

CIA: Love Can Make You Cross Borders!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Satyajit Ray once said – “The director is the only person who knows what the film is about”.

If I take a cue from his quote I doubt whether Amal Neerad  himself did know what the film he is making about here in this case of ‘Comrade in America (CIA). The name and some of the early trailers which were released are misleading. It makes one feel that it has something to do with revolution and the erstwhile communist leaders like Che Guevara. Rather the film CIA reduces these communist leaders like Lenin, Karl Marx and Che Guevara into caricatures and put them into funny scenes which has nothing to do with its ideology and history.

CIA is about a young man called Aji Mathew aka Ajipan from Pala who has left leanings and is a staunch student leader of his town. Aji Mathew is a hero in his college and among his friends as he is found being approached by students to settle scores and solve issues. Ajipan and his father are at loggerheads politically but have an untold understanding and liking for each other which goes beyond their political squabbles. Comrade Aji Mathew falls in love with a US returned girl Sarah who leaves him and goes back to US under family pressure. The rest is Comrade Ajipan’s adventurous travel to the US to find his love.
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The story begins with a scene where DYFI (Democartic Youth Federation of India) a youth wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)) leading an agitation against the finance minister for reasons known only to Amal Neerad the Director and Shibin Francis the Script Writer. Amal Neerad and Shibin Francis fails to develop completely any of the characters they parade on screen and ends up delivering an under cooked film which is laughable and trashy.

CIA claims to dedicate this film to millions of migrants in the world and does a veiled attack on US President Trump’s proposed border wall that would eventually stop animals and people that have migrated for centuries across the US’s southern border with Mexico. Is it a formula cleverly devised by the current filmmakers to piggyback some current social and political issues which they superficially and with least sincerity turn into stories with the false hope of making it into a runaway success? The very recent movie ‘The Great Father’ of Mammooty was a highly irresponsible and insensitive movie made on child abuse and rape. These movies ridicule and reduce sensitive and socially relevant issues by superficial treatments and less researched story telling. Raveena Tandon’s ‘Maatr’ is another movie that is inspired by the Nirbhaya case that tries to piggy ride a burning issue and reduces it into heroism with some absurd and unrealistic scenes.
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It’s high time that the current lot of filmmakers become more sensitive and responsible in at least picking up social issues when they decide to make them into films.
Having said this there are movies like ‘Takeoff’ which made a tremendous impact on the viewers by portraying the political issue of addressing the ordeal of Indian nurses in Tikrit in Iraq and their rescue from there to India. This directorial debut of editor turned filmmaker Mahesh Narayan received all round appreciation for its sensible handling of the incident.

In short, Dulquer fans can throng the theatres to watch their hero perform with utmost ease but unfortunately in a nonsensical movie.  The girls Karthika Muraldharan and Priyanka Nair in the movie have nothing to do and are neither good nor memorable. Siddique as Dulquer’s father steal the show by his act and that is the only relief in the movie. Comrade Lenin, Karl Marx and Che Guevara might be planning to make a comeback to avenge this political disaster of theirs in CIA (Pun Intended).

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 2 /5

Cast: Dulquer Salman, Karthika Muralidharan, Priyanka Nair, Chandini Sreedharan, Soubin Shahir, Jinu Joseph, Dileesh Pothan, John Vijay, Vishnu Gopal Nair, Nandamuri Balakrishna

Genre: Rom Com

Director: Amal Neerad

Producer: Ajmal Khalid

Written by: Shibin Francis

Music by: Gopi Sunder

Cinematography: Renadive

Edited by: Praveen Prabhakar

Production Company: Amal Neerad Productions

Distributor: A & A Release

Release Date: 5th May, 2017

Duration: 135 Minutes

Language: Malayalam

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife : Movie Review

The Zookeeper’s Wife: A Story of Compassion & Courage!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Niki Caro’s ‘The Zookeepers Wife’ is not only the horrific depiction of what happened in Warsaw, Poland when Nazis occupied that city in 1939 during the Second World War, but also the depiction of a good-hearted couple who staunchly believed in human values above social, religious and racial discrimination. The film is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Diane Ackerman, narrating how the Jews survived and got rescued from the Nazi invasion. It is the story of how some ordinary people become extraordinary and rise to the occasion during crisis. There are many in the human history like them who have done so and the film The Zookeeper’s Wife is about the Zabinskis and how their Warsaw Zoo became a hideout for hundreds of Jews who were under the radar of the brutal Nazi forces. The Nazi occupation of their city created chaos and turbulence and the Jews were hunted down and captured. The film reveals that only 6% of the Warsaw population survived the war.

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We know how the Germans under the dictatorship of Hitler believed that they are he Aryans of the world and are born to rule the whole world. The holocaust and its aftermath are still a nightmare for those who go through the pages of world history and would pray not to ever witness or hear about it again. But unfortunately the current international scenario and the happenings in Syria and many other countries are not less than what we read in the history. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a gentle reminder for many of us to rise up to the occasion and cease to be ordinary and play our role to safeguard human values and lives in a world of war mongers and religious animosities.

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Jessica Chastain’s Antonina Zabinski is an animal lover and a good soul who not only understands what they say by looking deep into their eyes but also knows how to keep her visiting guests happy around the zoo. She and her husband Jan (Heldenbergh), both are found in a dilemma leaving their Zoo and abandoning the animals at the mercy of the invading Nazi army. Amidst bombings and killings they decide to stay back to take care of the remaining animals who survived the bombings. But destiny had something else in store for them – a greater responsibility that they too didn’t know would be always be remembered for what they did under their limited capacities.

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Niki Caro ensures to convey the gravity of the Nazi invasion and their brutality not through gory scenes and violence but in a subtle way which still leaves a deep impact on the viewers to imagine the plight of the victims and survivors then. Both Jessica and Heldenbergh have given an awesome performance which moves you and also at the same time keeps you alert along with them so that you are not caught by the Nazis. Daniel Bruhl as Lutz Heck the German Head Zoologist of Hitler’s team plays his role to its hilt. His weakness for Jessica and his loyalty towards Hitler are too contrasting emotions he brings on the front with great ease. It becomes difficult to understand him because he is mysterious, cruel and at the same time he appears to be a lover. By the time we decipher he becomes not what we expect him to be and this character of his keeps you on tenterhooks.

The beauty of the movie is that though it depicts one of the most horrific black chapters of human history yet it ends with a ray of hope and positivity. It reiterates the efforts and good intentions of good people in the world who believe that if you fight for justice and compassion with courage you will definitely sail through turbulence and reach the shore of harmony and co-existence despite being different in many aspects for each other as individuals, country, race and religion. Go and watch ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ because we are living at a time when the media and the news around us reminds us its high time we play our role to safe guard humanity and brotherhood across the globe.

 Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 3.5/5

Cast: Jessica Chastian (Antonina Zabinski), Johan Heldenbergh (Jan Zabinski), Michael McElhatton (Jerzyk), Daniel Bruhl (Lutz Heck)

Genre: Biographical War Drama

Director: Niki Caro

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Jamie Atriccof, Diane Miller Levin, Kim Zubick, Julia Blackman

Based on: The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman

Screenplay by: William Wheeler

Music by: Harry Gregson-Williams

Cinematography: Andrij Parekh

Edited by: David Coulson

Production Companies: Scion Films, Electric City Entertainment, Tollin Productions, Rowe/Miller Productions

Distributors: Focus Features

Release Date: 21st April, 2017

Duration: 126 Minutes

Language: English 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sonata : Movie Review

A Not So Sprightly ‘Sonata’ by Aparna Sen!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

Aparna Sen’s film ‘Sonata’ is stagey and doesn’t enthuse you much. It is quite natural to see expectations soar high when three veterans like Aparna Sen, Shabhana Azmi and Lillete Dubey come together to share a frame but unfortunately you end up sulking to see these women trying hard to make you believe that you are watching a cinema. Sonato is a film made based on Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play with the same name. Aparna Sen’s attempt to transform an otherwise wonderful play into a film fails to have any cinematic appeal.

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Three college friends who are at the autumn of their life goes on rambling about life, sex, poetry, Beethoven, Rabindranath, marriage, family, sex reassignment surgery, marital abuse, and what not. And all this happening in a Mumbai apartment surrounded by other high rise apartments where two friends Professor Aruna Chaturvedi (Aparna Sen) and banker Dolan Sen (Shabhana Azmi) are roommates since 20 years. To make the verbose more painful and superficial they are joined in by another old friend Subhadra Parekh who is a journalist. A chirpy Subhadra and a feisty Dolon gulps glasses after glasses of wine and opens a Pandora’s box on many topics and tries to pull in a restrained and self-disciplined Subhadra. Each one of them have their own story of relationships and its failures, loneliness, unfulfilled dreams, pains and their share of guilt.

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Sonata would have definitely kept appealing and held our attention if it remained as a play but a hurried and not so skillful approach to transform the same into a movie makes it an average movie.  Having said this, there are moments these talented powerhouse actors do pull your heartstrings but that is so momentary that it doesn’t linger on and therefore you feel the drag.  

The climax of the movie is inconclusive and leaves you wondering what the filmmaker actually wanted to say. Well, if you want to see these veterans together go and watch otherwise forget it and hear some other melodious and sprightful ‘Sonata’. Aparna Sen dished out an average movie and left us go through the pain of watching it and she stays ‘Nirlajjam Sada Sukhi’!!!

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 2/5

Cast: Aparna Sen (Aruna Chaturvedi), Shabhana Azmi (Dolon Sen), Lillete Dubey (Subhadra Parekh)

Genre: Drama

Director: Aparna Sen

Producers: Vinod Lahoti, Anjan Ghosal, Dipankar Jojo Chaki, Aloke Vohra

Based on the play: Sonata by Mahesh Elkunchwar

Screenplay: Aparna Sen

Cinematography: Shirsha Ray

Music by: Neel Dutt

Production Company: Vinayak Pictures, Ghosal Media and Entertainment, HK Studios Production

Production Design: Tanmoy Chakraborty

Date: 21st April, 2017

Duration: 104 Minutes

Language: English

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mukti Bhawan (Movie Review)

Mukti Bhawan: Salvation Knocks at its Will!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark

The universe is ruled by bipolar law – if there is life then there is death. Though, the whole world knows this fact, many of us ignore or avoid thinking about death as if it will never happen to us. Subhasish Bhutiani’s debut feature film ‘Mukti Bhawan’ (Hotel Salvation) is a subtle attempt to remind us the often ignored and avoided reality of life and death. The film depicts the story of a patriarch Dayanand Kumar (Lalit Behl) in a family who feels his time has come and constantly requests his son to take him to a lodge called ‘Mukti Bhawan’, which houses people like him who wait there to welcome their impending death. There are instances, where we may also relate with to have come across many elders in our family who shared their willingness to leave their body because they felt there is nothing more left here to cling on to or fascinates them anymore. As any one of us would have reacted, the patriarch’s son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) too rubbishes his instincts and tells him to continue to live with him happily.

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A reluctant son and an old father willing to die makes the plot very interesting and keeps us glued to our seats leaving us moist eyed. What is more exciting is their stay in ‘Mukti Bhawan’ and how the inmates and the caretaker of the lodge opens up a whole new world in front of us which unveils different dimensions and aspects of life and death. The filmmaker and his team definitely deserves to be applauded for such a deft handling of a sensitive and emotional subject with excellent finesse. There are moments that we come across that makes us realize during the journey of ‘Mukti Bhawan’ along with the lead protagonist that sometimes its ‘death’ that makes us realize the importance of relationship than ‘life’. The last scene of the film leaves us emotional - both happy and sad.
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Choosing Banaras to talk about ‘life and death’ is so apt because the Ghats have witnessed so many souls depart happily as well as with pain. Lalit Behl as the patriarch plays his role with great conviction and remains within you as a character even after you exit the theatre. Hussain is one such actor who just lives his role on screen. He as a distressed and at the same time a concerned son touches us. Navnindra Behl as Vimla, an old inmate in ‘Mukti Bhawan’ adds more value to the whole theme of the movie.It’s a sheer joy to watch her play her role.

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I would like to say that ‘Mukti Bhawan’ is entertaining in a different sense because it celebrates both life and death. Go and watch with your family and do ensure to take your elders together to watch this soulful movie with a tinge of humour, may be you may also want to look up ‘reborn’!!! Mukti Bhawan reminds me of the monologue, spoken by the melancholy Jacques about the seven ages of human life in Shakespeare’s drama ‘As You Like It’:

All the worlds’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 4/5

Cast: Adil hussain (Rajiv), Lalit Behl (Dayanand Kumar), Geetanjali Kulkarni (Lata), Palomi Ghosh (Sunita), Navnindra Behl (Vimla), Anil K Rastogi (Mishraji)

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Shubhasish Bhutiani

Producers: Sanjay Bhutiani, Sajida Sharma

Screenplay by: Shaubhasish Bhutiani, Asad Hussain

Music by: Tajdar Junaid

Cinematography: David Huwiler, Michael McSweeney

Production: Red Carpet Moving Pictures

Release Date: 7th April, 2017

Duration: 99 Minutes

Language: Hindi