What happens when the object of dedication fails to respond to the demands of an obsessed fan? What happens when fanatical devotion of the fan turns into abhorrence and vengeance? And what happens when the fan -- who has revered his idol all along -- grows to be a stalker, becoming a nightmare for his idol?

Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned...

Does it sound preposterous or exaggerated? Not really! We've read/watched news -- even movies -- involving obsessive fans [of sportsmen and movie stars], who undergo behavioral changes and traverse paths, from being passionate to getting psychotic. Director Maneesh Sharma and screenplay writer Habib Faisal grab anecdotes from reality and serve an attention-grabbing premise on the plate, giving an altogether new spin to obsession and fanaticism. In FAN, the fan not only imitates his idol, but also resembles him looks-wise. Therein lies the difference... and the challenge.

Now to the pertinent question: Is FAN a freshly-packaged, contemporary version of Yash Raj's cult classic DARR, with modifications of course? Or does FAN seek inspiration from Hollywood [remember the Robert De Niro-Wesley Snipes movie THE FAN; 1996]? Maneesh and Faisal may've used Bollywood as the template to narrate the story, but FAN isn't about movies alone, since it brings to light the behavior of a fanatic who's obsessed with the superstar.

FAN stands on two factors primarily: a fascinating plot that's fleshed out delightfully for most parts and a powerhouse act by SRK, who returns as an antagonist after more than two decades [BAAZIGAR - 1993, DARR - 1993 and ANJAAM - 1994]. More on SRK later... However, the flip side is that the writing, especially in the post-interval portions, moves to an unrealistic zone, with a few episodes looking far-fetched. And that, frankly, robs the sheen after you've watched a brilliant first half.

First, the succinct plotline... FAN narrates the story of Gaurav, an over-obsessive fan, whose life revolves around superstar Aryan. In his desire to meet his idol, Gaurav embarks on a journey to Mumbai. However, his interaction with the man he hero-worships and idolizes fails to meet his expectations. Resultantly, Gaurav decides to get nasty and malicious.

Let's not beat around the bush. FAN may not be the most original piece of work [moviegoers are bound to draw parallels with other films], but it packs light moments, emotions, tension and conflict in an unmistakably entertaining format. The plot twists in the first hour and a couple of episodes post-interval make FAN a compelling watch. The faceoff between the superstar and the viscerally dangerous fan is built on a strong edifice and definitely merits special mention.

Nonetheless, FAN is not without its share of flaws. Just when you thought that the film was moving on the right track, a few episodes in the second hour that abound in cinematic liberties make you wonder, was it necessary? You may argue, cinematic liberties are a commonality in Bollywood movies, but when you try to be as real as possible [in the first half], getting unreal all of a sudden catches you by complete surprise... or should I say, shock?

After attempting a couple of delectable rom-coms, Maneesh steps into an unexplored territory with FAN. He knows the craft and that's evident in a number of skillfully executed sequences. What's bothersome is that Faisal resorts to the customary tropes and standard techniques after a point. However, despite the blemishes, the writer delivers enough nail-biting moments as the cat-and-mouse tension between Aryan and Gaurav moves to an exceptional finale. Faisal along with Sharat Katariya also garnish the dialogue wonderfully, soaking the lines in realism and punctuating them beautifully in the dramatic sequences.

Casting SRK in a real-life part [as the superstar] makes the thriller bona fide, but, for me, it's the intimidating fan that's the driving force of the enterprise. It's a feeling of deja vu as SRK enacts a sinister and obsessive character after a hiatus -- a part that catapulted him to superstardom in the 1990s. Nonetheless, the obsessive Gaurav is unlike Ajay/Vicky of BAAZIGAR or Rahul of DARR and so is SRK's interpretation this time. What remains unchanged, however, is your reaction once the movie concludes. You carry home the antagonist, not the protagonist. If SRK is charming and believable as the superstar, he delivers a sterling performance as the fan with vengeance on his mind.

Shriya Pilgaonkar [Neha], Deepika Amin [Gaurav's mother] and Yogendra Tiku [Gaurav's father] are wonderful. Waluscha De Sousa [as Bela, Aryan's wife] doesn't get much scope. Sayani Gupta is first-rate.

The DoP [Manu Anand] captures the mood and texture of the film luminously, besides encapsulating some stunning visuals. The crisp editing [Namrata Rao] keeps the momentum right. The action [Oh Sea Young; stunt coordinator - India: Pervez Sheikh] is vibrant and the chases specifically catch your eye. Noted composer Andrea Guerra's background score hits the right notes. The VFX are top notch. Also, SRK's transformation as the young fan needs to be lauded.

There's no place for the mandatory song-and-dance routine in FAN, since the narrative relies completely on drama and tension. The sole track ['Jabra'], a rhythmic, foot-tapping song that's filmed energetically, is missing in the film.

On the whole, FAN has a brilliant first half, but loses track in the second hour, only to pick up again towards the pre-climax. The writing should've been tighter, while the absence of music [it's a songless film!] may also prove a stumbling block, but what works, and works big time, is the terrific act by SRK as the fan. And that's enough reason for you to watch this thriller!

Love Games

The Bhatt camp and T-Series have introduced us to the genre of bold and dark cinema with franchises like HATE STORY, MURDER and JISM. And continuing with it is yet another erotic thriller LOVE GAMES that promises to showcase another story of modern relationships filled with lust, betrayal and lots of 'love'. Let's see if all the love talks of Love Games have managed to fulfill the expectations of the audience.

The story starts with the sexy Ramona Raichand (Patralekha) losing her husband in an accident. However, she is a sex addict and decides to find solace in the arms of her f*ck buddy Sameer Saxena aka Sam (Gaurav Arora). Sam, on the other hand, is a lonely, rich and spoilt son of a wealthy business tycoon. While sex, drugs and self-harm is his way of living, Sam, who consults a psychologist for his depressive state owing to a dark past, tries to find adventure in his life. Hence, he decides to accompany his sex buddy Ramona in 'love games'. This game of infidelity is all about seducing happy couples and getting laid with them. Sam has to score the wife, while Ramona has to go for the husband and whoever gets laid first wins. And the loser will supply a week of cocaine to the winner! Amidst this game, things get serious when Sam falls in love with Alisha Asthana (Tara Alisha Berry), a doctor by profession but married to an abusive criminal lawyer Gaurav Asthana (Hiten Tejwani). Sam's love for Alisha threatens his 'friends with benefits' sort of relation with Ramona and she starts losing her partner and in turn also her ambitions. How far will Ramona go to fulfill her desires and her dreams and how will Sam stop himself from becoming a pawn in Ramona's next love game is what forms the rest of the story.

While Vikram Bhatt has given us some fine films, we cannot expect anything less from this filmmaker when it comes to this genre of erotica. He masters it and Love Games reinstates the same. The film has ample love making scenes shot aesthetically. The plot, like other Bhatt films, explores the deep, dark and dangerous sides of humans with several twists and turns and handling them comes naturally to the director. A special mention to a scene shot at the hospital, wherein Alisha rushes to attend a serious patient. While the actors in the scene play their parts with conviction, the scene also portrays how a hospital handles the chaos with authenticity. Though the story moves with a good flow overall, there are several dips in the plotline. In fact, certain portions look a tad bit stretched, especially in the second half.

It should have been a Ramona film all the way. Considering the way this good girl gone bad character should wow the audience, the Citylights girl Patralekha fails to match up to the pedestal of this Priyanka Chopra-meets-Rosamund Pike (from Gone Girl) sort of character. May be it is her debut film's demure girl image or may be it wasn't the character for her, but Patralekha's act as Ramona could be termed as a 'casting woe'. On the other hand, Gaurav Arora does a decent job of playing the depressed and helpless character of Sam Saxena, who resists to abide by Ramona's mean and cruel ways. Tara Alisha Berry, however, has surprised her with her good performance as a doctor. While she debuted in Mastram, this actress has come a long way we believe. Her confidence as a doctor is impressive. Blue eyed boy of television Hiten Tejwani, who charmed the audiences with his perfect son avatar in serials, has by far given us one of his most disappointing performances. Other characters help in taking the movie forward.

What plays a great part in sort of setting the tone of the film is the music. The romantic number 'Mohabbat' and 'Awargi' are soothing, while 'Aye Dil' is hummable and catchy. The cinematography by Manoj Soni is good but the editing by Kuldeep Madan is little haphazard. However, what is worth mentionable is also the fact that the film delivers what it promises - 114 minutes filled with entertainment and bold content. Unlike films that showcase toned down content as compared to its trailers, it can be fairly said that the content in Love Games hasn't been compromised. From bold liplocks to words like 'f*ck', 'sex' haven't been beeped or censored in any way.

Overall, Love Games is a game you would like to be involved in as it is a treat for erotica lovers. The lethal combination of sexual content and aggressive promotions will ensure a safe ride for the film.

The Jungle Book

Most of us have grown up reading or hearing the story The Jungle Book that was written by Rudyard Kipling back in 1894. The story of a human child raised by the beasts of the forest, who eventually grows up to fight his biggest enemy, has over the years despite the advancement of time and technology kept its charm. Now decades later, director Jon Favreau attempts at capturing the essence of the book on celluloid with THE JUNGLE BOOK. Many of us grew up watching The Jungle Book animated show on TV and later pestering the school librarian for a copy of the book. In fact the tunes of 'Jungle Jungle Pata Chala Hai' and 'Bear Necessities' still sound catchy and will always be remembered. However, the question of the hour is, will Jon Favreau's celluloid adaptation of the book live up to the expectations and enable viewers to relive the joys and anxiety, or will it be yet another subdued adaptation of a memorable story…

THE JUNGLE BOOK is the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a human boy raised by the wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) ever since he was a baby and brought to them by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the black panther. When the fearsome scarred Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens his life since man isn't allowed in the jungle, Mowgli leaves his jungle home. Guided by Bagheera and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), he sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the man-hunting Shere Khan. Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who do not exactly have his best interests at heart including Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) the python and the smooth-talking Bornean orangutan-resembling Gigantopithecus King Louie (Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower. Will Mowgli succumb to King Louie's wishes and assist him in attaining the red flower, will he defeat Shere Khan, or will he forsake the jungle for the safety of the human village is what the rest of the film is all about.

The film starts off with Mowgli running through the forests, only to be overtaken by a pack of wolves, though they aren't after him, they sure are fleeing from a greater threat. Unfortunately the little lad trips and lags behind the pack, eventually falling victim to Bagheera, who is training the pack to run together as one unit. From here the film tells the story of life in the jungle and what it means to be a part of the wolf pack, however, the story twists with a severe drought hitting the jungle due to which drinking water becomes a luxury. Following this the animals in the jungle kingdom call a water truce, where in predator and prey alike can gather together at the common watering hole sans the fear of falling victim to preying jaws. Shere Khan the fearsome Bengal tiger too respects this truce, but he is put on the war path after getting a whiff of the man cub Mowgli. Shere Khan, though not breaking the truce issues an ultimatum that when the rains return and the rivers swell up again, he will come for the boy and anyone standing in his way will be killed. Bagheera, the black panther, who feels responsible for Mowgli, considering the fact that it was him who brought the lad to the wolves takes it upon himself to return Mowgli to the man village setting off on a journey that not just traverses the forests but also tells the story of a boy becoming a man.

One would expect a sweet fun filled adventure, especially with Disney remaking everyone's favourite childhood story. But THE JUNGLE BOOK is far from it. In fact the film that combines live action with impeccable CGI animation is quite literally a visual masterpiece. Faverau does a brilliant job of interweaving the gags that we remember from the TV show and the darkness that hides within the lines of the book. This coupled with spot on voiceovers and life like animation takes the audience on a roller coaster ride while following the adventures of Mowgli. Neel Sethi, the 12 year old who was chosen for the part of Mowgli after auditioning over 2000 kids, fits the role perfectly. Not once does he underplay or over emote in any sequence, given the fact that the lad most probably shot major parts of the film against a green screen, a feat that even the most experienced actors might find hard to pull off.

While Faverau has done a marvellous job detailing Mowgli, he does similarly well in giving Shere Khan an ominous dark aura that induces fear in the hearts of the viewer. The film also depends heavily on the characters of Bagheera and Baloo who hold the film together along with Mowgli. However, the other characters like Raksha, Kaa, Akela and King Louie seem underdeveloped with little graph to their characters. Though detailing each character would have been a time consuming process, in essence lengthening the film, the viewer is left with the feeling that there should have been more of these legendary characters shown in the film. Simultaneously, despite its positives, the film does have a few draw backs, with the story and screenplay seeming to drift in the second half. In fact while the first half keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, building up the anticipation for a thrilling climax, the second half seems to lag slowing down considerably. Due to this, the climactic battle between Mowgli and Shere Khan, though very well executed visually, does seems to appear somewhat subdued.

Most importantly though, a special mention goes to the technical team of the film, from the cinematographer Bill Pope, to the entire VFX team and editor Mark Livolsi. Director Jon Favreau with his technical team has managed to create a visual spectacular world of the jungle that sucks you into it right away. Also, the incredible work done in creating the CG animals almost makes it hard to believe that they aren't real living creatures. The brilliant sound design and 3D adds further to the overall experience that has to be seen to be believed.

Dubbed in Hindi for release in India, the film is sure to captivate audience of all age groups. While Neel Sethi as Mowgli is incredible, voiceovers by Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri, Irrfan, Nana Patekar, Shefali Shah and Bugs Bhargava for the Hindi version add tremendous credibility to the film.

Overall, THE JUNGLE BOOK is a shining example of phenomenal filmmaking, transporting the viewer to a different world. Complete with a riveting plot combined with VFX and 3D that makes you jump, THE JUNGLE BOOK is definitely a must watch.

Ki and Ka

Almost every second Bollywood film claims to be different and zara hat ke in their story and presentation. While there are few films that live upto the promise of being 'different', there are others which land up being damp squibs. This week's release is the Arjun Kapoor - Kareena Kapoor starrer KI & KA, a film about gender differences and breaking stereotypes. Unlike the quintessential hero that Bollywood has witnessed so far, this film is an attempt to change the perception about many things. Does KI & KA become successful in being the agent of change or will it turn out to be a no-show at the Box-Office, let's analyse.

The film starts off with a wedding party that Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan) is attending. Every time someone tells her to enjoy the party, she picks up her phone and acts as if she is talking. When she leaves the wedding midway, she reasons her departure by a small talk on the position of a woman in today's society that stuns everyone present there. The film then 'takes off' to her getting introduced to a sobbing Kabir Saini (Arjun Kapoor) on a flight. When asked about his sobbing, she discovers Kabir to be a Mama's boy, who is missing his dead mother because it is her birthday. A few meetings later, Kia understands Kabir's reason to be non-ambitious while Kabir understands Kia's goals and aims in her life in the corporate race. One fine day, a train-passionate Kabir lands up proposing to Kia in a toy train yard, post which she gets him introduced to her broad minded mother (Swaroop Sampat). While introducing him to her mother, Kia states Kabir's ambition to be a 'house-husband' and run the family and his selfless support in helping her fly in the corporate world. The couple gets married and begin their unusual journey. While Kabir takes to the household chores (including spying on the maid) like a fish to water, Kia starts inching towards the realisation of her ambitions. Being extremely intrigued by Kabir, Kia's colleagues express their desire to meet him. Amidst that get-together, an initially reluctant Kia later reveals Kabir being a 'house-husband'. What follows after that are offers galore for Kabir who becomes 'the most wanted munda' all over the place, right from the TV shows, cookery shows and even the housewives in the neighborhood who want to slim down through his organic diet charts and workouts. One day, when Kia is abroad for a business meeting in Dubai, Kabir flies down to Mumbai on the invitation of 'an extremely impressed' Jaya Bachchan and a bitter Amitabh Bachchan, Kia's mother gets admitted in the hospital for low blood pressure. Because of his meeting with the Bachchans, Kabir puts his mobile on a silent mode and lands up missing as many as 20 calls from Kia and her mother. What follows after that is a big showdown in the form of Kia's outburst. Does Kabir walk out of Kia's life, does Kia ever realise her mistake towards Kabir and apologise, does the couple ever meet and live a happy family is what forms the rest of the story.

One really needs to applaud the film's writer- director R. Balki, who has dared to live up to the term of 'being different' with this film. With this film, he has tried to redefine the quintessential 'hero' that the silver screen has witnessed so far. The best part about the screenplay is that it just does not come across as superficial at any point. The film, in totality, has been wonderfully conceived, beautifully written and splendidly enacted by the starcast! Besides it successfully conveys a powerful message. All of R. Balki's earlier films like CHEENI KUM, PAA and SHAMITABH, despite having quirky storylines, never challenged the obvious. But, with KI & KA, R. Balki challenges the stereotypical role of a husband and a wife in the society. In simple words, one can say that KI & KA has traces of the Amitabh-Jaya starrer ABHIMAAN minus the melodrama.

The film has its share of blemishes as it slows down in the second half but picks up pace in time towards the climax. There are certain places where the story seems to lag.

As for the performances, the film totally belongs to Arjun Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Arjun Kapoor is mighty impressive in the film and has carried the film on his strong shoulders. He gives a balanced performance and never goes overboard. His character is quite affable and he will definitely have an increased female fanbase after this film. Kareena Kapoor Khan on the other hand looks perfect as the strong head corporate lady. She has stayed away from her usual glamorous look in this film and yet looks stylish. She has portrayed the character of an ambitious woman brilliantly. The scenes of her emotional outburst in the climax are very impressive. Arjun and Kareena look very compatible as a couple onscreen. Balki has also handled the age factor well showing Kareena to be a few years older than Arjun. The veteran actress Swaroop Sampat exudes the same freshness as ever. Her endearing screen presence and persona simply lights up the screen every time she appears. Here, a special mention should also go to Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan. Though the couple play themselves in the film, they manage to impress thoroughly in their cameo.

While the film's music (Ilaiyaraaja) is a letdown (except for the 'High Heels' track), the background is decent, but tends to go a little off from the proceedings at times. The film's cinematography (P.C. Sreeram) is average. There are times in the film where the camera movements are too shaky and distract the viewer especially during Kareena's outburst in the end. The film does boast of crisp editing (Chandan Arora).

On the whole, KI & KA is a cleverly crafted feel-good film that packs all the emotions. Though it has strong performances by both Arjun and Kareena, the film is bound to draw extreme reactions from the orthodox audiences who may find the premise difficult to digest. It is an urban progressive film and should appeal more to women and young married couples.

Kung Fu Panda 3 English

After last week's low key superhero affair, with BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE not living up to expectations, this week we see the release of the third installment in the KUNG FU PANDA series. Much like the previous two films, KUNG FU PANDA 3 follows Po the Panda's escapades as he takes on the forces of evil. But will the film live up to its predecessors or will it like most franchise installments be a rather stale telling of a similar and predictable story, is the question.

The story of KUNG FU PANDA 3 starts off when Po's long-lost panda father suddenly reappears. The reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible - train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas.

The film starts off with Master Oogway battling Kai in the afterlife, as Kai is hell-bent on capturing the 'chi' of all the kung fu masters. The battle ends badly for Oogway who falls prey to Kai's attacks. From here the story then shifts to the current world where Po, the Dragon Warrior has become the master and has to train the five. Unfortunately, Po is disastrous as a master ending up quite literally almost maiming them. However, this light moment is interrupted with news that Kai is making his way back to destroy the memory and all that Oogway has created.

As a Kung Fu Panda fan,the viewer will go in for yet another thrilling ride with loads of action and comedy. However, unlike the previous films, KUNG FU PANDA 3 focuses more the spirit world and finding yourself. Though there is action, it isn't like what we had come to expect.

As for the voice overs Jack Black leads of course, followed by the other cast members Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Jackie Chan. However, two new actors who join the cast this time, namely Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons and Kate Hudson, bring the new characters in the franchise to life with their brilliant voice overs. With spot on dubbing and equally crisp animation KUNG FU PANDA 3 is worth every dime. Besides, not only is the animation and 3D excellent, but the film also packs good amount of humour with constant gags that will definitely tickle your funny bone.

Sadly this time, it is the story and screenplay of the film that has failed to impress. The narrative lacks the twists and turns and feels predictable in parts. As a viewer, you wish the film something more going in it then Po fighting yet another villain.

Despite this, KUNG FU PANDA 3 is highly moving with a great message that focuses on family and knowledge. Kids especially are likely to relate to the happenings on screen and will certainly enjoy the fun light moments that are generously spread across the film.

On the whole, KUNG FU PANDA 3 is an entertaining film, however, you will be left wanting more.

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