Jazbaa

You can take an actor away from the arclights, but you can never take away her talent. The last few years have seen comeback of many superstar actresses of Bollywood, namely, Madhuri Dixit (DEDH ISHQIYA, GULAAB GANG) and Juhi Chawla (GULAAB GANG), Sridevi (ENGLISH VINGLISH followed by the last week's multi lingual release PULI). This week will see the comeback (and a much awaited one) of none other than Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who returns to Bollywood with JAZBAA (inspired by the Korean hit film SEVEN DAYS) after her last film GUZAARISH (released in 2010). Will Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's JAZBAA manage to spread her magic at the box-office or will it fizzle out... let's analyze.

JAZBAA starts off with the introduction of the super fit and health conscious Anuradha Verma (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), who is Mumbai's topnotch criminal lawyer with a cent per cent success track record. She also happens to be a single mother to her darling daughter Sanaya (Sara Arjun). And the reason for her to be a single mother is because she got separated from her husband and her in-laws because they wanted a son instead of a daughter. Needless to say that, Anuradha Verma happens to be extremely close to her daughter Sanaya. One day, during Sanaya's annual sports day meet, she gets kidnapped in broad daylight. Rather than asking for ransom money, the kidnappers lay a condition that they will release Sanaya only if Anuradha Verma fights the case of the dreaded criminal Nayaaz (Chandan Roy Sanyal) and free him from the jail. Left with no choice, Anuradha starts collecting evidence from all the sources possible in order to free Nayaaz, the very man who has raped and murdered Sia (Priya Banerjee), the daughter of the respected college professor Garima Chaudhary (Shabana Azmi). Amidst all this, there exists the 'street-smart cop' cop Yohaan (Irrfan Khan), who has been suspended off his services by the Anti Corruption Bureau on the basis of corruption charges against him. When all his repeated requests to his 'good friend' Anuradha Verma in order to fight his case yields no results, he suspects something amiss in Anuradha Verma's life. Despite her warnings and requests, Yohaan gets into Sanaya's kidnapping case. Being her true friend and her secret lover, he stands by Anuradha like a rock. Does Yohaan become successful in freeing Sanaya from the dreaded kidnappers, who are the kidnappers and in what way are they connected with the rapist cum murderer Nayaaz, does Anuradha Verma manage to find her daughter Sanaya and what ultimately happens to the 'unspoken love' between Anuradha and Yohaan…forms the rest of the story.

First things first. The film's fast, pacy and taut screenplay (Sanjay Gupta and Robin Bhatt) is one of the highlights of the film. Despite the film's narrative that keeps you glued to your seats, there are a few overdramatic scenes which seem a little out of place in this edgy thriller. A handful of flaws notwithstanding, the film's director Sanjay Gupta emerges a winner with his much-awaited film JAZBAA. He has tried his level best, with his skillful direction, to uplift even few ordinary sequences. While the film's first half is above average, it starts lagging towards the interval. Whereas the film's second half sets the pace of the film (despite a few lagging scenes). JAZBAA is what one would term as an 'edge-of-the-seat' thriller. Like every typical 'Sanjay Gupta film', JAZBAA too bears the quintessential 'whistle-worthy' one-liners and punch-packed dialogues (Sanjay Gupta, Kamlesh Pandey), which is mainly mouthed by Irrfan Khan.

Despite the 'towering' presence of the master performer Irrfan Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan with her 'initially-rusty-later spellbinding' performance, carries the film on her shoulders. Her 'comeback' performance in JAZBAA can undoubtedly be defined as one of her best till date. She makes an impressively stunning impact, conveying a gamut of emotions with utmost conviction and aplomb. Full marks to Sanjay Gupta for capturing (read 'extracting') a raw and stunning performance from her. Besides looking beautiful and stunning, she also holds a strong screen presence. The interval scene when she spots her daughter but is unable to rescue her, shows Aishwarya's talent as an actor. JAZBAA can be termed as Irrfan Khan's first main lead hero performance in a mainstream commercial film. His screen presence, when added to his delivery of one-liners takes the film to a different level altogether. Irrfan Khan mouthing his set of one-liners (in his impeccable trademark style) are whistle and clap-worthy. The veteran actress Shabana Azmi, on the other hand, comes up with yet another stellar performance in JAZBAA. She lights up the screen with her glowing presence in the film and shows her true potential, especially towards the climax sequences. Other actors like Jackie Shroff, Priya Banerjee, Siddhant Kapoor, Chandan Roy Sanyal and Atul Kulkarni excel in their respective roles.

While the film's music (Amar Mohile) is not very massy, it is the film's background music that keeps the film gripped throughout. The film's editing (Bunty Negi) could have been a bit better in order for the film to look sleeker. The film's cinematography (Sameer Arya) is decent.

On the whole, JAZBAA is a captivating thriller with good performances that make it a decent one-time watch.

Singh Is Bliing

In Bollywood, there have been many films that have been made focusing a particular community. The last time we saw a popular film that was made on the 'Singh' community was SINGH IS KINNG that starred the superhit jodi of Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. This week sees the film titled SINGH IS BLIING starring Akshay Kumar in lead alongwith Amy Jackson. Will SINGH IS BLIING shine at the box-office the way it's 'predecessor' SINGH IS KINNG... let's analyze.

SINGH IS BLIING starts off in the town of Bassi Patna in Punjab, which is followed by a 'musical introduction' of Raftaar Singh (Akshay Kumar), who is basically a good for nothing careless lad and is the quintessential pet boy of his mother (Rati Agnihotri). Raftaar is famous for his goof ups and even when his father forces him to get a job of a security guard in a zoo, he goofs up yet again setting the zoo lion free. Fed up with his antics, his father gives him two options. While the first option is to marry his friend's (obese) daughter, the second option is to go to Goa and help his friend in his business. Needless to say, Raftaar goes to Goa and wins his boss' heart with his simplicity and 'obedient nature'. On the other hand, the film takes us to Romania, which is the domain of Sara (Amy Jackson), the only daughter of the multi millionaire don (Kunal Kapoor, in a comeback of sorts). Due to the threat to her life from evil-minded don Mark (Kay Kay Menon), Sara goes to Goa to be with her father's friend, who is Raftaar's boss. Sara also has a secret intention of finding her long lost mother, who lives somewhere in Goa. When Sara lands up in Goa, Raftaar Singh is given the responsibility of being her 'Man Friday'. Raftaar however can't speak English, while Sara doesn't know Hindi. Hence they hire a Goa based English tutor Emily (Lara Dutta), who works as their translator. Emily's intentional wrong translations however lead to comedy of errors. Romance starts brewing between Raftaar and Sara, when Raftaar sees Sara beating down the villains with her bare hands, while Sara notices the good natured, loving and caring side of Raftaar. Raftaar also helps unite Sara's parents and bring her family together. However, just when things seem to be going uphill, the evil Mark finds Sara and threatens to kill her family is she doesn't marry him. Will Sara be able to protect her family, does she really love Raftaar Singh, will Raftaar manage to win the love of his life, will his father ever be proud of him... forms the rest of the story.

Prabhu Dheva's last film at the box-office was ACTION JACKSON, which did not fare well at the box-office. With SINGH IS BLIING however, he seems to have hit the right chord. Prabhu has packaged everything that is needed in a slapstick comedy aimed at the masses. Be it the funny one liners, religious sentiments, emotions, action etc, SINGH IS BLIING has it all. While the first half of the film is hilarious to the core loaded with pranks and funny episodes, the film's second half, though slow, is high on emotions and drama. Though the film has a weak storyline which gets clearer only in the second half, it's the funny antics of Akshay Kumar and his side-kicks that keep you rolling in your seat with laughter.

Akshay Kumar steals the show from the first frame as he gets into the skin of his character perfectly well. One can't image any other actor playing the role of Raftaar Singh with Akshay's style and outstanding comic timing. Walking shoulder to shoulder with him, is the surprise package (read 'revelation') of the film: Amy Jackson. Even though she hardly has any Hindi dialogue in the film, she manages to play the Bollywood lead actress with full conviction. Amy has a number of action scenes in the film, in which she exceeds and how. Her swift action moves while beating the bad guys are very impressive. Lara Dutta, who features mainly in the first half, surprises with her very strong comic timing. Kay Kay Menon is decent as an evil but funny villain. Anil Mange and Arfi Lamba are hilarious as Akshay's side-kicks.

The music (Sajid Wajid, Meet Bros Anjjan, Manj Musik, Sneha Khanwalkar) of the film is decent and goes with the film's narrative, though certain songs seem forced. 'Tunga tunga' is a catchy track amongst others. The film's background score is decent. The film's dialogues (Chintan Gandhi) are funny. With a few moments notwithstanding, the film has got its editing (Steven Benardi) in place. On the other hand, the film's cinematography (Dudley) is very impressive. A special mention to the film's costume designer (Esha Amin) for dressing up the stars in stylish wear.

On the whole, SINGH IS BLIING is a slapstick comedy that offers paisa-vasool entertainment. Surely a 'must-watch' for this long weekend.

Puli

There was a lot of interest around this week's dubbed release PULI, because of the presence of Sridevi in this big budget fantasy movie. Though Sridevi doesn't disappoint in the film, this big budgeted fantasy drama falters on many fronts. One can't help but compare it with S.S. Rajamouli's BAHUBALI because of the period setting and the cavalier father-son brave-heart-story; though PULI ends up looking like an ordinary cousin of the magnificent giant that created a rage few months back. Will Sridevi's much talked about comeback film be successful in 'PULI-ing' the audience to the theatres or will it just fizzle out at the box-office... let's analyze.

PULI begins with a back story that explains how 'Vetals' (evil vampire like beings) attacked and took over a number of villages in South India, which became their kingdom and they also got a similar base in North India. Soon the Vetals started looting their peace-loving human subjects. Now after years of being beaten down by Vetals, Magadheera (Vijay) is the only hope of the poor villagers for he's the only one who can put up a fight against the evil Vetal leader Jalatharangam (Sudeep) and his band of monsters. Queen Yamanadevi (Sridevi), to whom Jalatharangam reports to, is know for her magical power and seems to allow all the evil activities carried out by Vetals in her kingdom. However, there's more to her story than what meets the eye. Gorgeous Pavalamalli (Shruti Haasan) is the love of Magadheera's life, but then, there's Princess Mandakini (Hansika Motwani) who also has the hots for the macho Good Samaritan. Vijay dances on the insipid beats of listless songs with Shruti as well as Hansika and it is difficult to really understand his romantic inclinations. He is equally at ease with both of them. To add more 'fun' to the proceedings, you shall also be treated to a desi concoction of Gulliver's Travels with a scientific spin in the choice of names for the dwarfs. There are Einstein, Newton, Alpha, Beta and Gamma in this pre historic tale of 'unbelievable-ness'. And yes, there is the talking bird with a penchant for frequent wisecracks too. Phew! What ultimately happens to Queen Yamanadevi, is she really the wicked queen, whose love does Magadheera ultimately accept and does he manage to beat the evil Vetals and avenge the death of his father... is what forms the rest of the film.

Writer-director Chimbu Deven is best known for his simple, unorthodox films. But, when he attempts to make a big budgeted fantasy adventure film in the form of PULI, he fails and how. The biggest liability that he faces is the fact that BAHUBALI has been such a humungous success and the comparisons will make his efforts look pale. The problem with PULI is its weak screenplay. It lacks surprises and logical storyline. Add to the presence of too many bad songs that slow down the sagging pace by several notches. The overall pace of the film is extremely slow. The film's first half is a bewildering experience as to 'what-the-hell hit you'. The story picks up in the second half as Sridevi gets the momentum going. The persona of Magadheera and his brave dad reminds one of the dynamism of Dharmendra in DHARAM VEER. Everyone knows how big a hit that film was, despite its silly premise.

In the acting department, Vijay has attempted the fantasy genre for the first time and he looks at ease. He is one of the biggest stars of South India, but, somehow, even he can't save this film with a poor script. Shruti Haasan doesn't do much other than looking pretty. Hansika Motwani looks pretty, but surely needs to lose some weight if she plans to wear revealing dresses in a costume drama like PULI. Sudeep is a fantastic actor and displays nice venomous chops, which are sufficient enough for you to despise his onscreen persona. Prabhu puts in a fine supporting role. Sridevi towers above them all with her star presence. She has dubbed her own lines in Hindi (though a few lines in the end were clearly dubbed by someone else). Even though she looks magnetic, she really deserved much better character graph.

Devi Sree Prasad's music is a total let down. There's no songs that remains with you after the film or for that matter even add any value to the storyline. A. Sreekar Prasad's editing is lackluster and the long duration of the film is an absolute torture. Natarajan Subramaniam's cinematography is probably the best thing about PULI. He has made the scenic locales come alive in a big way. PULI is a VFX heavy film and the special effects are absolutely incredible. Sadly, there are certain portions that seem to be ignored where the VFX work looks tacky.

On the whole, PULI is a strictly average fare. Watch it if you are a Sridevi or a Vijay fan. Otherwise, this fantasy is a bore fest.

Talvar

We all know that Bollywood is a place where reel incidents imitate the real ones. There have been many films in Bollywood, which have been made on real life incidents. A few years back, the mysterious death of a young girl named Aarushi Talwar rocked and shocked the whole nation. The same was translated on screen around last year in the form of the Tisca Chopra starrer RAHASYA. This week's release is TALVAR, happens to be yet another 'take' on the story plot that treads on the similar (if not same) premise. Will TALVAR prove to be 'sword' sharp at the box-office or will it lose its shine, let's analyze.

The film starts off with an 'official introduction' of Inspector Ashwin Kumar (Irrfan Khan) in the officers' get together of CDI (Central Department of Investigation). This is followed by his senior officers' handing over to him the double murder case 'that had shaken the entire middle class families by its roots'. The film then goes into a flashback of events which had led to the murders. The flashback shows the family of the Tandons which consists of Nutan Tandon (Konkona Sen Sharma), Ramesh Tandon (Neeraj Kabi), their daughter Shruti Tandon (Ayesha Parveen) and their domestic help Khempal. One day Nutan gets a shock of her life when she discovers the dead body of Shruti lying in a pool of blood on her bed. She immediately screams for help. The police team led by Inspector Dhaniram (Gajraj Rao) arrive on the spot and start their regular investigations. On the basis of suspicion, they pick up the Tandons' domestic help's close friend Kanhaiya. Based on his 'assumptions', he spins a story that it was the husband-wife duo of the Tandons who had killed their daughter because they had seen her in a compromising position alongwith Khempal. Wasting no time, Inspector Dhaniram and his senior officer declare the murder as a clear case of 'honour killing'. Because of the discrepancies in the case by the police department, the case then gets handed over to the CDI, which is led by Inspector Ashwin Kumar and his close colleague Inspector Vedant (Soham Shah). After days and nights of working relentlessly on the case, they suddenly discover Khempal's decomposed body on the building's terrace. This leads to a series of hardcore investigations alongwith narco-analysis tests performed on the suspects. After all this, Inspector Ashwin Kumar and his team almost crack the case. Just as Inspector Ashwin Kumar is about to reach to a conclusion, situations take a U-turn when his senior officer gets retired and there enters a 'colour-changing' new chief of the CDI. The moment he takes charge, the first thing that he does is freshly investigate the Shruti Tandon-Khempal's double murder case. Situations become worse and challenging for Inspector Ashwin Kumar when Inspector Vedant starts working against him because of the greediness of being promoted to a higher rank. This leads to an altercation between Inspector Ashwin Kumar and Inspector Vedant, which results in Inspector Ashwin Kumar being suspended off his services. After a series of investigations by the newly formed CDI officers' investigative team, they conclude that it was indeed the duo of Nutan and Ramesh who were the killers. Who ultimately are the killers of the 14 year old Shruti Tandon and Khempal, do they happen to be Shruti's own parents or someone else, and does the case ultimately get solved after all the unexpected twists and turns is what forms the rest of the story.

The film's director Meghna Gulzar, who, has to her credit of having directed films like FILHAAL, JUST MARRIED and DUS KAHANIYAAN tries her hand in the hard-hitting genre with TALVAR. She does full justice to the film as a director. TALVAR is such a film in which the script is the undisputed hero. And Meghna has let the film's 'hero' do the talking. Even though the story of TALVAR is way different from what Meghna had done before, she deserves full brownie points for handling the sensitive and complicated issue in such a watertight and flawless manner. The film's narrative is superlatively gripping and keeps the audiences glued to the edge of their seats till the end. While the first half of the film is outstanding and tight, the second half slows down after the interval, but picks up towards the end, thus making for a thoroughly engaging film till the end. Alongwith Meghna Gulzar, if there's someone who deserve to be applauded with both the hands, then it is the writer Vishal Bhardwaj, who has written the film's story and screenplay.

Even though the film has powerhouse of talents, it is Irrfan Khan who leads the film right from his entry in the film. With this film, he has yet again proved that why he is the most bankable star in Bollywood today. His performance is absolutely magnetic and compelling. Right from the word go, he takes charge of the film totally. Even though Konkona Sen Sharma seems to have underplayed her usual self, she is convincing in her part as much as Tabu in a cameo. Special mention to Neeraj Kabi (for his portrayal as a helpless father), Sohum Shah and Atul Kumar (esp. for his chaste Hindi dialogues). The rest of the actors help the film in moving forward.

In a film like this, we all know that there is no scope for music. That's why even the film's songs (music by Vishal Bhardwaj) fail to leave an impact. It is the film's background score that stays with the audience. While the film's cinematography (Pankaj Kumar) is decent, the editing (A. Sreekar Prasad) is very crisp. The film's dialogues are brilliant.

On the whole, TALVAR is an engaging, edgy thriller with no dull moments. A must watch.

The Martian English

Making a film that deals with space travel is no mean feat. But when you have veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott at the helm-the man behind sci-fi hits like ALIEN (1979) and PROMETHEUS (2012)-one expects nothing but the best. Does Scott's latest film THE MARTIAN deliver what it promises to be? Let's analyze.

Based on Andy Weir's novel by the same name, THE MARTIAN outlines the fanciful journey of astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who is presumed dead and left behind on a manned mission to Mars when a storm hits the crew. However, Watney survives the storm and finds himself stranded on the hostile planet, long after his shuttle has taken off. With limited supplies and an iron will to survive, he draws up a plan to feed himself, stay alive and make contact with NASA until the next mission lands on Mars. Does his farfetched plan succeed? Do his crewmates come and get him? This forms the premise of the film.

The film opens with a visual treat of the dizzying landscapes of Mars, as the crew of the Aries Three mission comprising Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) and Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan) along with Watney are collecting samples of the red soil. In the interim, the four are warned by Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara) and Rick Martinez (Michael Peña) that an approaching storm has intensified. Ditching the mission, they head back to the safety of the shuttle; however Watney is hit by debris that punctures his suit and whisks him away. The crewmates presume he's dead and reluctantly take off.

When Watney wakes from his concussion and makes his way back to the HAB (their base on Mars), he's well aware that the next mission is years away. He begins to take stock of the resources, only to find out that they will run out much before the Aries Four mission lands. Astonishingly, he finds the drive to survive and give fate a chance. Using his skills as a botanist, a scientist and an astronaut, he draws up a detailed plan to maximize his limited resources and travel to the Aries Four landing site. Months later, the crewmates learn of his existence and are confronted with a decision-should they turn around and get him back, risking their own lives?

Director Ridley Scott, who has over the years enthralled us with his vision in films like GLADIATOR, AMERICAN GANGSTER, BODY OF LIES, and ROBIN HOOD is back after a rather dull response to his earlier release, EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS. In fact, with THE MARTIAN, Scott firmly develops the story to a crescendo with a brilliant yet tongue-in-cheek climax. Despite the film being all but an easy task, Ridley manages to infuse the narrative with brief moments of humour that combine well with the rather dire certainty of a man facing imminent death.

While Matt's portrayal of Watney as the lost cause initially tugs a few emotional strings, his jovial approach to a serious problem does diminish the overall fear of him dying-in turn, reducing the 'gravity' of the situation. You almost wish you'd empathize with him a little bit more.

That said, Matt does well to live up his character, quite literally adding 'life' and colour to a fated role. Although it feels like he has been overly endowed with scientific skills and luck, he manages to convince the viewer that it's all fate, really. Jeff Daniels does a good job as the head of NASA, Teddy Sanders, who is left with making the ultimate decisions and having to face the backlash when things go wrong. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor is convincing as he plays the link between NASA and the shuttle builders, being able to negotiate and pull strings. Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson is limited to the little screen space. The rest of the cast is good, but since the entire film is told through Watney's eyes, he truly is the hero of the film.

On the whole, if you like sci-fi films that boast of a great story line, gripping narrative, stellar performances and awe-inspiring visuals, THE MARTIAN is a must-watch.

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