The Front Row Review of Jai Ho

In all honesty, I'm confused about how to evaluate Jai Ho. Because it's not a film. It's a cartoon. So to point out that the story is laughably ridiculous or that the characterization has no depth seems churlish. After all, you can't go to see a cartoon and then complain about its disconnect with reality.

Since Salman Khan is his own franchise, all you can do is ask - is this a worthy installment in the cult of the star who functions as the archetypal angry young man, without any of the complexities or nuances of his 1970s predecessor? He is the superman aam aadmi who, despite a bullet in his shoulder and a knife in his back, rips off his shirt, shows us his rippling muscles, and then pulverizes the bad guy. And we applaud, grateful for his super-sized presence and the comforting knowledge that no matter how difficult or miserable our lives are, at least on screen, he will fix everything.

Jai Ho is better than Bodyguard and Ready but nowhere close to Dabangg. An official remake of the Telugu film, Stalin, Jai Ho has Salman playing Jai, an ex-army office and all around do-gooder. Tabu is his upstanding sister. Jai's big idea is to pay it forward - that is, when someone does something good for you, you do the same for three more people who do it for three more thereby creating a chain of good deeds. Of course standing in Jai's way is an army of assorted villains. There are so many actors crammed into this film that you almost start playing a game of guess who will pop up next.

But make no mistake - Jai Ho is wholly and solely powered by Salman. He roars, romances, sings songs, gives speeches, wipes tears and of course, eventually takes off his shirt. Does he fall short? No. Was I expecting anything different? No. Is this a film? No.

So venture in if you enjoy the Salman Khan brand of thundering male fantasy. I'm going with two and a half stars.

The Front Row Review of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

There are many things that don't work in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. To begin with, it's too long. And yet the life it depicts is so monumental that the 146 minutes can't encompass it. I felt like the narrative was rushing through as many highlights as director Justin Chadwick could tick off. Stretches of the film are dull and the telling lacks momentum.

But despite this, the film demands to be seen for its performances and for reminding us once again of Nelson Mandela's indomitable courage and humanity. He spent 27 years in prison. He went in, a strapping young man who ferociously does push-ups in his cell and emerged, with white hair. He didn't see his daughters until they were grown up and his marriage frayed slowly with distance. And yet, he didn't give in to hate and violence. Instead, his teaching was: People learn to hate. They can be taught to love.

Idris Elba gives a towering performance as Mandela. Naomie Harris as the fiery Winne is equally good. The casting is perfect but Chadwick has a Herculean task. And while he is unable to make the narrative soar, he does create moments of great emotion - especially scenes in the prison and Mandela's eventual release.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is, in equal parts, tiring and enlightening. I'm going with three stars.

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