Sarbjit

In a stark statement at a key juncture in the film, a striking dialogue on the question of distrust between India and Pakistan makes you wonder that, how long will the decades of hatred between the two neighbouring countries continue to fester. How many more innocent souls like Sarbjit Singh will have to go through inhuman incarceration for no fault of their own? The weight of questions gets heavier; the answers are ricocheting in an ever-changing-directions wind. Omung Kumar's SARBJIT is a heartrending portrayal of the tragedy of an innocent family centric farmer living at the Indo-Pak border and how he gets sucked into a legacy of hatred for no fault of his own.

Sarbjit Singh (Randeep Hooda) is a farmer who's a doting brother, husband and father who is humiliated in the most despicable ways in jails in Pakistan for allegedly being Ranjit Singh, the mastermind behind the ghastly Lahore blasts. His stoic sister Dalbir Kaur (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) makes herculean efforts to attain freedom for her brother. Sarbjit's wife Sukhpreet (Richa Chadha) raises two daughters Poonam (Ankita Shrivastava) and Swapan (Shivani Saini) with a patient resolve. Dalbir tries out every conceivable option including meeting the Prime Minister of India while Sarbjit desperately collects whatever vestiges of family that he could through stray letters. A Pakistani lawyer Awais Shaikh (Darshan Kumaar) takes over Sarbjit's case and battles out fanatic forces to try and attain a semblance of justice for Sarbjit and his beleaguered family.

Utkarshini Vashishtha and Rajesh Beri have carefully pieced together a story smeared with blood, tears and sweat. The dialogues are hard hitting and the fact that Punjabi is frequently spoken is never a hindrance in communication for the Hindi speaking audience. Omung Kumar is obviously passionately involved with the cause of prisoners on both sides of the border and at the end makes an impassioned appeal that politics shouldn't be played when innocent lives are involved. He doesn't hold anything back and tells the story the way it ought to have been told. The torture sequences and Sarbjit's state in the jail can be disturbing to watch but Kumar couldn't have sugar coated the reality and he ensures that the audience will watch the hard facts so that hopefully the gruesome atrocities will never be repeated on either sides of the border.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan delivers a performance of a lifetime. She imbibes the ageing facet beautifully and extremely gracefully. She has delivered a flawless performance but two scenes where she towers are the first when she loses her child at birth. The vacuousness in her eyes and the shocked body state sends shivers down your spine. Towards the end, Dalbir takes centre stage when her brother is critically injured and she challenges the fanatic forces in Pakistan in an impassioned manner. It is a powerful moment. There are scenes where Dalbir's efforts are questioned by close family members making her character even more Real and believable.

Randeep Hooda is outstanding. The gradual ageing process exacerbated by terrible torture borne by a battered body has been portrayed brilliantly by Hooda. He doesn't hesitate in showing the ugly reality or the constant oscillation between sanity and losing his mind. He's a giant of an actor who deserves far more respect and recognition than what he has already achieved. Richa Chadha never tries to compete with Aishwarya or Randeep but her silence speaks volumes. She makes a solid impact. Darshan Kumaar is effective as the liberal Pakistani lawyer. Ankita Shrivastava as the younger daughter Poonam shows sparks in a scene when she decides to burn all memories of her father.

As far as the music is concerned, only short versions of the actual songs are used in the film (which does a world of good to the flow of the narrative) at most places. The haunting theme music composed by Shail-Pritesh keeps you interested in the plot of the film at all times. Dard (composed by Jeet Ganguly and superbly sung by Sonu Nigam) is the pick of the lot. Tunglak (composed by Shail-Pritesh and joyously sung by Sukhwinder Singh, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shail Haada and Kalpana Gandharva) celebrates the carefree bindaas spirit of Sarbjit. Allah Hu (composed by Tanishk Bagchi) and Meherbaan (composed by Shail-Pritesh) take you on a Sufi trip while Salaamat (composed by Amal Malik and craftily sung by Arijit Singh) stays with you long after the movie is over.

Kiran Deohans' camera work captures the essence of the mood and context perfectly. Rajesh Pandey's editing is good though it could have been slightly more crisper than the final version.

On the whole, SARBJIT is a landmark film with great performances and a superbly told narrative. The entertainment quotient is missing which is compensated by the phenomenal manner in which the story is told. At the box office, it will be appreciated by matured audience.
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X-Men Apocalypse English

Gone are the days of individual super hero films, today in a race to make each new film bigger than the last, we see a plethora of characters being added to the story to make it more engrossing for the viewer. The latest release X-MEN APOCALYPSE is somewhat similar in this respect, with a number of characters being used and of course new characters being introduced all in a gambit to set up the awe inspiring Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE follows the story of an ancient mutant who has existed long before the dawn of civilization, worshipped as a god over the years, this mutant has been called by different names by different settlers. However, the one name that stuck was Apocalypse. The first and most powerful mutant from Marvel's X-Men universe, Apocalypse amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto, to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven with the help of Professor X must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction. Will the X-Men manage to defeat the all powerful Apocalypse and his four horsemen or will they fall victim to this ancient destroyer of worlds... is what forms the rest of the film.

The movie starts off depicting ancient Egypt and the pyramids being built to honor their god. Later it is revealed that the god is none other than Apocalypse whose earthly shell is dying with his consciousness urgently being transferred into the body of a different mutant. However, he is betrayed by the non mutants who serve under his rule and he is buried under a pyramid. From here the film cuts to the present day where after the previous film ends, with each of the X-Men trained by Professor Charles Xavier drifting off to lead lives of their own. Though each lives an idyllic life, things are soon thrown out of gear when CIA agent Moira MacTaggert stumbles upon the now excavated site of Apocalypse' tomb awakening the ancient destroyer. While Agent MacTaggert is busy exploring Apocalypse's tomb, back home Professor X is introduced to Scott Summers (Cyclopse) who is just finding out about his mutant powers. Eased by Professor X, Scott soon settles into the life at the School for Gifted Children, but everything changes as Apocalypse awakes half way around the world. At this juncture, Raven who had in the previous film deserted both Professor X and Magneto returns to the school seeking help to locate Magneto. In their pursuit of Magneto with the help of Cerebro, Professor X comes face to face with Apocalypse, who till date lacks the power of telekinesis. Upon getting to know of Professor X, Apocalypse teleports to the mansion outside Cerebro and abducts Charles. Following this, Mystique/ Raven, Cyclopse, Gene Gray/ Phoenix, Beast/ Hank MacCoy, Nightcrawler/ Kurt Wagner and QuickSilver set out to get him back. But in order to free Charles/ Professor X, the team will have to defeat Apocalypse and his four horsemen viz. Psylocke, Angel, Magneto and Storm.

Performance wise the film is flawless. With convincing portrayal of each role by all the cast members, the film makes for a brilliant watch. In fact the entire cast of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne along with the new additions to the cast Oscar Isaac, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Munn, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Alexandra Shipp and Ben Hardy are absolutely spot on. Here a special mention goes out to Oscar Isaac who despite being saddled with tons of makeup and gear as Apocalypse still manages to put on a chilling performance that invokes fear and dread. As for the film itself, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE delivers at every stage. Though the first half might seem a bit slow, it is absolutely gripping taking the viewers through a visual treat while setting up the premise for the grand finale. No expense has been spared in the making of this film, the CGI and VFX boasts of awe inspiring visuals. Despite being in 3D, the film transitions smoothly between sequences leaving the viewers with a seamless end product.

Another point where the film scores is the direction. Bryan Singer does a magnificent job of enabling his cast to emote while at the same time perform some insane action sequences. This balanced display of acting prowess, combined with actions and well-timed humour that is interlaced makes the film an all encompassing entertainer. Unlike the previous X-MEN films, this one actually outlines each character perfectly, while simultaneously introducing new characters who have enough back-story to make it understandable.

However, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE does have its share of drawbacks. While the film in its entirety is gripping, the second half comes across as being highly predictable. After the story build up in the first half, one feels the culmination could've been more complex and thrilling. Also, Magneto/ Erik Lehnsherr, dominates in the first half of the film, however come the second half, he is sorely underutilized.

On the whole, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE checks all the correct boxes, be it action, drama, funny moments and scenes and well hidden Easter eggs/ references to other characters. The film does get a little predictable in the second half, but with crisp editing and spot on characterization, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE delivers what one expects from it.
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Azhar

Bollywood is known for its ultra glamorous dream like movies. However, in the past couple of years, the Indian audiences have become very receptive to biopics. The real life stories of influential Indian personalities seem to be working very well at the box office. This week's release AZHAR, based on the life of former Indian cricket captain is one controversial untold story. Will AZHAR manage to have successful innings at the box-office… let's analyze.

"Bhai jab chhaati pe India likha ho to dil nahin bharta," says Mohammad Azharuddin after scoring a century in his 99th test match and being asked about his retirement plans. Immediately after that Azhar is struck by a bombshell that he has been implicated in the match fixing scandal and will be axed out from the Indian cricket team.

Azhar (Mohammad Azharuddin) is an introvert who's instilled with only one aim in life by his grandfather (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and that is to play 100 test matches for his motherland India. The journey of success is dotted with his marriage to the lovely Naureen (Prachi Desai). Their angelic love story smeared with lighthearted funny moments moves like a swift breeze. The life of Indian cricket team captain makes him cross flower-laden path with the gorgeous actress Sangeeta (Nargis Fakhri) who was nursing a broken heart. The introvert Ajju becomes the more outgoing, suave Azhar flashing expensive watches and stylishly lifted collars. The tongues start wagging, the match fixing scandal takes the country by storm and in his quest for clearing his name and the ignominious life ban, Azhar decides to take the battle to the Court where he's represented by his under confident lawyer friend Reddy (Kunal Kapoor) while the prosecution lawyer is the fiery Meera (Lara Dutta), an erstwhile diehard Azhar fan.

Director Tony D'souza's AZHAR brilliantly captures the angst, the simplicity, the colossal success, the dual romance, tryst with infamy and an arduous innings of never ending struggle-to-clear-the-name of Indian cricket's heroic, yet arguably the most controversial captain Mohammad Azharuddin. Tony is stoically backed by the career best performance of Emraan Hashmi and excellent writing of Rajat Arora.

Everyone was wondering as to how would the makers of AZHAR present his highly scrutinized and well-known public-personal life. The tone and tenor of the film is set at the beginning itself with the unpredictable screenplay. The story moves forward in a non-linear fashion making you cringe in disbelief at one moment and unleashing a hearty laughter at almost the very next. The intensity of writing is sustained right throughout and Tony D'souza tightly weaves everything together making you clap and shed tears towards the end of the film. Dialogues (Rajat Arora) are consistently first rate. Sample these: 'Jab farak nahin padta zindagi mein, farak tabhi aata hai' or 'Iske baad India ko Azhar mil gaya aur Azhar ko India'.

Emraan Hashmi has been struggling to score a hit for quite a while. But AZHAR is the film that an actor of his caliber needed to show his true potential. Hashmi is in an excellent form. He bats on the front foot, strikes fours and sixes of jubilance in a classic manner and hits the ball-of-class out of the park with the sheer endearing manner in which he captures the soul of Mohammad Azharuddin. Yes he does imbibe the body language and mannerism that are synonymous with Azhar but more importantly, Emraan Hashmi internalises the spirit and pain that the beleaguered former Indian captain must have gone through. The audience will reward this heart-tugging performance with a thunderous applause. This is possibly Hashmi's best performance till date.

Prachi Desai is delightful as the simple Naureen. She looks exquisitely pretty and acts with a lot of heart. The reason that she gives for backing Azhar in his difficult times is convincing and displays a lot of character. Nargis Fakhri is a visual delight for she is a glam doll and surprisingly adds ample emotional quotient to help you delve into the psyche of the proverbial 'second woman'. Kunal Roy Kapoor as the bumbling lawyer friend is a major highlight of the film. He ensures genuine comical moments in spite of retaining the seriousness of certain key moments in the film. Lara Dutta is in top form as the no-nonsense prosecution lawyer. Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Azhar's grandfather shines in a cameo. Gautam Gulati as Ravi Shastri is effective.

Rajat Arora needs to be applauded for his engaging and tight screenplay and witty dialogues.

AZHAR however is a complete director's film. Director Tony D'Souza who has earlier made big scale entertainers like BLUE and BOSS has surprised one and all by handling a very dramatic subject like AZHAR with such brilliance. He has managed to portray the touching life story of Mohammad Azharuddin in a very engaging narrative. At no point does the film slow down and the viewer is constantly on the edge of his seat. AZHAR will surely be remembered as one of Tony D'souza's best work.

Tushar Shivam's editing is spot on. There's never a dull moment in the film. The fast pace is maintained right till the end and the zig zag story telling pattern is cut sharply. The music of the film is excellent. 'Itni si baat hai' (Music: Pritam, singers: Arijit Singh, Antara Mitra), 'Bol do na zara' (Music: Amal Malik, singer: Arman Malik) hit the right emotional chords while 'Jeetne ke liye' (Music: Amal Malik, singer: KK) gets the adrenaline pumping. The classic 'Oye Oye' (Tridev) is an eye-catching number. Rakesh Singh's camera work is good.

On the flip side, there maybe some issues with the continuity in the film as some characters are not shown to age properly with time. The choice of actors portraying the real life cricketers isn't consistently effective. Some of the ex-cricketers have been shown in a philandering mode or agreeable with match fixing. It remains to be seen how they shall react to their portrayal.

On the whole, AZHAR is a highly engaging piece of cinema that grips you completely and keeps you guessing. The story telling is objective as it shows both sides of the coin. You are simultaneously treated to the arguments for and against the verdict on Azhar's personal and public upheavals. You are also made to come across a fiercely hungry actor in Emraan Hashmi who simply grabs you by your eyeballs and compels you to witness his masterful knock!

AZHAR is a superlative watching experience. Don't miss it for anything!
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One Night Stand

Ever since the time Sunny Leone stepped into Bollywood, there has been no looking back for the actress. Besides being an eye candy to the cinegoers, she is now also attempting to come out of her comfort zone and do challenging roles. This week's release ONE NIGHT STAND is one such film, wherein the film's makers have tried to present Sunny Leone in an interesting role. Will Sunny Leone's magic work at the Box-Office or will it simply bow down to the competition, let's analyze.

ONE NIGHT STAND starts off with a flashback that's being narrated by Urvil (Tanuj Virwani). It is the flashback and a series of events from his past that has defined his today. The flashback starts off with a fashion show organised by his event management agency. And after completing the event successfully, Urvil and his colleagues go drinking to celebrate. It is here that his friends challenge him to speak to a rank stranger (Sunny Leone) for a few thousand rupees. An attempt to win the bet gets him introduced to the stranger who, in turn, introduces herself as Celina. What follows after that, is unlimited liquor drinking by the two of them, which ultimately lands them up in bed together. But, the very next day, when Urvil gets up, he finds out that Celina has already left the room, without leaving any details of her whereabouts. And when Urvil comes back to his home in Pune, he is welcomed by his beautiful and dutiful wife Simran (Nyra Banerjee). Things are absolutely smooth between the couple, until one day Urvil accidentally spots Celina in the same mall wherein he has gone for shopping with his wife Simran. That very sight of Celina freshens up his 'one night stand' with her, which, in turn, gets translated into his desperation to meet her again. Thereafter begins his unending quest to hunt down Celina from the length and the breadth of the world. Amidst all this, Urvil gets extremely busy with his company's big-budget event of a product launch. It is here where he gets introduced to his rich client and his family, which takes the daylights out of Urvil.

What is it about the client and his family that shocks Urvil, does Urvil ever meet Celina again, what ultimately happens of his marriage with Simran and is Celina the stunning lady whom Urvil had a one night stand with or is there more than what meets the eye… is what forms the rest of the story.

The story and screenplay by Bhavani Iyer seems to be the real culprit of the film. ONE NIGHT STAND has an interesting plot and concept, but Bhavani fails to expand it into an engaging narrative.

ONE NIGHT STAND sees the debut of a promising director by the name of Jasmine Moses-D'Souza, who does a commendable job in the film. Despite the story-screenplay being average, Jasmine Moses-D'Souza needs to be applauded for putting the film together quite well. She has refrained from portraying Sunny Leone as a (quintessential) sex symbol, unlike in other Sunny films. While the film just about manages to hold your attention till the first half that is interspersed with romance and love, the film's second half seems to drag. Here, one definitely needs to make a mention of the interval point that sets the tempo for the proceedings, thus giving way to a big revelation in the film. The film's second half deals with the issue of stalking, but the sad part is that it lacks the necessary thrill to give edge of the seat moments. Had the makers added a few thrill elements whilst addressing the stalking scenes, it definitely would have worked in the film's favour and would have taken the film to a different level altogether.

As for the performances, the film rides on the shoulders of Sunny Leone, whose sincere efforts in putting up a good performance, shows in the film. Her role in the film is definitely a big departure from her earlier parts, which were more focussed towards skin show and titillations. People expecting a lot of skin show from this film might be disappointed.

As for Tanuj Virwani, even though he does justice to his character, there are places wherein his struggle to get the right expressions become very evident. Despite his amateurish body language at many places, one has to admit that, with ONE NIGHT STAND (his third film), he has improved a lot as compared to his earlier two films (PURANI JEANS and LUV U SONIYO). Nyra Banerjee, who plays Tanuj Virwani's wife in the film, shows immense promise as an actress and is also the most natural performer amongst the rest of the actors.

On the other hand, seasoned actors like Khalid Siddiqui and Ninad Kamath do justice to their respective roles.

The film has very good music (Jeet Ganguly, Meet Bros, Tony Kakkar, Vivek Kar) and some of the tracks like 'Do Peg Maar' and 'Ijazat' are already very popular. The film's background music (Sandeep Shirodkar) is good and helps push the narrative. The film's cinematography (Rakesh Singh) is fabulous and makes the film look slick. Whereas, the film's editing (Rameshwar S Bhagat) is decent and crisp.

On the whole, ONE NIGHT STAND suffers due to a weak script. It does have its moments, however at the box-office, the film will struggle fighting the competition from other big releases.
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1920 London

The year 2008 saw the release of a horror film titled 1920, which was followed its quasi-sequel (in the year 2012) titled 1920: THE EVIL RETURNS. This year, we see the release of 1920 LONDON, which happens to be the third installment of the franchise. While the first two films did manage to scare the daylights out of the audience, what remains to be seen if 1920 LONDON will manage to get the fear factor translated into Box-Office success. Let's analyze.

The film starts off with the homecoming of Shivangi (Meera Chopra) from London to Sikar (Rajasthan). When her parents question her about the unannounced visit to home, she narrates incidents that forced her to come back home. The story then goes into an array of flashback incidents that had occurred with her husband Veer Singh (Vishal Karwa), who, presently is in an extremely miserable state. And the reason for his condition happens to be a gift that he got from Rajasthan. Post the 'arrival' of the gift, strange things happen to him and his physical, spiritual and mental condition spirals out of control. When even the best of medical treatment fails to yield the expected results, Shivangi gets to know that her husband is a helpless victim of black magic. On reaching India, Shivangi is told that the only person who can successfully cure Veer of the black magic is Jay (Sharman Joshi), the very person whom her family is reluctant to meet because of the failed love affair between Shivangi and Jay, which also resulted in Jay being falsely imprisoned for 5 years. But, when Jay sees Shivangi's sorry state of affairs and that too, for no fault of hers, he agrees to become the 'witch doctor' and cure Veer of the black magic. But, when Jay tries to enslave the spirits, he becomes unsuccessful. Amidst all this, a certain truth dawns upon Shivangi, which shakes her completely. What is the truth that shocks her so badly, is Jay able to enslave the spirit and set Veer free and was there a reason behind his failure in his war against the spirits… is what forms the rest of the story.

Even though 1920 LONDON's story (Vikram Bhatt) treads on the same path of fear as its earlier two films, this film does have comparatively more novelty value than the earlier two films. Complementing the story, is the film's screenplay (Sukhmani Sadana), both of which help in giving fear a new meaning and a dimension.

The film's debutant director Tinu Suresh Desai does a superlatively decent job with 1920 LONDON. He achieves his motive of shocking the cinegoers almost in every scene and scaring their wits away. His direction complements the film's screenplay and narrative and vice versa. He does a splendid job in culminating the story, which is an extremely vital aspect for a horror mystery film. Tinu also needs to be applauded for delivering what the film promises in abundance viz., eerie and scary moments in plenty. While the film does suffer from its 'lagging moments' in the first half and more towards the second half, the interval scene surely shocks the viewers and catches them unawares.

As for the performances, Sharman Joshi does a good job and justifies his character. As the film progresses, you start empathizing with his character. The efforts and the hard work that he has put in order to get into the skin of the character shows in his performance. As for Meera Chopra, this film happens to be her second Hindi film (her first being GANG OF GHOSTS). Meera performs the role of a helpless woman stuck between her husband and her ex-lover with brilliance. She carries herself graciously and is immensely likeable. Even though Vishal Karwar does not have much to do in the film, he does a decent job in whatever screen time he gets. The rest of the characters help in film moving forward.

While the film's music (Sharib-Toshi) oscillates between being average and good, it's the film's background score (Amar Mohile) that binds the audiences. In a horror film, it's always the background score that either make or break the film. In the case of 1920 LONDON, the background score definitely comes across as one of the driving factors of the film.

The film's cinematography is very good. The DoP (Prakash Kutty) does a good job of capturing the serene beauty of London on the celluloid. A special mention to the film's vfx team, art department and the makeup (prosthetics) team for enhancing the look of the film and the characters. Had the film's editing (Kuldeep Mehan) been bit sharper, it definitely would have worked in the favour of the film.

On the whole, 1920 LONDON is an engrossing fare with the right amount of eerie and scary moments. It has its ample share of terrifying moments that one expects from a film about supernatural forces. It has the potential to appeal to all sections of audiences at the box-office.
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