Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review of Saala Khadoos

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Cast: R Madhavan (Adi Tomar), Ritika Singh (Madhi), Mumtaz Sorcar (Laxmi), Nassar (Pandian), Zakir Hussain (Dev Khatri), Kaali Venkat & Baljinder Kaur (Madhi and Laxmi’s parents)
Direction: Sudha Kongara
Produced by: S Shashikanth, R Madhavan, Rajkumar Hirani
Written by: Sudha Kongara, Sunanda Raghunathan
Screenplay by: Sudha Kongara
Story by: Sudha Kongara
Music: Santosh Narayanan
Cinematography: Sivakumar Vijayan
Edited by: Sathish Suriya
Production Company: Y Not Studios, UTV Motion Pictures
Distributed by: Rajumar Hirani Films, Tricolour Films
Release Date: 29th January, 2016
Duration: 1 hour 49 minutes
Language: Hindi

Saala Khadoos, a film by Sudha Kongara, explores the Mentor-Mentee relationship and the background chosen to share the story is that of boxing. This film releases simultaneously in Hindi and Tamil (Irudhi Suttru). It is inspired from many true events existing in the field of sports in our country. Sudha is good at her craft, she infuses realism into the film. The film projects the irregularities happening in the sports council, selecting sports personnel for various competitions on the basis of whims and fancies of influential selectors, selectors’ asking for favours from the female sports personnel etc. One thing which I felt was the characters could have been explored much more deeply. In Mary Kom, the background was same i.e. boxing, where the characters and their relationships, be it Mary Kom’s relationship with her mentor, or husband or father all was explored deeply. In Chak De, coach Kabir Khan’s relationships with his coachee were projected beautifully. Another film Bhag Milkha Bhag had lot of depth. Be it Mary Kom, Chak De or Bhag Milkha Bhag, tragedy and triumphs did spark an emotional deluge which was missing in Saala Khadoos (except the last scene and a few other scenes). In spite of this, the film has its own moments. 

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The film begins with a scene in the boxing ring and Adi Tomar (R Madhavan) is being pushed out of the stadium. And then the story moves to the flash back – prior to nine months time frame. Adi is shown as an eccentric, arrogant and aggressive boxing coach. He does not shy away from admitting that his wife eloped with a boxer and so he also sleeps with other women. But as far as his profession as boxing is concerned, he is highly ethical and talented and coaches his students very efficiently. His conflict with Dev Khatri (Zakir Hussain) is very much evident, who was at one point of time Adi’s coach. The animosity between the two is because, Dev spiked Adi’s gloves during a very important match, which costed Adi his boxing career. Later on, when he became the coach of women boxers, his conflicts went on with Dev who had become the main selector. Dev is so shrewd that he doesn’t even mind framing Adi in false sexual harassment cases. Adi is no way shown to be just tolerating all injustice towards him. Ultimately he is transferred to Chennai. Adi is shown to be sarcastic, grumpy, irritated when he gets to see the group of female boxers of Chennai. He had already done his research on the boxers and their background. That is where, Madhi (Ritika Singh) enters into the scene along with her sister Laxmi aka Lax (Mumtaz Sorcar). Laxmi is to fight in that local boxing match. In spite of Laxmi fighting well, when the judges declared her opponent as winner, Madhi could not tolerate and she picks up verbal spat as well as physical fight with the judges. Adi, who was unable to see the passion and fire in rest of the boxers, could see lot of fire in Madhi. That is how Adi decides to be a mentor to Madhi.

Madhi is also a very eccentric and outspoken girl, belongs to a poor family, lives in the slums of Chennai and sells fishes to earn living for family. Her sister Laxmi aspires to join the Police department in sports quota and that is her inspiration to be a boxer.

It was not easy for Adi to convince Madhi to take training for boxing, rather he had to pay Rs. 500/ per day to Madhi for training her. There the journey of a mentor-mentee begins, rather an unconventional combination, both being aggressive. There are lot of clashes between the two.

Although the story is predictable, it is interesting to see how the events unfold. How did the relationship between Adi and Madhi shape up? Does the conviction of Adi about Madhi prove right ? How does Laxmi respond to the fact that her sister Madhi is a much better boxer than her? Does Dev sit back idle even after transferring Adi to Chennai or he starts another game? What efforts Dev take to malign the attempt of Adi to train Madhi to be a great boxer ? What happens in the end? Does the love of sport dominate at the end?

Madhavan has definitely portrayed Adi very well. Media reports say that he took special training for this film and also lost / gained weight for his role’s sake. He is able to break his chocolate, well- mannered gentleman image, since in this film, he is actually khadoos. His appearance completely justifies his character. Ritika as Madhi has also given a great performance. She is a professional kick boxer and also a mixed martial artist. She demonstrated the combination of sports personnel and an artist. Zakir Hussain as Dev Khatri is indeed good. Nassar as always has slipped into his character of Pandian, junior coach, effortlessly. Mumtaz Sorcar, though has a smaller role, has done well. Rest of the cast has also given good performances.

Saala Khadoos reiterates a strong message, which is to keep politics away from the sports field. It is also an unconventional take on mentor-mentee relationship. The last scene is indeed a knockout scene.
Rating: 3 /5 (Good)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review of Jugni

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Cast: Sugandha Garg (Vibhavari), Sadhana Singh (Bibi Saroop), Siddhanth Behl (Mastana), Aniruta Jha (Preeto), Samir Sharma (Sid), Chandan Gill (Jeeta Jazbati), Devinder Daman (Babaji), Kartick Sitaraman (Nishant)
Direction: Shefali Bhushan
Produced by: Karan Grover, Manas Malhotra, Shefali Bhushan
Written by: Shefali Bhushan
Music: Clinton Cerejo
Cinematography: Divakar Mani
Edited by: Navnita Sen
Production Company: Dhun Productions
Distributed by: PVR Pictures
Release Date: 22nd January, 2016
Duration: 1 hour 54 minutes
Language: Hindi

Jugni, a romantic musical film, is written and directed by debut filmmaker Shefali Bhushan. It is a beautiful film, well-crafted with soulful music and great performances. Jugni in Punjabi means “Female Firefly”. Another meaning, which is assigned to the word Jugni is in the context of poetry, is that this word is used for an observer from whose perspective that specific poetry is written. Also, Jugni means the ‘Spirit of life’, the essence of life in spiritual poetry. The best thing about  Shefali’s film Jugni is that, her film has ‘female firefly’ in the form of Vibhavari, the lead protagonist; ‘spirit of life’ as well as Sufiyana kalam depicting essence of life. Terrific film with soulful music clubbed with free spirited and natural performances. The film explores the power of music and power of love. Music has the power to strike chords between hearts of two entirely different people. Very neatly scripted film, which clubs the sanctity of music and love. Love is neither an emotion to be apologetic about, nor an emotion which should make one self-centered. Jugni talks about the love, which is not selfish in nature, but in turn, it liberates the one who is in love. Jugni also talks about the moral dilemmas which one faces due to non-clarity existing in relationship. Love, at times, is also about ‘letting go’. Jugni is definitely going to win your hearts with its Sufiana Music clubbed with its plot and performances.

Jugni begins with Vibhavari aka Vibs’ (Sugandha Garg) interaction with her live-in partner Sid (Samir Sharma). The spark missing between them is definitely bothering both of them, but Vibs wants to focus on music composition for her film project Dhun, which could give her break in the music industry. The director Nishant (Kartick Sitaraman) wanted some different kind of music from Vibs. Following a spat with Sid, she starts her journey to a village called Hassanpur in Punjab in search of singer Bibi Saroop (Sadhana Singh), hoping that the freshness of rural folk songs through Sufiana Kalam singer Bibi Saroop’s singing could do wonders for her music. Before she could meet Bibi Saroop, she happens to meet her son Mastana (Siddhanth Behl), who is also a singer. Vibs’ go-getter attitude does reflect through different ways, be it her travel in general class compartment of the train or to stay in a hut arranged by Mastana. Mastana is shown to be a very free spirited guy, who aspires to make it big in the music industry. Both Bibi Saroop and Mastana are local stars, they sing in various occasions viz. festivals, puja, marriages, gatherings etc. In spite of being a very talented singer, Mastana sings what people want to listen to. He feels that traditional music does not sell, so, he ends up singing ‘modern’ songs, away from the roots of traditional sufiana kalams. Vibs instantly got connected with Mastana, Bibi Saroop and with Mastana’s girl friend Preeto (Aniruta Jha) and her brother Jeeta Jazbati (Chandan Gill).

It is amazing to see two souls getting close together through their common love, i.e. love for music. The bond between Vibs and Mastana gets stronger. What happens next? How the entanglement of relationships are handled in the film? What happens to Vibs’ relationship with Sid, who are lovers as well as great friends too? How does Preeto respond to Mastana’s getting closer to Vibs? How does Vibs’ relationship with Mastana shape up, keeping the fact intact that their worlds are so different? Is Vibs able to record Mastana and Bibi Saroop, the purpose for which she had come down to the village? Does the music which Vibs composes give her first break in the industry?

Shefali has managed to take a very non-judgmental take on love. Her film also talks about the kind of talents we have in our country; many of the talented folk singers who are lost in the web of anonymity; importance of respecting such artists, whose music is soulful, close to the roots. Jugni also takes a dig at the hollow and exploitative music industry. Beautifully handles the whole concept of morality, ethics.

Sugandha as Vibhavari is absolutely like the title – a female firefly. She has blended herself so well with Vibhavari. Her love, passion for music reflects so nicely. Siddhanth Behl as Mastana is awesome. Siddhanth has projected Mastana’s free-spirited nature, love for music, eagerness to break the ties of anonymity, retaining the innocence of the character, fighting to beat the guilt etc. so nicely. Sadhana Singh as Bibi Saroop is so natural. Aniruta Jha as Preeto is also very good, Preeto’s envy, love and possessiveness for Mastana, understanding his dreams are very well depicted. Samir Sharma as Sid had less screen time. Probably his character could have been explored a little more.  

The music is exceptionally good; soulful and earthy feel reflects in Clinton Cerejo’s work. The title song sung by Javed Bashir, and other songs like Dillan de saudey by Javed Bashir, Dugg Duggi Dugg by Vishal Bhardwaj, Lakhon Salaam by AR Rahman are very good. Listening to Zarre Zarre mein noor bhara sung by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is absolutely divine. The Western-Sufi fusion song ‘Hatt Mullah’, when started with western rendition, kept me wondering, how it would fit the film, but later on, the jugalbandi created magic. This song is inspired from Bulle Shah. The film specially mentions Bulleh Shah at various spots, who had practiced the Sufi tradition of Punjabi poetry – Kafi (Kafi music is devotional in nature).

Watch Jugni, a beautiful and well-crafted romantic musical film. It has the amalgamation of soulful Sufiana music, a great plot, and powerful free-spirited performances. It celebrates the power of music, which connects two souls whose worlds are different. It also celebrates the power of love, the love which liberates one. Enjoy this musical journey.  

                                            Rating: 3.5/5 (Good +)  

Rating: 3.5/5 (Good +)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review of Airlift

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Cast: Akshay Kumar (Ranjit Katyal), Nimrat Kaur (Amrita Katyal), Feryna Wazheir (Tasneem), Inaamulhaq (Major Khalaf Bin Zayd), Lena (Deepti Jayarajan), Purab Kohli (Ibrahim Durrani), Kumud Mishra (Sanjeev Kohli), Prakash Belawadi (George Kutty), Lena (Mrs. George)
Direction: Raja Krishna Menon
Producers: Nikhil Advani, Monisha Advani, Aruna Bhatia, Madhu G Bhojwani, Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Vikram Malhotra
Production Company: Abundantia Entertainment, Cape of Good Films, Emmay Entertainment, Hari Om Entertainment, T-Series
Distributed by: Prateek Entertainment
Written by: Raja Krishna Menon, Suresh Nair, Rahul Nangia, Ritesh Shah
Cinematography: Priya Seth
Music by:  Amaal Mallik, Ankit Tiwari
Edited by: Hemanti Sarkar
Release Date: 22nd January, 2016
Duration: 2 hours 05 minutes
Language: Hindi

Airlift, a film by Raja Krishna Menon (his last film was Barah Aana in 2009), is based on the largest civilian evacuation operation carried out in the history of mankind during Iraq-Kuwait War. This evacuation has found a space in Guinness Book of World Records. Iraq invaded Kuwait on 2nd August, 1990. Just to explain the background of this war, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in debt of US $80 billion because of the long-drawn Iran conflict that it had undertaken. Iraq wanted Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and specially Kuwait, to reduce oil production to create a scarcity of oil, so that oil prices could have been increased. This could have enabled Iraq raise more money. But, when both OPEC and Kuwait refused, Iraq became so furious that they attacked Kuwait and Iraqi Army seized the whole Kuwait within few hours. Most of the Royal Kuwaiti families fled to Saudi Arabia overnight leaving the country rudderless. Kuwait was home to approximately 1,70,000 Indians. All of them had lost whatever they had, be it their home, money etc. Some of the Indian businessmen formed a group who ensured that the evacuation of these Indians is done successfully. Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is the story of these evacuation events. In the film, the protagonist Ranjit Katyal’s character is developed on the basis of real incidents faced by the group of businessmen who became instrumental in these hugely successful evacuation efforts. It is also mentioned that the real Ranjit Katyal (name changed in the film) is alive and a great businessman in Kuwait. The logistics for Indians to reach Amman were arranged first. Evacuation was carried out during 13th August, 1990 – 11th October, 1990 i.e. for 59 days, with 488 flights (Air India, Indian Airlines and Air Force flights). Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a tribute to the human spirits which finds path even amidst turbulence, gathers courage in spite of losing everything.

Ranjit Katyal (Akshay Kumar) is a shrewd businessman, for whom, the profit explains everything. He is shown to be effortlessly cracking deals with Sheikhs and Royals. He is mostly cynical about India, prefers Arabic songs over Hindi songs and takes pride in calling himself a Kuwaiti. After a success bash for grabbing a big project, the news comes to Ranjit in regard to Iraqi army capturing Kuwait. Frantically trying for help from officials, and realizing that the officials have left the country, he understands that he and his family are also not safe like any other resident of Kuwait. Amrita Katyal (Nimrat Kaur) is also particular that Ranjit takes care of her and daughter. On his way to seek help, he sees the kind of violence happening, his driver Nair being shot dead. Kuwaitis were killed mercilessly.  He was taken to Iraqi Major Khalaf Bin Zayd (Inaamulhaq), who warns him subtly to mind his own business rather than being a savior. The transformation of Ranjit is shown in a natural manner. Unknowingly, he turns out to the hope of his employees, and other Indians as well. Ranjit sets up a refugee camp to feed all these Indians.  

Refugee camp becomes the witness of so many emotions: be it frustration, disappointments, grief, or even the hope, anxiety. Cast and community issues are also covered. Even amidst crisis, man like George Kutty (Prakash Belawadi) is shown, who has issues with each and every thing, be it cleanliness of washrooms, or claiming his own space etc. Ibrahim Durrani (Purab Kohli), aide to Ranjit Katyal, is an example of a man, who keeps working for the cause, in spite of his personal loss, whose wife was missing.

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Raja Krishna Menon has brilliantly executed the whole set of events, right from the Iraqi attack to brutal massacre of Kuwaitis to the evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians. Research of Raja in regard to the events reflects in this well-crafted film. The one aspect which was not very convincing was that there was only one officer in the Minister of External Affairs- Sanjeev  Kohli (Kumud Mishra), who keeps convincing Indian administration to send help for the stranded Indians in Kuwait. But definitely Kumud Mishra stood apart as a great actor in his role. His persistence is commendable.

Akshay Kumar has proved over the years that he can effortlessly play such roles. He is so natural in Ranjit’s character. It is a delight to watch him. Credit also goes to Raja and his team for shaping up Ranjit’s character in a natural manner. He is not projected as a hero, but he is projected as a normal human being, who just thinks of his family, business, and profits, but in the moment of crisis, grows beyond his own self-interest, and turns out to be the saviour for 1,70,000 Indians.

Nimrat Kaur was excellent in ‘The Lunchbox’. So, definitely, expectations from her were also high. Nimrat did not have much to do in the film. Her potential could have been explored more.

Inaamulhaq plays the role of Major Khalaf Bin Zayd very well. Actors who formed the part of the refugee Indians did play their roles wonderfully.

A few scenes which touched my heart: Sanjeev Kohli’s father (Arun Bali), who was a partition refugee, shares with him that how painful it was to leave everything behind in Lahore, and what the loss of homeland could mean to an individual. Another scene - Amrita Katyal’s confrontation with one of the Indian in the refugee camp George Kutty (Prakash Belawadi). Amrita is generally shown to be not-so-happy with Ranjit’s decision to save Indians, but when the irritable George Kutty raised questions, she confronted George Kutty and stood with Ranjit. Of course the scene towards the end of the film, where Indian Flag captures the screen. There are a few other scenes, but not mentioning them here since those are to be watched on screen.

The songs – ‘Tanu main itna pyar kara… Soch na sake…’(composed by Amaal Malik, sung by Arijit Singh) and ‘Tu Bhoola jise, tujhko vo yaad karta raha…’ (composed by Amaal Malik, sung by KK)  are just awesome. Amaal Malik’s music is indeed very good. Ankit Tiwari has given music for ‘Dil Cheez tujhe…’.

Many parts of the film are shot at Ras Al Khaima (UAE) which has been very nicely captured by Priya Seth’s cinematography.

Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift is a tribute to the human spirits which finds path even amidst turbulence, gathers courage in spite of losing everything. A must watch film which showcases one of the largest evacuation operation ever carried out in the history of mankind. Grand Salute to all those unsung heroes who were instrumental for this.

Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)