Saturday, January 28, 2017

Movie Review: Kaabil

Rohan and Supriya are blind, but that doesn't stop them from dreaming of a beautiful life together. A couple of dates later, Rohan slips a ring on her finger. Life is perfect. 

Not for long, though. The local corporator's younger brother takes a fancy to Su, and he isn't one to be denied! Repeatedly raped and humiliated, she finally caves in, and the sold out cops leave Rohan with only one choice -to fight for justice on his own terms. 

The first half is pacy, even though some of the scenes are a little over done - like the mall sequence, which is amateurish in screenplay. Hrithik and Yami do have an absolute cracker of a dance number together, beautifully executed! Their romance is sweet, although you always know it's not gonna last very long.

The movie takes off in the second half - the story does grab your attention, although, to be honest, there is nothing that will come as a surprise or a shock - if you pay attention to the screenplay, you can predict what's coming up at least 15 min earlier!

The highlight of the film is Hrithik’s performance, and in my opinion, his best to date by a mile. He is especially effective in the second half - not too many theatrics, not too much of the goody goody stuff - and in most scenes, he actually looks human. Yami looks great, and complements him well. Ronit Roy is great as the badass corporator, although Rohit Roy as his younger brother is wasted.

The sound track is just about passable. The remixed Saara Zamana and Dil Kya Karen are pale and eminently forgettable. The item number needs to be snipped out!

Overall, a mixed bag - and yes, don't take your kids! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Movie Review: Raees

Raees is set in a small border town in Gujarat, where our anti-hero runs a massive empire built on the illegal alcohol trade, and his cat and mouse game with a dogged police officer, ACP Majmudar, forms the crux of the movie. Koi dhanda chota nahi hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharam nahi hota, is the motto our Raees lives by. His run in with the law starts at a very young age, when he steals a pair of spectacles from a Gandhiji statue - the specs also earn him the nickname "Battery", which is the one thing that riles him no end. A gracious Robinhood to his people, he has one other motto - no hurting the innocent. But a betrayal leads to a deadly mistake, and Raees has to face not just the wrath of the police, but his own conscience.

Here's why Raees makes it to one of my favorite SRK movies...

1) The King Khan is at his best - the kaajal, the pathani outfits, the beard, the bloodshot eyes, the voice - the perfect anti-hero you know is in the wrong, and yet, you can't help root for him as he fights an increasingly lonely battle. No hamming, no outstretched hands, just heart-stopping action. Watch out for the scene where he slams down the phone - and tell me you didn't get the chill. His entry is also powerful and memorable, maybe the only better one was Don 2!

2) A great sound track, that beautifully complements the screenplay, pumping your adrenaline! Sunny Leone's execution of Laila is another amazing sequence, providing the perfect backdrop to a crescendo of violence.

3) The ever-so-dependable Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the determined cop delivers a memorable performance, with just the right sprinkling of humor.

4) The art department does a great job - delivering great locales, beautiful sets, and amazing props that add so much to the authenticity and visual impact.

5) True, hard core, gritty action - not the Shetty-style physics-defying style. Raw violence. Be warned, the sequence in the meat market might just be a little too much to stomach for the vegeterians!

6) And probably, most of all, the dialogues - lines that generate hoots and claps from the audience well into the almost 150 minute running time of this action thriller.

The only weakness of the movie is the female lead, our neighbor from West, Mahira Khan, who frankly, is a let down, in looks as well as in the acting department.

After Dear Zindagi, Raees completes the transformation of SRK from the badshah of chocolate romance to the mature, oh-so-desirable George Clooney of Bollywood, and this can only be great news for the fans!

Don't miss it - but ditch the lounge for this one! This one is for watching with the masses!

Republic Day

26th Jan is India's Republic Day, and the grand parade on Rajpath in New Delhi is a much awaited event in the year! This year, too, was no different.

Millions of Indians watched the proceedings on TV, along with thousands of excited Delhites lining the parade route, in the august presence of the 3 service chiefs, PM, President and the Chief Guest, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Many of our bravehearts, from the armed forces, as well as children, who defied odds and put everything at stake, including their lives, were honored. Beautiful tableaus depicted the rich cultural heritage, innovative govt schemes, and the might of the Indian armed forces, while impressive contingents in beautiful uniforms displayed determination and discipline, and grace. The Shwet Ashwa motorcycle daredevils of the military police were truly astounding. A wonderful fly past wrapped up the proceedings.

But for me, the most impressive contingent was the NSG, the elite black cat commandos of the Indian Army - absolutely swooning over them, still!

If you missed the parade, here is the link to the full HD coverage of the parade by our very own Doordarshan!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: XXX: Return of Xander Cage

XXX is still in action - stealing transponders for cable TV sets and hurtling down mountainside jungles in skis and skateboards, in an exotic land of hot women and football. However, when a "Pandora's Box" that looks like a cable set top box and can send any satellite on a collision course towards Earth in 2 clicks, turning it into an assassin, is stolen, XXX needs to get his act together to save the world, with a team that includes a sniper and, hold your breath, a DJ.

With our very own Deepika Padukone playing the kickass, no nonsense love interest for the much loved Vin Diesel, XXX did raise a lot of interest before its release. Sadly,a juvenile non-existent plot, mostly bland seen-it-before action, and average dialogues makes this a movie you can safely cross off your bucket list. 

After Anil Kapoor's much-acclaimed "performance" in Slumdog, PC looked like she was running away with the title of self-proclaimed Hollywood killer in the country. And I guess that title remains her's. Deepika gets barely a few minutes on screen, and doesn't have much to do other than making intense faces while she shoots and kicks her way through the bad men, and mouths some long winded, meant-to-be-serious-as-hell dialogues, in her uncomfortable Indian accent, over shadowed by the other two women in the movie - one through her cuteness, the other through her stunts.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Movie Review: Dangal

Dangal was a great way to cap my movie going experience for 2016... the heartwarming story of 2 young girls from the dusty plains of Haryana on their quest for sporting glory for India. Under the almost-fanatical coaching of their father, a wrestler himself, Geeta and Babita Phogat break countless stereotypes and traditions along the way - from fighting with boys in the arena, they steadily prove their worth at the state level, then at the nationals, finally fulfilling their father's dream when Geeta wins gold at the Commonwealth games in Delhi.

The star of the movie was undoubtedly the very smart and talented Fatima Sana Shaikh, who pulled off the wrestling scenes effortlessly and beautifully; and I am sure Geeta would have been proud! Fatima is ably supported by the other girls, Sanya Malhotra (Babita), Zaira Wasim (the extremely cute young Geeta) and Suhani Bhatnagar (young Babita), as well as Ritwik Sahore (young Omkar). Aamir gets my huge appreciation for his commitment to the project, putting on dozens of kilos for his role as the older Mahavir, and the transformation from the muscled younger Mahavir is jaw dropping! The rest of the cast - Girish Kulkarni as the coach, Aparshakti Khurana as Omkar and Sakshi Tanwar as Mahavir's wife, is also spot on.

The best part of the movie? The wrestling scenes. Shot beautifully, executed perfectly, with a great sound track, and adequate technical background, it never fails to grab your undivided attention. And when Geeta wins the CWG gold and the national anthem plays in the stadium, it's beautiful to experience how the audience in the theater spontaneously stands up in respect to the flag. Something you cannot miss, so go watch the movie only in the theatres!

There are quite a few beautifully rendered songs too, and they stay with you long after the movie ends. Gilehriyaan ( is definitely my favorite, but there are other gems too - and they go extremely well with the visuals! Haanikarak Bapu is a lot of fun and Dhakkad will inspire millions of girls!

That said, the movie does raise a couple of uncomfortable questions. (Warning - story spoilers coming up)

For one, for a movie that is almost a biopic on Geeta and Babita (irrespective of the disclaimer at the beginning of the movie), there are far too many liberties taken on authenticity. The CWG gold wasn't Geeta's first international gold. The entire incident of the father being locked out by the coach is fictional. Even the final match itself was an easy peasy win for Geeta, not the edge of the seat thriller it is made out to be. I believe you should make honest movies, or entertaining movies, but Dangal takes too many liberties with truth, in the process probably hurting a lot of people (like Geeta's real life coach!).

The second question has nothing to do with the movie, but with the situation Geeta and Babita found themselves in (as characters in the fictional movie, or in reality if it was true). It is true that their father dreamed bigger things for them, in a time and land where girls were married off as soon as they hit puberty. However, one begs the question - would he have done the same if he had a son? Was he not selfish to pursue his own dream of gold through his daughters, never giving them a choice in the matter? Was it fair to make them fight wrestling, a very intimate contact sport, with boys? What if one of them wanted to be a doctor, or pursue any other sport? If they hadn't gone on to be successful on national/international stage, would we still hold Mahavir in such high esteem? What message does it send to millions of Indian parents? That it's OK to use your children to pursue your dreams? That they don't have a choice in the matter?

Important questions, but an excellent movie nevertheless. Do watch it, in the theaters!

The Year Gone By for India

For most of the 125 crore Indians, 2016 can probably be summarized by one word: demonetization. In one swift stroke, Narendra Modi took on the corrupt, black money, terror funding, and fake currency by withdrawing 500 and 1000 Rs notes in an operation that took everyone, including his own cabinet by surprise. ATMs ran dry, and for almost 2 months, citizens lined up outside banks and ATMs, to deposit old notes and try and get hands on the precious new currency.

It's a huge boost to digital payments, and will bring lakhs of crores into the formal banking system. It will increase tax compliance, bring down interest rates, and give the country a far truer picture of the economy, allowing the government to spend more on social security and infrastructure, while giving sops to the honest tax payers.

Yes, it created a lot of disruption, and will impact the economy for a little while, but when you have cancer, chemo is necessary, and it hurts! And in his new year eve speech, the PM rolled out a slew of measures to provide much needed balm to the poor, the farmers, the senior citizens, and to women. We do hope that the budget continues to bring cheer to the honest and the hard working, while further tightening the screws on the corrupt.

But before demonetization took over the country, Narendra Modi delivered another reason to cheer and feel proud to be Indian. In response to the ghastly Uri attack, the Indian Army delivered a stunning counter blow to terror sponsorship and support by Pakistan, in a surgical strike deep inside Pakistani territory, a move with known precedent. Calling Pakistan's nuclear bluff, the government and the army made it clear that Gandhiji's mantra of offering the other cheek would no longer be the operating philosophy, and the country would strike back and strike back hard. Thankfully, while the world grappled with terror attacks, especially in Europe, India remained relatively peaceful.

It was a good year for sports. Virat and Dhoni let India to glory on the field of cricket, while new stars were born - from PV Sindhu's badminton exploits to Sakshi and Dipa Karmakar's Olympic medals in wrestling and gymnastics, Indians have a lot to cheer about! Football is also picking up very well in the country, with the ISL providing excellent exposure and opportunities to some very talent youngsters. Hockey is on a good rebound, and both the men's and women's teams have had great success. As with everything else, it's the confidence and spirit that matters, and over the last couple of years, Indians have discovered it in plenty!

Thankfully, dirty politics, while still very much in play, is proving to be ineffective in swaying the voters. From the intolerance award wapasi tamasha, to the JNU student agitations, from stone pelting in Kashmir to Dalit atrocities and cow slaughter controversies, and even to aspersions being cast on the Indian Armed Forces, a lot of attempts have been made to destroy the fabric of the country. The media has been used to spread falsities and mislead the people. Social media has seen better days. However, if recent polls are anything to go by, the Indian voter has woken up and while caste and religion will never completely die, parties and leaders that focus on aspirations, development and growth are being consistently rewarded at the hustings. And that can only mean good news.

Meanwhile, the Smart City initiative is taking off in earnest. Along with Swacchh Bharat, Make in India, Skill India and Digital India campaigns of the government, cities are focusing on better lives through technology and sustainable development. Public transport, garbage management, solar/green power, pedestrianization, digital citizen engagement - a multi-pronged strategy is in place to improve livability and transparency in our cities, and with Indian jugaad, government commitment and the hard work of our officers, good days are ahead!

2017 brings high hopes - we should have an interesting budget, Trump will make life interesting, and all the seeds of the initiatives sown in the last 30 months should start sprouting results! It's gonna be a great ride!

Resolutions for 2017

Another eventful year has gone by, and it's time to start on a clean slate in many ways (unless you are in finance in India, and still have a quarter to go :))

While I am not a big fan of making and keeping resolutions, a new year does give the chance to revisit your priorities and life decisions, and try and make some positive changes. Here are a few of the things on my bucket list for 2017:

1) Further commit to positivity and reduce negativity, especially on social media: while 2016 saw me cut down significantly on criticism, especially when you have such irresistible candidates like RaGa and Kejri and the entire CON clan, I'd like to desist from engaging with such issues, and instead focus on the positives, much like The Better India initiative, which has been really beautiful! Similarly, just read this wonderful thread on Twitter by a Canadian astronaut, Commander Chris Hadfield (@cmdr_hadfield), listing out so many positive things about the year gone by. I'd like to do more of that!

2) Digital detox - something I have been conscious of, but really haven't tried too hard, is to reduce my digital life and get back to a real world. Being off Facebook certainly helps, and I am sensitive to real experiences and relationships versus virtual ones, but I need to stop sleeping with the phone. I want to keep the phone off when I am in meetings, whether professional ones, or with friends and family. I want to wake up and smell the coffee and play with the cat before I bury myself in email and Whatsapp. I want to read more, I want to walk, I want to enjoy my DSLR, I want to play with cats, I want to travel, and experience life, with sights and smells and touch, and not just bits and bytes.

3) REDUCE HONKING. I normally don't honk much, but I do get irritated when people break rules or act like asses on the road, and that should be no excuse for putting other citizens and animals at the mercy of my hoots!

4) Take care of my health. 2016 gave me a lot of days in hospital nursing my kidney stone, and I want to pay a lot more attention to what my body needs. More exercise (evening walks, and maybe I can convert them to morning jogs sometime in the year!), sleep early, get some sun, reduce sugar and milk and oil, and generally stay fit! Switching to books and sleeping early instead of watching endless TV through the night should be a great way to start!

5) Get cracking on a couple of projects I have in mind for a long time now. I can't say more here, but if you know me, I am sure you know what I am talking about!

and finally,

6) Cut down on Whatsapp broadcasts and groups. Whatsapp is just a vehicle, but the intention is to get serious about cutting down on giving unsolicited advice, and sharing information with those who really don't care for it! Those who care to will always know where to connect and engage with me! The rest deserve their peace :)

Here's wishing everyone a fantastic new year 2017!