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Badla review: Amitabh Bachchan – Taapsee Pannu impress, but Amrita Singh is the surprise package

Badla review: Amitabh Bachchan – Taapsee Pannu’s film is a taut thriller that’ll keep you guessing till the end

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There are challenges in remaking a film especially if the film happens to be a crime thriller or a whodunit murder mystery. The fact that the original film is easily accessible on the digital platform is no consolation either. But director Sujoy Ghosh overcomes these hurdles and manages to keep the audience riveted to their seats, even the ones like us who’ve see the original Spanish film Contratiempo (The Invisible Guest) from which Badla has been adapted. Of course there are characters that have been switched, but fifteen minutes into the film and Sujoy manages to make you forget that you have seen the original. The director had earlier shared that in this day and age of the internet and whatsapp, the element of mystery is anyway lost post the first show of the film. But it’s the journey to the end that should be exciting. Well, Sujoy, exciting and gripping the journey of Badla definitely is.

What Badla is all about? Naina Sethi (Taapsee Pannu) is a successful businesswoman, accused of the murder of her lover Arjun Joseph (Tony Luke). Badal Gupta (Amitabh Bachchan) is a senior advocate, who is hired by Naina’s best friend and lawyer Jimmy (Manav Kaul) to take up her case and defend her. Gupta drops by at Naina’s house, where she is living alone under house arrest, her husband and daughter having left her earlier after finding out about her extra-marital affair. Badal Gupta is said to be the best in business and has never lost a case in 40 years of his practice – a fact reiterated in the film several times over. But while Naina admits to having an extra-marital affair with Arjun and being blackmailed for it, she steadfastly denies killing him, even as all evidence points towards her as the killer. It is during their interaction that more skeletons spill out of the closet. There’s more to the case than Naina would like the police to find out about. Layer by layer the mystery unravels as other characters come in with equally questionable and justifiable intentions through a lot of to and fro of flashbacks.

Yay: A large part of the film relies on the dialogue-heavy interaction between Taapsee and Bachchan and it makes for a strong backbone of the film. Both Taapsee and Bachchan excel in their roles and keep you engaged. Their conversation is believable, edgy, and at times bordering on humour. The dialogues are well-written and maintain a constant tempo throughout. Sujoy keeps the intrigue factor high throughout and the suspense builds up slowly and steadily. But the surprise package of the film is Amrita Singh. Though she kick-starts on a note that seems too garish given the tone of the film, her character soon emerges as one of the strongest and you can’t wait for her to keep returning into frame. Her character evokes empathy and sympathy in parts. What works well here is that the director doesn’t delve deeper into Naina’s equation with her husband and so steers clear of the melodrama involved. The background score and the location (shot in Scotland) blend and enhance the thrill element effortlessly.

Nay: The film gets predictable in parts and there are minor bloopers that stand out given the fact that there is so much attention to detail given otherwise. Like the scene where the cops break into the hotel room where the murder has taken place: The police officer says that he is arresting Naina on charge of murder without actually confirming if the man lying in a pool of blood is really dead or just injured. Also at some point, the many layers peeling off one by one get tiresome. Luckily, the saves come in form of Amrita Singh’s Rani Kaur there. Although Badla does not lack in holding the audience in grip of the thrill, it is not a nail-biter either.

CineBlitz verdict: The element of mystery is maintained right till the end and there are enough twists and turns to keep you hooked. The director has treated it intelligently and the performances reflect that too. There’s no rush to prove anything, and there’s no melodrama. Taapsee in fact is so nuanced an actor that she keeps you on a tight leash when it comes to developing any feelings for her character. Beautifully balancing between the wrong and the wronged, she matches the high notes set by the veterans Amitabh Bachchan and Amrita Singh. Badla gets it right in the genre, so it’s a thumbs-up from us.

Rating: 3 stars

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PM Narendra Modi Review: The Omung Kumar directed biopic releases at an apt time- when PM Modi secures his electoral win!

Vivek Anand Oberoi nails the portrayal of PM Narendra Modi to the T.

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The biopic of PM Narendra Modi has been fraught with controversy from the word go. The 136-minute film is supposedly releasing in 23 Indian languages. Beginning shooting in January 2019, the film was shot and readied for release in record time, but came up against numerous obstacles, when the Goa unit of the student wing of the Congress Party, wrote to the Election Commission to ban the screening of the film, claiming that it  violated the model code of conduct of elections. The Supreme Court of India rejected the plea saying that the Election Commission needed to address this issue. Originally scheduled to release on 12th April, the EC stopped the release of the movie till the elections were over, to avoid any risk, saying that any biopic that had the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections could not be displayed in the electronic media.  And so the film release date was shifted to 24th May, and what a day it will be for the filmmakers, considering the outcome of the Election as it was revealed today!

What it’s about: The film is inspired by and based on the life of Narendra Damodardas Modi, current Prime Minister, (the 14th PM of Independent India) and traces his story from childhood to the day he marches to Delhi to be sworn in as The Prime Minister of the country. It portrays his struggle to make his mark in the business of politics, without money or status, coming as he did from humble beginnings, but purely on the strength of his ‘incredible’ character! The film was shot entirely in Uttarkashi and Gujarat.

Yay: Vivek Anand Oberoi as PM Narendra Modi not just looks the part due to some excellent make-up by Preetisheel Singh, but lives the role perfectly, that you barely glimpse the actor. You only see Modi. Everything from his body language to his tonal inflections and posture and gait have been worked on perfectly. Zarina Wahab as his mother plays her part with emotion and stoicism, creating a poignant relationship between her and her son. Manoj Joshi is also highly effective in his role resembling Amit Shah. Mukesh Chhabra and his team have cast perfectly the entire bunch of actors, both, in terms of looks as well as performances. Prashant Narayanan as Adityavarma Reddy, the scheming industrialist walking the corridors of power and politics is also effectively played. And oh yes, Boman Irani was brilliant in a 5 minute cameo as Sir Ratan Tata.

Also, the part about Narendra Modi’s early life before he joined the RSS, when he goes north to the Himalayas in search of his self and purpose is nicely done. Thanks to some good cinematography by Sunita Radia.

Nay: The film is ‘oh so paint me pink’ (can’t even say that without being politically incorrect) – an out-and-out propaganda vehicle, that glorifies Modi, absolves him of all things negative that he was accused of, even going so far as to show him as a  victim of political games and opposition tactics when it came to the Godhra riots. It is blatantly obsequious and smarmy in parts. Claiming to use material from three existing books on the man, one is doubtful about how far they have stretched the truth. It is Narendra Modi the perfect child, the ideal and idealistic youngster, growing into the Karmayogi and ‘asli mard’ to take over the chair In Delhi – all too golden. Dr Manmohan Singh’s caricature came across in bad taste. And the moments of bombastic and dramatic sweeping jibes taken at near everyone opposing the man ring completely hollow- making it laughable.  And yes, the chai making scene in the halls of the ministry!

The rest of this Omung Kumar directed feature, leaves you still wishing to know what metal, not mettle, the Prime Minister is made of really. The film is jointly produced by Anand Pandit, Suresh Oberoi, Acharya Manish and Sandip Ssingh. Vivek Oberoi has also been given credit as co-writer of screenplay and dialogues for the story, along with Anirudh Chawla, and Harsh Limbachiyaa. Story credit has Sandeep Ssingh’s name.

CineBlitz Verdict: Narendra Modi Bhakts may predictably throng the theatres after today’s sweeping victory. Since the makers have made it with the utmost sincerity, watch it. But don’t be surprised if you emerge from the cinema hall, sputtering and incredulous at the sheer nerve of this portrayal. We are sure it’s had the blessing of the PM though. It could truly indulge a megalomaniac. All those cinematic liberties in the disclaimer at the beginning have been fully exercised, and calculatingly used. This one is for the believers!

Rating: 2.5 stars

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India’s Most Wanted Review: Arjun Kapoor makes a sincere attempt, but the film fails to pack in a punch

India’s Most Wanted Review: Inspite of Arjun Kapoor’s earnest performance, the Raj Kumar Gupta directorial falls short of making it to the must-watch list

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Bollywood has been dishing out some really high doses of patriotic fervor for quite some time now. And filmmakers have clearly been milking this sentiment to the max at the box office. Raj Kumar Gupta’s latest big screen offering, India’s Most Wanted starring Arjun Kapoor is yet another one joining these ranks. The film undoubtedly rides high on patriotism, but does it ride high enough to become worth a watch? Read on to find out:

What India’s Most Wanted is all about: India is rocked by several serial blasts that take place across the country within a span of three years (2008-2010). However, India’s top intelligence agencies are absolutely clueless about who the mastermind behind them is. This faceless terrorist is just referred to as the ‘Ghost’ or ‘India’s Osama’. Intelligence department’s Patna-based field officer Prabhat (Arjun Kapoor) gets a call from a source hinting that India’s Most Wanted terrorist aka Ghost may be hiding in Nepal. Prabhat is one of those officers who wouldn’t bat an eyelid before dying for the country. So, when the agent is refused any kind of help or support from the department heads in Delhi, he along with his team of four other officers, pool in their personal savings to make the trip across border and catch the dreaded terrorist in a covert mission aided by his immediate senior played by Rajesh Sharma. In this mission he is also joined by five more undercover cops.

While in Nepal, they find themselves in danger not only from radicals, but also ISI agents who are active and hot in their pursuit. Prabhat and his team find themselves alone on this risky operation with not even a weapon to protect them and no technical or financial support. Do they succeed in this mission and how is what the film is all about.

Yay: There’s no mistake that the film has its heart and intentions in the right place, even if it lacks the brilliance in execution. Arjun Kapoor, who skips the herogiri to keep it all real, is one of the best things about the film. Like, there’s a scene where he is chased by three guys. Instead of turning around and beating them up, he is shown to return to his hotel room, panting and out of breath! Though the story and narrative fail to lift his performance much, Arjun’s sincere and earnest efforts do come across easily. We do hope the actor gets more roles that would do justice to his acting caliber of which he shows bright sparks.

Arjun in his efforts is ably supported by Rajesh Sharma, who proves that you don’t have to be a hero to shine in a movie. The slack pace of the story takes a toll on pretty much the entire scope for the actors to perform, but the rest of the cast also does a good job anyway.

Another strong point about the film is that it is minus any dramatic frills and bereft of heavy dialogue-baazi or jingoism that would weigh it down. Full credit to the director Raj Kumar Gupta for this! The director also translates the red–tapism of our system effectively on screen. The film has been shot well and has a realistic feel.

Nay: The narrative fails to allow the film to reach the zenith of that patriotic fervor where you would oversee the loopholes in the film’s story and instead focus on wanting Arjun to find and take down the baddie. So while you see yourself cheer for Team India, the excitement does not set in until the last half an hour of the film.

Also the narrative is punctuated so often by scenes of actual blasts followed by the same music playing each time, that to be honest it seemed forced. As a result, they lose their shock value as well as emotional sentiment! The ‘Ghost’s’ sermons following these blasts scenes feel like such a drag that you wish Arjun would take him down quicker to save us and spare us the horror of hearing his monologues over and over again.

The film needed to be tighter in the first half and more gripping in the second. The music is barely noticeable otherwise. The Vande Matram song is the only time that the music scores high.

CineBlitz Verdict: Although not bad for a one-time watch, overall India’s Most Wanted lacked that punch which would have otherwise easily made it a must-watch film! Predictable in most parts, the film does have its high moments, but they are too few and far in between. As a director who has given us films like No One Killed Jessica and Raid, Gupta lets us down here. The performances and some thrilling moments in the second half however make it worth a watch. Also watch it as an ode to the country’s unsung heroes and that dash of patriotism and you won’t be disappointed.

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Aladdin review: The Will Smith-starrer is a delightful summer treat and a perfect family-entertainer

Aladdin review: Guy Ritchie’s retelling of the age-old famous Arabian folktale – starring Will Smith as the Genie – will transport you to a world of love, friendship, fantasy and magic!

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Star Rating:

A whole new worldMena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine sing the mesmerisingly beautiful romantic number from Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin, as they take a magic carpet ride together, discovering true love for each other. Director Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of the much-loved animated film however doesn’t take you to any new world! Instead, the director sticks to recreating the old world magic of the original to the T and that’s the biggest draw to watch this film that stars Will Smith as the Genie. So is Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake better than the original? Read on to find out:

What Aladdin is all about: ‘Street rat’ Aladdin is a petty thief whose best buddy and partner-in-crime is his pet monkey Abu. Unknowingly, Aladdin falls for Jasmine, the princess of Agrabah. The Sultan’s wicked and power-hungry Vizier sends Aladdin to retrieve an old lamp for him from a magical cave. After finding himself trapped in the cave, Aladdin rubs the lamp only to find himself become the master of a three-wish granting Genie. How the good-hearted Aladdin goes about winning Princess Jasmine’s love with the help of the Genie and defeats the evil Vizier forms the crux of the story.

Yay: The story may be old, but Jasmine’s yearning to prove her worth as an able ruler and her feisty spirit that refuses to give in and bow down just because she’s a girl still resonates strongly with women even today. What also resonates even today is our fascination for a fantasy world where carpets can fly and rubbing lamps releases Genies. Well, director Guy Ritchie taps all this beautifully to recreate Disney’s animated film Aladdin (1992).

The humour-laced film has all the strong messages of the original in place without being preachy of course. What we loved the most was that the live-action retelling stays true – right through the film – to the original, so at no point do we feel short-changed. Whether it was a bid by the makers to play it safe or intentionally not to mess with a Disney classic, the move works in the film’s favour.

Will Smith as Genie gets our thumbs up! Naomi Scott shines through as Jasmine and Mena Massoud brings in the certain innocent charm of a street-smart Aladdin. The chemistry between Jasmine and Aladdin, carpet and Abu, Dalia and the Genie are all amazing to watch and leave you smiling.

The film aces in several departments right from the direction to the musical scores to the costumes and the CGI effects to the lavish and gorgeous set-ups. We loved the strong and impressive rendition of ‘Speechless’. You find yourself transported just as believably to the dusty streets of Agrabah as easily as you find yourself looking up at the magnificent palaces. The chase sequences are stunningly shot. There’s nothing over-the-top or anything that strikes you as out of place here.

The result is the story being told in the most entertaining and visually-appealing cinematic form. Adults will find themselves revisit their childhood and the children get introduced to a whole new world of love and magic.

Nay: Even in such a well-made film, unfortunately, there’re things that feel like a bit of a let-down! Merwan Kenzari as Jafar, frankly wasn’t convincingly evil or menacing enough to make for a formidable adversary. Iago, the macaw who played such an important character in the original was not explored onscreen as much as we would have liked it to be. Though Will Smith as Genie was an absolute treat, it somehow felt that the makers have not made him do complete justice to the character. Whether it was the dialogues or the CGI, but Will Smith felt a bit under-used here.

But what made us cringe were the dance sequences. While we understand that the Bollywoodish song and dance may tickle Hollywood’s exotic fantasies about faraway lands, for the Indian audience, it doesn’t do a thing. In fact, the execution looks worse than the level of performances one gets to see in reality dance shows here. Also in some scenes, the entire production value looks more suited for a broadway musical than a majestic film. Also the 3D effects are not used to create much of an impact.

CineBlitz Verdict: Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin makes for a fantastic family-viewing! It’s entertaining and it will take you to a world that’s magical and fantastical. A must-watch for kids! They will simply love watching the much-loved story being told on the big screen in such an entertaining way. A perfect summer treat, the film will bring a smile to your faces and you will find yourself humming along the songs with Jasmine and Aladdin!

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