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Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga movie review: Sonam Kapoor – Rajkummar Rao’s film is an unconventional love story set in a quintessential Bollywood backdrop

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga movie review: Sonam K Ahuja, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla are impressive, but it is Rajkummar Rao who steals the show

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2019 has begun with experimental cinema and I being a cinema-lover love it. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a film that shows how much taboo homosexuality still is for a traditional Indian family and their mindset towards it. It is a brave concept picked up by director Shelly Chopra Dhar for her debut film, but misses on some aspects.

What’s it about? Written by Gazal Dhaliwal and Shelly Chopra Dhar, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga deals with the concept of LGBT, where the lead character of the film is a lesbian and is still in the closet. It takes a friend (Rajkummar Rao) to make her realise that she is normal and she no more needs to be chained. Then how her family reacts? Whether they accept her or not is the story of the film. The film starts with a wedding where everyone is desperate to get Sweety (Sonam) married. The mandap seems to be like a matrimony site in real where everyone is literally window-shopping for guys and girls – to an extent where a supporting actor even says,“Shadiyon mein hi to dulhe milte hai.”

But Sonam is not ready to get married and there is a secret about her that only she and her brother know. And the brother is clearly not happy about it. He follows her everywhere just to keep an eye on her. Meanwhile she meets a young struggling playwriter Sahil (Rajkummar), who instantly falls in love with her and starts looking at her as his inspiration. After a misunderstanding, Rajkummar gets into the family and just before the interval Sweety reveals to him that she is a lesbian and her girlfriend stays in London. Heartbroken Sahil pledges to help Sweety and makes her realise that having different sexual orientation is normal. How he plots a plan to make Sweety’s family accept her, well that is the second half.

Yay: Shelly proves that she is Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s sister with her writing. Like her brother, she builds up a world where every character has a storyline and definition. Not just the leads, but even the supporting cast – Seema Pahwa as the maid who bids on everything possible, even on who will marry Sweety. They have a space to breath in the screenplay. One more thing she gets right is showing the different mindsets. In a scene Sweety’s brother played by Abhishek Duhan denotes homosexuality as a disease. He tells Sweety,“Ki teri bimari tu thik kyun nahin kar sakti.” Sweety’s grandmother when narrated a lesbian screenplay of a play says that it is a great comedy and people will enjoy laughing.

As writers, both Gazal and Shelly get plus points. If you have seen the Hollywood film Call Me By Your Name, wherein by the end the father admits in front of his son that he also had dreams and secrets that he had to bury for the sake of society and family. Here Anil is given a similar trail, he loves cooking and had a goal of becoming a chef, but his mother doesn’t allow him as cooking is not something boys are supposed to do. Acting-wise the performances are quite good. Sonam plays the mysterious part and one who is scared of her own identity impressively. Anil has a style of his own and it is visible here whether you like it or not. Juhi Chawla after a long time is the cutest character here. Regina Cassandra as the love-interest of Sonam doesn’t get much to do but is good. Rajkummar is well Rajkummar, and he steals the show.

Nay: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is set right and the tonality is perfect, but what misses is the depth of the main character, Sonam falls a bit short in portraying the emotion right. The execution should have been a bit bolder.There is a flashback of how Sonam and Regina fall in love, but that isn’t enough. I expected them to show more, let the story grow on the audience. It’s Punjab, use the farms and the landscapes. But then I will have to go with what director’s vision is. While touching all other issues the main one gets a bit blurry.

Cine Blitz Verdict: All in all, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a good step in terms of normalising LGBT in mainstream cinema. Watch it for how an unconventional story can be set in a mainstream Bollywood story. Though I wanted to see a few more things, but I won’t complain because Rajkummar Rao compensated for them.

Rating: 2.5 stars

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Movie Reviews

Selection Day review: Netflix’s unconventional cricket drama is a must watch!

Selection Day, the Indian Netflix Original cricket drama avoids the sports film clichés and keeps you engaged in its uncertain turn of events. Here’s a review of part 1 and part 2 of this 12-episode series.

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Indians are obsessed with cricket. Generally, the kids are the ones who struggle to convince their parents to allow them to pursue cricket as a career. But in Selection Day, it is the father who is obsessed with making his two sons the best batsmen in the world – so much so that he calls them as Champion No. 1 and Champion No. 2 instead of their real names. Based on Aravind Adiga’s novel of the same name, Selection Day is an unconventional cricket drama. It avoids the clichés of a sports drama and focuses more on the inner and interpersonal conflict of characters.

The trio of father and sons come to Mumbai to get picked up by a school that has a cricket team so that they can apply for the Mumbai cricket team selection. Their rejections bring them to Weinberg Academy which is also struggling for funds and a win in the Harris Shield, a local cricket tournament in Mumbai. The cricket coach of the academy, who had given up coaching, spots the talent of the two boys at Shivaji Park during a stroll with his wife and gets them enrolled at Weinberg.

The journey of the trio begins and many layers and secrets of their relationship begin to unfold. Manjunath (Champion No. 2) doesn’t like cricket yet he’s playing it courtesy the tyranny of his father. Manju wants to become a scientist. Radha (Champion No. 1) is claimed by his father to become a better player than Sachin Tendulkar.

Watch the Selection Day trailer here:

Mohammad Samad (Tumbbad) and Yash Dholye as the two brothers (Manjunath and Radhakrishna) give a sincere performance. Karanvir Malhotra as the troublesome rich brat Javed Ansari has done justice to his layered character. Rajesh Tailang whom you must have adored as a cop in Delhi Crime plays the tyrant, manipulative and unlikeable father here. He’s too good as the bad guy. The effortless Ratna Pathak Shah as the Weinberg Academy’s head Nellie is a treat to watch. After a long time, Mahesh Manjrekar is seen in a refreshing role of the cricket coach Tommy Sir.

Netflix and other OTT platforms have given the Indian filmmakers and content creators the much-needed space and opportunity to tell authentic stories. Here (like Sacred Games), Maharashtrians speak nuanced Marathi, unlike in a mainstream Hindi film that would ridiculously mix languages for a wider audience to understand. Personally, I would rather read subtitles than listen to shabbily mixed languages in dialogues. The digital world has enabled storytellers to tell multilingual stories without compromising on the vision.

I haven’t read the novel by Aravind Adiga but the series is smartly written by Marston Bloom (Hindi dialogue by Sumit Arora) and finely executed by directors Udayan Prasad and Karan Boolani. Soumik Mukherjee has filmed Mumbai and maidan cricket with a fresh vision. Shashwat Sachdev’s (Uri: The Surgical Strike, Veere Di Wedding) music too avoids the sports drama clichés and the signature tune keeps playing in the head.

It seems like Selection Day was shot completely in one go and then divided into 12 episodes across two seasons. One might argue whether it could have been made into a feature-length film but a show is better. Feature films in India are limiting. And if the end of part 2 is any indication, I would be looking forward to Selection Day part 3.

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Kalank review: Varun, Alia, Sonakshi, Aditya, Sanjay and Madhuri’s period drama is heart-wrenchingly beautiful

Kalank review: Varun, Alia, Sonakshi, Aditya, Sanjay and Madhuri’s impactful romantic drama delves deep into the layered complex relationships

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Kalank has undoubtedly been one of the most highly-anticipated films in this quarter. The makers had over the weeks been treating us all with sneak-peeks of what to expect when the magnum opus releases. The one thing that stood out as a major highlight and became an instant talking point was the sheer grandeur of the film. The sets, the songs, even the casting… Everything spelt grand. The film, as we all know by now, stars Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit.

The pairings itself generated a lot of buzz – Varun and Alia is already a hit pair, Sanjay – Madhuri is a pair reuniting on the big screen after more than two decades and so naturally is being looked forward to. Sonakshi and Aditya make for an interesting jodi too and their glimpses together looked promising. With so much to look forward to, there is obviously much excitement about Kalank. But does it live up to the hype and the expectations?

Read our full Kalank review to know!

What Kalank is all about: The year is 1946 and the film takes place in pre-partition Husnabad, outside Lahore. Now let us be very clear early on – though the film’s situations are largely triggered and driven by the communal tensions simmering in the months leading up to India’s Independence and partition in 1947, the film is fictionalised and not a historical account. So, if you expect slices of your history chapters being served to you, you will be disappointed. Instead, the film is about the complex relationships and the layered lives of the six lead characters and their emotions interweaved through the story set in the violent background of the partition.

The lead characters – Roop (Alia), Zafar (Varun), Satya (Sonakshi), Dev (Aditya), Balraj (Dutt), Begum Bahar (Madhuri) – are all distinctly different from each other. They are strongly defined by their individual personality traits. Every character’s fabric is built from a common thread of emotional turmoil. And it resonates with each character. Each character is fighting his or her own battle. This tone is set early in the film and it’s clear that the film is not going to be a peppy, breezy romantic fare. It’s dark and intense, brightened only by the grand and lavish backdrop along with the occasional naach-gaana.

So, Satya is suffering from cancer with only one year to survive. Like a dutiful, mature wife and bahu, she sacrifices her own happiness to ensure that her husband will stay happy even after her death. The solution: She gets her husband – a silent and broody, Dev married to Roop, who is somewhat a rebel at heart and agrees to the matrimony only as a compromise. Balraj Chaudhry is the strict patriarch of the affluent Chaudhry family upholding the family values. The father-son (Balraj and Dev) are at loggerheads not only on personal matters, but also political views and opinions when it comes to running their newspaper.

On a parallel track is the dark and infamous world of Heera Mandi that also houses the palatial kotha of Begum Bahar, the renowned courtesan. It is here that Zafar works as an ironsmith. A flamboyant, yet angst-ridden character, his anger stems from being the illegitimate child of Bahar and Balraj and being addressed like-wise. He finds his solace in women, his chief interest being a nautch girl (Kiara Advani).

Nurturing her heart-break since years, Bahar is even shunned by her son. Zafar harbours a strong hatred towards Balraj and his family as much as he does towards his mother. He aids Abdul (Kunal Kemmu) in working towards spreading unrest aimed at harming the newspaper run by Balraj. Roop drawn to Bahar’s voice goes to Heera Mandi. Eventually, she gets the Chaudhry family to agree and allow her to learn music from Bahar. There Roop runs into Zafar and the ground is set for the most-sizzling chemistry we have seen in recent times. It is intense! Roop, who anyway felt trapped in a loveless marriage with Dev, falls for Zafar. The attraction of forbidden love is unhinged.

As the story progresses, the characters find themselves locked in a never-ending emotional tussle. Sonakshi and Aditya are coming to terms with having a new wife in the picture, Alia being drawn to Varun, who is struggling with acceptance. And of course, there’s Dutt struggling to make peace with his past mistake and Madhuri repenting her unrequited love and loss. Even as the characters struggle to overcome their emotional upheavals, riots break out, and their lives are turned upside down, ultimately defining their choices.

Yay: Like we said, Kalank was so far being spoken about for the grand and lavish sets being compared to Sanjay Leela Bhansali films. But the real highlights of the film are the performances, the dialogues and the nuanced handling of the complex relationships. The larger-than-life characters and their heart-wrenching performances actually dwarf the magnificent backdrops. The intense chemistry between the characters is the best part of the film.

The endearing and tender moments between Sonakshi and Aditya are in sharp contrast with the searing on-the-brink-romance between Alia and Varun, who are emotionally torn as forbidden lovers. The ache of lost love is epitomized by Madhuri and Dutt beautifully. Not just these, the father-son confrontations, the mother-son showdown, all add up to the film in brilliantly crafted scenes.

All the stars are in top form and the film sees their best performances till date. Varun aces as Zafar channeling the anger and angst through his eyes. His performance in this one makes Badlapur and October look like a warm-up. Alia proves her mettle yet again. She is one of the finest actresses and with Kalank she does it yet again. Dutt speaks volumes with his eyes and Madhuri brings out the pain of heartache beautifully. Sonakshi will remind you of her film Lootera. With Aditya, she makes an impressive outing. Kunal’s grey act is impressive and Kiara does well in her brief role.

Overall, the performances supported by strong dialogues make the maximum impact and score the film all its stars. The narration and the story are interesting and Abhishek Varman’s direction and screenplay score brownie points too. In fact, the director has shown the nuances of each character very sensitively. The music, choreography and cinematography are all top-notch.

Nay: The biggest fail for the film is the length, which could’ve been shorter by atleast 20 minutes. The VFX and CGI were spoilers too. While the bull-fight scene was exciting in concept and execution, but it was not convincing to be a part of the narrative. While the music works, some songs could have been avoided and seem forced in the film. Alia’s introduction scene fails to make a mark and her conversation with her father seems too tame.

The events leading up to the climax also fail to add depth and seem rushed. The film fails to present a balanced view when dealing with the communal aspects. The film uses the Hindu-Muslim conflict as the backdrop and reflects the simmering politically charged agendas fuelled by religion. However, they all seem one-sided.

CineBlitz Verdict: A highly-charged emotional love drama, Kalank rides high on the intense and complex relationships fuelled by romance. The film is entertaining, but leans heavily towards heart-wrenching moments. The film boasts of some brilliantly crafted emotional scenes. Kudos to Abhishek Varman and the cast! The film is a visual treat no doubt and keeps you entertained, but might feel a tad-bit long! A must-watch for die-hard romantics and definitely for the fans of its lead stars!

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Kalank review: Not Varun – Alia, but Sonakshi – Aditya’s chemistry is being talked about by the audience

Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt’s period drama set in 1940s has been getting a mixed response, read on…

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Karan Johar’s magnum opus Kalank released this morning (April 17). The film has been trending ever since the makers revealed the first look. While tinsel town gave the film thumbs up, the audience have mixed responses. Read on to know what people are saying about the Abhishek Varman directed multi-starrer.

Kalank has looked grand throughout, while many have loved it, few think it could have been made better. But everyone has been gushing about Madhuri Dixit Nene and the cast. A tweet says, “Just now completed watching in Bangalore  WoW really top notch performances especially  I went for theatre only only for u VD  Me and my MoM watched.She also liked lots Ur expressions, acting, costumes, dance & Climax  I hope u notice this tweet VD.” Another says, “Lastly, I liked a few things. Dev and Satya’s relationship. Dev’s inner conflict and in parts, Varun Dhawan’s convincing performance. He tries to live the life of Zafar but in some parts, he just can’t stop being Varun. .” Check out all the fan reactions the film has got, here:

 

https://twitter.com/divyadjj06/status/1118412510070099970

Kalank is directed by Abhishek Varman and stars Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri, Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur and Sonakshi Sinha in pivotal parts. The film was Karan Johar’s dream project that has finally translated on to the 70mm. If you have already watched Kalank , let us know what you think about the film in the comments section below. Also, for more updates and gossip, stay tuned to CineBlitz.

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