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Game Over review: Taapsee Pannu’s performance in this brilliantly directed, crisp thriller is hair-raisingly real

Game Over Review: Ashwin Saravanan and Taapsee Pannu nail it with this intelligent, intense, chilling and intriguing thriller

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Game-over-review
Taapsee Pannu in a still from Game Over

Star Rating: 

Game Over is originally a Tamil-Telugu bilingual thriller film, with multiple layers of issues that are tackled in the film, and ever so subtly. Written and directed by Ashwin Saravanan, the hero of the film is Taapsee Pannu who is simply brilliant in yet another performance and yet another totally diverse character to the ones she has played before. The film is jointly produced by Reliance Entertainment and Y NOT Studios and presented by Anurag Kashyap. It is typically his kind of dark noir film in a sense. The story is very well written, and it leaves you swinging from intrigue to horror to thrills, as it plays out.

What Game Over is all about:  Set in Gurugram (the Hindi version) on the outskirts of Delhi, it begins with the brutal killing of Amrutha (Sanchana Natarajan). She is decapitated and burnt alive, and apparently, this is not the first, nor the last such killing. It is terrifying. Cut to an year later, a vibrant-looking, but internally traumatised Swapna (Taapsee Pannu) who is a video game designer/creator, seems to be suffering from panic attacks from an alluded-to assault of some sort. Darkness and the oncoming new year put her into such a severe state of dread, she ends up hurting herself despite seeking medical attention. Bound to her wheel-chair, she is now in the grip of panic, imagined or otherwise is anyone’s guess. Her constant companion and support structure is her house-help Kalamma (Vinodhini Vaidyanathan). Is she under attack from real evils or some supernatural or paranormal entities? What is the connection between Amrutha and Swapna? The film explores some unconventional aspects conceptually as well.

Yay: Taapsee Pannu outdoes herself as the creative gamer, paralysed by fear. There is not a single wrong tic on her part. She walks away with the game, the gamer and the whole film. (Taapsee has worked in the South film industry in the past) Vinodhini as her companion gives such a natural and effortless portrayal. The smaller parts too are effected by supremely well-cast actors – the shrink (Anish Kuruvilla), and Parvathi as Dr Reena, and mother of the dead girl Amrutha. The suspense is taut, the editing (by Richard Kevin) superb – you don’t realise when it’s 103 minutes and the film is over. Ashwin Sarvanan’s direction matches his writing – unusual and intelligent. His credited co-writer is Kaavya Ramkumar. A Vasanth’s cinematography is ‘frightfully’ effective, literally.  Production design by Siva Sankar is clean and creative, very well done. Ron Ethan Yohann’s music never strays a note beyond necessary, adding to the thrill factor.

Nay: Negligible, but granted – the lip-sync with the visuals is a little off- because the languages and words are completely different. It’s noticeable initially, but you get so caught in the film that you lose that along the way.

CineBlitz Verdict: The director leaves a thread, so subtle, to be interpreted by the viewer where you sometimes wonder, is it a game or a figment of her imagination, or is it real?

Movie Reviews

Super 30 review: Hrithik Roshan’s inspiring story scores high on entertainment

Super 30 review: Hrithik Roshan’s film is engaging and totally worth your money

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super-30
Hrithik Roshan in a still from Super 30

Star Rating: 

It’s been a while since we last saw Hrithik Roshan on the big screen. His last Bollywood outing was in 2017 for Sanjay Gupta’s Kaabil. So, naturally the star’s Super 30 is much-awaited and being looked forward to. And after much yo-yoing with the release date, the film finally hits theatres tomorrow on July 12. The film itself is the latest addition in the long list of biopics being churned out on a massive scale in the biopic-obsessed Bollywood.

Super 30 tells the inspiring story of Patna-based mathematician Anand Kumar, who took to coaching 30 under-privileged students. He helped them prepare for the entrance exams of the most prestigious engineering institute of India, the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs). Post the success, he now runs the internationally-famed Super 30 program for IIT aspirants in Patna. So, how does Hrithik score as the Patna professor Anand Kumar in this classic underdog story? Read on to find out…

What Super 30 is all about:

The film is set in 1996, Patna. Anand Kumar (Hrithik) is a simple college student and a math genius, who not only eats, sleeps and dreams math, but he even writes his love letter for his girlfriend (Mrunal Thakur) in math equations and formula. Soon he secures an admission to the most prestigious Cambridge University. However, Anand’s family belongs to a poor economic background and can’t afford the expenses.

So, he turns to the local minister (Pankaj Tripathi) for help. The minister too refuses to offer him any financial aid or support in any way even though he had earlier promised that he would support any student in their quest for education. Anand’s supportive father, Eeshwar Kumar (Virendra Saxena), who’s a simple postman tries his best. But he is unable to raise enough money to afford the education his son deserves. Heartbroken, he suddenly passes away leaving behind his two sons and a wife.

With his dreams shattered and no means to earn, Anand turns to selling home-made ‘papads’ to support his family. A chance meeting with the owner (Aditya Srivastava) of one of the largest private coaching institutes of Patna, Excellence Academy, gets him a job at the coaching centre that prepares children for the IIT entrance exams in lieu of a fat fees of course. Piggybacking on Anand’s brilliance, the CEO soon makes him a star professor. He hikes the fees of those securing admission to his private institute for the premium coaching.

In cahoots with Tripathi, the private-coaching mafia has a stronghold in the education system and as they clearly point out that it’s the most lucrative money-making business ever. Soon enough, Anand becomes a part of this business. However, while there is no dearth of money for Anand post his newfound job and success, he one day realises that he’s only pandering to the children of the rich. And indirectly encouraging the wrong that has been happening since ages, where only the privileged get an access to the best in education.

So, he disassociates from the institute and decides to offer free boarding and coaching to 30 underprivileged children who aspire to get into IIT, but don’t have the means. But he finds out that his dreams and aspirations come with a heavy price both professionally as well as personally. From here begins his struggles and fight against the much-powerful education mafia that won’t let him succeed no matter what the cost. He takes to teaching them in the most-innovative ways and with whatever little is there for their disposal. The film is the journey of Anand and his 30 students who overcome all obstacles – including the major class and economic divide – to pursue their dreams.

Yay:

Well, we thought Hrithik as a Patna professor starts off on a shaky ground. And with an accent that clearly does not work for the actor. It sounds too forced in a few parts. However, he is consistently good in his performance. His grip only tightens around the character as the film progresses and he completely owns some of the emotional scenes. It may not be his career-best performance (blame the accent here) although it comes close, but the film certainly is one of his best so far.

We totally love Mrunal though. She lends an innocent charm and her chemistry with Hrithik is effortless and natural. Her two-bit scene with Manav Gohil is quite adorable too. Virendra Saxena as Anand’s father and Kiran Khoje as the screen mum have some real cute moments that’ll make you smile. Also debutant Nandish who plays Anand’s brother Pranav is impressive, as are Amit Sadh and Vijay Verma in their brief but impactful roles.

Super-30-new-song-still

But the scene-stealer is undoubtedly Pankaj Tripathi. He is absolutely at home playing the corrupt and greedy Bihari politician. He aces the role with an amazing flair. His scenes with Aditya Srivastava are particularly noteworthy and a showdown scene at Tripathi’s birthday bash is something to watch out for.

Full marks to casting director Mukesh Chhabra for the perfect and realistic casting of the 31 students, as well as the other supporting members. The film also scores high when it comes to dialogues. They all pack in a strong punch and balance out the intense with the comic with absolute ease.

The story is gripping and keeps you engaged right through the end. The practical application of knowledge that the kids indulge in will remind you of 3 Idiots. The society’s class-divide is translated well on screen. Hats off to the makers for not resorting to any tear-jerker scenes to show the helplessness that this section has to face almost on a daily basis even for the most basic rights. The cinematography and the set design department are also up to the mark and fit in well.

Super-30-still

Nay:

While the story is engaging, it does get a bit too far-fetched and unrealistic at times. Especially the pre-climax scenes add that filmy touch, reminding you that though it’s a biopic, it’s still a Bollywood film. We are sure the makers have taken certain liberties with the real incidents. But there were some uncalled for scenes that if edited would’ve tightened the film by at least 20 minutes. The Basanti song doesn’t quite click.

CineBlitz Verdict:

If you wanted to see Hrithik Roshan in the dancing-action star avatar then you will have to wait for his next outing. But Hrithik minus all his herogiri is still a treat to watch in this one. The heartwarming film is super inspiring on many counts. It only goes on to show that meaningful cinema need not compromise on entertainment to get the message across. You know that it’s a classic underdog story and can also predict the final outcome. Yet it makes for an interesting watch. You will see yourself rooting for Hrithik Roshan’s Anand Kumar and his Super 30. It’s a great story that needed to be told and it’s a story that’s well-told. So definitely worth a watch!

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Movie Reviews

ONE DAY – JUSTICE DELIVERED REVIEW: Esha Gupta’s Chulbul Pandey-ish cop-act just doesn’t make the cut!

ONE DAY – JUSTICE DELIVERED REVIEW: Kumud Mishra and Anupam Kher do a good job, but the Esha Gupta-starrer is just not worth your money

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One-day-review

Star rating:

 

Besides Esha Gupta and Anupam Kher, One Day – Justice Delivered directed by Ashok Nanda boasts of some of the best-known names among character actors. Right from Kumud Mishra who has wowed critics with every single big screen outing, the most recent one being the hard-hitting Article 15 to Rajesh Sharma, who makes an impact even in his briefest of roles and was most recently applauded for his role in India’s Most Wanted to the other equally celebrated character actors – Murli Sharma, Ananth Mahadevan, Zarina Wahab, Zakir Hussain, Parikshit Sahani and even TV star Deepshikha Nagpal. Plus the premise of a ‘righteous cop fighting for justice’ is always a tried and tested formula that still attracts audience. So, inspite of not being one of the most-heavily marketed films in recent times, it held promise. But does it live up to that promise? Read on to find out:

What One Day – Justice Delivered is all about:

The film is set in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Justice Omprakash Tyagi (Anupam Kher) is a recently-retired judge leading a quiet, simple and a happy family life. However unknown to any, he harbours a shocking secret! A family-man by day, this retired judge is actually a vigilante by night! He kidnaps criminals who had escaped justice in his own court due to lack of evidence and gets them to confess to their crimes on camera after using some ‘Saw-inspired’ torture methods on them.

His reason is simple – as a law-abiding judge, he was helpless due to the law restrictions that didn’t allow him to punish the accused until their crimes were proven beyond a doubt. Due to a lack of evidence, he knows that he’s had to let many criminals go scot-free. But when a victim’s mother slaps him in court for not delivering justice, his conscience gets jolted and he decides to deliver justice his way, post the retirement.

The missing of high-profile people attracts more attention than Tyagi had hoped and the cases get transferred to the Crime Branch. Enter the investigating officer – Laxmi Rathi (Esha Gupta) who even dances in bars to catch a wanted criminal, when not taking them down in an absolute action avatar with style.

Inspector Sharma (Kumud Mishra) has been assigned to assist Rathi in her investigations. Together they set out to nab the culprit and the cat and mouse chase begins!

Yay:

Esha Gupta’s cop-act looks like a down-graded version of Angelina Jolie (Mr and Mrs Smith) meets Salman Khan’s Chulbul Pandey! The former association more due to the uncanny resemblance that Esha bears with the Hollywood star, which the makers clearly try to milk here with marking her entry in thigh-high slit dress and sporting a gun on a thigh garter! And the latter with her accent and dialect a la Chulbul and not to be missed are the Aviators. Her ‘Haryanvi’ accent is actually so hilarious that it’s entertaining. Her dialogues induce laughter and some life in the otherwise dull affair. But like the rest of the film, her character suffers under a weak and at times illogical story.

The saving grace of the film is Kumud Mishra. He once again aces in his performance as an over-worked cop. He owns the character effortlessly. Anupam Kher’s character suffers from an ill-developed plot and though no complaints about his performance, there are parts of his character that just don’t fit right and so he remains unconvincing for most part of the film.

The film begins impressively with a montage show-reel of newspaper clippings, along with the film credits, driving home the point that corruption and crime is at an all-time high and so are the cases where justice is denied and criminals are often let off scot-free. But it’s all downhill from there.

Nay:

The low-production value reflects all through. What could’ve been an interesting and a taut thriller gets numbed down due to forced and unbearably bad item songs. In fact, the film should’ve done away with the songs completely. Also most actors suffer due to ill-sketched characters that seem more caricaturish in nature. Some scenes are so bad that they make you cringe and at times we were left wondering what made such fine actors sign this one up.

The kidnapping scenes especially are extremely immature. A pity really that Esha Gupta’s strong cop-character gets reduced to a comical one too. Nothing about the story or the happenings retain interest.

CineBlitz Verdict:

Totally avoidable!

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Movie Reviews

MALAAL REVIEW: Meezaan is impressive as a debutant and his Shiva will win hearts

MALAAL REVIEW: The Meezan and Sharmin-starrer is a re-packaged ‘90s love-story formula that suffers further due to the lack of a gripping storyline

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Malaal-review

Star Rating: 

Produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and directed by Mangesh Hadawale, Malaal marks the debut of two newcomers – Meezaan and Sharmin Segal. The film is a remake of the hit 2004 Tamil film 7G Rainbow Colony. A remake releasing close on the heels of the recent blockbuster Kabir Singh, which was yet another Hindi remake of a South hit (Arjun Reddy), the film generates some excitement on that front. Needless to say there’s a certain curiosity around the two industry kids too and to be launched under Bhansali’s banner only raises the expectation bars higher. So, do the two live up to those expectations with Malaal. Read on to find out…

What Malaal is all about:

The film is set in 1998, when Mumbai’s home-grown mass-housing chawl-system had not yet given way to the mall culture and was still very much an integral part of the city’s distinctive character. It is in one such Ambewadi chawl that this love story is set in. Shiva More (Meezaan) resides here with his family. He is the local tapori with anger management issues, whiling away his time with the other boys, organising chawl functions and winning their sports tournaments. While he shares a loving relation with his doting mother (Chinmayee Surve), he finds himself at the receiving end of his worried father’s (Anil Gawas) abuses and beatings for being a no-gooder.

Among all this he gets picked up by a local politician, Pratap Rao Sawant (Sameer Dharmadhikari) to be his muscle-man. Sawant plays up the Marathi card with Shiva and tries to use him as a pawn in spreading hatred and driving out North Indians settled in Mumbai. However, all this changes when Astha Tripathi (Sharmin) and her family (Sanjay Gurbaxani and Sonal Jha) move in as Shiva’s neighbours. Rather rich and well-to-do once, Astha’s family moves there after her father suffers heavy losses in the share market. A simple girl-at-heart, she is engaged to the son of their wealthy family friends, the high-class US-returned Aditya (Ishwak Singh).

There is clearly a wide cultural as well as a society divide between Astha and Shiva who belong to completely contrasting backgrounds. As expected, after the initial fights, love blossoms between the two. And as expected, the great society divide comes into play too and that’s what the film is all about!

Yay:

Meezaan shows much promise and having been thrown in to play the challenging role of a tapori, wins hearts with his earnestness and charming personality. He is comfortable in the song and dance department as well as the action sequences. But it’s the romance department that he shines in. Letting his eyes do the talking mostly, it is easy to fall in love with his Shiva. The love angle between Shiva and Astha is beautifully-developed and established. He shares a good chemistry with Astha, inspite of the fact that Sharmin actually falls short in keeping up with her co-star on most levels. However, the two characters and their sweet love story is endearing.

Among the supporting cast, Chinmayee Surve as Meezaan’s screen mother makes a strong impact in her emotional scenes and  their mother-son equation is adorable. The others in the supporting cast including Sonal Jha, Anil Gawas and Sanjay Gurbaxani are equally good.

What’s impressive about director Mangesh Hadawale was his realistic grip at showing the ‘Bombay chawl culture’ as well as the Mumbai essence and spirit! His characters are also well-etched and make an impact. Although there’s nothing new on offer here, but he effortlessly transports you to that era. The film is also beautifully shot and Director of Photography, Ragul Dharuman has captured the rainy tones of the city really well. Full marks to the casting director Shruti Mahajan. The music is good, though not outstanding. The editing could’ve been tighter.

Nay:

Sharmin holds two expressions throughout the film and while Astha’s character lends itself to some beautiful moments, the newcomer falls short of delivering a praise-worthy performance.

The let-down is the story really. It’s a love story we have seen on screen time and again. The story sets out with a lot of promise and premise of the political agenda of the Marathi v/s North Indians, but it all fizzles out mid-way. The film by the end turns out to be a dull love story with a predictable storyline.

Also, while the rains in the city are beautifully captured on screen, the film seems to have been under a deluge. It’s raining during Ganpati celebrations, yes that’s acceptable! But it’s raining post-Diwali, and even raining in the months post that. The sets while real, have a major flaw when it comes to showing Bhansali-ish balconies (major eye-roll happening there). Like which part of the chawls have ever seen those kinds! The attempts to suddenly break from realism to dip into SLB’s world are points that don’t click at all.

CineBlitz Verdict:

Meezaan shows spark and a certain intensity that given the right roles will take him ahead. The movie is not bad for a one-time watch strictly for die-hard romantics who may not have anything else to do on rainy days. If you go in expecting Bhansali magic, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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