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?
Bulbbul review: A visual spectacle let down by thin writing
Bulbbul on Netflix is a horror revenge drama film produced by Anushka Sharma and stars Tripti Dimri as an enigmatic woman in early the 1900s in Bengal Presidency.
Director: Anvita Dutt
Cast: Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwary, Rahul Bose, Paoli Dam, Parambrata Chattopadhyay
When after watching a film, you talk about the cinematography, production design, colors or music more than the film’s story, it’s an indication that the storyteller has lost his/her audience. Netflix India’s latest original film Bulbbul unfortunately falls into this category. The opening credit sequence with red flowers is captivating enough to raise the expectations from the film. You’re blown away by the visual spectacle that writer-director Anvita Dutt has created with her team – cinematographer Siddharth Diwan, production designer Meenal Agarwal, costume designer Veera Kapur Ee and the VFX department at Red Chillies.
The film is a celebration of colors – red hues symbolizing anger, celebration, menstruation and above all womanhood, stark blue representing the grim past. Adding to this visual spectacle is Amit Trivedi’s hauntingly beautiful score, dominated by violin. It’s a great combination of audio-visual storytelling. What hurts Bulbbul is its writing. Writer-director Anvita Dutt has tremendous command over the language, and the dialogues have a literary touch (no surprise as it is set in Tagore’s Bengal), but the overall narrative lacks novelty and doesn’t have much impact either.
Trailer of Bulbbul:
The characters played by Rahul Bose, Avinash Tiwary, Paoli Dam become one tone and standard template for films like this. What stays with you is Bulbbul portrayed by Tripti Dimri (such a beautiful enigma). She gives Bulbbul her vulnerability and grace with ease. Her eyes and smile do half her work. She seems so synonymous with the red hues in visuals and the violins in score.
The story begins in 1881 when Bulbbul, a child bride is married to a much older man Indraneel (Rahul Bose). He has a twin brother Mahendra who doesn’t have a conscience. Their third brother is Satya, played with complete sincerity by Avinash Tiwary. Dimri and Tiwary reunite after their debut film Laila Majnu (2018), a story of unrequited love. Here too their relationship of brother and sister in law has shades of belonging. Satya is Bulbbul’s friend, confidante as both are of the same age. They are writing a book together. The book as well as their friendship comes to an abrupt end when Satya is sent to London to study law.
Satya returns after five years, to know that a chudail (she-demon) is killing men of the village. This story is about women, and the abuse and suppression they have faced since beginning time. Men ought to be the villains of this narrative. But there’s a mandatory ‘not all men are bad’ type character in Sudeep (Parambrata Chattopadhyay). The men in the film have a standard template. Rahul Bose, Avinash Tiwary do their best but there’s not much for them to play.
In spite of its visual splendor, Bulbbul falters in its narrative and ends up in the same situation where most horror films do. It would have been great to see a tale of revenge in a novel way but unfortunately, nothing great happens after the promising start. The film at times, moves at a meandering pace, which can be repellent to a film on OTT, as the viewer can quickly switch onto something else.
Bulbbul is produced by Anushka Sharma and Karnesh Ssharma’s Clean Slate FIlmz. In their first production NH10, Anushka seeks revenge from her husband’s killers. Their next two projects Phillauri and Pari were ghost folklore and supernatural thrillers. Bulbbul is a combination of all three. To sum it up, there’s a lot to marvel in the visual splendor and musical genius of Bulbbul, but the thin writing lets the film down.
Aarya review: A thoroughly enjoyable crime drama
Disney + Hotstar’s latest special Aarya starring Sushmita Sen is an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable crime drama.
Creator: Ram Madhvani
Cast: Sushmita Sen, Chandrachur Singh, Sikander Kher
It starts with Aarya played effortlessly by Sushmita Sen hurrying up some morning household chores, getting her kid to school, managing to keep a tap on her younger sister’s wedding arrangements, and preventing her husband from having ‘just one laddoo’ as his triglycerides levels have gone high. This sequence as are other sequences in the series involving multiple characters is beautifully choreographed.
Ram Madhvani (Neerja), the creator of the show, along with his writer-directors is in no hurry to make this series compact. At 9 episodes, approximately 50 minutes each, Aarya unfolds slowly. If you assume that this is a crime thriller which such series get easily categorized into, Aarya might seem long and slow. That’s what people label anything that doesn’t move in quick cuts across multiple locations and plot twists.
Watch trailer of Disney + Hotstar Specials’ Aarya:
Aarya is an official Indian adaptation of the Dutch series Penoza. To me, Aarya came as a big relief from the overdose of crime thrillers on the OTT space. It does involve crime for it is set in the world of drug mafias. But it is as much about a woman, a daughter, a mother, and a wife. Interpersonal relationships have been woven so beautifully that the slow burn feel of the series is its asset.
Madhvani and his co-directors have got remarkable performances from their actors. Remember Sonam Kapoor in Madhvani’s Neerja (2016)? It is the only performance of the actress that stands out in her entire filmography.
Here, Madhvani has an ensemble cast that gives excellent performances. Leading the pack is of course Sushmita Sen. This is her show and she owns it. She portrays Aarya with poise. When her world turns upside down, she takes it head on like a fierce lioness protecting her cubs. Chandrachur Singh (also making a comeback) as her husband has his own charm. Vikas Kumar as ACP Khan, Ankur Bhatia as Sangram, Namit Das as Jawahar, Sikander Kher as Daulat, and Manish Chaudhary as Shekhawat leave their mark.
The series is remarkably cinematic in its production design, costume design, cinematography, sound and background score. The writing is organic. There’s not much dialogue-baazi in it. Yes, it is possible to keep the audience engaged by letting the characters converse than trying to dramatize every scene with filmy one-liners. There’s a lot to marvel at Aarya – the woman and the series.
Aarya might not be a binge watch for everyone. I took my time watching an episode a day. But I thoroughly enjoyed the series. The slow burn allowed me to get transformed to crazy rich drug world in Rajasthan and the world of Aarya. It gave me that time to absorb everything without having to be on my toes all the time trying to guess what’s gonna happen next. I liked that for a change. You might too.
Rasbhari on Amazon Prime Video review: A scattered tale with no Ras
Amazon Prime Video’s latest Indian web series Rasbhari starring Swara Bhasker takes too long to make a point and falls all over the place while doing so.
Director: Nikhil Bhat
Cast: Swara Bhasker, Ayushmaan Saxena, Rashmi Agdekar
Nostalgia, a teenage boy’s sexual fantasies/awakening, small-town setting can be a good combination to put together a film or a show in today’s times. India’s youth have struggled hard to express their sexuality; often leading to perversions and sex crimes. Where boys with the so-called freedom that they have had got than the girls hasn’t really helped them becoming more mature or responsible romantic/sexual partners. Women still struggle to express their sexuality for the society they live in hasn’t really encouraged rather allowed them to do so.
Amazon Prime Video’s latest web series Rasbhari tries with good intentions to address this issue. Swara Bhasker plays Shanoo Bansal aka Rasbhari a seductress, sexually charged woman who is every man’s fantasy in Meerut – from school students and teachers to paanwala, cable guy and cop. Men lust over her whereas their wives call Shanoo a ‘kulta’.
Watch the trailer of Rasbhari:
One of the males lusting over Shanoo is her student Nand Kishore Tyagi (Ayushmaan Saxena), who boasts among his friends that he will score with Shanoo. There’s innocence and foolish craze in a teenage boy’s fantasies about a mature woman. For many boys, their first crushes have been their teachers. The makers here, writer Shantanu Srivastava and director Nikhi Bhat take too long to establish the setting and characters. Frankly, there’s nothing much that they reveal about either. First four episodes test your patience after which the story starts moving.
The writer tries to give the sub-text. For example, Nand offers Shanoo soan-papdi (an Indian sweet) to which she says, you should ask someone what they like instead of assuming it. Assumptions indeed lead up to f**k ups. It’s a subtle way of telling men about seeking consent before sex. Don’t know how many understood that metaphor. Sub texts like these are few and inconsistent. The whole narrative is. At times, it feels as if they’re trying to say too many things, which is fine as a series is where you can actually try it out, but it is so disoriented that you have to try hard to focus.
The series does produce a few laughs, most of them coming from the cuss words that the school friends use for each other. That’s the most organic thing in the series. Everything else looks forcefully stuffed. The cardboard characters don’t have many layers or depth. You know pretty much how everyone is going to react in a situation. Swara Bhasker as Shanoo and Rasbhari is inconsistent throughout and fails to make an impact in a series where there’s no competition for her. She is Rasbhari and it’s her series. Ayushmaan Saxena as Nand Kishore and Rashmi Agdekar as his romantic interest Priyanka do slightly better.
There is for sure a good intent to tell an erotic tale from a woman’s perspective. Although, a guy is a narrator of this one. But Rasbhari could have been more compact and impactful to make a strong statement. What could have been a fun 2-hour feature film is stretched to about four hours of series divided into eight episodes. Thus, Rasbhari becomes a scattered tale with no Ras.
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