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 Bureau’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 Rajesh Singh (Rajesh Sharma). In this mission he is also joined by five more undercover Border police.
While in Nepal, they find themselves in danger not only from radicals, but also ISI agents who are active and hot on their trail. Prabhat and his team find themselves alone on this risky operation with not even a weapon to protect them and no technical, logistical 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 realistic in approach and 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 and the helplessness of those who sincerely want to make a difference very effectively on screen. The film has been shot well and has a realistic feel cinematography-wise as well.
Nay: The narrative and the screenplay fail 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.
Breathe: Into The Shadows review: A promising psychological thriller becomes a slog
Amazon Prime Video’s latest original series Breathe: Into The Shadows starring Abhishek Bachchan has an interesting premise but nothing great happens in the 12-episode slog
Cast: Abhishek A. Bachchan, Amit Sadh, Nithya Menen, Saiyami Kher
Director: Mayank Sharma
There’s a plethora of thrillers in the OTT space across platforms. There have been quite a few thrillers coming from Indian OTT scene since Sacred Games thrilled the audience a couple of years ago. Needless to say, it’s been an overdose of thrillers (of all kinds). So much so that you start thinking about who could be the criminal from the first episode itself. The makers have to be great with the craft to hide any clues that would give away the suspense. Unfortunately, I could guess the criminal in Amazon Prime Video’s latest original Breathe: Into The Shadows in the first episode itself. Note: Actors with unique/popular/easy to guess body language need to be filmed smartly in psychological thrillers like this one.
Trailer of Breathe: Into The Shadows:
In Breathe: Into The Shadows, a 6-year-old girl from Delhi is kidnapped and as a ransom, the kidnapper asks the parents to kill some commoners. Abhishek Bachchan (as Avinash Sabharwal) and Nithya Menen (as Abha Sabharwal) play these parents. The killings have a theme. The ten emotions of Raavana – anger, lust, fear, attachment, insensitivity and so on. In a culture which is under a huge influence of mythological stories, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea for a thriller.
As said earlier, the overdose of thrillers makes you want to think ahead of the filmmaker. What could happen in a ‘psychological’ thriller? You start guessing, and if you can catch a few little things early on, the revelation of the kidnapper becomes a matter of time – get to it quickly, will you? At 12 episodes long, (each episode approximately 45 minutes) Breathe: Into The Shadows becomes a slog after the kidnapper’s identity is revealed.
Abhishek Bachchan plays a hot shot psychiatrist, the father who goes on killing commoners as told by the kidnapper. Apart from his hybrid accent, he does a reasonably good job in portraying this character. Nithya Menen as his chef wife Abha is fascinating but doesn’t have much to do here. The best of the lot in this series is Amit Sadh as Kabir Sawant, the bruised crime branch cop seeking redemption. There should have been more for him to play here. Unfortunately, he’s reduced to standard cop elements/arc. Plabita Borthakur has a pleasant appearance as Meghna, a wheelchair bound girl who becomes a voice of reason for Kabir. There’s also a wasted character of Shirley, a striking call girl played by Saiyami Kher.
After taking long enough to reveal the kidnapper, the series indulges into his backstory which has nothing novel to tell. The creepy music seems unnecessary when it is slapped on every cut prolonging the cat and mouse race between Avinash Sabharwal and Kabir Sawant. Result is a series of disoriented, standard sequences that eventually gave me a headache. The writing shows some sparks in the first few episodes but then becomes inconsistent.
The connection between Raavana and emotions overshadow the morality of Avinash Sabharwal and his wife. In spite of the backstory, you don’t feel anything for the kidnapper either. Human mind works in mysterious ways. But there’s not much reason to be considerate for in Breathe: Into The Shadows. There’s more to write about what went wrong in this show, but that would require giving away the spoilers. What starts as a promising psychological thriller ends up being a slog.
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.
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