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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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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.

Movie Reviews

WAR review: A spectacle for most part!

Two action stars of Bollywood are fighting against each other. Don’t ask many questions. Just enjoy the spectacle.

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WAR review

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Two Indian soldiers are warring against each other. More than that two action stars of Hindi cinema are fighting against each other. Don’t ask too many questions, don’t try to apply too much logic, it will take the fun away from watching an otherwise spectacle – WAR. Captain Khalid (Tiger Shroff) is trained by Major Kabir (Hrithik Roshan). A spectacular and gripping first half of the movie reveals how they have reached from being bros to foes.

WAR could well have been Dhoom Reloaded; but the makers have made a sincere attempt to give these two heroes some back story and some flaws that make them super-humans than super-heroes. It is still larger than life, a tad tiring but watchable. It is popcorn entertainment. And the makers here are trying to bridge the gap between masses and classes.

Tiger Shroff flies like he does in every movie, but in this one he feels pain. A superbly choreographed combat scene introduces Tiger as he busts a mafia deal in Portugal. On the other hand, Hrithik is introduced as the quintessential superstar, getting off an helicopter and his subordinates looking at him in awe. Biggest admirer among them is Tiger, who idolises Hrithik in real life too. So, Tiger’s admiration for his senior officer (Hrithik) is inherently there. They look like brothers and their chemistry makes their bromance a fresh offering after a long time. WAR might just get its own franchise in near future.

Watch the WAR trailer:

WAR has reinvented the action scene in Hindi cinema with a more western-like cinematic sensibilities while blending the Indianness of emotions. Hrithik has experienced superstardom from his first film Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. He went on to play a superhero (Krrish franchise) and an action superstar in Dhoom 2 and Bang Bang. But he can still pull off a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and somehow manage a Super 30. But Tiger Shroff’s career has been modelled around action only. WAR is his sincerest performance. His acting prowess is not what we go to watch on screen. We have made peace with it. From whatever I have seen of him in films, this character of Khalid is (visibly) driven by emotion than just the action.

It is a film about bromance and it is mounted on two pairs of strong shoulders. It is about Hrithik and Tiger and they sail the ship through. The story (Siddharth Anand, Aditya Chopra) and screenplay (Siddharth Anand, Sridhar Raghavan) have enough twists and turns but silly situations take us to reach the end. The dialogues (Abbas Tyrewala) are lazy writing; needed some smart-ass lines. But by that time, you have put logic, questions aside, you just want to enjoy the action spectacle.

After the spectacular first half, the narrative drags, sometimes on the verge of derailing from the track. It’s a little too long. Maybe in near future – makers and audience – as a collective, won’t feel the need for unnecessary songs. Frankly, I had thought both songs Ghungroo and Jai Jai Shivshankar were meant as promotional songs but sitting through them during the movie was testing my patience. The twists are interesting but getting from one twist to another gets predictable on couple of occasions.

Also read: The Family Man review: This James Bond from Chembur is a delight to binge watch!

Four action directors have choreographed action for WAR and they have created some thrilling set-pieces. The first combat scene of Tiger, has only background score of fists and screams. It’s an adrenaline rush. But background score in the rest of the film is a little overdone.

Putting together such a big budget action film, especially if it features high-tech intelligence and security services, is definitely a tough task. In India, you have to find the lowest common denominator so that you cater to a pan-India audience. YRF had superbly managed that with Ek Tha Tiger and Tiger Zinda Hai starring Salman Khan. The success of it lies in humanising the quintessential superstar whose on-screen image has ruled the movies for decades. The makers surely have honed their skills with their latest offering. WAR’s success lies in its two humanised heroes, albeit action too. Watching it on screen once doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Don’t ask many questions. Just enjoy the spectacle.

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The Family Man review: This James Bond from Chembur is a delight to binge watch!

Manoj Bajpayee (as the undercover analyst Srikant Tiwary) alone is a good enough reason to watch The Family Man. But there’s more. It is everything that a spy-thriller should be.

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The Family Man review

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What do you expect from a spy thriller? Kick-ass action, suspense, twists, smart dialogue, the spy’s heroics and some brilliant cinematic storytelling? Amazon Prime Video’s latest original The Family Man ticks all the aforementioned points. Created by the filmmaker duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK (Raj & DK) The Family Man is probably the coolest spy thriller coming from India.

Srikant Tiwari (played by Manoj Bajpayee) is an undercover analyst in the Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell (T.A.S.C.) of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). As seen in any spy movie/series these men live two lives. They can’t reveal the nature of their job to their family and friends. They describe their work mostly as meetings or office paperwork. The man here is no different.

Srikant Tiwari is a highly-respected spy in the organisation but leads a dejected family life. His brother, wife, kids think that he’s a loser doing a ‘government job’. But unlike other ‘family men’ Srikant can’t remove his frustration on his family. Unlike other husbands/fathers he can’t tell what he goes through at work on daily basis. It’s agonising as well as heroic. Heroes do their jobs silently.

The show is aptly titled The Family Man with the tagline “Middle Class Guy, World Class Spy”. It is this family side of this ace spy that connects him with every man in the country. In a way, it is the story of all of them. Unlike many spy thrillers there are no men looking suave in suits, driving swanky cars and sipping expensive whiskies.

The Family Man trailer:

Tiwari eats vada pavs and idlis at the street stalls. He drinks at modest quarter-bars after a tiring day. He drives a Santro. Tiwari is asking his senior to approve his long due home loan. But this James Bond from Chembur (a Mumbai suburb) is way cooler than any other spy you would have seen.

Manoj Bajpayee plays Srikant Tiwari with such an ease that him alone is a good enough reason to binge watch the show. Gaalis (cuss words) uttered by him sound lyrical. He carries a certain pain on his face – that’s the dejection he faces as a family man. He swaps it with an endearing smile (almost childlike grin) when he accomplishes a mission. And this is captured beautifully in one scene where his daughter is telling her mother about how he saved her from getting suspended from school. What a middle class man yearns for is a sense of validation, at work and at home. Srikant at work is worshipped but struggles to find that validation at home.

The series is credited as based on news stories. The filmmakers’ (Raj & DK) 2010 film Shor In The City was also based on the news stories. The duo’s knack for showing quirkiness in the smaller-than-life scenarios has been evident since their debut feature 99. Here, they don’t have the limitation of censorship or the duration limit of a feature film. And they show what they can create when they have that freedom.

Also read: Manoj Bajpayee’s The Family Man is inspired from several real-life events

Raj & DK have crafted two outstanding one-take shots of assassination of terrorists. One of them is more than 10 minutes long. When was the last time you saw something like this in Indian content? Cinematography (Nigam Bomzan, Aziz Moollan) is spot on. Background score is hypnotic. The action looks more adrenaline than a choreographed set-piece. That’s a plus. Even the supers/title cards are done well. The screenplay (Raj & DK, Suman Kumar) and dialogues (Sumit Arora of Stree) capture the diversity of India blending all the flavours in one.

The Family Man is not only about the spy and his family. Through various sequences leading to the centre conflict of terrorism, the series touches upon the socio-political reality of today’s India. The cow protectors and mob kill two men carrying beef in their truck. Three college students involved in terrorist-like activities are mistakenly killed. Terrorism that is often linked to a religion has its roots going down to the places and people you wouldn’t imagine. Complexities are smartly woven together.

But it’s not just about terrorism and political secrets. The series explores the dynamics of interpersonal relationships at home as well as work. How quickly the kids are growing up rather getting exposed to the whole wild world. How modern day marriages are going through a transition. The creators here have managed to bring all of this together quite efficiently.

Also read: Manoj Bajpayee is the utlimate hero who broke Bollywood stereotypes!

All of this wouldn’t have looked seamless on screen had it not been for its fine actors. Leading them is of course Bajpayee. Besides being a spy he’s a storyteller at heart. He can coin a story at any gun point. He’s a delight to watch. His Maharashtrian sidekick, his colleague at NIA, JK Talpade is played superbly by Sharib Hashmi (long time after his hilarious 2012 film Filmistaan). Priyamani as Srikant’s wife Suchi plays it subtle and simple. But she keeps you intrigued. Tiwary’s kids Dhriti (Mehek Thakur) and Atharv (Vedant Sinha) give natural performances.

Need to mention Neeraj Madhav here who plays Moosa, an ISIS trained terrorist. He portrays the complex emotions of a vulnerable son missing his mother and executing a terror attack with prowess. Other supporting cast of Shreya Dhanwanthary, Darshan Kumaar, Sharad Kelkar, Dalip Tahil, Kishore Kumar G, Abrar Qazi do their jobs sincerely.

To sum it up, The Family Man is a cinematic romance. Everything just falls into the right places and it’s the moments that make it an enjoyable journey of ten episodes. Drop everything else and binge watch it.

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The Zoya Factor review: Why so much fuss?

Sonam K Ahuja does a reasonably good job but the film is much ado about nothing.

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The Zoya Factor review

Alright, I haven’t read the novel (The Zoya Factor) on which this film is based. So, I went to watch the film with zero expectations. I just wanted to be entertained for those two hours in the theatre. But unfortunately, entertainment didn’t last for more than the first half. Sonam K Ahuja plays Zoya Solanki who was born on 25th June 1983, the day the Indian cricket team won the World Cup. Zoya’s father (played by Sanjay Kapoor), an avid cricket lover calls Zoya a lucky charm for the Indian cricket team.

Zoya hates cricket. But as fate would have it she finds herself becoming the official Lucky Mascot for the Indian cricket team. How that happens and whatever happens after that is the premise of the film. But there’s so much fuss around this silly sounding phenomenon. Cricketers and crickets fans alike are known to be superstitious. Most of us have watched tense cricket matches doing all sorts of praying rituals, just so that India wins the match or series. The madness reaches its peak when it’s the world cup.

My generation of cricket fans must have seen all the emotional outrage when things don’t go well for Team India. The World Cups of 1996, 2003 and 2007 have been prime examples of that. Post the 2011 world cup victory, fans have sobered up (or down?). The Zoya Factor involves one such world cup with lucky mascot Zoya on the Indian team’s side. The year in which the story is happening is not clearly mentioned. If it is present day, then a thing or two should have been changed w.r.t cricket rules (taking a runner is not allowed to a batsman anymore).

Trailer of The Zoya Factor:

What hurts The Zoya Factor is the lack of reasoning. We get to know how Zoya becomes the lucky mascot but why would the cricket board even consider something like this is a question (even if it’s just a movie) that doesn’t have an answer. The ‘Hows’ of a film can be debated and passed on but the ‘whys’ can hurt a film’s prospects big time. That’s the case with The Zoya Factor. There’s so much fuss created that you wouldn’t care for.

The film showcases everything on a superficial level. We don’t get to know much about Zoya (the protagonist) apart from the fact that every aspect of her life sucks. A more layered character would have added some weight to the film and the drama around her would have been somewhat credible and believable. Sonam K Ahuja does a reasonably good job as Zoya. She has put on weight for this role and she looks the part she plays. But more should have been explored about Zoya’s character. All the other characters are one dimensional, including that of Nikhil Khoda (played by Dulquer Salmaan), the captain of the Indian cricket team who starts dating Zoya. You don’t really feel connected to anyone’s journey.

Also read:Dream Girl review: Ayushmann Khurrana shines again!

The film drags a lot. There are some genuinely nice and funny moments but those are all in bits and pieces. There’s brand integration throughout the film. In a movie based on cricket an integration of Pepsi won’t hurt much as the brand has been associated with the game and cricketers for decades. Branding of a paint brand on the team’s jersey is still fine. It’s pretty much realistic too. (I like to write good things about film and I found myself looking for reasons to like this one).

The film drags a lot. There are some genuinely nice and funny moments but those are all in bits and pieces. But cricket, the centre of the whole circus should have been shot well. It is poorly acted and directed. The way the players play the shots or get out or drop catches or run their teammates out – it looks silly and lazy. All the clichés like no balls, sixes on the last ball, catches taken with a player’s feet touching the boundary line make their way into the film. It would have still been fine, had it been built up smartly. Interestingly, some of the cricketers and a board member look like they have been modelled on real Indian cricketers and officials. It’s fun if you spot it.

Also read: Chhichhore review: Nitesh Tiwari’s masterpiece is hilariously profound and overwhelming!

It is difficult to put together a cricket movie for the complex game that it is. Unfortunately, this is yet another failed attempt to crack a cricket movie. There have been quite a few made on contemporary cricket. Barring MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) and Iqbal (2005) all others have been works which lack knowledge and detailing. Movies succeed on the suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, The Zoya Factor didn’t work for me on that front. I left the movie theatre with the question, “Why so much fuss?”

Rating:

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