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Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi movie review: Kangana Ranaut’s period drama is a visual treat, but not that impressive!

Read our movie review of Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi starring Kangana Ranaut, Ankita Lokhande and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub

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When the set is magnum, costumes are superb, jewellery is exquisite and the action is thrilling then well done art department. But what about the problems evident with your lead actress! It’s a film where everyone around the protagonist seems to have transferred themselves into the era, but not the protagonist herself. Being someone who loves period cinema, I went in to forget the reality and enter the 1800’s, but if Kangana herself is not invested how will I as a member of audience. The film has been in headlines since a year and the hard work is visible in terms of visuals.

What’s it about? Based on the Queen of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai, the film traces the life of Manikarnika from her birth to her getting married, then becoming the queen and dying in the battlefield for the country. Played by Kangana Ranaut, the film is a brief account of the valour of Rani Lakshmibai from her perspective. The film talks about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 – led by Lakshmibai and is known as the first war of independence – in detail.

The film begins with Amitabh Bachchan’s voiceover and is appealing. It sets the base right without wasting any time that Manikarnika is courageous, brave and at the same time very soft hearted and caring. She gets married to the king of Jhansi, gives birth to a son who dies in infancy. Later even the king dies after a prolonged illness just after adopting his cousin’s son. Finally, Rani Lakshmibai holds her ground, refusing to give up Jhansi and in a bid to save her kingdom, enters the battlefield against the British. After a bloody war, the queen dies the most glorious death on the battlefield.

Yay: The art department has taken Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB) level of efforts in bringing together the sets, clothes, jewellery and they deserve all the appreciation for their efforts. There are resemblances and several of those, so no choice but I had to compare it with SLB films. The story is based on a historic figure so no questioning there. The sequence where Manikarnika breaks the stigma around widows by not accepting the age-old practise is executed well which adds one more layer to her character.

There are montages of an army of women being formed and seeing them prepare for war is visually fulfilling. The bravest thing that the makers choose to show was the personality of the King of Jhansi, Gangadhar Rao Newalkar – he enjoyed art and wasn’t aggressive or violent. Brownie points for that. In terms of acting, the supporting cast is stronger, Danny Denzongpa, Atul Kulkarni, Richard Keep and most others got their roles right.

Nay: This section, my fellow readers read with popcorn. Now, you have got everything right but Kangana, around whom the screenplay revolves doesn’t look authentic. For a queen, her body language is not on point. Even her dialect for that matter, she sounds like well, Kangana Ranaut and not Manikarnika. Also somewhere in between she speaks Hindi in an English accent, why? It looks like in the urgency to gather everything else the makers forgot to work on the main character. However beautiful you decorate the setup but it is the character that will connect me with it. Plus you replicate scenes from a film that is not way back, you yourself invite comparisons. Remember in Bajirao Mastani, Ranveer climbing on the elephant? SAME. When it is a period film, the dialogues have to grab the audience, but here they don’t. Also someone should explain why two Englishmen talk in Hindi. And that too using difficult Hindi idioms, like Use asmaan kha gaya ya dharti nigal gayi.

Getting into technical details, I won’t endorse the cinematography at all. When you have created such huge sets, why not shoot them in wide angles and show the glory, the camera is majority of times very close to the characters with less breathing space. I understand the technique of allowing audience to get into the character but then they also want the ambience. There is also a celebration song which features Ankita Lokhande dancing and by the end Kangana starts dancing breaking the character completely. The dance style I bet wasn’t any folk dance but looked choreographed by the actors themselves. There is no time frame to this by the way, we don’t know at what age she gets married or how long the king was alive after their marriage and even no mention of the battle year. Also, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub needs to reconsider his choices in roles, this is the third time I saw him doing a character that is not worthy of him.

Cine Blitz Verdict: The start is promising but what follows just lost my interest. Only the setup is not the win, you also need to focus on many other things is what the makers must realise. Also, this was partially Kangana’s directorial debut and we are not impressed. Maybe some people will like the film due to the story of one of the bravest woman in the Indian history, but as someone who knows cinema will be let down by the lack of authentication and minute detailing. Go in to appreciate the art department, but don’t expect anything more.

Rating: 2 stars

Movie Reviews

Mission Mangal review: A ‘Bollywoodized’ movie on India’s most inspirational achievement in space

When you’re watching a film based on your country’s biggest achievement in space, you want to believe everything that you see on screen. I believed some parts but those which I couldn’t, made it a forgettable space movie.

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Mission Mangal review

Rating:

After watching the trailer of Mission Mangal, it was quite clear that the film is going to be a Bollywood movie full of dialogue-baazi. And the movie was much like what was expected. It begins in 2010 at ISRO with Tara Shinde (Vidya Balan) messing up the launch of a GSLV rocket nicknamed ‘Fat Boy’. Her boss Rakesh Dhawan (Akshay Kumar) takes the responsibility for the failure and is transferred to India’s Mars Orbiter Mission which might never see the light of the day. Tara convinces Rakesh to take up this challenge and that it is possible to go to Mars according to her ‘Puri theory’.

As the story progresses, we’re introduced to more such home science theories that give ‘Eureka moments’ to each scientist working on the mission. The opening credits mention R. Balki (Cheeni Kum, Shamitabh, Paa) as the writer & creative director of the film. So, you automatically expect to see something marvelous. Only an ad-filmmaker can fit in so much information about a stellar space achievement in two hours – you’d expect that. But nothing much of that sorts happen here. It maybe based on India’s greatest achievement in space, but Mission Mangal is still a Bollywood movie that tries hard to dumb down the intelligence.

Mission Mangal Trailer:

There’s less space, science and more home science and personal stories of the scientists – to make you care for the characters. But that helps only a little. An entire first half goes into setting up the whole thing. You go into interval anticipating that they will get to the point now. They do, but in a haphazard manner with a song and dance as the scientists giving a makeover to the Mars department. Also dealing with the problems in their personal lives as they crack the Mars mission.

It is difficult to make science and intelligence look interesting. It’s fine to break it down in simpler language with the help of analogies of cricket and daily life to make the audience understand. But the simplification is overdone in Mission Mangal.

This is Balki’s second film after Padman where he is telling a story of real-life visionaries and trying to reach out to a wider audience, majority of them being the masses. Massy dramatization is not new to the Indian audience and we love it. Director Rajkumar Hirani’s (Munnabhai MBBS, 3 Idiots, PK) filmography is a prime example of that.

What hurts Mission Mangal is that the achievements of the ISRO scientists have been reduced to just the ideas that popped in from a sailing ship on a cushion cover, frying puris, recycling plastic, and the great Indian hack of rebooting a system to make it work. Maybe, all or most of it could have happened during the mission. But unfortunately, it wasn’t shown smartly enough on screen for one to be convinced.

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Arjun Patiala Review: Diljit Dosanjh – Kriti Sanon’s comedy tickles the funny bone, but only in parts

Arjun Patiala Review: Diljit Dosanjh’s bromance with Varun Sharma wins more hearts than his romance with Kriti Sanon

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Star rating:

Arjun Patiala
Cast:
Diljit Dosanjh (Arjun Patiala), Varun Sharma (Onidda Singh), Kriti Sanon (Ritu Randhawa), Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub (Sakool), Pankaj Tripathi, Seema Pahwa (MLA Prapti Makkar), Ronit Roy (Amarjeet Gill)
Director: Rohit Jugraj Chauhan
Producers: Dinesh Vijjan (Maddock Films) Bhushan Kumar (T-Series)

The makers of Arjun Patiala have been unabashed about admitting that their film is a spoof on all things filmy. They even had their promos highlight a checklist of all the kitsch formulas they’ve added in their film, that every Bollywood movie usually boasts of, including an item song. With the makers cracking jokes on their kind of cinema and their own film, Arjun Patiala claims to be a fun outing. So does the Diljit Dosanjh – Kriti Sanon and Varun Sharma starrer turn out to be one? Read on to find out:

What Arjun Patiala is all about:

Arjun Patiala is a cop on a mission. He is also the fictional hero of a story being narrated to a prospective Bollywood producer by his writer-director. Arjun’s mission is to fulfill his mentor DSP Amarjeet Gill’s dream of making his district crime-free. The super-goofy Onidda Singh is his loyal constable and together they make a plan to cleanse their district Ferozepur (in Punjab) of all criminals by getting them to fight and kill each other.

Besides, the mission, Arjun is equally passionate about his drinks and also has a weakness for women, though he is very clear that he respects women a lot. “Maa behen ki izzat karni chahiye, unki izzat ki maa behen nahin,” he sermonises two local goons who are caught eve-teasing. (Yes, eye roll moment here!) He soon falls in love with Ritu Randhawa who is an ambitious TV reporter for a local channel. Righteous in her approach, she is against Arjun’s way of getting rid of criminals and ultimately decides to expose him. Also involved in the happenings are MLA Prapti and the dozen goons whom Arjun gets killed. One of the goons is Sakool, who has his own style of operating. There’s also Sunny Leone who comes in for a cameo and an item song with the hero and his side-kick. How Arjun Patiala finally accomplishes his mission without losing his lady-love is the story? And if the story will become a hit if made into a film is the real question?

Yay:

The light-hearted entertainer is funny in several parts in the first half. Diljit is cute and exudes a charming innocence which wins audience hearts. Varun Sharma is a riot! Their easy-going bromance is fun to watch and together they pull off even the silliest of dialogues with laughter. Kriti plays her pretty card to the max and is a delight to watch. Her expressions are a strength here and try to make up for the otherwise drab lines. However, a weak story fails her as it does the others too. Her chemistry is adorable with Diljit, though we think the bromance scores more than the romance. Ronit Roy aces it effortlessly too. Overall, performance-wise the film’s a hoot. But it’s the other aspects that spoil it for us to be frank!

The music could’ve been a few notches higher and even Sunny Leone’s item number is easily forgettable and best forgotten! The situational comedy and dialogues work in some parts, but that is largely due to the actors and not much credit can be given to the writers here. The film is a family entertainer and clean comedy is a relief though just too childish in parts.

Nay:

The forced songs could’ve been totally avoided. The second half is a huge let-down. Right from the family and a rather weird grandfather – a victim of bad prosthetics make-up – to the entire storyline, it’s a graph taking a sudden dip. It’s so silly that you can’t wait for the film to wrap up and the climax is equally bungled up. The entire showing off ropes as in a badly made film, isn’t really funny anymore as the makers have used it already in the trailers. In the film it fails to make an impact. Also the entire scene of a drunk Diljit talking to a dead Varun is over-the-top!

 CineBlitz Verdict:

The film does have its humorous moments. The actors are worth a watch, but unsupported by a strong story or lines that pack a punch their performances fail to reach the level where they’d be called amazing! Varun Sharma is so effortlessly funny and with Diljit his energies bounce off really well. Watch it for the bromance!

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Judgementall Hai Kya Review: Rajkummar Rao’s quirky thriller is sinfully dark, edgy and twisted!

Judgementall Hai Kya Review: Good performances, Prakash Kovelamudi’s brilliant direction and Kanika Dhillon’s crisp dialogues make this taut thriller a must-watch   

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Star rating:

Whodunnits are a tricky affair in cinema. It’s not often that one sees a filmmaker ace in serving a deliciously whipped thriller that’ll keep you guessing and engaged right till the end. This breed of filmmakers is rarer still in Bollywood. Today the challenge in the genre also lies in battling the constant threat and fear of the ending being leaked, revealed or unraveled, not in the climax scene on the big screen, but via the chats and messages on the phone screens that travel faster than the word-of-mouth! However, master filmmakers figured out an aeon ago that the true victory lies in making a film that would draw an audience even if they know how it ends (you know the journey being as much fun as the joy of reaching the destination). That obviously explains the repeat value of the greats in the genre. Closer home, Prakash Kovelamudi has ventured into Bollywood tapping this very genre with his whodunnit Judgementall Hai Kya. So, does this Ekta Kapoor-produced thriller starring Rajkummar Rao pass the litmus test? Read on to find out:

What Judgementall Hai Kya is all about:

After witnessing her parents’ accidental deaths as a child, Bobby (Kangana Ranaut) grows up to be a complex and layered adult suffering from acute psychosis. In fact, she is required to take regular medication to keep it in check. A professional dubbing artist, she tends to internalise and obsess over the female characters she dubs for to such an extent that she starts believing that she is really them and starts seeing herself in their situations.

But that’s not all. Wanting to be them, she finds an easy way out by getting herself clicked in those avatars or getting herself photoshopped in others. She also has another quirk! She loves origami, which she only does using newspaper cuttings of cases of rape, domestic violence or abuse. She even does a brief stint in an asylum readily after attacking a senior colleague who tries to make a sexual advance. She is also somewhat wary of men and looks at them suspiciously. And through it all, bearing her idiosyncrasies is her boyfriend Varun (Hussain Dalal). On her return from the mental asylum, a young married couple Keshav and Rima (Rajkummar Rao and Amyra Dastur) move in as her tenants. A death follows and Bobby is convinced that Keshav is the killer. But is he really? Or is it her psychosis taking an ugly grip over her reality and distorting facts? There starts the mystery.

Yay:

One of the initial disclaimers at the start of the film mentioned that no animals were harmed in the making. And also that the cockroach in the film is shown using the CGI effect. Well, the cockroach bit had us intrigued. And from that moment on, the film has been one taut thriller keeping us on the edge-of-our-seat right till the end. To begin with, we are blown over by the fantastic performances of the lead actors. Rajkummar Rao in a slightly more macho zone is super-impressive and his chemistry with Amyra is sizzling hot. He is a delight on screen and proves that he can fit any role with ease and to perfection. Amrita Puri (Bobby’s cousin sister) has also done well.

The surprise package and one of the best things about the film is Hussain Dalal who plays the ‘out-of-love-luck’ boyfriend hilariously well. At one point, he and Bobby are shown grocery-shopping and discussing potatoes where she tells him to be as adjustable as the vegetable. Be like aloo, he is told. His equation with Bobby is just too funny and he’s also got the best share of the dialogues. Also there’s the scene when he complains to the cops (Satish Kaushik and Brajesh Kala) about an unused condom lying in his pocket for over two years. He just shines through his scenes. The two actors – Satisk and Brajesh – are comical and add to the zing. Jimmy Shergill once again charms effortlessly!

The actors apart, the two real stars of the film – the brilliant direction (Prakash Kovelamudi) and the cracker dialogues (Kanika Dhillon). The dark psychological thriller is helmed to near-perfection and not a single dialogue that won’t get a reaction. Take a bow there Kanika Dhillon, we’d give an extra star just for her writing. Every dialogue and its delivery hits home. The stark nature of Bobby’s mental illness and the intensity is balanced subtly with humour, twists and delicious turns. The director knew exactly what he was doing and the deft handling of sensitive issues shows his grip on the craft. The references to Ramayana present an interesting take too.

The sound design, lights and the music enhance the story and are used effectively. The renditions of the hit song Tauba tauba kya hoga are timed perfectly and used really well through the film.

Nay:

Well, frankly there isn’t much we’d want to see changed. But there are some parts in the first half that seemed a bit stretched and then towards the climax some parts seemed just too rushed. Some part also got a bit confusing. That spoilt the fun by a few degrees.

CineBlitz Verdict:

One of the best imports from the South is undoubtedly director Prakash Kovelamudi. He’s aced the genre as a master storyteller and the suspense holds strong right till the end. The elements of humour, drama, mystery and Bobby’s world – all blend into each other seamlessly. If 2018 had Andhadhun, 2019 has Judgementall Hai Kya. The quirkiness of the narrative interlaced with dark humour and gritty moments is a refreshing change and it resonates throughout the film. The madness of the characters is well-portrayed. Rajkummar Rao is a treat to watch on screen. The twists and turns are unpredictable and keep you hooked right till the end. Overall, it’s one crazy fun-ride with a cat-and-mouse-chase you wouldn’t want to miss. This sinfully dark and twisted fare is gripping and gets our thumbs up!

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