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Photograph review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra’s endearing chemistry makes it a must-watch

Photograph review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sanya Malhotra’s romantic drama leaves you with a deep sense of love and longing

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If you watched Ritesh Batra’s Lunch Box and fell in love with the film like most of us did, then the first question on your mind would be: ‘Is Photograph as good as Lunch Box or is it better or worse?’ Well, the film certainly carries the filmmaker’s unmistakable style. It’s again a story of hope, longing and love seeped in realism and trapped in a cacophony of urban living. As for the answer to the above question… well, read on.

What Photograph is all about? Rafi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Milonee (Sanya Malhotra) belong to two completely different worlds – culturally as well as economically. The differences are too stark and they are effectively highlighted as the two go about their daily living almost resigned to the drudgery of their mundane lives. Rafi is a street photographer trying to make ends meet clicking people at Gateway of India and is living under the burden of a debt his late father had taken back home in the village. Trying to pay back that debt, he diligently sends all his earnings to his grandmother in the village. An academically brilliant Milonee, on the other hand, is shown to have given up all her personal pursuits and dreams – including that of becoming an actress – in trying to live up to the expectations of her parents. Having topped her CA foundation – her face even adorns the advertising hoardings of the classes she attends – she is preparing for her CA inter. A chance meeting with each other at the Gateway of India, when Rafi clicks a photograph of Milonee brings about a gradual change in their own lives. Frustrated and pressured by his grandmother to get married, he sends her Milonee’s photograph and lies about her being his fiancée and names her Noorie. The two shy strangers in trying to live up to that lie unexpectedly find happiness and reasons to look forward to each day.

Yay: Ritesh Batra as a director creates the two worlds very realistically. The claustrophobic room with a loud whirring fan where Nawaz resides with almost five other room-mates to the room where Milonee studies every night, and their cab travels – every frame transports you to their world. The cinematography is remarkable and the music is apt. The filmmaker’s eye for detail when it comes to bringing about the nuances of Rafi and Milonee’s budding romance is commendable. The supporting cast is impressive in every way.

Nawazuddin is one brilliant actor who is known to ace the game when it comes to showcasing his acting chops and it’s no different here. He makes Rafi his own so beautifully that you forget the actor behind the character. And complementing him perfectly is Sanya. The screen-firebrand surprises you with her shy demeanour and together the unlikely pair makes for the most endearing scenes onscreen. Sanya brings out the vulnerability of Milonee like a seasoned actress, although this was shot as her second film. Whether it is rendering onscreen a lack of choice when it comes to choosing even the colours of her own clothes or seeking simple joys with Rafi, Sanya lets her eyes and expressions do all the talking. Her equation with the domestic help, Rampyari – played impressively by Geetanjali Kulkarni – is beautifully presented.

The director taps into Rafi and Milonee’s world of unspoken relationship with confidence and brings out a heart-breaking story of longing, trust and glimpses of what is undeclared love. So, while Milonee is apprehensive about going to a coffee shop with her professor, she comfortably accompanies Rafi to his dingy one-room house without fear or hesitation. Their equation with the age-and-experience-wisened daadi with her – maa ka dil hai beta – is delightful too as is Rafi’s camaraderie with his room-mates. There are scenes that bring about laughter and provide enough light moments to balance the melancholic ache between the lead pair.

Nay: The pace is just too slow and drags at times. Unless you have a taste and passion of a cinema –connoisseur, you may find it to be a lengthy watch. The climax is ambiguous and certainly not one would expect. But if you follow the dialogue right before, it will leave you on an optimistic note depending on how you look at it. The detailed frames of realism may also not work for many.

CineBlitz verdict: Ritesh Batra’s Photograph is endearing and engaging both. While the climax may be a bit of let-down for the audience used to a decisive ending, there is a lot to be read between the lines of what’s said and lot more where it is unsaid. The chemistry between Nawaz and Sanya is what makes it a must-watch for the romance-buffs. It hooks you right from the word ‘go’ and not once do the actors step out of the character. This holds true even for the supporting cast. So, is Photograph better than Lunch Box? No, but the romantic-drama in itself is a different flavour that you may relish.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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PM Narendra Modi Review: The Omung Kumar directed biopic releases at an apt time- when PM Modi secures his electoral win!

Vivek Anand Oberoi nails the portrayal of PM Narendra Modi to the T.

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The biopic of PM Narendra Modi has been fraught with controversy from the word go. The 136-minute film is supposedly releasing in 23 Indian languages. Beginning shooting in January 2019, the film was shot and readied for release in record time, but came up against numerous obstacles, when the Goa unit of the student wing of the Congress Party, wrote to the Election Commission to ban the screening of the film, claiming that it  violated the model code of conduct of elections. The Supreme Court of India rejected the plea saying that the Election Commission needed to address this issue. Originally scheduled to release on 12th April, the EC stopped the release of the movie till the elections were over, to avoid any risk, saying that any biopic that had the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections could not be displayed in the electronic media.  And so the film release date was shifted to 24th May, and what a day it will be for the filmmakers, considering the outcome of the Election as it was revealed today!

What it’s about: The film is inspired by and based on the life of Narendra Damodardas Modi, current Prime Minister, (the 14th PM of Independent India) and traces his story from childhood to the day he marches to Delhi to be sworn in as The Prime Minister of the country. It portrays his struggle to make his mark in the business of politics, without money or status, coming as he did from humble beginnings, but purely on the strength of his ‘incredible’ character! The film was shot entirely in Uttarkashi and Gujarat.

Yay: Vivek Anand Oberoi as PM Narendra Modi not just looks the part due to some excellent make-up by Preetisheel Singh, but lives the role perfectly, that you barely glimpse the actor. You only see Modi. Everything from his body language to his tonal inflections and posture and gait have been worked on perfectly. Zarina Wahab as his mother plays her part with emotion and stoicism, creating a poignant relationship between her and her son. Manoj Joshi is also highly effective in his role resembling Amit Shah. Mukesh Chhabra and his team have cast perfectly the entire bunch of actors, both, in terms of looks as well as performances. Prashant Narayanan as Adityavarma Reddy, the scheming industrialist walking the corridors of power and politics is also effectively played. And oh yes, Boman Irani was brilliant in a 5 minute cameo as Sir Ratan Tata.

Also, the part about Narendra Modi’s early life before he joined the RSS, when he goes north to the Himalayas in search of his self and purpose is nicely done. Thanks to some good cinematography by Sunita Radia.

Nay: The film is ‘oh so paint me pink’ (can’t even say that without being politically incorrect) – an out-and-out propaganda vehicle, that glorifies Modi, absolves him of all things negative that he was accused of, even going so far as to show him as a  victim of political games and opposition tactics when it came to the Godhra riots. It is blatantly obsequious and smarmy in parts. Claiming to use material from three existing books on the man, one is doubtful about how far they have stretched the truth. It is Narendra Modi the perfect child, the ideal and idealistic youngster, growing into the Karmayogi and ‘asli mard’ to take over the chair In Delhi – all too golden. Dr Manmohan Singh’s caricature came across in bad taste. And the moments of bombastic and dramatic sweeping jibes taken at near everyone opposing the man ring completely hollow- making it laughable.  And yes, the chai making scene in the halls of the ministry!

The rest of this Omung Kumar directed feature, leaves you still wishing to know what metal, not mettle, the Prime Minister is made of really. The film is jointly produced by Anand Pandit, Suresh Oberoi, Acharya Manish and Sandip Ssingh. Vivek Oberoi has also been given credit as co-writer of screenplay and dialogues for the story, along with Anirudh Chawla, and Harsh Limbachiyaa. Story credit has Sandeep Ssingh’s name.

CineBlitz Verdict: Narendra Modi Bhakts may predictably throng the theatres after today’s sweeping victory. Since the makers have made it with the utmost sincerity, watch it. But don’t be surprised if you emerge from the cinema hall, sputtering and incredulous at the sheer nerve of this portrayal. We are sure it’s had the blessing of the PM though. It could truly indulge a megalomaniac. All those cinematic liberties in the disclaimer at the beginning have been fully exercised, and calculatingly used. This one is for the believers!

Rating: 2.5 stars

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India’s Most Wanted Review: Arjun Kapoor makes a sincere attempt, but the film fails to pack in a punch

India’s Most Wanted Review: Inspite of Arjun Kapoor’s earnest performance, the Raj Kumar Gupta directorial falls short of making it to the must-watch list

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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 department’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 played by Rajesh Sharma. In this mission he is also joined by five more undercover cops.

While in Nepal, they find themselves in danger not only from radicals, but also ISI agents who are active and hot in their pursuit. Prabhat and his team find themselves alone on this risky operation with not even a weapon to protect them and no technical 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 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 effectively on screen. The film has been shot well and has a realistic feel.

Nay: The narrative fails 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.

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Aladdin review: The Will Smith-starrer is a delightful summer treat and a perfect family-entertainer

Aladdin review: Guy Ritchie’s retelling of the age-old famous Arabian folktale – starring Will Smith as the Genie – will transport you to a world of love, friendship, fantasy and magic!

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A whole new worldMena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine sing the mesmerisingly beautiful romantic number from Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin, as they take a magic carpet ride together, discovering true love for each other. Director Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake of the much-loved animated film however doesn’t take you to any new world! Instead, the director sticks to recreating the old world magic of the original to the T and that’s the biggest draw to watch this film that stars Will Smith as the Genie. So is Guy Ritchie’s live-action remake better than the original? Read on to find out:

What Aladdin is all about: ‘Street rat’ Aladdin is a petty thief whose best buddy and partner-in-crime is his pet monkey Abu. Unknowingly, Aladdin falls for Jasmine, the princess of Agrabah. The Sultan’s wicked and power-hungry Vizier sends Aladdin to retrieve an old lamp for him from a magical cave. After finding himself trapped in the cave, Aladdin rubs the lamp only to find himself become the master of a three-wish granting Genie. How the good-hearted Aladdin goes about winning Princess Jasmine’s love with the help of the Genie and defeats the evil Vizier forms the crux of the story.

Yay: The story may be old, but Jasmine’s yearning to prove her worth as an able ruler and her feisty spirit that refuses to give in and bow down just because she’s a girl still resonates strongly with women even today. What also resonates even today is our fascination for a fantasy world where carpets can fly and rubbing lamps releases Genies. Well, director Guy Ritchie taps all this beautifully to recreate Disney’s animated film Aladdin (1992).

The humour-laced film has all the strong messages of the original in place without being preachy of course. What we loved the most was that the live-action retelling stays true – right through the film – to the original, so at no point do we feel short-changed. Whether it was a bid by the makers to play it safe or intentionally not to mess with a Disney classic, the move works in the film’s favour.

Will Smith as Genie gets our thumbs up! Naomi Scott shines through as Jasmine and Mena Massoud brings in the certain innocent charm of a street-smart Aladdin. The chemistry between Jasmine and Aladdin, carpet and Abu, Dalia and the Genie are all amazing to watch and leave you smiling.

The film aces in several departments right from the direction to the musical scores to the costumes and the CGI effects to the lavish and gorgeous set-ups. We loved the strong and impressive rendition of ‘Speechless’. You find yourself transported just as believably to the dusty streets of Agrabah as easily as you find yourself looking up at the magnificent palaces. The chase sequences are stunningly shot. There’s nothing over-the-top or anything that strikes you as out of place here.

The result is the story being told in the most entertaining and visually-appealing cinematic form. Adults will find themselves revisit their childhood and the children get introduced to a whole new world of love and magic.

Nay: Even in such a well-made film, unfortunately, there’re things that feel like a bit of a let-down! Merwan Kenzari as Jafar, frankly wasn’t convincingly evil or menacing enough to make for a formidable adversary. Iago, the macaw who played such an important character in the original was not explored onscreen as much as we would have liked it to be. Though Will Smith as Genie was an absolute treat, it somehow felt that the makers have not made him do complete justice to the character. Whether it was the dialogues or the CGI, but Will Smith felt a bit under-used here.

But what made us cringe were the dance sequences. While we understand that the Bollywoodish song and dance may tickle Hollywood’s exotic fantasies about faraway lands, for the Indian audience, it doesn’t do a thing. In fact, the execution looks worse than the level of performances one gets to see in reality dance shows here. Also in some scenes, the entire production value looks more suited for a broadway musical than a majestic film. Also the 3D effects are not used to create much of an impact.

CineBlitz Verdict: Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin makes for a fantastic family-viewing! It’s entertaining and it will take you to a world that’s magical and fantastical. A must-watch for kids! They will simply love watching the much-loved story being told on the big screen in such an entertaining way. A perfect summer treat, the film will bring a smile to your faces and you will find yourself humming along the songs with Jasmine and Aladdin!

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