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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

Movie Reviews

Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota review: Quirky and zany, this Abhimanyu-Radhika starrer is not to be missed

Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota review: Vasan Bala’s brilliantly-crafted narration is the hero of this Abhimanyu Dassani – Radhika Madan starrer which is a hilarious ode to the ‘90s kitsch

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Har mind-blowing kahaani ke peechey ek bad decision hota hai!’ This is a dialogue that the hero of the film mouths early on. Well we certainly do not know what the bad decision was behind this mind-blowing film. But whatever it was, by the hero’s logic, it clearly seemed to have worked here!

To be honest, we had not gone in with very high expectations, but we were definitely tickled by the cinematic experience offered by the director Vasan Bala. The film had us hooked from the very first few scenes and by the climax we were accustomed to the dard we got from laughing too much!

What Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is all about? An infant Surya is diagnosed with a rare disorder in which he can’t feel any pain at all. Having lost his mother as a toddler in an accident after a chain-snatching gone wrong, he is brought up by his over-worrisome and protective father (Jimit Trivedi) and a feisty grand-dad (Mahesh Manjrekar), who can hardly see eye-to-eye due to their differences in the upbringing methods of Surya. While the father tries to keep his son safe by keeping him tied up, the grandfather in order to introduce his grandson to ‘normalcy’ and pain makes him watch karate and kung-fu based films of the ‘70s and the ‘80s, indulging in his fantasy world, while rooting him in reality. Surya’s condition and his exposure to those films and 90s masala potboiler films makes him believe that he’s a superhero out to annihilate all evil and villains.

A boon and a bane all at once, the precautions needed to make sure he stays alive also make him a misfit and an easy target for school kids who regularly bully him. But Surya also has his savior – his best friend Supri – who always takes on the bullies trying to protect him. As a kid, Surya accidentally injures Supri’s drunk and violent father. This prompts Surya’s father to move his family to their ancestral house in a small town. Keeping the young Surya company right through his adulthood is his favourite VHS tape featuring Karate Master Mani (Gulshan Devaiah) in which he is shown to win a 100-man fight alone. Surya studies and masters each and every move and gains all his own martial arts training from Karate Master Mani’s video – in secrecy of course. A chance trip back to the city brings him face-to-face with Supri and one-legged Master Mani himself, who is being troubled by his evil twin Jimmy. How he forms an uncanny vigilante team with Supri to fight Jimmy is what follows.

Yay: Performance-wise, the film is ably-pulled together by all the actors. Radhika Madan as the ass-kicking Supri is impressive in her action sequences and a treat to watch. Abhimanyu shines in his debut and his action is top-notch and effortless. The director plays up the young and hunky hero’s plus points really well while smartly keeping his emotional parts to the bare minimum – a department in which Abhimanyu will need to work on a bit more. Though to the newbie’s credit, he does manage to bring about the vulnerability and the innocence of his character on screen really well. Both Jimit and Manjrekar are impressive with their comic-timing. But it’s Gulshan Devaiah as the evil twin Jimmy who truly deserves a pat on the back. He is eccentric and insanely funny in parts.

Some of the scenes seem silly and yet are brilliantly executed by Bala. Scenes like the one introducing Jimmy (Gulshan Devaiah) as the cliché psychotic evil brother and Mani as the cliché drunk karate master, a scene where a henchman regains consciousness only to pretend to be unconscious again are over-the-top yet evoke much laughter. The equation between the father-in-law (Manjrekar) and the widowed son-in-law (Jimit) is equally a treat to watch and present some genuinely hilarious moments.

The highlight of this action-comedy is the lavish use of the 80s and the 90s music. Right from Chiranjeevi doing the pelvic-thrust hook step of the 90s to the song, It’s a Challenge, the film is lavishly peppered with popular Hindi and South Indian hit tracks in the backdrop reminiscent of the kitsch film culture that most of us grew up watching. The dialogues are an added and work well in tandem with the mood of the film.

MardKoDardNahinHotaNay: The story obviously that’s a bit too far-fetched. Also there are parts that are predictable and just too convenient to digest may act as a bit of a dampener. A few scenes lack the depth that could’ve made it more impactful, while some seem too frivolous and forced like the late-night candid exchange between Supri and her mother.

CineBlitz Verdict: The hero here is undoubtedly Vasan Bala’s well-crafted direction and his brilliant style of narration. The thought bubbles that the characters think aloud of what is and dreaming of what could have been make for some hilarious moments. The slo-mo action sequences are one of the best we have seen and deserve a special mention. Every frame is a treat for action buffs! In short, if you are in for some quirky, crazy, fun then Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota one’s not to be missed.

Rating: 3 and ½ stars


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Movie Reviews

Milan Talkies review: Ali Fazal – Shraddha Srinath’s film is predictable, but breezy

Milan Talkies: Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies is a bit stretched, but in the end, hero (Ali Fazal) meets heroine (Shraddha Srinath) and Bollywood love story is made!

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milan talkies review ali fazal shraddha srinath

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Milan Talkies is predictable, sweet but a bit too long. So it might lose the attention of the audience. Following the typical Bollywood track, it deals with many things we’ve already seen. But Ali Fazal and Tigmanshu (who plays Ali’s father in the film) save the day. The film set in the heartland of India, follows the track right of small-town dreams, aspirations, love and a few more things. But the problem begins when everything else is put aside and only the love story takes center-stage. Read our full Milan Talkies review to know what we felt while watching the movie

What’s Milan Talkies about? Set in Allahabad, it is a story of a young man Anirudh aka Annu, who wants to become a Bollywood director. Running an exam-cheating-racket is a side-business for him, which the film deals with loosely, because it is normal, according to them. Meanwhile, he falls in love with a Brahmin girl, Maithili. They try to elope, but get caught. The film takes a three-year leap and the tables have turned. Annu is now a successful director and Maithili gets married to a local goon, who is impotent and an epitome of the evil husband. How their love story gets into the second innings, how they manage to meet again and finally get together forms the second half.

Yay: Let’s just appreciate that Tigmanshu has been able to bring actors like Sanjay Mishra, Ali Fazal, Ashutosh Rana and Rajiv Gupta under one roof. Ali Fazal  can now easily pass off as a small-town boy from North India. Seems like his last web outing Mirzapur was his workshop for Milan Talkies. But he is a great actor and you have to appreciate him for that. Shraddha Srinath in her first celluloid outing is decent, but has a lot to work on. Ashutosh Rana, Sanjay Mishra and Rajiv Gupta get their roles right. Sikander Kher on the other hand, will be getting calls to play villain after this one for sure.

While analysing and reviewing Milan Talkies a bit more, we feel it gets the tone right. Tigmanshu for himself, has written a character that is contradictory to everyone else around him, and he wins. Young guys consider ads coming on their YouTube content as a validation that their work is great. Or thinking that Mumbai is the only place that can appreciate their calibre, Tigmanshu as director gets that fact right.

Nay: Without being too much critical in this Milan Talkies review, we must point out a few things we didn’t like. Firstly, with this cast of amazing actors under one roof, it is the maker’s job to bring out their A-game. Which didn’t happen much! Secondly, the timeline of the film is a major problem. The first film they watch together is Badmaash Company which released in 2010. The film takes a three-year leap and comes to 2013 where Race 3 is screening in the theatre, which released in 2018. Please explain? Thirdly, the 140 minutes or two-and-a-half hour run-time is a bit too long and stretched. Lastly, cinematography by Hari K. Vedantam is abrupt. Random cuts, unnoticed flashbacks and too much ‘zoom in’ makes it look like five episodes of daily soap merged into one.

CineBlitz Verdict: Milan Talkies isn’t a brilliant film, but a light hearted drama that Bollywood lovers might endorse! There are flaws, however, Tigmanshu has managed to blow some life in his dream project, and his dedication has made it possible after so many years. Watch it if you are an Ali Fazal fan or if you just want to aimlessly chill a bit.

Star rating: 2.5 stars

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Mere Pyare Prime Minister review: Kids steal your heart, the film doesn’t!

Mere Pyare Prime Minister review: The film addresses several issues, but isn’t preachy at any point

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Over the years, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has come to be recognised for his unique brand of cinema. Hard-hitting without any compromise on quality entertainment is how we would describe it. And though there are films on the filmmaker’s repertoire that would defy this, the brilliance of his films like Rang De Basanti and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will forever overshadow the rest that do not make the cut. In his latest offering, Mere Pyare Prime Minister, Mehra at once addresses multiple issues, but doesn’t make it preachy at any level. Open defecation, crime against women, the mindset towards rape victims, awareness of sexual health, corruption, disparity between the rich and the poor – are some of the several issues addressed in this straight-from-the-heart simple film.

What Mere Pyare Prime Minister is all about? Sargam (Anjali Patil) is a spirited single mother residing in Gandhi Nagar slum with her street-savvy eight-year-old son Kanhaiyya aka Kannu (Om Kanojiya). The mother-son duo shares a strong and loving bond and Kannu is ready to go to any length to ensure his mother’s happiness. A happy-go-lucky pair, the mother stitches clothes for a living. On the other hand, Kannu does odd jobs while working on a newspaper vending stall run by Pappu (Niteesh Wadhwa). Pappu has a soft spot for Sargam and is clearly besotted by her. The slum does not have any public toilets and so while the men and children use the nearby water-pipelines to defecate, the women go out in groups late at night to other nearby areas. On one such night, Sargam is raped. This incident prompts Kannu to do something about the toilet issue in their slum. However, the local authorities refuse to take up his request of building a common toilet in the area – since the slum is on a disputed property between BMC and the Railways. After coming up with several other ingenious ways to get the toilet made and failing Kannu comes up with an idea. An optimistic Kannu along with two of his friends – Ringtone and Niraala – sets out to meet the Prime Minister to request him to build a toilet, not for him, but for his mother.

Yay: The chemistry between the four children – Kannu, Ringtone, Niraala, Mangla is the best part about the film. Their innocence is charming too. There are some endearing moments in the film like the scene where Kannu builds a makeshift toilet for his mother. There’s also a scene where Kannu is distributing free condoms to passers-by. Although how justifiable is a scene in which a child is made to distribute free condoms in exchange for money by a social worker is highly debatable. Then there’s Kannu using the rather posh washroom of the firang social-worker in the way he thinks is right.

When it comes to performances, the kids are fun to watch, and perform effortlessly. Full marks for the casting here. Atul Kulkarni as the PM’s senior officer is impactful even in a small role and his interaction with the children brings a smile. Anjali Patil looks comfortable in her role, as does Makarand Deshpande as a lecherous local. Rasika Agashe as the neighbour Rabiya di is impressive. A plus of the film is that while skimming the surface of a plethora of issues plaguing the country at large including corruption, crime against women, and addressing STDs, the film is breezy and at no point weighs you down with the seriousness of the causes.

Nay: We have seen films like I AM Kalam, where a boy from a small village sets out to meet the President. The film had you rooting for the little boy. Unfortunately, you just can’t seem to empathise or feel much for the mother son-duo here. In trying to keep the film from being very serious and striving to keep the entertainment factor balanced, the filmmaker falters big time. None of the issues seem to reach a depth that would make the audience truly feel for the character or their situation. A forced anti-climax doesn’t help either. The language of the dialogues between the mother and son seems out of place. The mother-child chemistry is also not as poignant as it could’ve been. Sargam and Pappu’s romantic track though well-done, is simply too-good-to-be-true. Story is predictable and too simplified which might not appeal to multiplex audience. At the same time there are just too many issues that may not click with single screen audiences either.

CineBlitz verdict: Mehra’s sincere and simple approach and an earnest effort as a filmmaker to address several issues reflects throughout the film. But it is in his attempt to try and not make it preachy that he falls short. It’s almost like the filmmaker was holding back what his heart wanted to truly showcase. His film may have to pay a price for this compromise. Mehra’s intentions are commendable; the film however leaves much to desire. The film is strictly an okay-watch and may not tickle your cinematic palette in a theatre.

Rating: 2.5 stars


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